Windhoek-“Until the Story of the hunt is told by the Lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter,” goes an African proverb.
Similarly it can be said that until the affected communities start to tell their own story about genocide, genocide will remain, at least in the tales and/or writings of most historians and writers from Germany, nothing but atrocities ala the official position of the government of Federal Republic of Germany that has been denying what happened in Namibia during the colonial period between the late 1800s and early 1900, culminating in the genocide of the Ovaherero and Nama between 1904and 1908. The denial of this genocide is exactly the subject of a book which has just been released by Dr Ngarituke Tjiriange, similarly titled The Denied Germany’s Genocide. The book was launched last Thursday at the International University of Management (IUM) by Chief of the Maharero Traditional Authority, Tjinaani Maharero and attended, among others, by Namibia’s special envoy on Genocide Negotiations, the IUM’s own founder, Dr David Namwandi, Ovambanderu chief, Dr David Namwandi, and retired lieutenant general, Ndenga Ndaitwah.
The common thread running through the remarks of the various personas who shared turns on the podium was the need for Namibians to start writing and telling their own tales, and thus start putting an end to the tales of the hunters in ala the African proverb regarding the hunter and the lion. Indeed this exactly what Dr Tjiriange is doing with the book retracing the Namibian colonial history and the resultant genocide from his perspective as a descendant of the victims or affected communities. “The genocide committed by Germany in the then so-called German South West Africa has become a history and it is true that this time around the people of Namibia must reconcile, focus on the future and embrace each other and move forward in building a united, peaceful and prosperous country in which every citizen will be happy,” writes the author in the prologue to the book. No doubt such a view shall find a resounding resonance among especially the young who seem to think that bygones are bygones and that the sins of the previous generations cannot and should not be visited on today’s generations as was the clear view of one youth who attended the launch and was of the view that as far as he is concerned he has no qualms with German-speaking Namibians some of whom are his friends. In his views their generation is trying to forge a new understanding based on the realities of a new Namibia, as much as the new Namibia may have been born out of the throes of, among others, the genocide of a section of the Namibian people. The youth goes onto opine that how what happened hundred years ago could be applied to the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide? It is exactly this and many other questions that Dr Tjiriange is reflecting on. Touching, among others, on the what genocide is and distinguishing between massacre and mass killings on the one hand and genocide on the other.
One cannot but take cognizance of Dr Tjiriange’s introspection in the preface to the book, calling, in view of the divisive tendency within the reparation movement, for the whole nation to rally behind the cause of reparation. “Therefore, if groups of Namibian people who were directly affected by any of these atrocious acts, decide to raise their concerns against the perpetrators of these violent and criminal acts, they deserve the unconditional support of the other groups instead of people resorting to divisive infighting amongst themselves,” writes he.
“The people cannot fight among themselves and at the same time or in the same breath expect foreign forces to respect them, take them seriously and listen to them,” notes the author of the booking cautioning that continued infightings and bickering, which obviously has been rife within the reparation movement with polarisition especially between affected communities who have been taking part in the on-going negotiations between the Namibian and German governments, and those who have opted not to be part of such for principled reasons, this being wanting to speak for themselves rather than the government speaking on their behalf. “The affected people must focus themselves on promoting unity among themselves, rather than being divided if they want their case to be heard and be successful,” Dr Tjiariange pleads and advises.
While Dr Tjiriange touches on the double tragedy of the Orlam Ovaherero, who suffered both under the Ovaherero and Nama war, thus loosing their language and culture, and subsequently also during the Ovaherero and Nama against colonial Germany, he does not elaborate their trials and tribulations during Germany’s genocidal acts. As much he delves on the issue of the citizenry of Botswana and South Africans of Namibian descent. And the need for them to automatically become Namibian citizens. However, he grossly omits their status in the ongoing claims for reparations and how they may be able to eventually benefit. But surely the book is a vital addition, and insight, into the ongoing debate on genocide and reparations.