Germany is ready to offer an apology at the highest level, Dr Zed Ngavirue Namibia’s special envoy on the negotiations and reparations for the 1904-1908 genocide committed by the Imperial Germany government against the Ovaherero and Nama, has been quoted in the local media lately.
At the same time, the government of the Federal Republic of Namibia, has not accepted the genocide committed against these people as genocide. There have been widespread reactions to this position of the German government as if this is a new position. One is only reminded of the same German position, 18 years ago at the World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa. The German government was represented by its Foreign Minister, then Joseph Fischer, who indicated his country and government’s readiness to come to terms with the “heritage of colonialism”. But visiting Windhoek in 2003, he was more categorical. “We are not hostages to history” and “therefore, there will be no apology with relevance to compensation”.
Exactly what has just been, strangely and ironically relayed by Dr Ngavirue, as opposed to his German counterpart, Ruprecht Polenz. But this position, as old as it is, has special essence and meaning. Particularly for the fact that having been engaged in negotiations, and making those interested and affected by the genocide believe the negotiations, close to three years now or more, are nearing conclusion, nothing fundamental has been agreed on. The two fundamentals here are genocide and reparations, if only for the affected communities. A position diametrically opposed to that of the German government. For the German government, the fundamentals are “atrocities” and “reconciliation fund”.
According to Dr Ngavirue, Germany is presumably ready to offer an apology at the highest level. One cannot but wonder what this “highest level” may entail and constitute and if ever it may mean anything? Given that to date, Germany has been refusing to directly engage the direct victims, the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama. This is despite various efforts by the affected communities to engage Germany directly. Going back as far as 1995 (Helmut Kohl) and 1998 (Herman Herzog), and subsequently, all efforts have been rebuffed ignominiously by German authorities. Never ever has Berlin even pretended to engage the victims on a single occasion. Only now to declare readiness to offer an apology, apology to whom? The people who were nearly annihilated are today in Namibia, living proof of the victims. Not only this, but the issues of genocide and reparations have gained the stature and momentum they have gained today because of no one else but the victims themselves, singularly, with the help and support of international solidarity. Our Namibian government is a distant, unmoved, disinterested and unobtrusive observer all the time, and reluctant prime mover lately. The German government is an irritated diplomat that anytime could declare another genocide on these tribal irritant savages.
Most of the direct victims of genocide may not be living today but their descendants are. And they are as much victims to whom any apology must and should be offered. To this day they are still bearing the brunt of genocide, are the direct victims and no measure of spin doctoring or rationalisation can wish this fact away. What the German government is once again doing today, is trying to wish the existence of the victims of its genocidal acts away – looking at them with the same disdain and racial hatred that drove its Imperial predecessor to declare their annihilation. It defies logic why such an apology needs to be directed to either a second or third party if the aggrieved party is there in living body and soul?
Likewise, it is beyond comprehension what apology the German government is ready to offer, whoever it is contemplating and is ready to offer to, while denying the undeniable, that it nearly annihilated the Namibian people, specifically known as the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama. It goes without saying that the fundamental thing here is the genocide that Imperial Germany committed against the said people. So fundamental that anyone worth calling herself or himself a direct victim of the said 1904-1908 genocidal acts of Imperial Germany cannot and should not dare compromise on. Genocide is the genesis, premise, basis and the fundament of any engagement with the German government as far as the victims of genocide are concerned. And it is high time the governments purporting to have been engaged on the issue, get this clear. Especially now as the ancestors may have destined and divined, it is becoming crystal clear by the second, that the ongoing negotiations on genocide and reparations have not been based on the fundamentals. Anything short of genocide as a premise for engagement cannot speak to the aspirations of the affected communities but to a private and exclusive bilateral private agenda of the two governments. That has got nothing, even an iota, to do with the affected communities consistent and principled position regarding the genocide visited upon them during Imperial Germany’s reign of the territory she then abrogated the colonial name of German South West Africa, heightening during the period 1904-1908.