Recently, a local English weekly carried a story with the screaming headline “Local Germans deny genocide.” To say the least, the article is misleading in many respects. I was baffled that the views of two people who, to make matters worse, spoke anonymously, could be flaunted as views of their entire community.
What authority do the two people command in their community to be accorded a front-page story speaking on behalf of their entire populace about genocide against Namibians by Imperial Germany?
What would be helpful is to have German-speaking Namibians of authority to speak on this issue. Their silence on this critical matter leaves much to be desired. If they do not speak up, it would be fair to conclude that perhaps the views expressed by the two unidentified members of their community – whether right or wrong – represent the general view of their community.
These views are reminiscent with the age-old indisposition of German-speaking Namibians towards the issue of genocide and reparations. To me, this community has always been suspect when it came to this matter. They continue to live in their comfort zones in Namibia with ‘Big Brother’ Germany watching over them and protecting their exclusive and parochial interests in Namibia, at the expense of their compatriots who continue to bear the brunt of colonial Germany’s brutal legacy.
Yet the affected communities – Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama – have never had any scores to settle with fellow German-speaking Namibians. In fact at no point have they ever fingered, or could be accused to ever targeting their fellow German-speaking Namibians for the genocide perpetuated against them.
These are communities who also suffered when their land was expropriated without compensation. Despite all this, the victim communities have always been categorical that such untold pains were perpetrated by the German colonial government. They never cited the local German-speaking community, as much as it is known that they too have in one way or another benefitted from German’s dirty work in Namibia.
Thus the recent denials by the two fellow German-speaking Namibians are not only malicious in nature but a gross and shambolic twisting of history and malevolent misinterpretation for whatever ends. Those at the forefront of reparation demands have often been labelled and smeared as being out to enrich themselves. What a fallacy!
In February the Ovaherero paramount chief was castigated by the Namibian German Foundation for apparently instigating attacks on German-speaking Namibians. This was after the chief making made a friendly clarion call to his fellow German-speaking Namibians, and reawakening them that this issue as much affects them, and for them to add their voice to the groundswell call for the government of the Federal Republic of Germany to own up to its colonial historic responsibility in Namibia.
Lately the Namibian German Foundation seems to have been strangely and unprinciply quiet and silent regarding the reported denial of the genocide perpetuated against the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama. Can one deduce that silence to mean this may also be the views of the foundation? This would be contrary to its very own public posturing in February that it has been following the negotiations between the Namibian and German governments with keen interest.
If this is the case then sure NaDS must be aware and informed about the position of the victim communities. To them it is not OK for the victims community to speak for themselves, but be spoken on behalf of. To NaDS it seems it is not good for the victims community to spearhead their own cause. This is the very same intransigent and arrogant, if not racist, position of the German government.
“It is in the interest of all Namibians that discussions of this dimension are conducted in an unemotional and in a factual manner. Hate speech will lead us nowhere. NaDS distances itself from any incitement and agitation. We wish to remind the public of the outstanding ranking that Namibia enjoys as the African country with the highest degree of press freedom und freedom of expression,” stated NaDS in February. “We need to uphold the fine practice of open public debate and dialogue both on contentious and on neutral issues which the majority of organisations continue to uphold in the democratic dispensation of Namibia. NaDS is fully prepared to participate in mediation and reconciliation discussions. “ One cannot but wonder if all these nice sounding words are not just sugar-coating by NADS to preserve the status quo. Because in the very same statement in February while pointing out the need for factuality in issues pertaining to genocide, one would want to see it being consequent with the two fellow German-speaking Namibians denying genocide by fabricating their historical facts about genocide. Which is not dissimilar to NADS own reference in February to “historical losses suffered by Herero and Nama 1904 – 1908.”