Your commentator Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro, in his column Kae on Friday of 23rd March, quoted me completely out of context. Allow me to put into perspective the contemplated German apology as conveyed to us in the ongoing very sensitive negotiations. My report was briefly as follows:
Our negotiations mandate stems from the motion of our national parliament, adopted unanimously on 26 October 2006. The fundamentals required by that motion were, and still are:
That Germany admit/acknowledge that they committed genocide against our people;
That Germany extends an apology
That Germany pays reparations
The document substantiating our case outlined above was presented to the German negotiating team on 6 July 2016. A year later, on 27 July 2017, the German negotiators responded in writing. Their document did not contest the content of the charge, which means an implicit acceptance of the genocide Imperial Germany committed. Instead they talked about an unheard of distinction between a “historical genocide” and a “legal genocide”. On the other hand the Government of the Republic of Namibia and the Chiefs of the participating victim communities have continued to demand an explicit acceptance of genocide from Germany. On that score aluta continua!
The writer also wanted to know what apology at the highest level meant and to whom the apology was to be given. It goes without saying that the period before and after the exchange of documents was filled with negotiating conversations between the two delegations. It was during such conversations that we were made to understand that unlike the apology given by the then Minister of Development and Cooperation Heidemarie Wieczoreck-Zeul at Ohamakari, which was not acceptable to her Government back in Berlin, a proper apology by the German President is what Germany intends to tender as they have done in other cases, e.g. Greece, etc.
To whom is the apology to be given? In my humble opinion as Special Envoy, this goes without saying. The apology should be given to us the victim communities and our Government to whom we surrendered our individual sovereignty on the 21st of March 1990, vis-à-vis our relations with the international communities of nations.
It is, therefore, also to this sacred collective that the forgiveness should be expected.
The last pillar of the 3 fundamentals is reparations. There are three sub-issues that we have had to confront.
Germans have always been sensitive to the term reparations. In the case of the Jews they have used the term “ Wiedergutmachung”, in our case they use “healing the wounds”. If the use of these terminologies boils down to one and the same thing, there should be no problem.
The other issue was their attempt to conflate development aid with reparations. They have since sworn to us that development cooperation would be continued as a free-standing objective.
The elephant in the room has so far been the quantum figures we quoted. The German negotiators said our figure was unrealistically high. Without allowing an opportunity for the negotiations of an acceptable level, they unilaterally costed and offered programme interventions, which under normal national budgetary considerations might be quite handy. However, since the premise on which these programmes were offered and the total cost falls far short of the quantum figure we asked for, GRN and the participating victim communities proposed a practical scientific approach to this whole subject of reparations whereby working groups composed of technical experts would try to narrow the gap between Namibia and Germany before the 7th round of our negotiations take place in Namibia.
To summarise on the 3 fundamental issues – genocide, apology and reparations – the status of the negations are as follows:
The German side has not contested the genocide charge. There has been an effort to refer to it as a “ historical genocide”, presumably in an effort to avoid the punishment required by the UN Convention;
All indications are that Germany is prepared to render an apology at the level of the State President;
While Germany has dropped the idea of conflating development aid with reparations, the mode of reparations and the level of expenditure contemplated so far fall far short of our expectations.
Since we are involved in negotiations, we proposed a more scientific approach whereby technical working groups composed of experts from both countries can deliberate in an effort to narrow the gap.
The 7th round of negotiations will take place only after the reports of the Working Groups have been submitted and approved in accordance with our normal government procedure.
*Dr Zedekia Ngavirue is Namibia’s special envoy in the genocide reparation negotiations with Germany.