Patriotism in the face of genocide denials

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I must first clarify my reaction to the article that was printed in the Windhoek Observer. My article was intended to react to what was written in the Windhoek Observer by not all the Namibians with German origin.

I clearly stated that “Ironically some Namibians with German origin have maintained that there was no genocide committed against the Herero and Nama people.” Here I used the word “some Namibians with German origin”, not all. I further said “it is reported that two Namibians of German origin”. Here again I said ‘two” not all.

It is also clear and there is no doubt that those Namibians of German origin who are quoted in the Windhoek Observer are citizens of Namibia like all the Namibians including Eberhard Hoffmann, and they were not here when Germany committed genocide against our ancestors, therefore we cannot attribute the historical guilt and injustice committed by Germany to the present innocent generation of Namibians of German origin.

There is thus no need for some Namibians of German origin to try to deny the genocide committed against our people in our country, thus to be perceived that they are supporting what Germany did in this country and against its people.

It is against this background that I entirely agree with and support what Karl Lichtenberg and Henning Melber have written in several newspapers. The article written by these two Namibians is one of the most important and interesting articles on this very sensitive issue.

They said among others that “most German speakers arrived long after the end of German colonialism. But as Namibians of German descent we should build our future on (self) critical reflections about our past. We cannot afford to put history aside.”

This statement by Karl Lichtenberg and Henning Melber has hit the nail on the head and these two patriotic Namibians deserve our admiration, respect and praise. I commend them for being sincere and expressing their views on the future process of the people of our country to engage each other in joint efforts to seek best ways to live peacefully together in mutual respect and recognition of shared common goods and goals of different people of our country.

I have quoted the above to emphasise the fact that it is very important for all of us, the citizens of Namibia, to be united when we are dealing with sensitive and serious issues such as the crimes committed by foreign countries against our country and its people. It does not matter which language we speak – we are all Namibians and we should be patriots of our country.

The government of Namibia through its parliament adopted a unanimous motion on 26 October 2006. That motion required that the German government acknowledge that it committed genocide against the people of our country. Therefore the German government was to extend an apology and pay reparations to the affected communities. It is expected that the patriotic citizens of this country should and must support the government of the country in its efforts to have the German government accept the demands of the government of Namibia on this sensitive and serious issue.

Finally, as much as I have decided not to reply and react to the latest writing by some of our countrymen (and I say by some) I can remind some of our countrymen who seem to be siding with Germany by trivialising wrongdoings and crimes committed by Germany in the then South West Africa that this issue is very sensitive. After Von Trotha was recalled back to Germany the killing of Ovaherero, Nama and Damara people continued under Governor Von Lindequist.
People were put into newly opened concentration camps where thousands died because of the horrific situation in those camps. The people who survived the genocide war and the tragic conditions in the concentration camps were released in 1923 and banished into newly created enclaves known as native reserves. Those native reserves were created in the inferior and barren lands since all the fertile and best lands were forcefully taken by German colonialists for the resettlement of white settlers.

South African rule continued to reinforce this policy and situation. Unfortunately the consequences of these events are still hounding us till today and it will take some time for us to correct that terrible situation. Therefore, it is very important to make it clear that the genocide committed by Germany in the then so-called German South West Africa was not only committed during the war but also after the war in the notorious and horrific concentration camps.

Let me end by repeating that it does not matter which language a certain group of citizens of the country are speaking. What matters is the loyalty and patriotism that those citizens must have to their country and its
people.

• Dr Ngarikutuke Tjiriange is a former Namibian justice minister. He also worked as secretary-general of the ruling party Swapo.

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