Following up on the commitment given recently by Dr Castern Brosda, the senator responsible for Culture and the Media in the State of Hamburg in Germany, the president of the USA-based Ovaherero, Ovabanderu and Nama Genocides Institute (ONGI), Dr Kavemuii Murangi, has written to the senator proposing how they could actualise Brosda’s commitment.
On the occasion of the Second Transnational Ovaherero and Nama Congress in Hamburg last month, when Dr Brosda apologised for imperial Germany’s genocide of the Ovaherero and Nama, he also pledged the city’s commitment to continue to work with Namibians, and civil societies in both countries. “This acknowledgement can change a lot. I want to underline the importance of this paragraph. From now on, the question of the colonial past is in the core of our democratic consensus. It is an invitation to join forces and to build up a common ground for a better future,” said Brosda. He was referring to acknowledgments already made by various German officials in this regard, notable among them is then Development and Cooperation minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (SPD), in August 2004 during the centenary commemoration of the Battle of Waterberg at Okakarara, and more recently in 2015, by the president of the German Bundestag, Norbert Lammert.”
Brosda’s acknowledgment is not the first, and may also not be the last, as there are those at the forefront of the campaign for Germany to recognise the despicable horrendous acts of its predecessor Imperial government. As a beacon of hope that one day more and more Germans of note shall not merely acknowledge the genocide of their forebears, but will act consequent on such acknowledgement. “We have learnt in the past that it is feasible to find a common perspective that reaches beyond the necessary acknowledgement of past crimes, and also embraces ideas and projects that shape and foster peaceful and fruitful cooperation yet to come. In order to achieve this perspective we also need participation from directly affected civil society and victims’ associations,” said Brosda.
“As you know, through its role as a port and mercantile city, Hamburg had long been one of the economic hubs of European colonial expansion. Thus it was merchants from Hamburg’s Chamber of Commerce who in 1883 – you could say on the eve of the Berlin West Africa Conference (1884/85) – sent a memorandum to the Reichstag appealing for the establishment of German colonies in Africa. It was the Hamburg ship owner and later president of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, Adolph Woermann, who with his shipping company – the Woermann-Line – dominated the liner traffic with Africa for decades. He later also ran the troop transports and supply lines to West Africa that led to the merciless suppression of the anti-colonial resistance and finally to the Herero and Nama genocide,” Broda explained the colonial role of Hamburg then. One cannot but note the interchangeable reference by Brosda to atrocities and genocide, but this must be part of the continuing engagement in view of his commitment together with the affected communities, including civil society, to continue to educate and mobilise, so that sooner than later the matter is brought to its logical conclusion.
“In the ongoing process of post-colonial reappraisal, the participation of the civil society, and of Black communities and people of colour in particular, has high priority for us. We are aware that we cannot reappraise our shared history with its entangled legacies unless we do it together. To this end we have recommended the establishment of a round table to give active, hands-on impetus and support to the process of post-colonial engagement and remembrance,” said Brosda. It is this very commitment that ONGI is trying to actualise with concrete proposals. Among them is the proposal to “make use of Hamburg’s seat in the Bundesrat and your political influence on the German government to bring about full recognition of the genocide committed against the Ovaherero and Nama and the inclusion of their self-chosen representatives in the negotiations on an apology and reparations.”
Yes, many an acknowledgement by one or the other German official may have come with great fanfare and expectation but with little to show for to this day. But one cannot dismiss them but keep hoping that exponentially they may bear fruit one day. But not without the necessary intensified and consistent push and follow-up mobilisation as the ONGI is exactly doing, having written to Dr Brosda to remind him of his commitment and the need to act on it.