Namibia

Namibian leaders reject ‘insult’ of German offer of help over colonial killings | DW | 31.05.2021

A group of Namibia’s ethnic leaders on Monday rejected an agreement proposed by Germany recognizing its colonial occupation of the country amounting to genocide.

German settlers killed thousands of Herero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908, after tribes rebelled against Berlin’s rule in the colony, which was German southwest Africa at the time.

Last week, the German government acknowledged those massacres were genocide and pledged 1.1 billion euros ($1.34 billion) in financial aid in compensation over thirty years.

The money will be used to fund infrastructure projects, healthcare and training in the former German colony.

But in a statement on Monday, the influential President’s Council dismissed the “insulting amount” as “unacceptable” and “an insult to our existence.”

The group called on the Namibian government to renegotiate the deal because the amount was not directly related to compensation.

Some ethnic leaders have already staged protests outside the German embassy in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, on Friday as the proposed deal was announced.

A similar protest was held in Berlin earlier on Monday.

Demonstrators in Berlin hold a banner calling for direct compensation to Namibia

The demonstrators in Berlin demanded that the German government pay compensation to the descendants of the victims.

The Namibian government expressed surprise at the Council of Presidents’ reaction.

Its chief negotiator, Zeid Njaviru, told the DPA news agency that they were involved throughout the talks.

“I think Germany was aware of the fact that there are divisions in this country,” he was quoted as saying.

He added that Windhoek was now assessing to what extent the opinion of ethnic leaders should be taken seriously.

What did the German and Namibian governments say?

After more than five years of negotiations, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Friday that Germany “will now formally call these events what they were from today’s perspective: genocide.”

“In light of the historical and moral responsibility of Germany, we will ask Namibia and the descendants of the victims to pardon,” he said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks outside the Foreign Ministry in Berlin.

Maas announced the deal on Friday after five years of talks with Windhoek.

A spokesman for the President of Namibia, Hame Geingob, called the move a “step in the right direction” on Friday.

What did Germany do in Namibia?

Germany took control of Namibia in 1884 until the colony was lost in 1915 during World War I.

German settlers brutally suppressed uprisings against their rule, killing thousands of the Herero and Nama people.

Archive photo of Herero survivors, after fleeing brutal oppression at the hands of German settlers.

The Herero, shown here, and the Nama were brutally suppressed by German settlers in what was then German Southwest Africa.

Lothar von Trotha, a German general sent by Berlin to put down the rebellion, ordered the extermination of the people.

His soldiers led people into exile and arrested men, women, and children, and put them in concentration camps.

Many victims were used as forced labor in the camps, where thousands died of exhaustion, starvation, or disease.

While Germany has previously admitted its “moral responsibility” for the killings, it has long avoided a formal apology to stave off compensation claims.

The country’s refusal to do so led many historians to describe the killings as a “forgotten genocide” in the early 20th century, souring relations with the West African country for decades.

According to the United Nations, genocide is defined as killing committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.

jf / csb (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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