An open letter to President Hage Geingob
23 September 2021 | Opinion
I hope that the hustles and bustles of New York City, and those within the UN building at the Delegates Lounge with fellow heads of state and diplomats will spare you some time to read this letter.
At times, in human relations, there comes a time when friends, as you and I are, talk to friends. With this open letter, I have decided to just do that.
I would like to engage you this time on the so-called “joint declaration” between the governments of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Namibia, which is nothing else but a subtle German gimmick to avoid legal consequences for the genocide that was committed by Imperial Germany against the Ovaherero and Nama people during its colonial misrule of this country.
Instead of aligning our government with the interests of the Ovaherero and Nama victims, the government of Namibia is dancing to the music of the Germans by echoing almost verbatim the contents of the two German parliament resolutions of 1989 and 2004, and nothing of our own parliament’s resolution of 26 October 2006.
When you, as prime minister then, and His Excellency, President Pohamba, decided to push aside our own resolution, which was unanimously adopted by our National Assembly, it was at that point when you shot and killed it with your two bullets called: “bilateral” and “government-to-government” negotiations.
At one time, after becoming president, I remember well, you tried to justify your decision with the “87%” that you or Swapo got during the elections, and at yet another occasion you went on a tangent by lecturing to us about the Greek model of “representative democracy”, insinuating that you had a right or a mandate to represent us – “as the government that you have elected”, you said.
The 87% was not an outcome of who should negotiate the Ovaherero and Nama genocide reparation with the Germans at all. In fact, it was not even an issue in the entire Swapo Election Manifesto. The 87% was a percentage for you, as a presidential candidate, that you got to defeat the other aspirants to the office, and thus had nothing to do with the Ovaherero and Nama genocide, and could therefore not give you a mandate on something that was not an election issue. The manner your presidency has usurped the bona fide victims’ right of “self-representation or by a representative of their choice” on issues of genocide, and enshrined in various international laws and conventions, and which Namibia has acceded to, and by so doing made them part of our domestic laws, is a violation of the laws that you have vowed to uphold, protect and defend under Article 30 of the Namibian Constitution. You simply had no right to deviate from the letter and spirit of the 2006 resolution.
The Greek city-states’ so-called ‘representative democracy’ equally has nothing to do with genocide as it is defined in modern international laws and conventions. Besides, the Greek philosophers (be they the Pre-Socratics, Socrates himself, Plato, et al), never debated or philosophised on genocide per se, let alone on the related issues of reparations and the rights of victims.
I thus dismiss your attempt to justify your deviation from the 2006 resolution in toto, because it was never the intent of the authors of this resolution to write and then to abandon it to the government/executive to change it to something else. The role of the Namibian government was, and still is, to “facilitate” or as a “mediator” in any discussions between the German government and the “affected nationals”, as per von Trotha’s Extermination Order.
Recently, some of your Ovaherero and Nama ministers and deputy ministers are traversing various Ovaherero and Nama communities, masquerading themselves, as they say in the Otjiherero language: “Otjovanatje uOtjiuana” (meaning, “as children of the community”) to lure their own people to accept or voice support for this sugar-coated pill of their own demise labelled “joint declaration”.
Recalling the words of Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amahdila, who said in full view of the MPs of Namibia, and indeed to the whole world on 16 March 2021, that, “the Namibian side has proposed to the German side to look at projects, as a way of moving away and not be bogged down by the reparations quantum” and, she added, that this will be done “within the framework of the Fifth National Development Plan (NDP5) and Vision 2030”, my blood boils that our forebears had to perish and lose, not just their lives but everything they had possessed, but now that what should be due to their descendant survivors will be used to finance NDP5 and Vision 2021.
Mr President, I would advise or strongly recommend that you, your cabinet and the Swapo-dominated parliament reject the already unpopular document of Mr Polenz and the late Dr Ngavirue as an insult to the injury of the Ovaherero and the Nama victims of von Trotha’s Extermination Order.
Then, start it all over again correctly by reverting back to the letter and spirit of the 2006 resolution and with the right instances. For that matter, and in my opinion, the legally gazetted Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA) and the equally gazetted Nama Traditional Leaders Association (NTLA) are the better statutory options that should negotiate the reparations with the German government on and issue that universally and historically has gone in their respective names as: “The Ovaherero and Nama Genocide of 1904 – 1908”.
Starting it all over again is not a sign of weakness but a return to doing the right thing and a respect for the voice of the people and a return to reason.
I know that both you and German Chancellor Merkel are serving your last terms and both may wish to leave behind a legacy with this unpopular joint declaration, but a rush for a Merkelian and Geingobian legacy will be a very bad chapter in the annals of history for the two countries, and even for your names.
If the Swapo-dominated parliament should blind itself with the fact that it has the majority members in parliament and can simply put the matter to a vote and get away with murder, as it were, Swapo and whoever is aspiring to be the next parliament or the next president, will most likely not get the majority of the Ovaherero and Nama victims and Swapo might find itself as the next opposition party. That would be your legacy, Mr President, and should you shame Swapo in that way, and leave the mess with your successor to deal with?
Tell your German cheaters that the joint declaration is not acceptable to the victim communities, and the German embassy here should certify that as true.
Festus U. Muundjua.