Genocide talks must stop

Include us first, say groups

21 October 2016 | Local News

Paramount chief of the OvaHerero Vekuii Rukoro has acknowledged that the Namibian government is willing to rethink and review its approach to the bilateral genocide negotiations with the German government.

Rukoro said after a recent informal engagement with President Hage Geingob he has every reason to believe that the Namibian government at the highest level is willing to make a turnaround on the manner in which the negotiations are currently taking place.

He claimed that more than 90% of the OvaHerero and Nama communities, the communities directly affected by General Luther von Trotha’s extermination order, want to be directly represented by him, as paramount chief of the OvaHerero, and the Nama Technical Committee.

Rukoro said the current composition of the Namibian government’s negotiating team consists, amongst others, two small groups of OvaHerero and Nama who are “collaborating” with the Namibian government and has accepted government’s terms “of not being able to speak for themselves and participating directly” in the negotiations.

“Those are co-opted traditional leaders belonging to traditional royal houses representing clans, family members, and not the broader tribe. Those people, with all due respect if one wants to be charitable, amongst the OvaHerero might have 5% support; among the Nama 2% to 3% maximally,” said Rukoro at a press briefing in Berlin, Germany at the end of last week.

He added: “The traditional leaders who command overwhelming majority support of their people among the OvaHerero and Nama are leaders who have rejected the position that we are excluded by the two governments who should speak on our behalf without our participation. This is unacceptable.”

Esther Muinjangue said the current negotiating structure – from the “handpicked” lowest to cabinet level - put up by the Namibian government does not in any way represent the affected communities, least of all the affected communities in South Africa, Botswana and elsewhere.

“The best thing for both governments is to stop the [negotiating] process and go back to the drawing board and include the representatives from the Nama and OvaHerero,” said Muinjangue.

She pointed out that the genocide negotiations between the German government and the Jews included 23 non-state organisations.

Ida Hoffmann of the Nama Technical Committee, referring to herself as the “founding mother of Nama genocide discussions”, emphasised that the unanimously adopted 2006 motion tabled in Parliament by the late OvaHerero paramount chief Kuaima Riruako stated that there should be a roundtable between the affected communities and the German government with the Namibian government only playing a mediating role.

Riruako’s motion acknowledges genocide perpetrated by German troops and supports claims made by the affected communities for material reparations from the German state.

“We stand on that point; nothing can be changed. If the government has said ‘yes’ on the resolution then it must be ‘yes’,” said Hoffmann.

Nama traditional leader Moses Kooper added that the current Namibian position on the negotiations has “no integrity” to achieve “appropriate reparation measures”.

The Berlin press conference was organised by the Linke Party who has demanded that the German government install a tripartite dialogue between the descendants of the victims of the genocide and the two governments.

“All questions are to be openly negotiated with the participation of the victims’ associations. This explicitly includes the topic of reparations,” said Niema Movassat of the Linke Party.

APOLOGY NOT ENOUGH

Rukoro at the same press briefing emphasised that an apology for the genocide by the German government is not enough, stressing that reparations, not to individuals but to the affected communities, must be done.

The German government has in the past ruled out the possibility of reparation payments, a position which Rukoro said should be rejected by German taxpayers “because it would seriously constitute a phenomenal insult to the intelligence not only of Namibians and descendants of the victim communities but to Africans and humanity in general.”

“Because we happen to be of a different skin colour, Africans, the German government is saying for us it is only an apology and that’s it and then the rest will be what I call chequebook diplomacy through our government, which is a Third World government to be given development assistance to be topped up with a 5% or thereabouts and then we must shut up. Guess what, the Ovaherero and Nama, the victims of genocide will not ever in another 100 years to come accept that. We shall never declare ceasefire with generations of German governments to come. Our war will continue. Our claims will simply progressively escalate,” Rukoro said.

The two groups said reparations must be part of the negotiated restorative justice because genocide has caused generational impoverishment that continues today.

They say because their numbers have been decimated because of the extermination orders they are now being treated as minorities by the Namibian government.

CATHERINE SASMAN

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