'Genocide' the focus of talks

04 January 2018 | International

Namibia and Germany are expected to finally agree this month the detail of form of reparations the former colonial government is willing to pay for the 1904-08 Nama and OvaHerero genocide.

Namibia's special envoy on the reparations negotiations with Germany, Zed Ngavirue, confirmed that the next round of discussions would take place in Windhoek this month.

Referring to the issue of reparations as the “elephant in the room”, Ngavirue emphasised that they have decided on working groups that will hash out critical issues where no agreements have been reached thus far.

The genocide negotiations between the two countries formally kicked off during September 2016 when Ngavirue, accompanied by his technical team comprising chiefs of affected communities, met with the German negotiators in Berlin.

Namibia's strategy is based on three principles, namely that Germany should take responsibility for the genocide, unconditionally apologise, and pay reparations.





“The issue of reparations must be narrowed down to address our differences. We [Namibians] have decided not to agree to anything if we do not agree on everything. We have to find a common wording for 'genocide' without having to deny that the genocide took place. But the Germans always felt that it should not be legally applied,” he told Namibian Sun.

He emphasised that this meeting will have to agree on a choice of words that are mutually acceptable to both parties.



Supposed deadlock

In September last year, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said the government was “not happy” with the German government's response to the reparation demands made for the 1904-08 killings of the Nama and Ovaherero people in Namibia.

Namibia had submitted the government's position paper to its German counterpart in July 2016 and Germany responded on 26 June, last year.

At the time, the prime minister also emphasised that Germany had not formally accepted responsibility for the genocide and had not yet rendered an unconditional apology.

According to her, that was where the negotiations were at the time.



Atrocities vs genocide

Meanwhile, the German government insists that the mass killings committed during between 1904 and 1908 must be termed “atrocities” and not genocide.

In June last year, the German ambassador to Namibia, Christian Matthias Schlaga, spoke at a local German school function, and told those in attendance his government believes an amicable solution can only be reached through discussions in a “historical context” and not through a court case.

According to him, the German government's focus will be on the way in which the term “genocide” is used.

Meanwhile, it would appear as if the German government has no keen interest to pay lump sums to Namibia for its historical transgressions, as Schlaga last year made it categorically clear that no money would be channelled directly to the descendants of the genocide victims.

However, Ngavirue yesterday insisted that the German government had not openly declined to pay reparations.

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