Genocide: Where to from here?

10 January 2022 | International

JEMIMA BEUKES

The key to finding a viable solution to the fight for reparations for the 1904-08 Nama and Ovaherero genocide lies in the inclusion of the affected communities and descendants in Namibia and the diaspora, says Professor Henning Melber.

In May 2021, Germany for the first time publicly acknowledged the Nama and Ovaherero genocide but stopped short of committing to reparations.

Instead, Germany pledged N$18.4 billion towards development projects such as land reform to uplift communities.

In his latest paper, titled ‘Why reconciliation agreement between Germany and Namibia has hit the buffers’, Melber pointed out that the now concluded bilateral talks between Namibia and Germany disregarded international participation rights based both in treaties and customary international law.

Melber added that the declaration avoided far-reaching precedence by its failure to acknowledge reparations although recognising the genocide morally and politically.

“The declaration avoids the term ‘reparations’. It allocates a total amount of 1.05 billion Euro (US$1.18 billion) over a period of 30 years for development projects to Namibian regions with the descendants of the genocide victims. About the same amount as German development cooperation has spent in the 30 years since Namibia’s Independence. This is a pittance.”

He added that while the new German government said reconciliation between the two nations remains an “indispensable task”, it remains to be seen if a foreign minister from the Green Party would be willing and able to find a way out of the impasse.

“Without the descendants of the genocide survivors substantially involved and willing to reconcile, this remains as patronising and paternalistic as colonialism was. It underlines the continued asymmetries. There is a long way to reconciliation,” he said.

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