German locals should be included

A German legal expert is of the view that negotiations for raparations for the Nama and Ovaherero should include German Namibians.

13 May 2019 | Local News

In a recent interview, a German legal expert Matthias Goldmann said white, German-born farmers who still own a large part of Namibian farmland must be part of the negotiations for reparations for the 1904-08 Nama and Ovaherero genocide.

During an interview carried by the Neues Deutschland, a German daily newspaper early in May, Goldman said Germany could also be held responsible for the uneven distribution of land which goes back to the colonial era.

“Land reform is divided in Namibia. Therefore, you should not exclude them from the negotiations. The distribution of land is still very unfair. A voluntary, market-based government programme has barely worked. It is possible to expropriate, but the constitution requires compensation. Germany could also be held responsible here,” he said.

Namibian Sun reported in 2016 that out of the 247 farms owned by foreigners, 129 farms are owned by Germans, comprising a total of 630 000 hectares.

During consultations held before the land conference that took place in October last year, there were also calls from Namibians on the government to negotiate with the German government to encourage Germans owning land in Namibia to relinquish the farms as a gesture of solidarity.

Meanwhile, Goldmann said there is a need to differentiate between development aid and reparations, adding that development aid cannot provide the recognition of injustice, whether legal or moral, and is indifferent.

“The immediate package of 2004 which, according to the personal apology of the then federal minister for economic cooperation and development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, was set up and included 20 million euro. It flowed mostly to the north. The Ovaherero and Nama have difficulty getting concessions, unlike white foreign investors. Germany has to take note of these tensions,” he said.

Asked whether he sees a basis for reparations independent of the Genocide Convention of 1948, Goldman replied yes.

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948 as General Assembly Resolution 260.

The Genocide Convention entered into force in Germany in 1955.

Goldman pointed out that there, the experiences of the Second World War were processed and the holocaust was judged retroactively by the standards of this convention, even though it did not apply at that time.

“In other words, even then it was assumed that what was in the convention was already valid international law, at least during the Third Reich. However, even in international law at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, regardless of the concept of genocide, there is sufficient evidence that crimes we would call genocide under the convention were unacceptable under international law,” he said. He also believes that the German government is wrong by regarding the war against Ovaherero and Nama as purely domestic, because they were under German colonial rule.

“In 1884, Germany did not simply occupy a 'terra nullius' in South West Africa, a legal no-man's-land, but there already lived peoples, to whom, under the law of that time, one must recognise an international law subjectivity,” he said.


Recently during a panel discussion organised by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights as part of a symposium aimed at interrogating the 1904-08 genocide, a Namibian-born German Erica von Wietersheim said talks about land expropriation is like poison for Namibian Germans.

She also said at the same event that Namibian-born Germans live as individuals with no traditional authority and believes this has no place at the negotiation table.

“We cannot deny that white Namibians, specifically German Namibians, benefited from apartheid laws as well. We carry that burden and the guilt of the colonial past,” she said.


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