Govt denies genocide U-turn

The Namibian government has engaged lawyers in London to pursue a case of violation of human rights, and is said to be demanding reparations of US$30 billion.

20 March 2017 | International


Namibia is to file a US$30 billion lawsuit against Germany over genocide committed during colonial rule, when tens of thousands of people were killed, according to documents seen by AFP on Friday.

The Namibian government had previously avoided demanding financial compensation, but it changed its stance as two indigenous groups filed a class-action suit in New York against Germany.

Legal documents provided to AFP and The Namibian newspaper show that the government has engaged lawyers in London to pursue a case of violation of human rights and a "consequent apology and reparations process".

More than 65 000 people are believed to have been killed when colonial Germany massacred Namibian tribes such as the Herero and Nama between 1904 and 1908.

Namibian vice-president Nickey Iyambo issued a statement on Friday saying the government had sent a report to Germany last year on the genocide, an official apology and reparations.

In the statement Iyambo emphatically denies the fact that the government may have made a U-turn on the genocide talks and said the guiding policy principle had always been about the genocide, an apology and reparations.

“I affirm that government’s commitment to the current diplomatic negotiations which emanate from our national parliament motion adopted on 26 October 2006,” he said.

"We trust the government of the Federal Republic of Germany is giving serious attention to the position," Iyambo said, giving no details on the level of reparations sought.

Namibia could approach the International Court of Justice in The Hague to advance its case, the documents show.

While some German officials have acknowledged that genocide occurred, the government has refused to pay reparations, saying aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars over the last 25 years was "for the benefit of all Namibians".

Germany seized the territory of modern-day Namibia in the late 19th century under Otto von Bismarck, as part of the so-called Scramble for Africa by European colonisers.

It was called German South-West Africa during Germany's 1884-1915 rule, and then was under South African rule for 75 years, finally gaining independence in 1990.

The separate US class-action suit was filed by the Herero and Nama people in New York on Thursday, seeking compensation for "incalculable damages".

They are also demanding to be included in negotiations between the two countries.

Tensions boiled over in 1904 when the Herero rose up, followed by the Nama, in an insurrection crushed by German imperial troops.

After the Battle of Waterberg in August 1904, around 80 000 Herero fled, including women and children.

German troops went after them across what is now known as the Kalahari Desert. Only 15 000 Herero survived.

The Namibian government case alleges Germany was guilty of slave labour, mass murder, sexual abuse, human trafficking and theft of land.

The two governments have been in talks about a joint declaration on the massacres for two years.

Iyambo said Namibia wanted an "amicable closure to this sad history".

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