More skulls to return

Descendants of the colonial genocide claim they were informed of the repatriation of human remains at the eleventh hour.

26 May 2017 | History

The Namibian embassy in Berlin has informed the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation that 16 human remains of Namibian origin were identified and are ready for repatriation in the coming weeks.

The minister of education, arts and culture, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, will be heading the Namibian delegation that will receive the remains in Germany.

This will be the third return of human remains of victims of the 1904 to 1908 genocide and it is again not without controversy.

Nama and Ovaherero groups say they were only informed of the return of the skulls at the end of last week and might not be able to collect enough funds or obtain travel documents to accompany the government delegation.

Hanse-Himarwa informed the groups on 19 May and pointed out that any individuals wishing to accompany her delegation would have to foot their own bills for accommodation, meals, transport and so on.

The secretary to the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation 1904 (OGF 1904), Utjiua Muinjangue, says they are now seeking a meeting with Hanse-Himarwa to negotiate that the return of the human remains be postponed to give them an opportunity to find funds for the trip.

But the chairperson of the Nama Technical Committee, Ida Hoffmann, said they would not scramble around for funding “to walk with the government”.

“We are being left behind while those are our skulls,” said an irate Hoffmann. “It is not the Namibian government that has demanded the return of the human remains. That process was started by chief Dawid Fredericks and Ovaherero paramount chief Kuaima Riruako and the cabinet against its will was forced to accept that.”

Hoffmann said after the adoption of the genocide motion in parliament on 2006 it was not the Namibian government but groups of descendants of the genocide victims who relentlessly pursued the return of human remains and acknowledgement of and restitution for the genocide.

“Our government did not think that we would have the endurance to pursue this matter to its final conclusion while it [Namibian government] showed no interest in it for 10 years after the adoption of the motion. I am therefore not surprised that we have not been informed well in advance of the third return of the skulls,” said Hoffmann.

She said the Namibian government seemed less interested in the lives lost during 1904 and 1908.

“As far as this government is concerned the only people who have died are those who perished at Ongulumbashe, during the raid on Cassinga and the FNB bomb blast [in 1988 at Oshakati],” charged Hoffmann.

CATHERINE SASMAN

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