PM defends ‘give and take’ reparation deal
09 June 2021 | International
Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila says the government has achieved ‘significant milestones’ by getting Germany to concede that it committed genocide on Namibian soil, as well as agreeing to issuing a formal apology and reparations for such atrocities.
She told irate members of parliament – some of whom charged that the government had betrayed descendant communities – that the negotiations were on the principle of ‘give and take’, initially marked by Germany’s refusal to admit having committed genocide, let alone paying reparations.
The prime minister also rubbished assertions that the government had excluded affected communities from its team of negotiators, saying concerted efforts were made but some communities sought to tackle the same issue in their own way.
“Before the negotiations commenced, [President] Hage Geingob… convened an inclusive and transparent consultative meeting at State House on 11 December 2015, where he informed all representatives of the affected communities, namely the Ovaherero/Ovambanderu Genocide Foundation and Nama Traditional Authority Association/Technical Committee, led by Mr Festus Muundjua and Honourable Idda Hoffman, respectively; and the Ovaherero/Ovambanderu and Nama Council for the Dialogue on 1904-1908 Genocide, led by Chief Gerson Katjirua, that the Government of the Republic of Namibia will negotiate with Germany on the 1904-1908 genocide,” she said.
“As a consequence, both organisations mentioned above were requested to assign members to the Government negotiating team. The same organisations were further requested to assign members to the technical committee that will assist the government to draft Namibia’s negotiation strategy.”
“Only the Ovaherero/Ovambanderu and Nama Council for the Dialogue on the 1904-1908 Genocide has sent delegates to the technical committee and government’s negotiating team. The Ovaherero/Ovambanderu Genocide Foundation and Nama Traditional Authority Association/Technical Committee refused to participate, they indicated that they would undertake a different route,” the PM said.
The technical committee composed of experts on law, economics, history and research, as well as representatives of affected communities, she added.
Between 2016 and 2021, she further noted, more than eight sessions were held with the Chiefs Forum, which provided its own input to the negotiating strategy.
“Over the period of five years, between 2015 and 2021, nine rounds of negotiations were held, alternating between Germany and Namibia.”
Recounting the challenges Namibia encountered during negotiations, the PM said: “The Namibian negotiating team faced heavy resistance from Germany to accept our non-negotiable position and narrative that the mass killing of the Ovaherero and Nama communities, including forceful seizure of their land, property and cultural artifacts was genocide, in terms of the 1948 UN Convention.
“In light of our position, without acceptance that Germany committed a genocide against the Ovaherero and Nama communities, there would be no basis for an apology. Germany refused to pay reparations. Instead, the German government offered a financial contribution of what it called the ‘healing of wounds’, which was far from what our non-negotiable stance was.”
Responding to the PM’s address, Nudo secretary-general Joseph Kauandenge demanded that the deal be withdrawn, especially where it states that the affected communities were involved.
“Government betrayed Nama and Ovaherero people. We will not be party to this agreement. It must be rejected with the contempt it deserves.”
Speaking on the Namibian Sun’s ‘Evening Review’ talk show last night, Ovaherero Paramount Chief Vekuii Rukoro said: “The process has been flawed from the start. The N$1.1 billion compared to the losses we suffered is a joke and an insult to the affected people. With the current land policies in the country we will find it hard to get our land back. There needs to be a fundamental change to achieve this,” he said.
Rukoro said the government had handpicked individuals who were positively disposed to drive government’s agenda during the negotiations, adding that the affected communities that were side-lined would seek international legal recourse to hold the German government responsible for the genocide it committed against the Nama and Ovaherero people.
“We will lobby opposition parties to oppose it and international bodies to ensure that Germany is declared a pariah state and a war criminal,” he said.