The agreement that resolves nothing
11 June 2021 | Opinion
Dear Ambassador Beck,
I am Yarukeekuro Steven Ndorokaze, a maturing male from Oruuua, Ovitoto Area of the Omatako Constituency in the Otjozondjupa Region, around 120 kilometers north-east of Windhoek, however I spend a lot of time in Windhoek for work purposes. I am a member of the Ovaherero community in Namibia, with a significant number of relatives in Botswana.
I write this letter to you following your government’s declaration of an agreement (“the Agreement”) reached with the Namibian government in respect of Germany’s ill-fated attempt to annihilate Ovaherero and the Nama between 1904 and 1908. I have elected to communicate by way of an open letter and hopefully spare you the burden of receiving dozens of similar letters as several writers are likely to find resonance with the content herein and await your response, which you may publish if you so choose.
It is not my intention to rehash the historical facts in this regard as much of it have been brought to life in media reports that followed the unfortunate and cold 28 May 2021 statement by German foreign minister Heiko Maas. The facts are mostly common cause between the parties.
Due to the obvious and deliberate flaws in the purported agreement between the governments of Namibia and Germany, I feel compelled to respond by way of this letter. Generally, any agreement regarding the genocide perpetrated by Germany against Ovaherero and the Nama should be celebrated; however, that is not the case this time. Because of your government’s adamant refusal to engage the communities that survived the German extermination attempts, being Ovaherero and the Nama; this matter has remained unresolved for long - a blemish on your so-called record of international atonement and a blot on your conscience.
Obviously, there is a lot to say in support of why the Agreement fails to clear the initial hurdle. However, I will confine myself to two major difficulties that should have discouraged a well-intentioned and acting in good faith German government from agreeing to the empty and meaningless agreement.
The non-representation of the affected people and the Namibian government’s limited jurisdiction (mandate) are the problems at hand. None of the traditional authorities that formed part of the Namibian entourage represented me directly or indirectly. For instance, I am a member of a traditional authority reigning in the Ovitoto area and it was not included in your negotiations. Not a single member of the negotiating team sought my input on what needed to be restored for me, as a descendant of the affected community. None of them at any point indicated what they had demanded from your government, to allow me an opportunity to affirm, augment and alter their demands. No single input from or update in relation to the demands was offered and/or made. I am not a special OmuHerero by any measure, but simply using my person to demonstrate the lack of consultation with the ordinary Rahuurua (land taken by force), Jarimbovandu (the war displaced many), Ngarikotoke (the land should be returned) and thousands of other members of the targeted communities who bear with their names the scars of the German genocidal acts. Therefore, there is no mandate given to those that your government claimed to have concluded an Agreement with. They do not speak for me and many thousand others on this matter. How could your government know what I really would have wanted?
My maternal lineage trace back to Mujeu, son of Tjiraura and Mazeriuavi; who lived many years ago. Mujeu in his first marriage to Miihe fathered Kamuramba and Kamururu. Kamuramba gave birth to Kamuhinandengo (my maternal great-grandmother) and Katahoni. Fleeing from the German attack on my people, a young Katahoni reportedly followed a family that was destined for Botswana as she had lost contact with her own family. She would never be reunited with her family, ever. Life miraculously continued for her, and she gave birth to seven children, the last of whom is still alive today. Katahoni's descendants are mostly settled in Botswana, where they have obtained citizenship. Katahoni was a direct victim of the German extermination order, which hoped that she would be shot as an innocent young girl, die of starvation/thirst, or be preyed on by predators, and when captured, fall victim to brutal rape as the preferred weapon of war by German soldiers, or be shipped off to distant concentration camps. Fortunately, she was one of the ‘lucky ones’ to escape the murderous plot to a certain degree. She has since passed on, but her offspring are alive and well in Botswana, a people bereft of their homeland and links to their culture and roots. Your government’s agreement with the Namibian government apparently seeks to provide closure to that horrendous and heinous chapter of the thoughtless, ruthless, inhumane and forceful occupation of our land by Germany.
How would your government genuinely expect to close that chapter without any single mention of Katahoni’s offsping and a thousand others like them. Who spoke for them (if at all) during your government’s negotiations with the Namibian government? It cannot be the Namibian Government because it is limited to its jurisdiction and the people therein. So, when is your government going to have a conversation with my uncles, aunts and cousins in Botswana? If you dare ask them, they would tell you that they too want their conditions to be improved in Botswana, and South Africa; where they found solace or they would want a safe return home, and their dignity upheld. I guess with your seemingly arrogant and uncaring attitude your government will never know that.
Based on the above, it should be evident that your Agreement does not reflect me, my interests or that of my uncles, aunts and cousins in Botswana. Or maybe we do not matter for your current purposes and intentions, hence our exclusion. Perhaps, there will be true and genuine conversations with us about an unqualified admission of genocide, a sincere apology and reparations, which will be preceded by a dialogue about where the major hardship is and how it can be addressed as presented by those who are experiencing generational displacement, poverty and discrimination. It is those communities that your government must do right with and not the Namibian government.
You may have noticed that I avoided the insignificant and disrespectful €1.1 billion for "Reconstruction and Reconciliation" and the Namibian government's role and complicity. Those two topics generate a lot of disappointment and agitation, but we will save that for another time.
I sense that it might be a tall order, but I am hopeful that your government would, through some divine intervention, realize that Ovaherero and the Nama genocide quest has not ripened for closure yet. But it is not all lost yet, with the involvement of all relevant parties, coupled with the real appreciation and regard for all the losses, human life, and properties; the reconvention of the augmented and beefed-up negotiating teams with direct representation of all affected communities could lead to a firm, acceptable and sustainable settlement. The ball is in your court. Will you opt for a half-baked agreement with no legitimacy? Or do the right and smart thing?
Fortunately, your recent activities have awoken a younger generation that is aware of a generational cause's betrayal. What you think you have taken away from them with a stroke of a pen and a sham procedure has the potential of galvanising the next generation of genocide warriors until unconditional acknowledgement and reparations are offered. They are not going to back down. Therefore, in its current form; what your government has with the Namibian government is an Agreement that resolves nothing.