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‘We are not surprised by Germany’s position’

LOCAL traditional leaders say they are not surprised by the German government’s reluctance to renegotiate the terms of its genocide agreement with Namibia.

Initially, the Germans offered about N$18 billion to Namibia as compensation for the 1904 to 1908 atrocities against the Nama and Ovaherero people.

The traditional leaders are reacting to Germany insisting on implementing a controversial deal that recognises the colonial-era genocide in Namibia.

The plan drew strong criticism from politicians and some descendants of the victims, who sought fresh negotiations.

Germany and Namibia have agreed that Germany would acknowledge that what happened between 1904 and 1908 was a genocide in today’s perspective, that the German government would give an apology to the Namibian people, and that it would then make available 1,1 billion euros for reconstruction over a period of 30 years.

The two governments have since not ratified the agreement.

According to an article by German state-owned international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), the German government officially rejected fresh negotiations.

In a response to written questions submitted by a member of Germany’s federal parliament from the Left party, Sevim Dagdelen, the government said negotiations for the joint declaration have been finalised.

“From the German government’s point of view, the negotiations for the joint declaration with Namibia have been finalised, even though talks about specific modalities of its implementation are continuing,” the government stated.

Many descendants of the genocide are angry that Germany is only ready to accept political, but not legal, responsibility for the genocide.

There has also been criticism of the 1,1 billion euro rebuilding and development programme Germany is proposing to finance over 30 years.

A representative of the Nama Traditional Authority, Sima Luiperdt, says it is no surprise that Germany would maintain “its racist colonial position”.

“We will never cease to seek justice, and we will hold both governments accountable for violating our human rights as enshrined in the Namibian Constitution and several international legal instruments,” she says.

Luiperdt says in its legal and foreign policy argument, Germany considers the matter a genocide in today’s perspective.

“That effectively means that the Nama and Ovaherero people could be exterminated because we were uncivilised savages in terms of the international laws to which Germany refers in its policy position.

“Today Germany uses that same argument of uncivilised savages to exonerate itself from the crimes committed. It does not surprise us,” she says.

Luiperdt says it is baffling that the Namibian government would agree with Germany that they are uncivilised savages if it goes ahead to exclude the descendants and ends up signing the agreement.

Despite the controversy surrounding the draft agreement, the German government is already taking steps toward its implementation.

This year’s federal budget includes 35 million euro for development projects, and 4 million euro for a foundation to keep the memory of the genocide alive.

Both sums are part of the 1,1 billion euro package.

Ovaherero Traditional Authority paramount chief Mutjinde Katjiua says the Ovaherero Traditional Authority and Nama Traditional Authority never demanded renegotiation, but for negotiations to start afresh on a clean slate in line with the 2006 Namibian resolution.

“The joint declaration whether as is or renegotiated in the current framework is a shame, and we shall continue to reject it,” he says.

Political analyst Henning Melber says the government’s response to the questions tabled by the leftist party confirms suspicions with regard to the reluctance of the German government to re-enter negotiations.

“It categorically dismisses any further discussions except over technical matters of implementations,” he says.

Melber says Germany will not return to the table given the current fiscal environment.

– Additional reporting by DW

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