Windhoek, Namibia – The news left Laidlaw Peringanda angry and disappointed.
“If the German government wants to reconcile, it must give us back our dignity,” the 47-year-old said. “But that can’t happen as long as we’re excluded.”
Peringanda, the president of the Namibian Genocide Association, was referring to Germany’s announcement last week that it would recognize the colonial-era massacres against the Ovaherero and Nama people in present-day Namibia as genocide.
Historians often accept that up to 65,000 of the 80,000 Ovaherero and at least 10,000 of the 20,000 Nama were killed by German settlers between 1904 and 1908 after members of the groups rebelled against colonial rule in what was then known as Africa. Southwest Germany.
After years of negotiations with the Namibian government, Germany also pledged $ 1.3 billion in financial aid over a 30-year period on Friday, with funds earmarked for development projects, including rural infrastructure and the provision of ‘energy and water.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his country was apologizing to Namibia and the descendants of the victims, while the Namibian government praised Germany’s acceptance of the atrocities as genocide as a vital step in the process of reconciliation and reparation.
But the descendants of the affected communities rejected the text of a “joint statement”, which omitted the word “reparation”, and said that true reconciliation could not be achieved without its inclusion in the negotiations.
“We are also concerned that the social projects proposed by the German government do not really benefit us,” Peringanda, a descendant, told Al Jazeera. “If they don’t include us in the negotiations, how will they suddenly involve us when it comes to these projects?” he asked, emphasizing the continued suffering of his community.
“We have lost our ancestral land. Many of us, in our community, live in poverty today. Some of us live in shacks and have to go a week without food. Many of us inherited transgenerational trauma. “
The Ovaherero and Nama families are squatting in zinc huts wondering where their next food will come from, while descendants of German settlers hunt springs and warthogs on private farmland passed down from their ancestors through a headless genocide. feeling of remorse.
– Hood Therapist ☯️🇳🇦 (@Twin_Son) May 30, 2021
“They don’t see us”
Meanwhile, the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation, the Traditional Ovaherero Authority and the Nama Association of Traditional Leaders started a line request, demanding that reparations be paid directly to the descendants of the victim communities.
“We demand that Germany accept its responsibility for the genocide also in accordance with international law,” the petition said, rejecting the “reconciliation agreement” as “a coup on German public relations and an act of betrayal by the Namibian government “.
The Council of Chiefs, a body representing the Ovaherero and Nama villages, also called for the renegotiation of the agreement for the purpose of increasing the financial amount offered by Germany.
there are many models for managing repair payments. if he were naive, he would think it is “easier to facilitate development aid.”
but I am not naive, so I know that this is not an acknowledgment of wrongdoing and a subsequent willingness to pay penance; is performance.
– shield: in the video. (@nghidimondjila_) May 31, 2021
Sima Luipert, a Nama activist and descendant of a genocide survivor, feels as if “disrespect continues to dehumanize the Nama people.”
For her, the exclusion of the affected communities strengthened the colonial troops from not seeing Ovaherero and Nama as equals.
“The German government targets people who committed genocide because they don’t see us,” the 52-year-old said.
“It’s because they don’t see us, they don’t want to talk to us. So what kind of reconciliation do you expect when you don’t really see these people as human beings, who have a right to speak for themselves? “
The statement is expected to be signed by Maas in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, during a visit later this month before being ratified by the parliaments of the two countries.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is then expected to apologize officially during a speech in the Namibian Parliament, but some members of the Herero and Nama communities have announced that they do not want to attend the event unless the agreement is revised. of reconciliation.
Ottmar von Holtz, a German politician born in Namibia, said he sees the agreement between the two governments as a “first step in a long process of reconciliation.”
“While Germany recognizes the genocide and ultimately calls it as such a great springboard, true reconciliation can only be achieved when criticism of the Ovaherero and Nama people is taken seriously,” the green politician said.
Despite this, von Holtz still considered the agreement to be “a historic step towards calculating Germany with its colonial past.”
Historian Jurgen Zimmerer shared a similar view: “This is a fundamental step for all of Europe, permanently inscribing the structural-racist system of colonialism in the official culture of remembrance of Germany and Europe.”
But, it could be an “irreparable loss of reputation” if protests were held and Ovaherero and Nama’s deputies left the room during Steinmeier’s apology speech.
Henning Melber, a senior research partner at the North African Institute in Uppsala, who emigrated to Namibia as a young man with his parents, noted that the pledge of $ 1.3 billion in development projects “is about the same amount that Germany had spent the last 30 years on development cooperation with Namibia ”.
He said: “While this development cooperation will continue and the compensation fund will be added, it is putting into perspective a ‘gesture of recognition’, which means symbolism rather than a sign of true remorse.”