Germany officially acknowledges colonial-era genocide against Namibia

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After more than 5 years of negotiations between Germany and Namibia which began in 2015 and was called “a future-oriented reappraisal of German colonial rule”, Germany has finally acknowledged that the massacre of tens of thousands of Herero and Nama people of Namibia under the military administration of German General Lotha von Trotha was actually by the United Nations definition, an act of genocide.

The Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas on Friday acknowledged the killings as genocide, asked Namibia and the descendants of the victims for forgiveness, and added that Germany would support the country’s development through a programme worth more than €1.1bn (£940m; $1.34bn) as “a gesture to recognise the immense suffering inflicted on the victims”, support the country’s development through a programme worth more than €1.1bn (£940m; $1.34bn) as a “gesture to recognise the immense suffering inflicted on the victims”. This agreement will reportedly cover 30 years of spending on infrastructure, healthcare and training programmes benefiting the impacted communities.

Namibian presidential spokesperson Alfredo Hengari on Thursday said a joint declaration outlining the agreement was made by special envoys of both countries on May 15, at the end of a ninth round of negotiations over the issue and that the declaration is expected to be signed by Maas in Namibian capital, Windhoek, in early June. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is then expected to officially apologize for Germany’s crimes in front of the Namibian Parliament.

Germany had before accepted “moral responsibility” for the massacre but failed to offer a public apology to prevent claims of compensation. It even returned skulls and other remains of some of the dead in 2018, with the minister for international cultural policy Michelle Muentefering asking for “forgiveness from the bottom of my heart”.

This genocide which lasted between 1904 and 1908 was a result of the rebellion of the Herero and Nama tribes against German seizures of their land and cattle, and also German rule in the  colony, then called German South West Africa. Herero and Nama survivors were forced to live in the desert and later moved to concentration camps where they were put to work doing hard labour leading to their deaths by disease, severe hunger, and exhaustion while some were subject to sexual abuse and medical experimentation.

The traditional leaders of Namibia’s Herero and Nama people say one billion euros to support the descendants of the victims is not enough and they want repatriations too. Chief Tjipene Keja said: “We do not have land. White people are in possession of the land, and the German citizens that are also here are in possession of land.” Rejecting an accord last year, President Geingob said Berlin refused to accept the word “reparations”, as that word was also avoided during the country’s negotiations with Israel after the Holocaust.

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