Germany faces Namibian genocide case

Germany faces Namibian genocide case

Herero survivors after the 1904-1908 uprising.

Lawyers representing two Namibian tribes are meeting for a pre-trial conference in New York following a lawsuit filed in January that demands compensation for the descendants of people massacred in Germany’s colonial “genocide”.

Between 1904 and 1908 about 100,000 Herero and Nama were killed by German colonial leaders in what was then called South West Africa and occupied by Germany.

German settlers, with Berlin’s support, seized about a quarter of Herero and Nama land between 1885 to 1903 leading in early 1904 to a failed uprising by the Herero and Nama.

The Namibian authorities plan to join the case against Germany, demand US$30 billion in reparations, the Namibian newspaper has reported. The amount the tribes are asking for is still unknown.

Reparations would bring “a dignified closure to the matter”, said Namibia’s attorney general Sacky Shanghala.

“Lest we be accused as a government that we did not do all that we could have done to ensure that we represented the sacrifices of those who were brutally killed, and those generations that continue to suffer as a result thereof,” Shanghala said.

There was widespread and systematic rape of Herero and Nama women and girls and forced labour in subsequent crackdown.

Concentration camps were used to host exterminations and scientific experiments.

“If you look at the pictures … people looked like walking skeletons with no flesh at all, only bones,” said Utjiua Muinjangue of the Herero Genocide Committee.

Germany has refused to pay direct reparations, saying that its development funding since 1990 is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

“We do not talk about reparations,” said Christian Matthias Schlaga, Germany’s ambassador to Namibia. “We do not use the term reparations in our official communication with Namibia for the very simple fact that reparations is a legal term and has very specific legal implications, and as we do not start from the basis that this is a legal case but more a moral and historic obligation, we cannot talk about reparations.”

The lawsuit demands that tribal representatives be included in negotiations between Berlin and Windhoek.

“We don’t want what they want to do for us,” Ida Hoffman of the Nama Genocide Committee. “We want reparations so we can do exactly what we want for our people and for ourselves.”

Picture credit: Wikimedia

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