Mar 11, 2022

UNPO Calls for Inclusion of Namibian Ethnic Groups in Genocide Reparations Negotiations

On May 15, 2021 the German and Namibian government ended their negotiations surrounding the Herero and Nama Genocide committed by the German colonial troops between 1904 and 1908, killing approximately 80 percent of the Herero and 10.000 – 20.000 members of the Nama (Deutscher Bundestag, 2021, p. 1). Both countries special representatives Ruprecht Polenz and Dr. Zed Ngavirue spent more than 5 years negotiating reconciliation, agreeing on an appropriate response for the affected communities. This has resulted in both governments agreeing to the sum of 1.1 billion Euros in development aid for the next 30 years. The German government argues that this sum will not only benefit Namibia but more so the descendants of the victim groups. Former German minister of foreign affairs Heiko Maas explicitly stated that there are “no legal grounds for reparations”.

Reparations however have long been in the list of demands from Herero and Nama people who have continuously found themselves, their community and their cause excluded by both governments. Although the governments claim that the victim groups have been involved through a special committee and thus adequately represented in the bilateral genocide talks, Herero and Nama activists as well as scholars have criticized this repeatedly..

Herero and Nama alongside other Namibian ethnic groups,such as UNPO members the Rehoboth Basters, face multiple issues and injustices in contemporary Namibia, some of which are directly linked to German colonialism on the ground. Historical wrongdoings result in structural injustices if reconciliation attempts are marked by an asymmetrical power-hierarchy, which benefits colonial descendants and current recognized nation-states in the international system. Germany continuously rests on the UN recognition of genocide as a crime under international law after 1945, arguing the atrocities from 1904-1908 do not fall under the understandings of genocide as we have them today, therefore, avoiding legal claims to reparations.

Further, land lost and appropriated through colonialism has been another issue, particularly in the quest for the right to self-determination and issues revolving around land disputes and access to economical resources. After Namibian independence in 1990 when the newly-formed Namibian government seized all land as solely “Namibian”, communities who were in possession of land lost their right to it. With the current ties between the Namibian government and China, claims by members of the Rehoboth Baster community show that now Chinese companies are gaining permission to exploit mines just outside the community’s ancestral land, thus further endangering Namibian indigenous communities’ quest for land. Specifically for the Rehoboth Baster community possessing traditional land is deeply connected to their quest of being recognized as a Traditional Authority.

UNPO condemns the exclusion of the Herero and Nama communities from the talks, while also advocating for other affected members of Namibian society, such as the Rehoboth Basters to have their existence respected and protected. UNPO calls on the German and Namibian government to protect the rights of ethnic minorities, and to not put state interest before the protection of human rights. Furthermore, UNPO urges the governments to stop justifying repression of minorities with national unity.