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Germany's Herero reconciliation efforts rebuffed

[NAMIBIA] Some 65,000 Herero were shot, hung or forced into the desert where they died of thirst.
Some 65,000 Herero were shot, hung or forced into the desert where they died of thirst. (BBC)

The signing of an agreement between the Namibian and German governments concerning reparations for colonial rule is on hold until the various communities who suffered during that era have been consulted. The deal would have brought Euro 20 million (US $23.5 million) into development projects in the southern African country.

President Hifikepunye Pohamba, who ended a five-day state visit to Germany on Friday, told Germany's development cooperation minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, earlier this week that the agreement could not be finalised until the affected Herero, Nama and Damara groups were consulted.

Neither side explained why consultations with these groups had not taken place prior to the meeting in Berlin.

"I regret this, because the content of the agreement was known to the Namibian government and they agreed to it," Wieczorek-Zeul told reporters.

The agreement would have pumped money into development projects aimed at benefiting the affected groups between 2006 and 2016.

Wieczorek-Zeul made history last year when he asked for "forgiveness" for colonial atrocities committed a century ago against Herero-speaking Namibians as well as the Nama- and Damara-speaking tribes.

In Namibia the "Herero Genocide Committee 1904" lambasted the German government on Thursday for proposing a reconciliation initiative without extensive consultations.

Edwin Kanguatjivi, spokesperson for the committee, told reporters the German government had not embarked on a dialogue with them since the Wieczorek-Zeul apology in August 2004.

"The Herero people shall not be fooled by hypocritical apologies, nor shall they allow their leaders to be treated as minors," said Kanguatjivi.

In September 2001 the Herero filed a civil claim in the district court of Columbia in the United States demanding $2 billion from the German government for atrocities committed during colonial rule.

The lawsuit lodged by the Herero People's Reparation Corporation also seeks $2 billion from three German companies - Deutsche Bank; mining company Terex Corporation, formerly Orenstein-Koppel Co.; and the shipping company, Deutsche Afrika Linie, formerly Woermann Linie.

The district court of Columbia was chosen for the lawsuit because a 216-year-old American law, the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789, allows such civil action to be taken.

Germany and Namibia will discuss the extension of bilateral development cooperation for 2006 and 2007 next week in the capital, Windhoek.

President Hifikepunye Pohamba, who ended a five-day state visit to Germany on Friday, told Germany's development cooperation minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, earlier this week that the agreement could not be finalised until the affected Herero, Nama and Damara groups were consulted.

Neither side explained why consultations with these groups had not taken place prior to the meeting in Berlin.

"I regret this, because the content of the agreement was known to the Namibian government and they agreed to it," Wieczorek-Zeul told reporters.

The agreement would have pumped money into development projects aimed at benefiting the affected groups between 2006 and 2016.

Wieczorek-Zeul made history last year when he asked for "forgiveness" for colonial atrocities committed a century ago against Herero-speaking Namibians as well as the Nama- and Damara-speaking tribes.

In Namibia the "Herero Genocide Committee 1904" lambasted the German government on Thursday for proposing a reconciliation initiative without extensive consultations.

Edwin Kanguatjivi, spokesperson for the committee, told reporters the German government had not embarked on a dialogue with them since the Wieczorek-Zeul apology in August 2004.

"The Herero people shall not be fooled by hypocritical apologies, nor shall they allow their leaders to be treated as minors," said Kanguatjivi.

In September 2001 the Herero filed a civil claim in the district court of Columbia in the United States demanding $2 billion from the German government for atrocities committed during colonial rule.

The lawsuit lodged by the Herero People's Reparation Corporation also seeks $2 billion from three German companies - Deutsche Bank; mining company Terex Corporation, formerly Orenstein-Koppel Co.; and the shipping company, Deutsche Afrika Linie, formerly Woermann Linie.

The district court of Columbia was chosen for the lawsuit because a 216-year-old American law, the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789, allows such civil action to be taken.

Germany and Namibia will discuss the extension of bilateral development cooperation for 2006 and 2007 next week in the capital, Windhoek.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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