Thursday, August 13, 2020

Namibia Rejects Germany's Compensation Offer

 Former colonial powers have been deeply reluctant to acknowledge the violence associated with their imperial history.
Namibia has rejected a German offer of compensation for the mass murder of tens of thousands of indigenous people more than a century ago. 
German occupiers in Namibia almost destroyed the Herero and Nama peoples between 1904 and 1908 as they consolidated their rule in the new colony in south-west Africa in what many historians have described the bloodshed as the first genocide of the 20th century. German officials rejected the use of the word “genocide” to describe the killings of the Herero and Namaqua until July 2015, when the then foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, issued a “political guideline” indicating that the massacre should be referred to as “a war crime and a genocide”. The German government is also very reluctant to use the word “reparations” in a declaration accompanying any agreement with the Namibian government. Germany had proposed an alternative description of cash payments as “healing the wounds”.
Namibia’s president, Hage Geingob, said on Tuesday that the most recent offer “for reparations made by the German government … is not acceptable” and needed to be “revised”.
No details were provided on Berlin’s proposal, but unconfirmed media reports have referred to a miserly sum of €10m.
In 1884 as European powers scrambled to carve up the continent, Germany annexed a territory on the south-west coast. Land was confiscated, livestock plundered, and native people were subjected to racially motivated violence, rape and murder. In January 1904 the Herero people – also called the Ovaherero – rebelled. The smaller Nama tribe joined the uprising the following year.
In response, colonial rulers forced tens of thousands of Herero into the Kalahari desert, their wells poisoned and food supplies cut. Others were rounded up and placed in concentration camps. Half of the Nama population also died, many in disease-ridden death camps such as the infamous site on Shark Island, in the coastal town of Lüderitz. 
Germany’s 29-year rule in a second colony, which eventually became Tanzaniawas also bloody. Tens of thousands of people were starved, tortured and killed as colonial forces crushed rebellions.
Belgium long refused to officially recognise the cost of its invasion and exploitation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it is thought that about 10 million people – roughly half the population – died during its rule. Only in June did King Philippe express his “deepest regrets” for the brutality of his country’s reign over the vast, troubled state.
In 2013 the British government said it “sincerely regrets” acts of torture carried out against Kenyans fighting for liberation from colonial rule in the 1950s and 1960s. It said it would pay out £19.9m to 5,200 Kenyans who were found to have been tortured.
Hussein Mwinyi, a Tanzanian government minister, told parliamentarians in February that officials were closely watching “steps taken by Kenya and Namibia governments in seeking reparations from Britain and German governments respectively”.

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