Ovaherero and Nama in Botswana have formed the Botswana Genocide Foundation, which will be tasked with among others, demanding reparations from the German government for the Ovaherero/Nama genocide.
Known as the “First genocide of the 20th century” the extermination of tens of thousands of Ovaherero and Nama people by Germany as punishment for a revolt against colonial rule, not only led to deaths but displacement as many others fled to countries such as Botswana and South Africa when the war intensified.
From 1904 until 1908 German soldiers brutally massacred ethnic Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Nama in Namibia, then known as South West Africa. Different German governments have previously tried to ignore the atrocities committed by Germany. However in 2015 the German government acknowledged that what happened between 1904 and 1908 was genocide.
An estimated 80 percent of Herero people were killed together with half the Nama population. Now, the direct descendants of the 1904 genocide are telling the German government that it is payback time. The committee, which was elected in Mosu over the weekend during a Cultural Day celebrations attended by the Paramount Chiefs of the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu, is chaired by Reverend Rupert Hambira.
In an interview, Hambira said for quite sometime now the Ovaherero and Nama people in Namibia have been very actively involved in dialogue with various authorities in trying to force Germany to pay reparations.
The Namibian government had in the past maintained that it will negotiate for those who were affected by the war, but tribal leaders and the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation in Namibia were against the idea arguing that those who were affected need to sit at the table with the Germans as part of the negotiations.
Recently the Namibian government backed down on their stance and accepted the fact that all parties should be part of the negotiations. Hambira said Ovaherero and Nama in Botswana took a laid back stance. “But we feel that we need to present the Botswana case because we have a special case to present and it cannot be the same as that of Namibia,” he said.
He said in Botswana the descendents of the genocide have suffered the worst because they have lost a lot. “We lost our property, our language and culture.” Hambira - an archetypal example of a Herero who lost his language - argued that, “nothing can be done for us without us. We need to be present to present our case. We rightly demand some form of reparations for what happened.”
Hambira however said his committee will work hand in hand with their counterparts in Namibia; the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation together with the Ovaherero Paramount Chief Advocate Vekuii Rukoro who is also based in Namibia. Rukoro mobilised Herero chiefs in Botswana to work together with communities to formulate the committee.
“We are working closely with Herero chiefs in Botswana. Our mandate is justified by the fact that we have the blessings of the chiefs,” Hambira stated. Speaking in Mosu, Rukoro said Ovaherero and Nama and many in the Diaspora should not be left out of the negotiations. He said he fought with the Namibian government to let Hereros in the Diaspora be part of the negotiations.
“Herero in Botswana and South Africa will be members in the negotiations with the Germans led by the Namibian government,” he said. He welcomed the Botswana committee and urged them to work hard. Utjiua Muinjangue, chairperson of the Namibia Ovaherero Genocide Foundation expressed happiness that there is now a genocide committee in Botswana. “This is a just cause that we are fighting so we need a lot of sacrifices,” she said.
The Botswana committee has among others, Philip Tjijapa as Deputy Chairperson, Kavekotoka Mureti as Secretary, Christine Nangaro as Treasurer, Ujama Tjandero for International Relations, Joy Norman as Legal Advisor and Mutjise Tuahuku for Local Relations.