Ovaherero Paramount Chief Vekuii Rukoro has warned his tribe and the Nama to be wary of the German government’s dirty tactics that it will employ to avoid paying reparations to the two tribes.
Speaking over the weekend at the Ngatu jarukee ko Takarive Ovaherero Heritage Day held in Takarive near Mahalapye, Rukoro rejected what he called Germany’s “cheque book diplomacy” in the form of development aid towards the Namibian government, instead of discussing reparations with “us as the Namas and Ovaherero for the genocide they committed.”
The weekend event attracted Ovaherero and Ovambanderu from Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. The Ovaherero and Nama are engaged in a protracted battle with the German government through a court case in New York demanding reparations over the tens of thousands of indigenous people killed in the 1904-1908 massacres.
Speaking at the same event as Guest Speaker, Deputy Permanent Secretary at Botswana Government Communication and Information System (BGCIS), who was speaking in his capacity as a historian Dr. Jeff Ramsay said the terrible period of death and destruction by the Germans has been rightfully characterised as Genocide.
“There can be no doubt about this! Measured in terms of demographic loss, the final 1904-08 Ovaherero and Nama uprising against the Germans in Namibia was the most horrific of Africa’s many anti-colonial struggles. Its impact can be summarised by the fact that it claimed the lives of well over 70 percent of all Ovaherero at the time, along with not less than half of the Nama,” he said, further noting that in moving forward “we cannot escape the past”. Dr. Ramsay said the ugly truth is that the Nazi holocaust in Europe did not spring from the twisted post-World War I mindset of one individual or political movement. Its roots can be directly traced to the pre-war fate of the indigenous communities of Namibia.
A second ugly truth is that the atrocities of the Kaiser-Reich were known and at the time enabled by others. “For those unfamiliar with what can rightfully be described as the “Kalahari Holocaust”, between 1893 and 1908 the Ovaherero in Namibia, along with the Ovambandero, Nama and others, repeatedly took up arms in resistance to the German policy of depopulating large areas for European settlement,” he narrated.
The Germans proclaimed their “Protectorate” over most of Namibia in 1884; a move that in direct response led to the parallel proclamation of a British Protectorate over most of Botswana.
This was, incidentally, ten years and eight months before Dikgosi Sebele I, Bathoen II and Khama III boarded the Tantallon Castle passenger ship at Cape Town bound for England.
Said Ramsay, “In 1884 the first German Governor in Namibia was Ernst Goering, the father of Hitler’s deputy, Hermann Goering.
“However it may be said that the Kalahari Holocaust truly began about a decade later, when the colonial regime in Windhoek set out to militarily subdue all local communities as part of a systematic campaign to rob them of their land for European settlement.”
Meanwhile, Advocate Rukoro said Germany committed an act of genocide in terms of international law and by the same token Germany is bound to pay reparations. Germany in similar circumstances has acknowledged genocide towards the Jews of Israel, they have apologised for it, and they have paid compensation, he said, adding that Germany sat down in a trilateral arrangement which involved the State of Israel, Government of Germany and no less than 23 groups representing the victim groups of the Jewish people.
He said the Ovaherero and Nama want to adopt the same arrangement. “The German government refuses to adopt this model and instead has persuaded the Namibian government that the negotiations should only be confined to the two governments and should not directly be involved with representatives of the victim groups.
“Clearly the German government is resorting to its old proven and successful tactics of divide and rule, which it practised during the colonial days. It is using the same tactics to divide the Namibian government and its own citizens.”
He told the gathering that the German government is now discussing development aid to the Namibian government in exchange and in place of reparations “to our people in Namibia and in the Diaspora in Botswana, South Africa and other places.”
“Obviously it is a very cheap way for the Germans to get away with murder. They don’t want to talk to us directly, the affected people, the victim groups, that is why colleagues we decided after consulting with the chiefs in Botswana and in SA to institute legal action against the German government in an appropriate legal jurisdiction in New York.”
The action involves charging Germany with genocide, unlawful confiscation of land which by today should have been “our” inheritance, as well as the unlawful confiscation of the livestock of “our” ancestors and other forms of property which actions have dumped “us into generational poverty for more than 100 years, and other kind of related crimes against humanity.”
Rukoro however warned that, typical of all imperialist governments Germany has co-opted local agents and traditional leaders that they are parading and collaborating with.
“I am sure they will very soon start visiting Botswana to try and confuse you and lie to you but fortunately more traditional leaders, the genuine ones who have already given us powers of attorney to represent you in court, are well aware of this, they are part of our struggle to hold Germany accountable and make sure that when the victory ultimately comes you are part of the fruits of our victory and that we share in that victory as well.
“Therefore my friends stay firm through the diversionary tactics of the Germans that will come in all forms, even if they come through their local agents which they are going to send in whatever capacity to Botswana,” he said.