World, Africa

Mixed reactions in Africa as Germany formally recognizes 'genocide' in Namibia

Some believe €1.1B offered by Germany is small amount compared to number of people killed, others demand restitution of legitimate rights from former colonizers

Hassan Isilow   | 28.05.2021
Mixed reactions in Africa as Germany formally recognizes 'genocide' in Namibia A ceremony held at Frenzosische Dom in Berlin for the victims of Namibian genocide in Berlin, Germany. ( FILE PHOTO - Anadolu Agency )

PRETORIA, South Africa

There have been mixed reactions in Africa after Germany formally recognized the atrocities committed against the Herero and Nama ethnic groups in today’s Namibia at the start of 20th century as "genocide".

"Let's think beyond the money that Germany is giving Namibia. It should be beyond this, Germany should enable Namibians to own some of the wealth owned by Germans in that country," South African academic and analyst Tinyiko Maluleke told Anadolu Agency in an interview.

He said Germans own much of the Namibian economy and this needs to be shared with the locals.

On Friday, Germany agreed to fund projects in Namibia worth €1.1 billion ($1.3 billion) over 30 years for its role in mass killings and property seizures in its then-colony more than a century ago.

"We will now also officially refer to these events as what they were from today's perspective: a genocide," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

Some 60,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama people were murdered by German troops in southwestern Africa between 1904 and 1908 for rebelling against the colonial master.

Berlin's move to recognize these crimes as a "genocide" came after over five years of negotiations between Germany and Namibia to address their difficult history.

Maluleke said during colonialism, Germany encouraged its citizens to move and settle in Namibia, where they acquired wealth, yet it is difficult for a Namibian to settle or be granted citizenship in Germany.

"Will Namibians be compensated like the Jews?" he asked.

Meanwhile, other people Anadolu Agency spoke to said they believe €1.1 billion is a small amount as compensation for the crimes committed.

Namibia's presidential press secretary Alfredo Hengari said Germany's formal acceptance of the atrocities as genocide is an important step towards reconciliation and reparation.

However, Iqbal Jassat, an executive at the Johannesburg-based Media Review Network (MRN), for his part, wants human rights movements across the world to demand accountability and restitution of legitimate rights from former colonizers who continue to violate international conventions as neocolonialists.

"Unless citizens of former colonies demand restitution, we expect little or no movement towards justice," he told Anadolu Agency.

He added that "Germany belatedly but finally has emerged from its dark history as a colonial power by acknowledging its genocidal role in Namibia."

Iqbal, however, wonders if Britain, France, and Portugal, which were also colonial masters, will stand to be counted for apologizing over crimes they committed during colonialism.

But Maluleke says what Germany did to the Herero and Nama ethnic groups in its former colony was genocide and cannot be equated to just colonialism.

"We shouldn't trivialize genocide, compared to colonialism. What the Germans did in Namibia was extermination, though it is never too late to apologize, any apology should not be scoffed at," he said, adding this will be significant if the reparations are meaningful.

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