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Press Release: First congress on Ovaherero and Nama genocides in Berlin

First congress focusing on the genocides against the Ovaherero and Nama in Berlin: Reconciliation requires readiness for dialogue and respect. Moving reception for Ovaherero and Nama delegates to the Berlin congress on their arrival in Windhoek, Namibia. A joint resolution of the congress delegates demands direct participation of the Ovaherero and Nama’s representatives in all Namibian-German negotiations on the genocide committed against their communities and global recognition of the first genocide of the 20th century.

Many exuberant supporters welcomed home Ovaherero and Nama delegates Tuesday (October 18, 2016) to Windhoek after the first transnational congress in Berlin under the theme “RESTORATIVE JUSTICE AFTER GENOCIDE“ highlighting the genocides committed between 1904-08. More than 50 Ovaherero and Nama delegates from Namibia, the United States, Canada, and Britain had come together in Berlin on the invitation of Berlin Postkolonial, AfricAvenir and the NGO alliance “Völkermord verjährt nicht!/No Amnesty on genocide!”. The Ovaherero Traditional Authority, Paramount Chief Adv. Vekuii Rukoro, invited all the Ovaherero to Okahandja this coming Sunday to report on the Berlin congress of last weekend.

During several addresses at the congress, two impressive rallies in central Berlin, a press conference organised by Niema Movassat, MP for DIE LINKE, and a work meeting with Bündnis 90/Die Grünen in the German parliament or Bundestag, representatives of the Ovaherero and Nama associations made absolutely clear that reconciliation can only be achieved provided they are directly and without any preconditions involved in the negotiations about the issue of genocide against their communities between the Namibian and German governments underway since 2014. They have emphasized that the two governments must recognise the relevant Namibian Parliament’s Resolution of 26th October, 2006, as the only valid and sound basis for the negotiations that must restart afresh with the Traditional Leaders of the Ovaherero and Nama Council on Genocide and Reparation, as well as guarantee the rights of the victim communities under international law.

In close co-operation with African, black and Germany-based non-governmental organisations critical of colonialism, Ovaherero and Nama delegates drew up a joint congress resolution which declares critical debate about the genocides a global task and a subject for society as a whole. Apart from the main demands for an official recognition of the genocides, a sincere apology by the German parlament and government and negotiations on reparations with the Ovaherero and Nama representatives from Namibia and their diaspora, calls were also made for critical observation of the demanded trialogue by non-government organisations (NGO).

Companies such as Deutsche Bank, Wecke & Voigts and Woermann that directly profited from the genocides and the forced labour of Ovaherero and Nama are urged to participate in compensating the affected communities who were entirely expropriated and forced to leave its lands. The congress resolution calls on the world’s nation states, the African Union, the United Nations and Christian churches, partly entangled in the genocides, to take the occasion of the ongoing UN Decade for People of African Descent and officially recognise the Ovaherero and Nama genocides as well as to support the victims’ just struggle for an apology and direct participation in the exclusive government negotiations.
During the next days, the congress resolution will be sent to the German and Namibian governments, to the U.N., to political parties, involved companies and to the Christian churches. According to the Berlin-based Herero Israel Kaunatjike of the alliance „No Amnesty on Genocide!” the congress is a “key step towards expanding the decades-long fight for justice”.

During last year’s allied campaign, “Genocide is Genocide!”, over 50 NGO and 150 prominent figures in politics and academia in Germany had already lent their support to the demands of the Ovaherero and Nama for direct participation in the negotiations on the genocide issue.
Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (SPD), the former Development Minister, sent a greeting with a call for “moral and financial compensation” of the Ovaherero and Nama to the congress in Berlin. Ruprecht Polenz (CDU), the German government’s special representative, was invited to the congress but declined to take part in a panel discussion with the Ovaherero and Nama representatives or to meet the delegation during their stay in Berlin.

Contact: Israel Kaunatjike, Bündnis „Völkermord verjährt nicht!“, 0049-173-1035605 & Christian Kopp, Berlin Postkolonial, 0049-179-9100 976, buero@berlin-postkolonial.de
Attachments: Berlin Congress Resolution
Photos by:
J. Nguherimo (congress on 14./15.10. in Berlin’s Centre Francais de Berlin): https://www.flickr.com/photos/namibdesert/sets/72157671857378894/<a
O. Feldhaus (March on 16.10.): https://www.flickr.com/photos/petshoppetshop/sets/72157673973860422
J. Zeller (March on 16.10.): https://www.flickr.com/photos/148332649@N03/
B. Sauer-Diete (13.10. Protest outside DHM & March on 16.10.): https://www.flickr.com/photos/basspunk/30115685750/
More information on: http://genocide-namibia.net/

Open Letter to: The Special Envoys ……

In an Open Letter to the special envoys Mr. Polenz and Dr. Ngavirue, Konrad-Adenauer Foundation, and the Namibia Institute for Democracy, Mr. Festus Muundjua, a descendant of the 1904-1908 genocides victims, calls the ongoing negotiations between the German and Namibian a charade and an attempt to deceive the Namibian people and deny justice to the descendants of victims of the Ovaherero and Nama genocides. Mr. Muundjua cites the existence of a secret agreement between the German and Namibian governments that Germany does not have to pay reparations.

 

Restorative Justice After Genocide

 Non-Governmental Congress on the Ovaherero and Nama Genocides, 1904-08

 October 14-16, 2016, Centre Francais de Berlin, Germany

We are pleased to announce the Non-Governmental Congress on the Ovaherero and Nama Genocides, 1904-08, scheduled for October 14-16, in Berlin, Germany.

ABOUT

The congress will bring together, in solidarity and common purpose, black, white and African people in Germany with descendants of the victims of the Ovaherero and Nama genocides 1904-1908 from all over the world including Africa, Europe and America.

Inviting hosts of the congress are Berlin Postkolonial in cooperation with AfricAvenir International, the Ovaherero/Ovambanderu Genocide Foundation (OGF), the Nama Technical Committee on Genocide, the Association of the Ovaherero/Ovambanderu Genocide in the USA (OGA), the OvaHerero/Mbanderu and Nama Genocides Institute (ONGI), and the German NGO Alliance “No Amnesty on Genocide!”.

MAIN GOALS

The main goals of the Congress are:

  1. to reflect on the past struggle for restorative justice for the Ovaherero and Nama genocides.
  2. to evaluate recent developments and the present situation in Germany and Namibia with regard to the exclusion of Ovaherero and Nama from the genocide negotiations.
  3. to affirm the right of the Ovaherero and Nama communities to be directly involved in negotiating a comprehensive solution, including recognition of the genocides, a sincere apology and just reparations for the genocides.
  4. to chart a course for transnational actions to secure restorative justice and the repatriation of all Ovaherero and Nama human remains shipped to Germany.

 DATES and TIME

The congress will begin on Friday, October 14 at 2:00 pm and conclude on Sunday, October 16, at 1:00 pm. It will conclude with a march through Berlin on Sunday morning.

PROGRAM

Once finalized, the program will be posted on the websites of the inviting hosts: www.berlin-postkolonial.de & http://theongi.org/ & www.africavenir.org &  www.ovaherero-ovambanderugenocideassociation.org

PLACE / HOTEL

The congress will be held at the Centre Francais, 13349 Berlin, Germany, Müllerstraße 74. The associated Hotel de France is offering single & double rooms for Oct 14 & 15 at a congress rate: www.hotel-francais-berlin.de, phone: +49(0)30 417 29 0.

QUESTIONS / REGISTRATION/ INVITATIONS

For questions and registration please send an email to buero@berlin-postkolonial.de. Please register no later than September 14 and include your full name, affiliation, and telephone number. 

EXHIBITION

In Autumn 2016 there will be a major exhibition on German colonialism in Berlin. The opening event will be in the evening of Oct 13: www.dhm.de/en/ausstellungen/preview/german-colonialism.html

Ambassador Undermines Genocides Motions

Namibia’s Ambassador Undermines Ovaherero and Nama Genocides Motions in the Bundestag

On March 14, 2016, the Namibian ambassador to Germany, apparently acting at the behest of the German federal government, wrote a letter appealing to Left and Green parties to withdraw their motions on the Ovaherero and Nama genocides. The motions by the Green and Left parties represent an attempt by German parliamentarians to provide a measure of justice for the victims of the Ovaherero and Nama genocides of 1904-1908. This is something that generations of descendants of these genocides have been seeking and actively campaigning for since Namibia’s independence in 1990. The motions recognize the genocides, include an apology and restitution for the victims and their descendants, and call for the involvement of the affected communities in the dialogue to resolve these issues. The affected communities welcome and supported these motions. While the Green Party’s motion was withdrawn prior to the debate, the Left Party motion was debated and voted down on March 16, 2016 ‒ a victory for the ambassador and the German federal government and a loss for the victims of the genocides.

The Left Party motion is one of the most detailed and comprehensive public documents by any party or government entity, including the Namibian government. Here are some of its most notable elements: supports the 26 October 2006 Namibian National Assembly resolution; requires the involvement of affected people in negotiations; recognizes need for restorative justice for victims that is separate from bilateral aid; recognizes the continued impact of expulsion from and appropriation of land and calls for mechanisms to address resultant structural imbalances; proposes a structural compensation fund to help address land issues and lack of infrastructure; holds accountable those businesses that benefited from labor, expulsion, and land appropriation; calls for educational and cultural exchanges; and calls for the return of stolen property and human remains. While I can imagine that the German federal government might disagree with some of these elements ‒ after all, it has not put forth its own motion ‒ it is hard to imagine which of these the Namibian government should find objectionable, especially given that the offspring of the victims welcome these proposals.

In his letter to the Bundestag the ambassador proposed that these motions should be replaced by a new and unknown motion to be produced shortly by the two governments, and a multi-party motion that would be guided by agreed-upon proposals of the Namibian and German governments that have not been made public by either government. Further, the Namibian government continues to refuse to involve affected communities and civic society. The ambassador talks of “Harambee” with the German federal government while engendering ohani (divisions) in Namibia. Not only does the Namibian ambassador appear to speak on behalf of the German government, he also seems to be telling the parliamentarians that the Namibian government, in working with its German counterpart, can deliver a better deal for Germany – likely one that does not go as far as the Left Party has proposed. The ambassador’s letter is essentially saying trust us to work with your government to protect Germany’s interests just as we have protected property rights after independence. What about the interests of the affected communities and individuals, Mr. Ambassador? One can only guess that the ambassador is referring to, among other things, policies such as the disastrous Willing Seller Willing Buyer (perhaps better referred to as Unwilling Seller, Unable Buyer policy, since many farm owners are unwilling to sell, and the disenfranchised cannot afford to buy). This is also the policy that enshrined the imbalances referenced in the Left Party motion, imbalances resulting from the Kaiser’s expropriation of land.

Clearly the German federal government’s moral and political calculations have evolved over the past couple of years due to efforts of the affected communities as well as of individuals, parliamentarians, and NGOs in Germany and all over the world. Reportedly, the German federal government is prepared to offer an apology, but they want the apology to be done correctly and to be accepted. Presumably, the soon to be produced multi-party motion by the two governments would pave the way for such an outcome. Furthermore, given the ambassador’s letter and the Namibian government’s refusal to engage the affected communities, the thinking must be that the Namibian Cabinet or National Assembly would accept the apology and absolve the German federal government of any future moral and legal responsibility. Such an apology will be morally hollow, will not be acceptable, and cannot lead to forgiveness and healing on the part of the victims. In fact, descendants will be left with a continued feeling of victimization by the German federal government, albeit with the acquiescence of the government of a free Namibia.

International conventions, Namibia’s constitution, and Namibia’s National Assembly resolution of 2016 all recognize and protect the rights of groups and individuals affected by genocide and crimes against humanity to seek appropriate legal and moral recourse and to speak for and represent themselves. Even the German federal government recognizes that the lack of involvement could be a significant hindrance in making limited progress. What is unbelievable and supremely immoral is that the Namibian government is essentially preventing progress on this issue by refusing to involve descendants in any possible outcome.

The victims of the genocides are scattered across the globe. They are in Botswana, South Africa, and Angola where their fore-bearers sought refuge. If their representatives are not involved in these negotiations, does the Namibian Government claim to negotiate on their behalf as well? This is an important issue because the Namibian Government continues to deny the descendants of the victims of genocides their right to return to their ancestral land. Those who dare to return to Namibia follow the same procedures as other emigrants and are eventually given citizenship by registration, which can be revoked at any time.

In a democracy, government protects and cherishes these rights. It is incumbent upon people of good conscience all over the world to remind governments of this sacred responsibility. It is equally important for the descendants of the OvaHerero and Nama genocides to speak up and demand that their government listens to them, protects them, and certainly not stand in the way of justice for them.

This is not a political issue; it is at its core a moral issue, and a moral test for the German federal government – can they do this right, and for the right reason?

To survivors of genocides and their descendants, genocide is and continues to be an existential issue. We live with it, and its memory haunts us. Efforts to deny, undermine, dismiss or whitewash our horror are painful and threatening and are seen as congruent with past efforts to deny us our humanity and basic rights, including the right to live. And, as our forbearers (including Kahimemua, Witbooi, and Rapote) did, and as our children and grandchildren expect us, we will continue to insist on justice – we have to.

Namibia is blessed with individuals of great courage and moral rectitude, from all walks of life and ethnicities and across the political spectrum. Many have publicly spoken with moral clarity on this issue; others do so privately, and just as forcefully. With the support of the Namibian community and friends all over the world, descendants of the genocide victims are resolute and united in their search for justice. This is what gives me hope that there will be a course correction and that the activities of the Namibian ambassador to Germany will go down in the annals of history as an unfortunate anomaly.

Dr. Kavemuii Murangi is a Namibian born educator currently residing in the USA.  He is a descendant of the victims of the Ovaherero genocide and the founding director of the USA based OvaHerero, Mbanderu and Nama Genocide(s) Institute (ONGI) – http://theongi.org/; @ONGI1904

Ambassador attempts to suppress genocide motions

The Namibian government is trying to suppress Ovaherero and Nama genocide motions in the Bundestag. The motions recognize the Ovaherero and Nama genocides of 1904-1908, call for an apology and restitution to the descendants of the genocides, and are welcomed and supported by the Ovaherero and Nama people. In a surprising letter (see attached statement) to the Bundestag, on the eve of the Bundestag debate on March 17, the Namibian Ambassador to Germany proposed that the motions be replaced by a new motion based on ongoing secretive negotiations between the German and the Namibian governments. To date the Namibian government has refused to directly involve the descendants of the genocide in these negotiations.  It appears the Namibian government is siding with the German government and protecting German interest in this matter, against the interest of its own people – the victims of the Ovaherero and Nama genocides and their descendants.  Needless to say, reconciliation and healing is not possible without the direct involvement of the descendants of the genocide, without a meaningful apology and restitution to the descendants.

While the Green Party has withdrawn its motion, the Left Party is standing firm with the Ovaherero and Nama people, is not withdrawing its motion, and has issued a statement calling on the governments to end these secretive talks.

Our Common Humanity Demands It

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On October 12, 2015, I participated in a panel discussion on the OvaHerero/Mbanderu and Nama Genocides of 1904-1908 at the University of Hamburg, Germany. The panel discussion was titled “Not about us without us,” a title designed to highlight the unfortunate state of affairs where the German government and Namibian governments are said to be involved in negotiations on the issue of genocide without the direct involvement of the affected communities. Panelists included Jefta Nguherimo (labor activist, historian, and founding member of the ONGI); Professor Jurgen Zimmerer (University of Hamburg); and me, Dr. Kavemuii Murangi (founding member and director, ONGI). This post shares my presentation on the demands of the OvaHerero and Nama.

 “Our Common Humanity Demands It”

I am a father of three daughters; the youngest is 10 years old. I am also a descendant of victims of the genocide.

My great-great-grandfather died in 1904 during the genocide war. The Schutztruppe pushed his wife and daughters into the desert as were many OvaHerero. Many of them would perish from exhaustion, hunger or thirst as the wells were poisoned, or from being shot. Hungry, exhausted, and thirsty, rather than allow herself to be captured and killed by Germans, my great-great-grandmother essentially committed suicide. Their daughters were captured and put in concentration camps or death camps.

Concentration camps were characterized by systematic abuse and slave-like conditions, starvation, forced labor, rape, and death. The death rate ranged from 40 – 70% percent in these camps – hence the name ‘death camps.’    Most notorious were the Shark Island camp on Lüderitz, the Swakopmund camp, and the Windhoek camp, which was known as Katjombondi or Vile Place.

The genocide of the OvaHerero was calculated, systematic and extremely effective. The Kaiser’s government through its troops and General Luther Von Trotha, came as close as any one has come in the 20th century to liquidating an entire people.

Between 1904 and 1908, all OvaHerero and Nama people who lived in central and southern Namibia were either dead, in concentration camps, or in exile. An entire people—up to 85 percent of the OvaHerero and 50 percent of the Nama—were exterminated.

My great-great-grandfather’s daughters were raped by German soldiers or settlers, and gave birth to children of mixed heritage. My grandmother saw her German father but never knew or talked to him.

Yes, my grandparents and their parents experienced physical, psychological and emotional pain. As I grew older, I began to recognize this pain in my grandparents and my parents. To this day, a death in the family is essentially bereavement over the pain and death of the genocide. It is amazing how an event so long ago can still engender so much pain and angst.

As descendants of the genocides, we have inherited that loss and pain. The devastation and cruelty was so great that it is ingrained in our DNA, in our hearts and souls like a hereditary disease – in fact, it is a disease that is passed on from one generation to another.

I do not want to pass this disease onto my children, much less to their children. I want them to know about the genocide factually and intellectually, but not emotionally and psychologically as my generation and generations before us experienced these events. We need to cut this link, by taking measures that begin the healing process for the victims of genocide – for our sake, but most importantly for the sake of our children and their children, for the sake of OvaHerero, Nama, and German children, and their children.

The current generation of German leaders should not pass this historical and moral burden to future generations. They should have the courage to take measures that would begin the process of healing and free our peoples (Herero, Nama, and German) from the ghosts of the past. They should a) recognize the 1904-1908 atrocities as genocide, b) offer an apology, c) return all human remains stolen and stored in German institutions, d) make amends and restitution, and e) engage in direct meaningful dialogue with the descendants of the genocides.

a) The German government and the Bundestag must recognize the atrocities committed against the OvaHerero and Nama as genocides.

Germany has acknowledged the Holocaust and made reparations and has recognized the Armenian genocide, even though both predate the 1948 convention on genocide, yet has failed so far to recognize the Namibia genocides under the pretext that the term genocide did not exist.

Earlier this year a group of German citizens, parliamentarians, and members of NGOS launched the Genocide is Genocide petition that calls on the German government to stop the double standards and recognize the OvaHerero and Nama genocides.

Dr. Lammert, speaker of the German parliament, recently publicly stated that he personally views these atrocities as genocide and war crimes.

The Left Party and the Green Party have introduced motions recognizing the OvaHerero and Nama genocides, apologizing to the OvaHerero and Nama people, and offering restitution.

We urge the Bundestag to pass these common sense motions and end these political games by the German government.

b) We demand a sincere and heartfelt apology from the German government and the Bundestag and commend the Left and Green for tabling a motion that includes an apology to the victims and their descendants.

A public apology would be consistent with Germany’s ideals as a democratic and freedom loving state that cherish the rights and worth of all people regardless of color, country of birth, or station in life. It is the moral thing to do and will re-affirm Germany’s own humanity and our humanity in Germany’s eyes.

Former Germany’s development aid minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul offered an apology in 2004 for the 1904-1908 atrocities, and indicated that these events constituted genocide. Her unscripted comments showed that her apology was sincere and heartfelt and she has since demonstrated this in different ways including her participation in the Genocide is Genocide petition.

Through an apology, affirming our common humanity, Germany will usher in an era of healing and true reconciliation among our people. Only then can the descendants of the genocides begin to stem a hereditary disease that I talked about earlier.

We want an apology and we will accept a meaningful apology, but Germany will have to earn our forgiveness through her actions.

c) One of the most inhumane and, in my view, unnatural crimes of the OvaHerero and Nama genocides was the desecration of graves, the stealing of human remains, and the cutting off and stealing of heads and other body parts for pure pleasure as well for scientific experiments to prove the inferiority of Africans.

In colonial Namibia, especially during the 1904-1908 genocide, the stealing of skulls and human remains was a full blown and organized industry. Collectors, universities, museums, and scientists would place orders for the supply of these human parts.

In concentration camps, female prisoners boiled severed heads and cleaned them with shard glass – sometimes the victims were family and often acquaintances.

Some skulls have been uncovered in Germany and repatriated over the past several years. Hundreds of skulls and human remains are still in Germany – we need these repatriated so that we can pay respect and put our ancestors to rest.

During this trip, we are hoping to visit the Rudolph Virchow collections of human remains, which has skulls and human remains from Namibia in their possession.

d) Reparation is defined as “the act of making amends or giving satisfaction for a wrong or injury.”

We are asking the German government to recognize that your government, institutions, and citizens committed crimes against humanity during this particular period in history, and that those actions had and continue to have severe and irreparable consequences for the OvaHerero and Nama people. OvaHerero and Nama had land and cattle, and colonial Germany wanted land and cattle for it settlers and it was prepared to take both at all cost. OvaHerero and Nama lost their lives, they lost cattle, and they lost all their land thanks to a decree issued by the Kaiser himself confiscating all land and preventing OvaHerero from owning land.

Reparations are in many ways symbolic, as it is impossible to make whole again the lives lost and the property and resources lost. Nevertheless, they can be a way to ameliorate destitution, poverty, and marginalization that OvaHerero and Nama continue to suffer.

e) Finally, all these can only happen in an environment of mutual respect and through a process of meaningful and direct dialogue involving the aggrieved parties and Germany. In the past year, there has been a lot of talk about talks as we hear the German and the Namibian government are engaged in talks. However, the affected communities have not been consulted, much less involved, in these talks. How can you apologize to someone if you are not talking to them, how do you make amends with someone if you do not know or recognize their worth?

Germany’s refusal to engage the affected communities and our government enabling behavior will only strengthen our resolve. The exclusion of the affected communities from these so-called talks only demonstrates one thing that the German government is not ready to live up to its moral responsibility and meet our basic and common sense demands. It also means that we have to reach out to all our brothers and sisters all over the world, but especially here in Germany to do everything they can to make our governments see reason. Our humanity demands it!