WINDHOEK, 4 April 2021 – Namibian activists are seeking reparations for atrocity crimes, perhaps genocide, committed during domination under German colonial rule.
Tens of thousands of Namibians died as German colonial forces brutally suppressed uprisings by two of the main peoples of the country, the Herero and Nama.
Tens of thousands more were driven into the desert (the Omaheke Desert in the east of the country) where they starved to death.
Those captured and survivors ended up in camps where they were used as slave labor, dying of cold, malnutrition, exhaustion, and violence.
As many as 65,000 of the 80,000 Herero living in German South West Africa at the start of colonial rule are estimated to have perished, as well as perhaps 10,000 of an estimated 20,000 Nama.
In 2015, Germany admitted that the atrocities constituted genocide.
German authorities have been negotiating a restorative justice deal with Namibia that, when concluded, could set a global precedent.
Tanzania, the successor to another former German colony, Tanganyika, is already demanding reparations for atrocities.
The expectation is that other former colonies, and in some cases, even nation-tribes within colonies, like Kom in Southern Cameroons, will follow suit.
Germany is the only former colonial power that has been willing to sit down with officials of a former colony to discuss reparations.
Germany has gone a little further, promising to issue a formal apology although the wording is still to be worked out.
One of the big evil done to Namibians was expropriation from their lands by German colonialists, some of whom have stayed on and have since become Namibian citizens.
The hope among many Namibians is that the German government will fund a land reform program to enable farms to be bought from German Namibian farmers, and distributed to Herero and Nama.
German Namibians are believed to be the biggest group among the white farmers who own about 70 percent of Namibia’s farmland, and some of their holdings are vast – with just one of them covering a surface area of 400 sq miles.
Namibia’s chief negotiator, Dr. Zed Ngavirue, says Germany has “acknowledged they need to do something to help us reconstruct our society” and agreed to provide some money – as part of a wider agreement – to buy up land from willing sellers.
The German government refuses to use the word “reparations” but Zed Ngavirue says other practical projects being discussed include possible German help with health, education, housing, and water desalination.
Ngavirue says the talks are too delicate to name any amount of money yet while German officials simply decline to discuss the progress made so far in the talks.
An estimated 30,000 Namibian German speakers are descendants of the colonialists.