Saunders Jumah: German denial of Herero genocide
The Germans’ inhuman treatment of the Namibian delegation is only the most recent in a long history of injustice and disrespect towards African peoples. It is more than time, writes Saunders Jumah, for Africans to stand together, demand fair and equal treatment according to international law, and refuse exploitation by anyone.
Namibia has just repatriated the heads (skulls) of their great grandparents who were hacked and beheaded genocide-style by the German colonial settlers.
The history of truth is being re-written. Africa gets so angry when we see the very killers trying to play super masters instead of bowing down and apologising to Namibians and Africans for their ancestors’ bad behaviour and colonial mentality.
Our organisation is very annoyed and angry seeing the behaviour that white people from the colonial states show against Africa and Africans. The inhuman treatment that Germans gave on the handing over of the skulls to the Namibian delegation reminds us of the way these same white people are doing things in our continent.
White people are happy and eager to try our African brothers and sisters at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the past mistakes that took place between Africans against Africans. The international media make headlines and sell a lot because of African stories, but when it is the Germans facing justice and truth against Africans of Namibia, the media is deaf and mute; the international community is quiet as if the skulls are not of human beings violently butchered.
If it is Charles Taylor facing justice, all media of the world will be there; when it is the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, the whole universe is awoken.
This has been the case with apartheid South Africa where black peoples’ voices of passion for the freedom of their country fell on deaf ears at the UN and other international arenas. When Africa was crying for freedom, no one cared.
According to current reports, the very same white people have been in a conspiracy trying to undermine the cause of freedom for the African people.
The fall of Kwame Nkrumah, death of Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara and so many nationalist Africans – they were deposed, killed or detained under the influence of the white people in order to stifle Africa’s total liberation.
What the German government did recently in Berlin, by not according a better reception to the delegation who went to collect the skulls of the Namibian people who lost over 85 percent of the population, has opened the wounds of the African people; where every time white people want to look superior and behave like they created Africa.
This is the same with the American, British and French governments who took slaves from Africa and are failing to come into the open to apologise and pay compensation to Africa and Africans.
Evidence is still coming that proves that the British and Americans enjoyed slavery as the tool for their economic growth and industrialisation.
This pulls back our belief and trust of white people; we see them as enemies of our African future.
White people continue to try to control Africa by manipulating African leaders. The speech of the ambassador of Germany on our own soil when the skulls were accorded a state funeral was very appalling and disgraceful.
Namibia and Germany with or without the genocide were supposed to be involved in bilateral relations in development, but to deny that there can ever be special reparations and compensation of the Herero and Nama victims is a joke of present day neo-colonialism and no African citizen will buy that story.
Does Germany have no embassy in Israel? Doesn’t Germany have bilateral relations with Israel? Why did the Germans pay the Jews? Is it because Herero and Nama people are black Africans?
This is why we are writing to all Africans to realise that whatever we do with white people in Africa is in the interest of the white people, not us Africans.
History itself explains why Namibians were beheaded and their heads taken to Germany. It was an insult to the race of Africans as a whole.
This issue alone, of testing the brains and other features of the skulls, demands compensation of billions of euros; though money cannot buy back their lives, it will heal and justify the cause of justice among all the people of the world in disregard of race or colour.
The behaviour of the Germans keeps digging up the buried history of the scramble for Africa, of slavery, partition, colonisation and other ills these white people harshly perpetrated on African people across the continent.
Their evil deeds killed so many Africans and paralysed the whole continent in sectors of human civilisation. They committed terrible and horrible atrocities on African people that included hacking, cutting into parts, beheading, hanging and raping of our grandmothers.
That resulted in modern-day Africa having over a third of the population with a biological connection to the bloodline of those shameless occupiers. Yet no African could touch a white woman.
The late former president of Botswana Seretse Khama was barred from taking over his paramount chieftainship because of his love for a white woman from the UK. He was prohibited and sent into exile because he had committed the grievous crime of marrying a member of the ‘superior race’. He nearly faced imprisonment under the rule of the white occupiers.
Indian people consider it taboo and an abomination for an Indian woman to be married to a black African; not even just falling in love. But male Indians and white people have impregnated so many African women across the continent without being questioned or imprisoned. This is evil that Africans cannot tolerate today.
It is this occupation that brought draconian rules in Africa, some of which are still in practice today in so many countries. Governments that wanted to adopt African ways of doing things – our own Ubuntu – were overthrown. Kwame Nkrumah and Muammar Gaddafi are notable examples, as is Patrice Lumumba.
Under the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979, Prime Minister Robert Mugabe was forced to sign for independence that did not show any significance in terms of granting total freedom to the African people of Zimbabwe. Mugabe wrote: ‘I felt cheated after signing the draft document and lamented that we could achieve more freedom in the bush than what we achieved on the table of negotiation.’
Zimbabwe was robbed of its true freedom by the document which favoured and supported the interests of the occupiers – this made sure that land, which was the main reason for fighting in the liberation struggle, would remain in the hands of the colonial settlers. This is one reason Africa must fight for restorative justice and compensation without beating about the bush in the language of diplomacy.
This has been the white man’s policy and agenda in handing over power to the owners of the African continent. This is meant to enable the departing settlers to keep holding onto the land and other resources. As for Namibia, even livestock and wildlife are in the hands of these very people who proudly castigated and mistreated the descendants of the owners of the skulls returned from Germany; that government refuses to apologise and take responsibility for their atrocities in this country. Germans in Namibia have pushed the citizens to the corner, while they own and keep large arable land with kudu, buck, cattle and zebra close to cities and towns.
The biggest economy of Africa (South Africa) is another victim of a big shame because the very people who pushed the ruling African National Congress (ANC) into exile and placed most of its members under solitary confinement in inhuman prisons are calling the shots in a free South Africa today, while the citizens are living in the bondage of shameful poverty.
They have manipulated the system of economy and orchestrated xenophobia against Africans who helped the very apartheid government to develop; they calculated a move to make any black government look like a failure, and that is sparking riots, strikes and protests every now and then. This is a move to make these agents prove to their masters in the UK, USA and France that the country was better off under apartheid.
All this is happening while arable land remains in the hands of the white people (a clause that is constituted in the agreement for independence signed beforehand) while black Africans have nowhere to call home – living in shacks and in shelters without proper sanitation.
Today the people who fought for the country are being denied friends to visit them because South Africa will jeopardise good relationships with her trading partners; therefore the Dalai Lama cannot enter South Africa to visit his long-time friend Desmond Tutu. How long are we as Africans going to keep singing the foreign song of praise when our own people who played a role of freeing our states are being sidelined? What is wrong with Africa? I don’t understand.
In Kenya the Mau Mau was another victim at the hands of the British. Their cause has been denied for a very long time. The issue of the Mau Mau is not any different from the Herero and Nama. If in Kenya the former freedom fighters have succeeded in taking the British to court, what can stop the Herero and Nama from suing the Germans who have evidence in their backyard? Africa must support and encourage Namibia to take this case further for justice and restoration – not just because the Germans are refusing to take responsibility and are unwilling to bury the past with an apology, but because anything that had gone wrong in the past must be verified and corrected in the modern world of today; and those who did wrong have to be held accountable and be made to pay the reparations and compensation for their actions in order to stop such actions from taking place again in future.
Because of this, Namibia has a case with the Germans to correct the wrongs. Reconciliation cannot heal the wounds without proof. We cannot sit back and promote reconciliation when the other side does not want the same to happen. It is inhuman to keep quiet when injustices were perpetrated on African people just because white people started castrating our voices of Ubuntu from as early as 1500 BC.
In this 21st century, we would like to define the concepts of independence and reconciliation as follows:
Independence means freedom from bondage, freedom from control of others and freedom to do what one chooses with what is rightfully yours.
Reconciliation means the application of justice and truth, giving back what was lawfully or unlawfully taken without the consent of the owner, either by grabbing, stealing or force; it also means revealing truthfully how something that does not belong to you was taken, and openly apologising with all your heart and leaving it in the hands of the victim to declare whether you are forgiven or not.
But what is being preached in Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and other parts of Africa is not reconciliation. It is called perseverance; meaning that those who felt pain must live with pain and say nothing, while those who perpetrated agony on others can continue to live as such, proud of their bad actions. This is the time to review and bring real reconciliation that will be felt by Namibians from all walks of life.
The land that belonged to us must be returned to the owners. South Africa and other states must follow suit. Until the time when we are able to see white people call themselves Africans and act as true Africans, we will not trust their intentions.
We cannot sit side by side and talk freely without grudges in our hearts when we know that these people did what they did to us and seeing those skulls lingering in the museum when we know that in Germany we were not treated with respect. ‘(Kako)(Tats eta//hein xa//kawa !ho-he tite)’ – we will extend a hand of genuine rapprochement and reconciliation with them the day we will hear apologies and have reparation paid into our hands.
Africans have observed double standards in world bodies such as the UN which are controlled by the West. We have had some hope in China, supporting our governments in their engagements with the East. But the attitude of China in trying to dictate what type of friends Africa must choose is very worrying. We do not see why the Dalai Lama can be stopped from visiting an individual in South Africa. Are we not running away from the West because of the same attitude of the dictators and going to the East to be treated in the same manner?
The youth of today have so many questions for our leaders and we are getting impatient because poverty is killing our citizens. Recently, Namibia adopted tax hikes for foreign investors for the benefit of citizens but, within 72 hours, the government reversed the decision leaving the citizens to pay the higher tax hikes. Something is very wrong in Africa.
We refuse the freedom of sweet talk when our bellies are empty. People want to eat food, have good houses, work and earn good salaries, send their kids to good schools and live better lives. Ever since independence African people have been promised a good life and plenty of food but they have consumed nothing at all – the promises are still being made. Black people are not free yet, and the struggle and fight for freedom has to be re-started.
This article was first published in New Era newspaper.