German Acknowledgements a Milestone in our Struggle (by Ida Hoffmann / Nama Technical Committee)
The German Government’s Director General for African Affairs is reported to have apologised on 1 February 2012 for the “atrocities” committed by the German Government against the Herero and Nama people: “We ask for forgiveness for these trespasses.”
We consider this new position as a milestone in the struggle which the Nama Technical Committee (NTC) initiated in 1992. It is a milestone in the sense that the German Government had refused to admit to genocide and to ask for forgiveness until now.
This new situation ushers in a new phase in our struggle.
The admission further necessitates that the NTC starts to put forward its political views and its programme for restitution.
Starting with its target group, namely the Nama and Herero groups, we need to address what seems to be a general misconception: the demand for restitution is not mandated or sourced out of political leaders or for that matter to the Government of this country. The question of mass murder and expropriation is of concern to each and every Nama and Herero family and person, from the youngest to the oldest. The right to act and demand restitution is each one’s right. The right to decide and to know how each cent will be spent for restitution is each one’s right.
An example of the Srebrenica women in Bosnia serves well to illustrate this self-evident principle: “Srebrenica, Bosnia, the world's first United Nations Safe Area, was the site of the worst case of genocide in Europe since World War II. In July 1995, the Bosnian Serb army staged a brutal takeover of the small, intimate spa town and its surrounding region. Over a period of five days, the Bosnian Serb soldiers separated Muslim families and systematically murdered over 7,000 men and boys in fields, schools, and warehouses.”
The women after the war staged a systematic struggle for justice over Europe against the Serb Army and the Netherland’s UN contingent. This contingent had handed over the community to the Serbs. This campaign led amongst others to the resignation of the Netherland’s Government. The Bosnian Government could only support that struggle, but had no power to interfere or to claim a representative right.
This principle informed the terms of reference of the NTC, which set for itself the task to try and rally leaders (tribal chiefs) of the rural communities around the return of the skulls. This was successful. However, the NTC also set itself the task to propose mass organisations of the urban Namas and those groups and individuals who fall outside tribal organisation or who want to get personally involved. We believe the same holds for the Herero.
For this reason, we now turn our attention to the masses and call upon them to attend all organisational meetings of the NTC which we will advertise widely.
We now need to report on our fraternal relations with a section of the German people. It was our informed conviction that the German people cannot be blamed for the social and war crimes of a class state, which tends to resort to class savagery whenever its rule faces collapse.
In Germany, the community of the same inclination as ourselves had already organised for our warm political welcome to state our case in a panel discussion to the nation. We resolved to build permanent links of solidarity. We sought to build on the positive aspects of our historical relation.
The first element of our solidarity is to have open relations. We exchange full information on the activities of both governments and communities on issues of common concern. We also report on governance and measures relevant to restitution. On this basis we broaden and cement the relation between the two nations.
In this regard, the NTC is already in full co-operation with the German community to articulate the terms of our demands against the German state, and to actualise our political, social and cultural relationship and co-operation.
Our third concern, which relates to our first two activities, is the development of a proposal for a consequential programme of restitution.
For this purpose, we have enlisted the services of a well qualified section of the NTC to formulate a comprehensive proposal.
The proposal will include amongst others:
- Financing of comprehensive research into the socio-economic state of the people in the south; on the effects of genocide; on the land expropriation from 1884 to present.
- Social-economic: Land reform and social management of diamonds, oil, fish, copper, and uranium exploitation among others; a trust fund for agricultural co-operatives and collectives; schools, hospitals, and so forth.
- Cultural: Research university decentralised in southern Namibia and Northern Cape.
- Eradication of unemployment.
Given the link between the German people and ourselves, we are concerned at the expenditure of both “development” finance and funds supposedly meant for the “affected” people. We keep them informed. They keep ourselves informed.
At this juncture we are unaware that any significant funds have reached the communities.
In conclusion, we connect the actions of the German state to the expropriation and massacres which took place during South African and colonial rule. We are also concerned at the expropriation of landed property in the present epoch.
We seek as a starting point to discuss with the German people our proposed demand for restitution which we intend to put to the German State.
Chairperson of the Nama Technical Committee
On behalf of the NTC
This |+| Article was first published (in a shorter version) in: "The Namibian", 7 February 2012.