Speech by Namibian Minister Hon Jerry Ekandjo on the Occasion of the Handover of 21 Human Remains of Namibian Origin

 Berlin, 05 March 2014. Statement by Hon Jerry Ekandjo, Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture speaking about German colonialism, its connection with racial science and the current importance of repatriation of the Namibian skulls. n
Dear Prof Einhäupl, Chairman of the Executive Board Charité – University
Medicine Berlin; Ambassador Egon Kochanke, Director General for Sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel region in the Federal Foreign Office; Your Excellency Neville Gertze, Ambassador of the Republic of Namibia to the Federal Republic of Germany; Distinguished Members of Academia; Representatives of the Media, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,n
I hold in the highest regard the mission I have been entrusted, to lead to the
Federal Republic of Germany, a Namibian delegation mandated with
repatriating the human remains of Namibian sons and daughters who fell
victim to the atrocities committed against our people at the turn of the
previous century.nMore than two years have passed since September 2011 when my
predecessor led a delegation to Berlin to collect and repatriate the first
Namibian human remains from the Federal Republic of Germany. These
human remains were removed from Namibia and taken to Imperial
Germany to serve the racial science of the day aimed at proving the
supposed inferiority of Africans. nIt was due to a TV report in the political show “fakt”, which presented
pictures of human remains in the archives of the Charité and the University
of Freiburg in 2008 that we in Namibia – for the first time – had proof of
what we suspected for many years, and subsequently demanded the return
of these remains. The Charité University Hospital in Berlin was the first
German institution to hand over human remains of Namibian origin.
Today, my delegation and I are back in Berlin to receive and return to
Namibia the remains of 21 men, women and children, marking the second
repatriation. nWe take a moment to pause and reflect with great sorrow on the darkest
chapter in the history between Namibia and Germany. At the same time,
however, today provides us with an opportunity to learn from this painful
history and commemorate the victims of colonialism. We honour their
sacrifice and commit ourselves to pursuing justice and reconciliation for
them and future generations. nThe 21 Namibian men, women and children before us were not only
martyrs in the struggle for justice, but also victims of racially motivated
brutality and subjugation under German colonialism. As we repatriate their
mortal remains to their motherland, it is our belief that in being reunited
with their ancestors and descendants, their souls will be at peace and they
finally will be accorded the dignity they deserve.nLadies and Gentlemen,
The atrocities committed in Namibia during the period of German colonial
rule were despicable, callous and racist in nature and will thus always be
regarded by all Namibians as crimes against humanity. The name of
science was used as a pretext for the many unjust acts committed against
deceased Namibian martyrs. It is unthinkable that heads were severed from
bodies, and in some instances, whole skeletons unearthed for so-called
research purposes. I am sure that you will agree with me that these practices
were not only unjust, but also inhumane. nVery often I am asked what the value of repatriation processes is to
Namibia and why the government has chosen to prioritise the desire of the
affected communities to have human remains of Namibian origin
repatriated. The response is simple; although many of the human remains
are today “nameless”, these are brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons and
daughters whose dignity, and that of their communities, has been violated.
For the Namibian Government, it is therefore, of paramount importance
that we fulfil the moral and ethical obligation to continue the search for
human remains in German institutions in order to ensure their safe return
to Namibia. nLadies and Gentlemen,
We may recall that in 2011, H.E Hifikepunye Pohamba, the President of
the Republic of Namibia, called on German institutions to hand over both
human remains and cultural objects of significant historic value to
Namibia. I would like to acknowledge and appreciate the cooperation we
have received from the Charité University Medicine Berlin in this regard.
The provenance work on these human remains has been completed and we
are pleased to receive the remains. nWe recognise that there is a world of difference between the scientific
works that the Charité Human Remains Project under the able leadership
of Prof. Thomas Schnalke and Dr. Andreas Winkelmann with their team
have done in terms of the provenance research and the so-called “scientific
research of the time” which was nothing more than racially motivated. In
that context, we wish to put on record our appreciation for the efforts of
Prof. Einhäupl and the entire Human Remains Project-Team to assist in
verifying the origins of the remains we are able to repatriate today. nWe regret that not more German institutions have researched their archives
in order to identify and return human remains of Namibian origin. It is for
this reason that I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate the call of
His Excellency President Pohamba and request all German institutions
(especially museums) to continue searching their collections for human
remains and any cultural artefacts that may have significant historic value
to Namibians. Our Embassy in Berlin is aptly prepared for dialogue with
these institutions and is willing to assist in all preparations for repatriating
both human remains and cultural objects to Namibia. nAgainst that background, we wish to recognize with appreciation the
support and cooperation we had from the Federal Foreign Office in
approaching over 200 institutions under the roof of the German Museums’
Association (Deutscher Museumsbund) in a joint letter, asking them to
screen their archives for possible human remains of Namibian origin. The
process is still ongoing and as such, no concrete results can be shared with
the public as yet. nLadies and Gentlemen,
We all know that genuine peace and reconciliation requires open dialogue,
acknowledgement of the truth and forgiveness. Forgiveness however, does
not mean that these acts will not remain etched in our memories. These
human remains in a gruesome way bear witness to the unthinkable
disregard for African lives and the sustained efforts to annihilate African
peoples by the highest authorities of the German Empire in its quest for
colonial power. nThe Government of the Republic of Namibia stands firmly with the
descendants of all the victims of these truly horrific crimes. These crimes
have been recognised globally as the first genocide of the 20th Century. nWe also take note with appreciation that at the time there were voices
amongst the German people such as August Bebel, the leader of the Social
Democrats, who protested strongly against the war of extermination and
the atrocities committed by the Schutztruppe. We are pleased that such
voices of conscience, courage and human decency continue to prevail in
modern day Germany, both in civil society and politics. It is our belief that
with collective efforts, the German people as a whole will face up to the
challenge of properly recognizing past wrongs and commit themselves to
supporting the call for justice and true reconciliation. nI would like to make use of this opportunity and thank all those NGOs,
MPs, and private individuals for their long-standing and unwavering
support to the Namibian affected communities and the Namibian
government in bringing light to this dark chapter of our joint history. nAs we continue on the journey to bring honour, dignity and justice to the
victims of the brutality and mass murder of yesteryear’s colonial regimes,
let us remind ourselves and teach our children and future generations that
racism in all its facets is evil and a crime against humanity. Ignoring the
past will not make it go away. Our people deserve respect and justice. nI would like to thank you, Prof. Einhäupl, for making this second handover
possible. It is my hope that we can build on the relations that have been
created in this period and I hope that we can explore cooperation between
Charité University Medicine Berlin and institutions of higher learning in
Namibia, as we endeavour to build bridges of peace between generations
of Namibian and German youth who are fortunate to have a different basis
for their interaction. nI thank you. n
Speach the 05 March 2014,
Charité University Medicine,
Friedrich-Kopsch Lecture Hall.,
Department Anatomy

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