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‘We have come back home…’ - Statement by Chief Alfons Kaihepovazandu Maharero

Statement by Chief Alfons Kaihepovazandu Maharero, Chairman of the Ovaherero/ Ovambanderu Council for the Dialogue on the 1904 Genocide (OCD-1904), on the Occasion of the ‘Requiem of the Martyrs’ at Heroes Acre, on October 05, 2011. 

Director of Proceedings; Your Excellency Hifikepunye Pohamba, President of the Republic of Namibia; Your Excellency Dr Sam Nujoma, Father of the Nation; Right Hon. Nahas Angula Prime Minister in the Government of the Republic of Namibia; Hon. Dr Theo-Ben Gurirab, Speaker of the National Assembly; Your Honour Chief Justice Peter Shivute; Honourable members of Parliaments; Your Excellency members of the Diplomatic Corps; Hon. Kazenambo Kazenambo, Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, and Leader of the Namibian Delegation to Germany; The Right Reverend Zephania Kameeta, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in the Republic of Namibia; Fellow Chiefs and other Traditional Leaders; Distinguished Guest and Esteemed Dignitaries; Representatives of the Media; Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have come back home with tears in our eyes, bringing back home the skulls of our ancestors which were identified and certified as belonging to Ovaherero, OvaMbanderu and Namas persons from the genocide. The Namibians’ remains have finally come back home after more than 100 years in a foreign country. Where ever their spirits are in the firmament, they must be rejoicing today that they have finally come back home. 

Today they can hear their mother tongue of the mother African soil at last after having heard the strange language of the Germans, as the German scientists dissected, turned around their heads in laboratories, emptied their brains and dyed them with all kinds of colorations to prove their racist and fascist ideology that the black man’s intellectual capacity is inferior to that of a caucasian.

They were treated with total contempt and were shown no respect. They were treated like chimpanzees in laboratories whereas they were humans.
The culmination of the period of German colonial rule over Namibia was the horrific catastrophe that befell the various indigenous African communities of central and southern Namibia. The skulls before us today are a living embodiment and reminder of the most gruesome manner in which our forefathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, perished while incarcerated in concentration camps (at Windhoek, Swakopmund, Shark Island etc). Testimonies from oral tradition and written documentations indicate that their corpses were decapitated, boiled in pots, scraped of flesh and hair with pieces of broken glass by the women prisoners of war, and packed in boxes for shipment to Germany, apparently for purposes of scientific research.

However we have finally managed to bring them home so that Namibia can accord them the fitting respect and honour they deserve so that their souls can rest in eternal peace where they will be reunited with their mothers and fathers.

The return of these skulls serves as strong evidence that Namibia has a case to demand restorative justice for the genocide committed by Germany during its colonial rule in the then German South West Africa. Therefore we see the return of these skulls as a first step in a comprehensive process of restorative justice. For instance, we would want our children to be told what was the rationale of this supposed research undertaking, how it was conducted, what findings were attained etc. 

Furthermore while recognising and appreciating the existing bilateral development cooperation between our government and the government of the Federal Republic of Germany, we can no longer accept the notion that such development assistance is a response to our demand for restorative justice.   

Director of Ceremonies, the OCD–1904 is committed to work with and through the government of the Republic of Namibia in our quest for salvaging hope and consolation for the victims of the enduring legacies from our colonial past. To us, the ultimate aim of any process of genuine reconciliation should culminate in the full compensation of the blood of our forefathers, not on terms dictated by the German government, but mutually deduced from an open process of dialogue involving those communities that bore the brunt of German colonial brutalities. 

Allow me at this juncture to reiterate our dismay and disappointment for the inhospitable treatment accorded to our delegation since our arrival in Germany. Such humiliating reception by a state which claims to have a historical responsibility over Namibia leaves much to be desired.  

We express our gratitude to the Namibian government for fully funding as well as preparing the logistics that enabled us as the traditional leaders to witness the historic repatriation of the Namibian skulls of the victims of the German war of extermination.

Finally, we appeal to all Namibians, from all walks of life, to unite and fight for the just demand for reparation.

I Thank You!

Picture: Samuel Maharero (1856 – 14 March 1923) was a King of the Herero people in the former German colony "German South-West Africa" (today Namibia) who led his people into the anti-colonial war against the German colonialists which led to the German genocide. Maharero survived by fleeing to the British Bechuanaland (today Botswana) where he died in 1923. On August 23, 1923, his body was returned to Okahandja and was ceremoniously buried. Today he is considered a great hero in Namibia and is celebrated on Herero Day on 26 August.

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