President Hage Geingob says the issue of genocide is sensitive, and putting a price on people’s lives is not the way to go because life is priceless.
“When you have committed a crime like genocide, it’s not a question of money first. You accept and publicly apologise. There is a problem with the price now. What amount can you say is worth a person’s life? It is priceless,” stated Geingob at State House while engaging the Forum of German-speaking Namibians who paid a courtesy call to inform the head of state on the purpose of the forum, reasons for its establishment and their plans.
He added that just like vaccination, there are a lot of misunderstandings lingering around the genocide issues.
“Some people don’t even know what we are discussing with the Germans, how it happened and why now, because this issue has been there. When diplomacy fails, people go to war, so we are still consulting,” he stated. Harald Hecht, the chairperson of the Forum, said the genocide topic that has been dragging on for many years needs to be concluded for the sake of peace and political stability between Namibia and Germany.
Tens of thousands of Namibians, mainly the Nama and Ovaherero, were killed in what is called the first genocide of the 20th century. German troops massacred and displaced tens of thousands of Namibians in 1904-1908. In 2015, the two countries started negotiating an agreement that would combine an official apology by Germany as well as reparations.
Geingob fingered poverty as the reason why there is so much discussion about money. “Reality is reality, and there is poverty. A person will think if they get such money, they will be rich and control the people they lead,” he said, referring to some chiefs.
Another aspect he alluded to was the division among the people, as he prefers such cases to refer to Namibians instead of specific groups, which, in his view, creates bias.
“The extermination orders specifically mention Ovaherero and Nama-speaking people. I would have preferred using Namibians. I used the same to describe Cassinga, that Namibians died instead of the Aawambo people, and I was condemned. But we know in our hearts who they were. I try to be inclusive as usual, so we used the technical term used by the exterminators, the Germans, which is Ovaherero and Namas,” observed Geingob.
He added: “When you come last minute to say there are those in the diaspora who should benefit, and the Ovambanderus, and yet you cannot bring other groups in, it’s because the extermination order only mentions two groups.”
He said there is slight progress in resolving the matter, and that there is no failure in trying to handle the genocide situation as some have been saying.
The pact has been roundly rejected by opposition parties as well as descendants of genocide survivors, and led to several protests by Ovaherero and Nama people, which have included chiefs of the various traditional authorities.
Leaders of the Maharero, Kambazembi, Mureti and Zeraeua traditional authorities and the Nama Genocide 1904-1908 Development Trust feel an amount of N$8 trillion as reparations from the German government is reasonable, and the suggested N$18 billion (over 30 years in project funding) is a drop in the ocean for the Germans as they can easily pay that amount.
Meanwhile, the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) has called on all its members to join in a demonstration tomorrow to protest against the Namibian and German governments’ resolve to pass the bilateral joint reconciliation agreement through Parliament. They have labelled the move by the government a heinous and scandalous deal.
The joint agreement on genocide will be tabled in parliament tomorrow.
The leader of the LPM, Bernadus Swartbooi, rejected the deal, saying that no one has appointed the Namibian government to be the sole representative of the affected communities and their extended families in the diaspora.
“When you identify seven regions in the Republic of Namibia and decide that genocide resources will be deployed in the seven regions, you invariably already exclude the diaspora – those colleagues in Botswana, South Africa, the USA and the UK, and in many other countries who are excluded from the benefits that will come through reparations,” he commented.