By: Uakutura Kambaekua
Ovaherero and Ovambanderu Genocide Foundation (OGF) has called on the government to institute a genocide remembrance day.
This follows after descendants of the victims of the Ohamakari battle commemorated the 118th Anniversary of the Battle of Ohamakari on Friday at Okakarara. The events took place on 11 August 1904 at Waterberg.
The Ohamakari event dates back to more than 100 years ago when the Herero and Nama people rose up against the German colonisers in a war of rebellion which claimed the lives of an estimated 65,000 Ovaherero and 10,000 Nama at the hands of the Germans by 1909. During that war, an extermination order was issued by General Lothar von Trotha and is today considered to be the first genocide of the 20th century.
In remembrance of the day, OGF Interim chairperson Mbakumua Hengari called on all Namibians, regardless of ethnicity, to commemorate the day collectively, adding that the nation must start comprehending and supporting the calls for a just closure on the genocide negotiations.
An agitated Hengari condemned the government’s failure to recognise the genocide day 32 years after independence, stating that “one would have thought, the government would genuinely join this campaign in support of a section of its citizens, albeit at a later stage.”
“It is important that we memorialise these days, that we mark them and recognise them in Namibia. Unfortunately, 32 years after our independence, Namibia has not yet fully recognised the genocide that took place on this shores, on this land. This was the battle that determined the colonisation of Namibia. Before the battle of Ohamakari on that day, Germany was still trying to establish her colonial base in Namibia, so it is, therefore, a day that we want to continue marking until such a day that Namibia levels up to her creed in terms of the constitution which guarantee equality for everyone that the events which took place in 1904 be accorded proper national remembrance day is long overdue. Our government has been engaged for many years in negotiating with Germany on the genocide. If the state itself hasn’t institutionalised this day into our memory, so it becomes part of our collective and memorial narrative, what level of the administration of this state has to act on something that the state itself has not recognised,” charged Hengari.
He said that the process that ultimately led to the unanimous adoption in 2006, of a resolution by the National Assembly, through a motion by erstwhile Ovaherero Paramount Chief, late Dr Kuaima Riruako, remains an “unfulfilled dream” to the descendants of the victims as the “Namibian government continues to be indifferent to their plight.”
The 2006 resolution paved the way for the Joint Declaration (JD) between the Namibian government and its German counterpart. Hengari also questioned the government’s sincerity in institutionalising the genocide day, citing that it’s difficult for them to fight for reparation. On the other hand, the state is yet to recognise the day.
“This day is imperative for our ancestors because it was the beginning of the war or the battle of resistance by our forefathers which led to the genocide that we talk about today. It was the effectiveness of that resistance that forced Germany to take dramatic action by declaring a wholesome extermination campaign against the complete group or population of ethnic groups that were indigenous to Namibia. They were told they must leave or they will be forced to leave,” narrated Hengari.
“The day of 11 August reminds us, those of us now at the forefront of the genocide and reparation movement in Namibia, we cannot be indifferent to that day. Therefore, it is important for all of us who are part of this movement, including the administration of the Republic of Namibia, to join in marking and celebrating this day,” he added.
He also told the Villager that the German government should be held to account for its forefathers’ transgressions, atone and pay reparations to the Namibian people. He added that the affected communities can only prevail against the formidable German government if the entire nation supported them.
Hengari also highlighted the day’s importance, stating that the Ohamakari battle marked the beginning of the war of national resistance, which led to the genocide of the modern era. Ethnic groups were forced to flee their lands, noting that it is pertinent for the descendants of Imperial Germany’s genocide of the Ovambanderu, Ovaherero and Nama to reflect on their journey since then.
Even though the German government hasn’t paid reparations yet, it, however, recognised and apologised for the events in 2004. In July 2015, the German government and the speaker of the Bundestag officially called the events a genocide.
“We extend a hand of patriotism to all other Namibians even though they were not directly affected by the scotch of genocide that hid us. There is no way that we can win or prevail over a formidable force like Germany. There is no way that we can prevail over our state, which is different due to our pride. As we go forward and leave a legacy for our generation to come to remember and know what took place here in Namibia was genocide. In terms of the UN convention, it is something that must be prevented and never repeated. It is time for Namibia to institute a genocide remembrance day to show course as to what transpired here,” stated Hengari.