By: Andrew Kathindi
Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA) newly appointed paramount chief, professor Mutjinde Katjiua says that the traditional authority will continue to reject the deal that Germany and the Namibian government struck last year.
His comments come as, in what has been a blow for descendants of the 1904-1908 Ovaherero and Nama genocide, who were hoping to start a fresh dialogue with the new German government over the agreement, Germany has now rejected the possibility of renegotiation, stating that as far as they are concerned, negotiations are closed.
“OTA and NTLA have never demanded for re-negotiation, but for negotiations to start afresh on a clean slate in line with the 2006 NA resolution.
The JD, whether as is or renegotiated in the current framework, is a sham, and we shall continue to reject it,” Katjiua told The Villager.
The ruling German government made it clear this past week, while responding to written questions submitted by Sevim Dagdelen, a member of Germany’s federal parliament from the socialist Left Party, that the deal is final.
“From the German government’s point of view, the negotiations for the joined declaration with Namibia have been finalised, even though talks about specific modalities of its implementation are continuing.”
The joint agreement has been widely rejected by many, leading to widespread demonstrations at the Namibian parliament gates last year, over the deal that was presented in the August house by defence minister Frans Kapofi.
Last year, Namibia and Germany announced a deal encompassing payment of €1.1 billion (N$18 billion) in development projects in Namibia over 30 years. This has been termed an insult by many.
The (OTA) and the Nama Traditional Leaders Association (NTLA), earlier this year sought an audience with the new German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, who they believe would be more sympathetic to their cause than the previous regime.
In Germany’s parliament this past week, the Left Party sought to know whether it was true that the request by OTA and NTLA representatives for a discussion with foreign minister Annalena Baerbock regarding the demand for recognition,
apology and reparations by the German government for the genocide against the Herero and the Herero and Nama has been rejected.
According to German media, the response was that the German government’s negotiating partner is and remains the Namibian government.
“According to the Namibian constitution, it is responsible for foreign policy negotiations. It is democratic and has included representatives of the Nama and Herero in the dialogue throughout the process.
The Herero were included in the dialogue. The German government agrees with the Namibian government that adequate participation by the affected groups of descendants of the genocide against Herero and Nama is essential for genuine reconciliation.
The Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA) and the Nama Traditional Leaders Association (NTLA) did not avail themselves of the opportunity to participate in the technical committee that advised the Namibian delegation at the German-Namibian talks. Instead, they are calling for direct participation in a resumed dialogue or separate direct negotiations with the German government. This concern was brought to the attention of the German government in several letters, including on December 8, 2021, in an email from a representative of the Nama Traditional Leaders Association in Germany, Ms. Christine Kramp, to the Minister’s Office of the Foreign Ministry,” the German government is quoted stating.
They argued that since in the previous letter the African representative of the Foreign Office had already requested that the German government could not enter into special negotiations with individual groups.
Since the Foreign Office representative had already requested in the previous letter that the German government not enter into special negotiations with individual groups, there was no response to the email.
German scholar and analyst prof Jurgen Zimmerer told The Villager that the announcement from Germany comes as a huge, if not unexpected, disappointment to all those, in Namibia and in Germany, who believed that the new German government and the announcement of a more value-based foreign policy, associated with new foreign minister Annalena Baerbock of the Green party, would also translate in a more “humble” and “value-driven” approach to dealing with past crimes.
“It is however not unexpected because Germany is confronted with a huge €1.3 trillion reparation demand by Poland, and fears any precedent. However, it is still a shame that the great opportunity of having a new German government and a now Herero leadership is not used for a fresh start. The shortcomings of the past agreement remain shortcomings: The inadequate representation of the descendants of the victims being the main one. This needs to be rectified in order to achieve reconciliation. This is the essence of a value-based foreign policy which takes its responsibility seriously. There cannot be reconciliation and righting the wrongs of the past without the consent of the victims,” he said.
German-Namibian political analyst Prof Henning Melber agreed with the sentiments that the new German government, which was voted into power late last year, has always been reluctant to renegotiate the joint declaration agreed by their predecessors.
He said that given economic struggles in Namibia, the Swapo-led government might be tempted to accept a small financial injection into the economy through the projects, despite the political damage this could cause the ruling party.
“There is, of course, beyond political pragmatism a more fundamental aspect to the current impasse: Germany acts from a continued position of power, or rather exercises the arrogance of power, by categorically stating take it or leave it. This underlines the continued colonial asymmetry in state-to-state relations and is nothing less but patronising and an insult. It is a far cry from a partner dialogue based on equality. Given this situation, Namibia’s government is faced with the unpleasant choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. But if national pride is a relevant reference point, the decision should be clear. The so-called reconciliation agreement is a far cry from any meaningful reconciliation and a continued colonial hierarchy in hardly any disguise,” he said.
According to the details of the joint declaration, representatives from Germany will come to the Namibian parliament to offer an official apology. No date has been set when this, or the projects are set to commence.