We ask ‘descendants of victims for forgiveness’ – Germany officially calls Namibia killings ‘genocide’

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas attends a United Nations Security Council meeting at the UN on 27 February 2020 in New York.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas attends a United Nations Security Council meeting at the UN on 27 February 2020 in New York.

PHOTO: Timothy A. Clary/AFP

  • Germany
    apologised for its role in the slaughter of Herero and Nama tribespeople in Namibia
    more than a century ago.
  • For
    the first time, Germany officially described the massacre as genocide, where soldiers
    killed over 75 000 tribespeople in a 1904-1908 campaign.
  • Germany
    agreed to fund €1.1 billion of reconstruction and development projects to the benefit
    of genocide-affected communities.

BERLIN
– Germany on Friday apologised for its role in the slaughter of Herero and Nama
tribespeople in Namibia more than a century ago, and officially described the
massacre as genocide for the first time, as it agreed to fund projects worth
over a billion euros.

German
soldiers killed some 65 000 Herero and 10 000 Nama members in a 1904-1908
campaign after a revolt against land seizures by colonists in what historians
and the United Nations have long called the first genocide of the 20th century.

While
Germany has previously acknowledged “moral responsibility” for the
killings, it has avoided making an official apology for the massacres to avoid
compensation claims.

In
a statement announcing an agreement with Namibia following more than five years
of negotiations, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the events of the German
colonial period should be named “without sparing or glossing over
them”.

Maas said:

We will now also officially call these events what they were from today’s perspective: a genocide.

“In
light of Germany’s historical and moral responsibility, we will ask Namibia and
the descendants of the victims for forgiveness,” he said.

Reconstruction and development projects

Germany
has agreed to fund €1.1 billion of reconstruction and development projects that
would directly benefit the genocide-affected communities, he said.

Namibian
media reported on Thursday that the money would fund infrastructure, healthcare
and training programmes over 30 years.

Germany,
which lost all its colonial territories after World War One, was the third
biggest colonial power after Britain and France. However, its colonial past was
ignored for decades while historians and politicians focused more on the legacy
of Nazi crimes, including the Holocaust.

In
2015, it began formal negotiations with Namibia over the issue and in 2018 it
returned skulls and other remains of massacred tribespeople that were used in
the colonial-era experiments to assert claims of European racial superiority.


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