How are terrorism and genocide connected?

Genocide of the Herero and Nama : Germany wants to conclude negotiations with Namibia on reparation

Bags of paint on Bismarck, overturned Columbus statues, colonial monuments knocked off the pedestal - in the current disputes over racism in the USA and Europe, activists are also directing their displeasure against the symbols of oppression from the past.

This also brings a long-forgotten chapter of German history more into the public eye: the colonial crimes in Africa that Germany committed during the imperial era - such as the genocide of the Herero and Nama in what is now Namibia, which is home to around 80,000 men, women and men Children fell victim.

“Today's racism in Germany has to do with colonial history,” says the Berlin Herero activist Israel Kaunatjike. "As long as this is not actively dealt with, the racism problem will not be able to be solved either."

New chapter in the German culture of remembrance?

Now a new chapter could soon be opened in coming to terms with German colonialism. Negotiations with Namibia about reparation and an official apology for the former crimes, which have been ongoing for five years, are apparently on the verge of reaching an agreement.

That said the German negotiator, the former CDU foreign politician Ruprecht Polenz, the Tagesspiegel. “The next round of talks is currently being prepared. It is our aim to conclude the negotiations as much as possible at the next meeting. "

Then Germany will officially apologize in Namibia. “It will take place at a high level, in an appropriate form and in a dignified setting.” A date for the final round of negotiations has not yet been set.

There was agreement between the two sides in "many areas," said Polenz. A nine-page text has been negotiated as the basis for reconciliation between the two states. "It is also clearly stated what it is about: the genocide of the Herero and Nama."

German Colonialism: Terrorism and Cruelty

Germany had long resisted the term “genocide” - also out of fear of reparation claims. Instead, people in Berlin preferred to speak of "atrocities" that were committed in the suppression of a "Herero uprising". In reality, the German General Lothar von Throtha waged a merciless war of annihilation in the former colony "Deutsch-Südwest" from 1904 onwards. "Violence with blatant terrorism and even with cruelty," he called it.

So far, the question of financial reparation remains open. "What is certain is that the Federal Republic wants to invest in the health system, vocational training and other infrastructure projects in the Herero and Nama areas," said Polenz. A “common culture of remembrance” should also be developed. The federal government rejects any compensation payments to the descendants of the victims.

Namibian President Hage Geingob recently announced in front of the parliament in Windhoek that he had rejected a first German offer of ten million euros as an “insult”. The Foreign Office does not comment on the accusation. "The discussions are based on mutual trust and are constructive," says a spokesman. Geingob, too, he told Parliament, expects the negotiations to end soon.

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Both governments are under pressure on the matter. In its coalition agreement, the Groko promised to "come to terms with colonialism", but - apart from small advances in cultural policy - it has not made any progress so far. President Geingob also needs success. Regional elections will take place in Namibia in autumn, the country's economy collapsed during the corona crisis and its government has had a serious corruption scandal since 2019.

Herero representative Kaunatjike: "Consoled and delayed"

But it is questionable whether an agreement in the government talks will bring about the desired reconciliation. Many descendants of the victims have little faith in the negotiations, which take place behind closed doors. “So far we have only been put off and put off,” says Kaunatjike. Victims' associations have been complaining about a lack of transparency for years and have even tried to claim a place at the negotiating table in court.

"We want to be involved in the negotiations," says Kaunatjike. "Only then can we accept the result of the talks."

The Greens MP Ottmar von Holtz also criticizes a lack of transparency, who wants a resolution of the parliament on the matter. "It is a shame that the Bundestag has not been involved in the negotiations at all," he says. "We have to follow every piece of information."

Can the government talks with Namibia contribute to a social reappraisal of colonialism?

Polenz at least hopes that a “new awareness of German history” will develop from this in the long term. First of all, however, he is concerned with concluding the negotiations. “The Herero and Nama in particular are the target group for our efforts,” he says. "I hope that you will be convinced of a good negotiation result."

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