More than a century after carrying out a massacre in present-day Namibia, Germany announced on Friday that it now officially recognizes the massacre in its former African colony as genocide. The German recognition took six years of negotiations between the governments of the two countries on how to classify the atrocities of the German Empire at the beginning of the 20e century that included the murder of tens of thousands of Herero and Nama people, a toll that some historians estimate at over 75 percent of the groups’ population at the time. In addition to official recognition, the German government said it was creating a $ 1 billion fund to support affected communities.
“We will now officially qualify these events for what they are from today’s point of view: genocide,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement. “In recognition of the immeasurable suffering inflicted on the victims, we want to support Namibia and the descendants of the victims with a substantial € 1.1 billion program for reconstruction and development.
The German government’s admission comes amid growing calls for former colonial powers to account with greater force – and precision – for decades of murderous, extractive colonial relations across the continent whose impact still lingers to this day. ‘hui. The move towards greater accountability has been slow and far from universal, however, as other countries, like the UK, have seen a resurgence of colonial nostalgia with Prime Minister Boris Johnson often downplaying the damage. caused by the British Empire. Nostalgia, or more specifically historical amnesia, has also been a powerful political force in the United States to combat its history, a conversation that has been more directly integrated into mainstream American political discourse in response to racial politics without shame of Donald Trump.
During a trip to Rwanda, a former French colony, this week, French President Emmanuel Macron admitted that France bears part of the responsibility in the country which sank into the genocide in 1994, which left 800,000 dead. Germany went further in recognizing its violent role in the country it occupied from 1884 to 1915, killing tens of thousands of Herero and Nama people who tried to protect their lands from theft. The head of the German military administration in the region then called for the extermination of the two groups, while those who survived the assault were pushed into concentration camps in the desert.
The response to the announcement in the Namibian capital of Windhoek was measured. A government spokesperson said that “Germany’s acceptance that genocide has been committed is the first step in the right direction.” The other step that the descendants of the victims have demanded is reparation, noting the difference in tone that the German state has struck in its apologies and financial commitments to the victims of the Holocaust. Germany has insisted throughout its negotiations that declaring its acts genocide does not legally open it to claims for reparation. “We are talking about an event that happened 100 years ago,” said the German special envoy for genocide talks with the Namibian government on German public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk in 2018. “And for that reason , we cannot contemplate personal reparations and we see the issue we are negotiating on as a political and moral issue, not a legal one.
A development fund of around the equivalent of $ 1.35 billion to be disbursed over 30 years is not considered sufficient for the affected communities who have tried, so far unsuccessfully, to make their case before the US federal court system. “The so-called ‘compensation’ to fund ‘social projects’ is nothing more than a cover-up of continued German funding for Namibian government projects,” said the statement from the traditional authority of Ovaherero and the association of traditional Nama leaders. “Germany must pay reparations for the genocide. “