WINDHOEK — Descendants of victims of massacres committed by German colonisers — recently recognised as a genocide — have scoffed at the agreement between the Namibian government and the southern African country’s former rulers.
“It’s a slap in the face,” lamented Namibian economist Salomo Hei, whose forefathers were murdered in the early 20th century.
Many Namibians have rejected the outcome of more than five years of negotiations between their government and Germany over events in territory held by Berlin from 1884 to 1915.
“It was handled in a very clumsy manner,” Hei told AFP in the capital Windhoek. “There was no regard for the human lives lost.”
Germany acknowledged last Friday that the settlers had carried out a “genocide” against indigenous Herero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908.
The official use of the word was part of a landmark agreement with the Namibian government after years of talks over the massacres, which some historians have labelled the first genocide of the 20th century.
Germany also offered what it called “development” funds — pointedly avoiding the word “reparations” — of 1.1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) to be paid over the next 30 years.
But the terms and wording of the proposed “reconciliation” deal, which requires parliamentary approval, have raised ire among Herero and Nama representatives, who claim they were never invited to the negotiation table.
“We heard the announcement over the radio and newspapers,” said Esther Muinjangue, former head of the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation.
“It was never discussed with us,” said Muinjangue, who is also deputy health minister, criticising Germany for not directly compensating affected groups.
– Rape, slaughter –
German imperial troops descended on Herero and Nama people after they rebelled against colonial rule.
In August 1904, soldiers chased around 80,000 Herero into what is now known as the Kalahari Desert, raping women and slaughtering their captives.
Months later, the German military commander, general Lothar von Trotha, ordered troops to exterminate both groups.
At least 60,000 Herero and around 10,000 Nama were killed. Thousands more were sent to deadly concentration camps.
Descendants of the victims want Germany held accountable for the ripple effects of the genocide, which uprooted communities and destroyed livelihoods.
“When I drive back to my village I drive through hectares of commercial farms (no longer) owned by Herero people,” said Hei, noting longstanding “income disparities” between the Nama, the Herero and the rest of Namibians.
Nama activist Sima Goeieman said the agreement was “disrespectful” and “dug the knife deeper” into historical wounds.
“Social projects are not going to do anything about the trauma,” she said. “You want to tell me that 1.1 billion (euros) in development aid is a way of showing remorse?”
Muinjangue, an opposition politician whose grandfather was the result of a rape by a German soldier, questioned the settlement.
“How did they quantify the loss of lives, the loss of cattle and land?” she asked.
– ‘Too little, too late’ –
Herero and Nama activists staged a protest in Windhoek hours after the agreement, which the government hailed as “step in the right direction”, was announced.
They denounced the lack of transparency around the negotiations and accused Germany of arm-twisting their cash-strapped government into accepting a meagre settlement.
“Sellout!!!” said a handwritten protest sign. “Leave us alone,” read another.
A body representing Herero and Nama people has rejected the “insulting amount” and called on the government to renegotiate the deal, which will be discussed in parliament next week.
The process “must be opened up so that ordinary Namibians can make an input”, Herero Windhoek resident Clementine Katjingisiua said.
Activists have also accused Germany of deliberately shirking “reparations” — which would submit the country to a series of financial obligations under international human rights law.
“That is why people are so outraged,” said John Nakuta, a law professor at the University of Namibia.
“Development assistance has no legal obligations,” he noted. “Germany got away lightly.”
German-Namibian analyst Henning Melber felt the agreement posed a “dilemma” for advocates of post-colonial justice.
“The deal makes inroads… in a long overdue debate,” said Melber, a researcher with the Nordic Africa Institute.
“One should welcome that, (but) it’s done in a way that causes so much frustration.”
“It’s too little too late,” he added. “Given all the pitfalls… it flops.”
Health fears as killer DR Congo volcano spouts ash
The DR Congo’s Nyirangongo volcano has released large amounts of ash some two months after its eruption, sparking concerns for local residents’ health, experts said on Sunday.
The volcano in the far east of the vast central African country first erupted on May 22, claiming 32 lives and destroying hundreds of homes.
“The ash is the result of the collapse of part of the Nyirangongo’s central crater,” vulcanologist Muhindo Syavulisembo said in a statement.
Syavulisembo, who heads the Goma Vulcanology Observatory (OVG), however ruled out an imminent new eruption.
“There hasn’t been visible damage, but we fear respiratory and water-borne illnesses,” Samson Buunda, a local civil society representative, told AFP.
The eruption of Africa’s most active volcano displaced nearly 400,000 people, especially after May 27 when scientists warned of a potentially catastrophic blast underneath nearby Lake Kivu.
UK, US delegates and others arrive in Nigeria to witness Kanu’s trial
Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria has seen an influx of delegates representing the UK, US and others to attend the trial of Nnamdi Kanu, a rights activist and leader of Biafran pro-independence group , the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Kanu, whose trial is scheduled to resume Monday, July 26, 2021, faces charges of treason and other unfounded crimes for calling for a referendum on an independent state of Biafra in the east of the country.
He was seized in Kenya and illegally repatriated to Nigeria after fleeing to Israel in 2017 when his home was raided by soldiers who killed scores of civilians in an attempt to assassinate him.
“We see here the presence of some well-known journalists from European countries. Some British and American delegates have also arrived,” said a source at a notable hotel in Abuja.
Ifeanyi Ejiofor, lawyer for the separatist leader, who confirmed the presence of journalists and members of the international community, called for calm between members of the separatist group and the country’s security agents who will be in court for the trial.
“I further wish to urge restraint and civility in all quarters tomorrow. It is your constitutional rights to be in court to witness Court’s proceedings but your engagement, dressing and conducts should be civil,” Ejiofor said in a statement on Sunday.
“The World is here already and they will be watching. All notable World class media houses are here already.
“I also wish to remind the security agents that the Court’s environment is a public place, accessible to everybody, and not a battleground, they should be civil in their engagement, as no violence is envisaged and none will happen. What we Demand for is justice and fair hearing,” he said.
Teen missing since 2020 after soldiers raided synagogue in Nigeria
The whereabouts of Emmanuel John, a teenager, has remained unknown since October 2020, when Nigerian soldiers raided a synagogue in Obigbo, an Igbo residence in Rivers State, where they killed at least seven worshipers and arrested others.
Emmanuel’s two younger siblings were also shot in the incident that left the synagogue razed by soldiers who accused the worshipers of having ties to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)—a group advocating for an independent state known as Biafra in the eastern part of the country.
The incident occurred in October 2020 during which a protest against police brutality turned violent when security officers shot and killed protesters across the country, including Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, where they killed many civilians.
“It was on Shabbat, Saturday, that the incident happened. My children were there in the synagogue when the soldiers arrived. They killed people and shot others including my two other little children who are 7 and 9 years old,” Mrs. Nkechi John, mother of the missing teenager told Gazette Africa.
“Favour (Emmanuel) didn’t do anything wrong. The soldiers shot him and took him in their van with other worshipers. Since that 2020 we have searched almost everywhere but we haven’t found him.
“He’s only 15, he was keeping Shabbat with others that Saturday, he didn’t do anything wrong,” Ms. John said, weeping.
A Jewish adherent, Chikwube Udo, who survived the military raid, described it as a “bloody Shabbat day”, noting that the synagogue was razed to the ground after the attack.
“It was a bloody Shabbat day. People died, others were shot and wounded while those who survived were thrown into the military van and taken away. Few others were found but Aboy (Emmanuel) is still missing,” he said.
Since 2017, Nigerian government forces have stepped up their attacks on Igbo Jewish adherents whom they consider terrorists for supporting the demand for a referendum on an independent state known as Biafra.
At least 14 synagogues, including those destroyed in November 2020, have been razed by government forces in the east of the country.
The crackdown on Jewish worshipers in Nigeria has further led to the arrest of three Israeli filmmakers, Rudy Rochman, Noam Leibman and E. David Benaym, currently detained without charge.
Meanwhile, Nnamdi Kanu, human rights activist and leader of Biafran pro-independence group, who practices Judaism, is currently being held in the Nigeria’s Department of State Services detention center in Abuja after being seized in Kenya and illegally repatriated to the country.
The separatist leader who had fled to Israel in 2017 when his home was raided by soldiers who killed many civilians in an attempt to assassinate him, faces charges of treason and other unfounded crimes, for calling for a referendum on the independent state of Biafra in the east of the country.
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