June 6, 2005

Herero Chief Riruako issues ultimatum

Herero Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako has given the German government an ultimatum - to agree to pay for the blood of his people before the end of the year. "We don't want to play around and play games. Let us agree on a date, time and venue of our first official discussion on the way forward," Riruako said. According to Minister without Portfolio, Ngarikutuke Tjiriange, the German government should put an instrument in place to bind every government that comes into power on the issue of compensation for the victims of war. "They should put in place an instrument to bind every government so that every government coming into power will not say it was not my exercise," he added.

After the Bremen Conference 2004 recommended that the governments of Germany and Namibia enter into meaningful dialogue to facilitate the creation of a platform for stakeholders concerned, the said dialogue has not yet taken place. The German Minister of Economic Cooperation, Heidemarie Wieckzoreck-Zeul had also announced in May that her government would avail N$160 million for development projects in resettlement areas of the affected victims of the colonial wars between 1904 and 1908. Riruako said Germany should have consulted the victims of the war through a process of dialogue as agreed in Bremen before availing the money. He was also at pains to understand why it has been difficult to compensate the affected communities in Namibia while Germany compensated the Jews in a process that ran from 1952 until 1965. In terms of an agreement between the two countries, Germany and Israel, "Germany agreed to pay the negotiated amount of US$714 million to Israel to support the assimilation of displaced and impoverished refugees." Against this, Riruako said that if the victims were whites, the German government would have behaved differently. He urged the German government to prove that it is a nation of caring people who regret the action of their forefathers by undertaking serious dialogue to talk about how the suffering of the Herero people could be relieved through compensation. Considering that the German war not only targeted Hereros but also Damaras and Namas. As Tjiriange emphasised, more had to be done for the whole country and for other communities that had suffered the same colonial atrocities but, said he, the way forward should be negotiated by the two governments and representatives of the affected communities to come up with real projects and not just tokens. "But real projects that will make meaningful developmental changes to those communities," he said, adding that only when people see meaningful projects to their lives would reconciliation have meaning.

The Okakarara Community Cultural Tourism Centre is the first centre to be established in the communities that were adversely affected by the German colonial war of 1904 to 1908.
Tjiriange said as a result of the negotiations between the two governments and affected community representatives, the government would want every affected community to be pleased, particularly the Hereros, Namas and Damaras. The German government spent N$2.5 million to construct the centre, including the exhibition hall. Although it is the first centre to be established, German Ambassador to Namibia, Wolfgang Massing, said it would not be the last major German-funded project intended to "guard against forgetting and denying the past which was especially painful for the communities concerned. Reconciliation is not possible without remembrance." (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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