Germany officially recognized as genocide its slaughter of the colonial era of tens of thousands of Namibians more than a century ago and pledged 1.1 billion euros to the South African nation as a reward, a move that could create a previous for other countries.
The announcement comes after six years of discussions with Namibia, which approached the foundation last month over whether the funds should be labeled as reparations, a term Germany feared could open up to other legal claims. .
German soldiers killed more than 60,000 indigenous Herero and Nama tribes between 1904 and 1908 amid a revolt against German colonial rule. It has long been considered by historians and the UN as the first genocide of the 20th century.
On Friday Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, said Germany had officially acknowledged that the events “from today’s perspective” were “a genocide”.
“In light of Germany’s historical and moral responsibility, we apologize to Namibia and the descendants of the victims.”
But Friday’s agreement between Berlin and the Namibian government was rejected by traditional Herero and Nama chiefs who say it was too little to compensate for the suffering of their ancestors, including the seizure of most of their land.
They say they have been largely excluded from the negotiations, although Germany claims that some members of the community have been consulted.
Germany’s offer is a “total insult to our intelligence” and Namibian lawmakers must reject it, said this week Vekuii Rukoro, the head of the Traditional Ovaherero Authority. “This is not enough for the blood of our ancestors.” We fight to hell and come back. “
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is scheduled to visit Namibia to spy, but Rukoro said parliament should step down and reject the “so-called excuse.”
Germany had previously recognized “moral responsibility,” but had long since avoided an official excuse to evade compensation claims. On Friday, Maas stressed “legal claims for compensation cannot be derived from this.”
Berlin says the 1948 Genocide Convention cannot be applied retroactively, and it is difficult to open it up to other claims for reparation. Greece still argues, for example, that Berlin should reimburse about 289 billion euros caused by Nazi Germany in damages.
For this reason, the 1.1 billion euro fund has been offered to Namibia for reconstruction and development projects over 30 years, and is not defined as reparations.
“There is reconstruction and reconciliation that we are looking for,” said Zed Ngavirue, a veteran Namibian diplomat who led the country’s negotiations.
Henning Melber, a Namibian scholar and extraordinary professor at the University of Pretoria, said reconciliation between people “requires more than a bilaterally negotiated agreement between governments, both of which do not include a significant civil society diploma.”
“Whatever the next steps, there is still a long way to go for true reconciliation,” he added.
Despite its recognition of Nazi crimes, including the Holocaust, Germany had long ignored its colonial legacy, even though it was the third largest colonial power in nineteenth-century Africa. It lost control of its colonial territories after the First World War.
Descendants of German settlers still owned large tracts of land in Namibia, a divisive issue in one of the world’s most unequal nations, which after German colonial rule became a South African possession until the 1990s.
The Geingob government is committed to accelerating reforms to put more land in the hands of the majority, but has avoided following South Africa’s movements to allow land expropriation without compensation.
The Namibia agreement comes a day after French President Emmanuel Macron’s recognition of France’s role in the Rwandan genocide as European countries begin to more openly examine its colonial legacy.