Deadline set for Ovaherero-Nama genocide reparation

OKAHANDJA: The OvaHerero Paramount Chief has set 02 October this year as the deadline for the German Government to respond to the demands of the OvaHerero and Nama communities on the issue of genocide reparation.

Advocate Vekuii Rukoro was speaking at the occasion that marked his coronation as OvaHerero Paramount Chief at Okahandja in the Otjozondjupa Region on Saturday.

Rukoro succeeds the late OvaHerero Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako who died in Windhoek on 02 June 2014 after a short illness at the age of 79.

“We demand acknowledgement, in principle, by the German Government before 02 October 2015 that they are amenable to pay the two affected communities for the genocide committed against their ancestors, pursuant to the official decree extermination orders by the then German Army General Lothar von Trotha,” he said.

Rukoro said the two communities demand an apology from the highest German political office in Berlin for the crimes of genocide committed against their people by the then colonial German Government in Namibia.

He said the demands are long overdue and expected to be fulfilled officially this year before 02 October, which will mark 111 years since von Trotha issued the extermination orders against these people of Namibia.

The 61-year-old chief said the details and modalities can be a matter of tri-lateral discussions involving OvaHerero and Nama communities, Namibian Government and the German Government.

“If these reasonable demands are not entertained, Germans and others must take responsibility for actions in which the current and future generations of our people are going to assert their rights,” warned Rukoro.

He said that the compensation claims will not go away or expire and instead, they will become more expensive for the future German generations.

Rukoro also expressed disappointment in remarks allegedly made by Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church when he called the Armenian Genocide the first genocide of the 20th Century.

Between 800 000 to 1.5 million Armenians were killed during the Ottoman Empire’s systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects living in their historic homeland within Ottoman Turkey in 1915.

He said Pope Francis was of course correct to call the plight of the Armenian people genocide but according to him, the Pope could have been wrong when he referred to it as the first genocide of the 20th Century.

“We all know very well that the first genocide of the 20th Century took place on the African soil, right here in Namibia, committed against us – the OvaHerero and Namas – during the 1904 to 1908 war of extermination, waged by the forces of imperial Germany with the intent to wipe us from the face of the earth,” Rukoro said bitterly.

He then called on representatives of the Roman Catholic Church in Namibia to kindly and urgently advise the Vatican on the misstatement of this historical fact.

The traditional leader also urged the Vatican to equally solicit support and declare what happened to the OvaHerero and Nama ancestors as genocide and a crime against humanity.

The outspoken Rukoro also called upon German authorities to stop ‘practicing selective and double morality’.

“They cannot accept that what happened to the Armenian people constitute genocide, but that what they did to the OvaHerero and Namas is not genocide – presumably because the one event took place on European soil and the other on African soil,” Rukoro said.

According to a media blog by Damien McGuinness for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in Berlin, the European Parliament and France have voted on condemning the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks 100 years ago as genocide but apparently, Germany is struggling to make an official statement on the matter and was set to vote on whether it should be recognised as an example of “the 20th Century’s terrible history of mass killings, ethnic cleansing, expulsions and genocides”.

Rukoro described that as ‘naked international racism’, which is unacceptable in the modern world and by so doing may constitute yet another crime against humanity.

He was unanimously elected by various traditional councillors under the Ovaherero Traditional Council at Ehungiro in Otjinene as the successor of Chief Riruako in September 2014.