Ekandjo urges German institutions to return Namibian artefacts

FREIBURG: Youth, National Service, Sports and Culture Minister Jerry Ekandjo is disappointed that not more German institutions have searched their archives in order to identify and return human remains of Namibian origin.
Speaking during the handing-over of 14 skulls by the University of Freiburg in south-western Germany on Tuesday, Ekandjo reiterated President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s call and requested all German institutions – especially museums – to continue searching their collections for human remains and any cultural artefacts which may have significant historic value for Namibians.
The minister said the Namibian Embassy in Berlin is prepared for dialogue with such institutions, and willing to assist in all preparations for repatriating both human remains and cultural objects to Namibia.
He further indicated that genuine peace and reconciliation require open dialogue and acknowledgement of the truth, noting that these human remains in a gruesome way bear witness to the unthinkable disregard for African lives, and the sustained efforts to annihilate African people by the highest authorities of the German empire in its quest for colonial power.
The Namibian Government stands firmly by the descendants of all the victims of these horrific crimes, which have been recognised globally as the first genocide of the 21st century.
“It is our belief that with cooperative efforts, the German people as a whole will face up to the challenge of properly recognising past wrongs, and commit themselves to supporting the call for justice and true reconciliation,” stressed Ekandjo.
As the two countries are on a journey to bring honour, dignity and justice to the victims of this brutality, they should also teach both the current and future generations that racism in all its facets is evil and a crime against humanity, he added.
The Deputy Chairperson of the Council of Traditional leaders in Namibia, Chief Immanuel /Gaseb at the same occasion pleaded with the German government to speed-up the process of repatriating Namibian remains and skulls so that it can be concluded.
Namibia and Germany have a shared history upon which they can build a solid foundation for further and deeper cooperation, and cooperation between the two countries could be strengthened and not be negatively affected by the process of coming to terms with the tragic past, he added.
Shortly before the official handing-over of the first 14 of 35 skulls to the delegation at the University of Freiburg on Tuesday, a minute of silence was observed in honour of the fallen Namibian heroes and heroines.
An official handing-over document was also signed by the Rector of the University of Freiburg, Professor Hans-Jochen Schiewer and Esther Mwoombola-/Goagoses, who is the head of the National Museum of Namibia and also chairperson of the National Heritage Council.
Meanwhile, the handing-over of the remaining 21 skulls and three skeletons will take place on Wednesday at the Charité University in Berlin.
The skulls were taken to Germany for experimentation at the turn of the 20th century.
It is believed that the skulls were transported to Germany sometime during the 1904-1908 genocide to be used in purported ‘research’ to prove that white people were superior to Blacks.
Other members of the delegation are Nzila Mubusisi, a heritage officer at the National Museum of Namibia; Phillip Tjerije, the Special Advisor on Traditional Matters to the Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development; as well as Natangwe Asino, the personal assistant of the Youth, National Service, Sports and Culture Minister.
Namibian Ambassador to Germany Neville Gertze and his First Secretary Helena Eises; Alexa Kintu, who is Gertze’s assistant; as well as former German Ambassador to Namibia Egon Kochanke also witnessed the event.
Prior to the handing-over ceremony, the Namibian delegates viewed the remains of the first 14 skulls, which were placed in separate white boxes on a table covered with a Namibian flag.
Ekandjo is also scheduled to hold talks with the State Secretary of the Federal Foreign Office, Stephan Steinlein on Wednesday.
The human remains are expected to arrive in Namibia on Friday, and the Namibian Government will organise an official ceremony at Parliament Gardens in the capital to receive the skulls.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba is expected to accord the remains of the fallen Namibian nationals a fitting welcome home, while the public will have the opportunity to view the remains and perform all the traditional and religious rituals required.
This is the second time that Namibian skulls are being repatriated to Namibia from Germany.
The first repatriation exercise was carried out in October 2011, and saw 20 skulls return to Namibia.
The repatriation follows a protracted battle by members of the OvaHerero/OvaMbanderu and Nama people, led by their various traditional leaders, with German government authorities to have the skulls released.