Traditional Leaders Feel Sidelined in Repatriation

A GROUP of Ovambanderu, Nama and Ovaherero traditional leaders yesterday announced at a press briefing held in Windhoek that they felt disrespected by the government’s decision not to consult them over the repatriation of 35 skulls from Germany.

The meeting, which was attended by a crowd of about 30 people, included the National Unity Democratic Organisation’s (Nudo) president and Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako, chairperson of the Nama Genocide Technical Committee Ida Hoffman and patron of the Ovaherero Genocide Committee Festus Muundjua as well as Utjiua Muinjangue, Chairperson of the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu Genocide Foundation, amongst others.

“They never informed our leaders that the remains are ready,” said Muundjua.

Although the government invited Chief Immanuel #Nu-Axa /Gaseb, the deputy chairperson of the Council of Traditional Leaders, to accompany the team of delegates, the traditional leaders were not appeased, saying they were not officially informed. “When he (/Gaseb ) left, he did not inform us that he was invited to go along,” said Muundjua. The leaders argued that the issue of genocide and repatriation is of great importance to them as they are the direct descendants of those who were brutalised during the time of German colonisation.

“The repatriation cannot be about us without us, so we advise all our followers to not participate in whichever ceremony upon the arrival of the skulls. How can we be invited to decorate local events when we are excluded from the planning and fetching of the skulls?” Muinjangue asked in a statement. “It is not entirely about who fetches the skulls but the process involved,” she said, adding that it is painful that they were excluded. In agreement, Hoffman said they are the ones who took the initiative to approach the government on the repatriation of skulls.

The Namibian recently reported on government’s decision to appoint the Minister of Youth, National Services, Sports and Culture, Jerry Ekandjo, to lead a delegation of senior government officials and a representative from the Council of Traditional Authorities to retrieve thirty-five skulls this week.

Lameck Uyepa, who heads the directorate of Regional and Local Government and Traditional Authorites under the Housing and Rural Development Ministry said they did not organise the trip and chose to reserve his comment.

Efforts to reach the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sports and Culture for comment proved futile as Andre Strauss,who heads the department of Culture did not pick up any calls and also failed to respond to SMSes.

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