23.3.2012 – Joint Press Release: AfricAvenir International – Afrika-Rat Berlin-Brandenburg – Arbeitskreis Panafrikanismus München (AKPM) – Artefakte//anti-humboldt – Berlin Postkolonial – Deutsch-Afrikanische Gesellschaft Berlin (DAFRIG) – Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland (ISD-Bund)

German Federal Government refuses to apologise for genocide

NGO alliance accuses governing coalition of a discriminatory remembrance policy

On 22 March 2012 a motion put forward by the Left Party and a second draft from the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Green Party were debated in the German Bundestag. The motions sought for the campaigns of extermination against the Herero and Nama in the former colony of “German South-West Africa” (1904-08), today’s Republic of Namibia, to be recognised as genocide. For the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany the entire opposition argued in support of a formal apology from the German Bundestag towards the descendants of the more than 100.000 victims. Nevertheless, votes from the governing coalition rejected both motions after only half an hour of debate.

“In light of the general consensus among both historians and the public that the imperial “Schutztruppen” committed genocide against the Herero and Nama, the governing coalition’s renewed refusal to recognise the genocide amounts to a denial of it”, states Christian Kopp from “Berlin Postkolonial”. “On behalf of more than 100 NGOs from all parts of Germany who, within a few days, have signed the appeal drafted by our alliance we express our fierce condemnation of such dishonourable rejection of Germany’s historical responsibility! At the same time we welcome the fact that the opposition parties have set a real milestone on the path to reconciliation with the descendants of the victims. With their speeches they have proofed that a new, critical view on our colonial past is beginning to establish itself in Germany, too. Above all we see this as a success resulting from the sustained commitment of the organisations in our alliance.“

Sharon Otoo from “Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland” (ISD-Bund) stresses: “At the World Conference in Durban in 2004 the former Namibian Minister of Foreign Affairs Theo-Ben Gurirab asked whether Germany had apologised for its crimes against Israel, Russia or Poland because they are dealing with Whites. Other genocides were also recognised retrospectively as such, although this category did not constitute a criminal offence under international law until 1948. Does the German government refuse to name the war of extermination in “German South-West Africa” as genocide retrospectively because here Black people were murdered, dispossessed and raped?”

Israel Kaunatjike, a Herero living in Berlin, reckons: “The refusal once again by the German government to admit the genocide of my ancestors and the Nama, and to finally apologise for it, is a humiliating slap in the face that we won’t put up with. The Namibian government won’t be able to ignore this either: this day is a catastrophe for Namibian-German relations at government level. On the other hand the people in Namibia can now see very clearly who in Germany expresses a sincere interest in critically looking back on and reappraising the genocide and reconciling with them.”

The SPD and Green Party call for a special “relief fund” to support the people in the particularly affected regions as well as a “reconciliation initiative”, which has been planned for years, within the framework of a more intensive development cooperation. The Left Party advances a similar view to that of the representatives of the committees representing the descendants of the victims and the German NGO alliance: it believes that reparations must be made unconditionally and therefore clearly set apart from development cooperation. They request the German Bundestag and German Federal Government to engage in dialogue with the Namibian National Assembly and Government and the descendants of the victims.

Contact: Telephone +49 1799 100 976 | Sharon Otoo: sharonotoo (at) isd-online.de | Christian Kopp: buero (at) berlin-postkolonial.de

German Federal Government refuses to apologise for genocide