Press Statement by The Nama, Ovambanderu and Ovaherero Traditional Leaders on The Second Return of Skulls from Germany

Our Colonial Present: Germany's Herero and Nama Genocide

Press Statement by The Nama, Ovambanderu and Ovaherero Traditional Leaders on The Second Return of Skulls from Germany

4th March 2014.  Press Statement by the Traditional Leaders.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media -Members of the Public!

We thank you for having responded to our invitation at such a short notice and we hope and thank you in anticipation that you will do justice to our statement when you translate it into your journalistic language.

We, the undersigned Traditional Leaders of those communities that have specifically been targeted by the Extermination Orders of General Lothar von Trotha, and who have initially requested the return of the remains of our people, have invited you to hear our utmost displeasure, shock and anger at the clandestine and dishonest manner in which the Government of Germany and in collusion with the Government Namibia have handled this second return of the Skulls and Remains of our people.

We have been hearing lies and other concoctions by the spokespersons of the German Government that, whilst in Berlin during the first repatriation, our delegation “did not behave well” and that the delegation “was too huge” and that “next time it won’t be the same” – which is this time.

We want to categorically refute and dismiss all that with the contempt they deserve as utter nonsense and not true.

In the first instance, we did not choose the size of  our delegation, which was 54; our own government did it and the German Government knew that,  because it issued visas to that number and did not complain – not even once whilst we were still here before our departure to Berlin. Tickets were issued and hotel accommodations were all done by our own government based on that number of 54.

We say, on the contrary! It is in fact the German Government that has misbehaved and we would like to point out to the following few instances:

1.    It abdicated its so-called “moral and historical responsibility” when it decided not to hand over the first Skulls officially to the Namibian Government by way of a Government-to-Government modality; instead, it relegated the whole exercise to an issue between one holding institution ( the Charite Hospital) and another recipient institution ( the Namibia National Heritage Council)  – just as will be the case this time – today;

2.    At the port of entry ( Frankfurt International Airport) in Germany, our delegation, which included a Minister, was not officially received by any German Government official, but by our own officials from our Embassy and  those from our Ministry of Youth… advanced team from Windhoek;

3.    On the day of our departure to Namibia, there was no German Government official at the Airport to see us off as a matter of protocol;

4.    A few years later, two high profile German Government officials, Dr Lindner and Frau Heidemary Wieczorek-Zeul, came to Windhoek and met with us and told us that their government did not treat us well and that they were “sorry” and they both apologised. Frau Heidemary Wieczorek-Zeul even requested us to put it in writing how for the next return of the Skulls we would like to be received and how the rituals should be conducted, the size of the delegations, etc., adding, “so that our Government cannot repeat the same mistakes.”
We have submitted all that in writing and submitted our document to our Minister of  Foreign Affairs, Hon. Netumbo Ndaitwah to forward it to the German Government. She never responded.

In view of all that, and especially the fact that high German Government officials came and apologised to us for the bad treatment we received in their country, how can anybody in his right mind say that our delegation misbehaved during the first repatriation without saying how so, and which might be part of the reason why this time we were excluded?

The truth of the matter is that the German Government was embarrassed by the hugeness of our delegation which nobody in the whole of Germany, and in fact in the rest of the world, could fail to see and which Germany did not want because it will give rise to questions like, “What these people were doing in Germany?”, “From where?”etc., questions which obviously would have exposed, in answering them, the genocidal atrocities committed by Germany during its Colonial Rule in the then “German South West Africa”, now Namibia, which Germany had been hiding from her own people for over 100 years.

Because of that fear or guilt, the German Government wanted or had wished for a smaller delegation of 3 Chiefs to do the fetching. Its spokespersons in Windhoek even said that we should not use words like “atrocities”, “genocide”, “reparation” and the like, and went as far as saying that doing so it will not give us the 3 tickets which would have been for 3 of our Chiefs.

THAT – and we repeat – THAT is the crux and the truth of the matter to which the Namibian Government has bowed, much to the delight of its masters in Berlin.

Therefore, this whole lie about our so-called delegation’s “misbehaviour”, which is not even substantiated, is not true; it is only a cover-up for the fear that a huge delegation would again put the issue of Genocide and Reparation into the lime light, as was the case during the first trip. The Namibian Government has become party to these manipulations and by so doing made itself a perfect puppet and lackey of the German Government in its dirty tricks against the interests of its own people.

Ladies and Gentlemen-
All these dishonest and secret ways  of dealing with this issue by our government show disdain and utter disrespect towards us, the legitimate Traditional Leaders of the Nama, Ovaherero and Ovambanderu people of Namibia, and, for that matter, the sole targets of the von Trotha Extermination Orders of 1904 and 1905.

It is a pity that our Cabinet cannot see the trick the German government is playing by relegating the process of the repatriation of the Skulls to an issue between the two holding institutions, namely the Charite Hospital and our own National Heritage Council in order to distance itself from the return of these skulls and remains. But we see it, and we say that our position that Imperial Colonial German Government committed Genocide against our people  is not only premised on the Skulls, because even if there were no skulls at all, other atrocities are in abundance for us to make a case.

The skulls to be handed over at a ceremony on the 4th of March in Berlin and to be returned to Namibia on the 7th of March 2014 were not chopped from the dead bodies of our people by the Charite Hospital but by the racist  German soldiers and “scientists”, the likes of Dr Eugene Fischer and others, with the full knowledge of the Imperial Government of Germany and, therefore, no proxie,  like the Charite, will absolve the German Government from blameworthiness for the crime of Genocide against the Herero, Nama and Mbanderu people.

In our opinion, the genocide of our people, and within the context of the true (not false and distorted) “Namibian History”, should deserve a special mention and emphasis, as should be the solidarity and Pan-Africanist support role played by the Ndonga Chief Nehale LyaMbingana, who accepted Chief Samuel Maharero’s request to ALL the Chiefs of “South West Africa” to fight German Colonialism. He did so, and not only did he defeat the German occupation army at the Namutoni Fort but destroyed the latter completely, so much so that what is there today is a replica of the original.

Ladies and Gentlemen-
The special mention and emphasis we raise should also be extrapolated to the Battle of Ongulumbashe, Quito Conavale, the Hoornkranz Massacre of the innocent Witbooi people by Curt von Francois, the Battle Otjunda waged by King Kahimemua Nguvauva, just to mention but a few such highlights of our true history.

Unless we treat major historical events like those, we may end up committing historical genocide and leaving our own present-day children and future generations with false and incomplete history.

To refuse to acknowledge the fact that genocide in this country was committed only to the Ovaherero, Nama and Ovambanderu people and not to the “Namibian people as a whole”, as it is argued by our own government, is a gross travesty to historical justice.

We cannot see how everybody or the ‘Namibian people as a whole’ could have been victims of genocide, unless one does not know what genocide is, and especially as defined in International Conventions, and when the German Colonial soldiers did not even wage war against the other tribes in some parts of our country in 1904 – 1908 ?

It is against this background that we have invited you to express our utter displeasure and anger for having been excluded from an exercise in which we have a vested interest and in which we had been involved before, lost land, livestock and more than 90,000 lives of HEREROS, NAMAS and MBANDERUS in 1904 – 1908 .

The whole issue of Genocide and Reparation is about our own people who were brutalised; it is about us, the direct descendants of these people and it can therefore not be about us and not be with us. The German Government and the willing and conniving Namibian Government must realise this.
But now that our own government decided, under the pressure of the German Government to exclude us, we hereby like to advise ALL of our followers not to have anything to do at all for the arrival of or for whatever subsequent ceremonies for the returning skulls and remains.

How can we only be invited to decorate the local events when for the planning to fetch and for the fetching itself we were excluded?

We say this because these remains of our heroes and heroines have been robbed of the befitting dignity, respect and the requisite traditional rituals they deserve and that usually go with fetching the remains of our loved ones, and which we were confidentially told that some individuals on the part of our government during the preparation of the latest trip said that the rituals were “nonsense”.

The remains of our people have been spoiled by our own government and we cannot advise otherwise than to tell all our followers not to participate in ceremonies that do not respect our deceased, let alone ourselves as Traditional Leaders who should have an ex officio right to be part of such remains repatriations.

We would also like to emphasize the fact that the sentiments being expressed in this statement represent a united expression of our displeasure and anger at the disrespectful manner we were treated by our own government. In our opinion, the Namibian Government,  on the issue of Genocide, Reparation and now the Return of the Skulls/Remains of our people, has taken the route of doing things that, at best, work in and for the interest of the German Government and, at worst, against the interest of those who have specifically been intended and massacred by their thousands in terms the two earlier-mentioned Extermination Orders.

When we went to Germany the first time, we did not do so as tourists to collect souvenirs, like those German killers who were sending those skulls and remains of our people to their relatives to private homes as souvenirs or as “specimens” to the racist German scientists. We went there and, if the opportunity presents itself again, we shall go there as the bereaved in mourning. Hence, our Government and the Government of Germany should not underestimate the importance we attach to the dignity of our fallen heroes and heroines.

Ladies and Gentlemen-
The issue of the skulls,  be it those that have so far been repatriated or more to be, has now become water under the bridge or is now an issue for the archive, but the issue of Genocide and Reparation remains untouched. That should be a priority issue for all the stakeholders’ immediate discussions.

To that end, we would like to implore our government to listen to us on some of the issues that we have put on the table already, concerning the way forward.

And finally, there is an untrue story that has been making the rounds that we “did not want” and therefore “have rejected the Right Honourable Prime Minister” – that is, to work with him on our concerns. That is not true and to prove our point, let those letters that we wrote to the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister and to His Excellency, The President, be published verbatim in the print media for all to see, so that the public cannot be treated to distorted interpretations.

We are willing and ready, even tomorrow, to talk to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet Committee that he is mandated to Chair or even to the “Sub-Committee” that he was mandated to constitute, provided that we retain our own independent identity as the surviving representative descendants of the victims of the “Extermination Orders of General Lothar von Trotha, instead of disappearing in the anonymity of the “People of Namibia as a whole”, not least of which is the envisaged ‘Sub-Committee’. That is our position.

We thank you for your attention!

We are willing to answer a few questions but we have also given our Technical Committees advisors a free hand to answer your questions as we go along, especially on technical and more complicated issues.

We remain yours, the Traditional Leaders.