On the 27th of March 2015 representatives of the NGO alliance “No Amnesty on Genocide!” handed over the Hereros & Namas‘ Genocide Reparation from Germany Petition initiated by the Herero Diaspora and descendents to Germany’s Foreign Ministry in Berlin. The demand for reparations concerning the genocide committed 1904-08 by Germany was received by Ambassador Georg Schmidt, Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel, who was also willing to meet the petitioners. A photographic documentation of the handing over, however, was not agreed to by the Foreign Office.
During the meeting the representatives of the Foreign Ministry emphasized the importance of Namibia and especially of the subject focussed on by the petition for Germany. One expression of this high priority was for example the two visits the new Regional Director Ambassador Schmidt has already paid to Namibia, where he has just come back from after accompanying the former German President Horst Köhler on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Namibia’s independence.
As the representatives of the Foreign Office emphasized the German government was principally ready to face the colonial past and to enter into dialogue upon the “colonial war” 1904-1908. If this dialogue was not yet engaged into in a satisfying and intense manner it was because the Namibian side had not yet decided upon the responsible partner in this dialogue.
The representatives of the Non Government Organisations related their questions to the parliamentary motion made by Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier (Social Democratic Party) on the 20th of March 2012 when he was still the opposition leader “Strengthening relations between Germany and Namibia and living up to Germany’s historical responsibility” (printed paper 17/9033, http://genocide-namibia.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/20120320_Genocide_Motion_SPD-Greens.pdf). They asked about the realisation of measures demanded in this motion from the German government after the taking over of the Foreign Office by the Social Democrats themselves.
The answers given by the representatives of the Foreign Ministry fostered the impression that there were hardly any activities unfolded or even successes to be reported in the fields mentioned by the motion. Thus the German Bundestag has not yet committed itself to set up a German-Namibian parliamentary friendship group as requested several times by members of the Namibian parliament. Furthermore there have neither been any efforts to initiate the establishment of a foundation to deal with Germany’s colonial past on the federal level nor any endeavours to make the colonial past an integral and permanent part of school curricula in Germany. Above all it became clear that the main demand of the motion tabled by Frank Walter Steinmeier and the Social Democratic Party in 2012 from the German government and the German Bundestag – to officially “assume the political and moral responsibility” for the 1904-08 genocide – is not seen as a point on the current Foreign Ministry’s agenda.
Only concerning the issue of human remains the representatives of the Foreign Ministry could point towards some activities. Thus the ministry had co-initiated a circular letter by ICOM Germany to German museums asking for human remains from Namibia in the collections whereupon there were quite a number of positive answers. However, the Foreign Ministry did not report on any efforts of the German government to establish and fund a group of specialists researching the provenience and identity of these human remains. The representatives also gave no answers concerning Germany’s further dealing with the many hundreds of human remains once taken away by the colonial regime from Namibia and other African countries for racist researches.
All in all the representatives of the NGO alliance “No Amnesty on Genocide!” left the meeting without any expectations concerning the current government’s commitment towards an official acknowledgment of and apology for the genocide 1904-08 going further than a vague and general agreement to dialogue.
Christian Kopp, 2015-03-30
- „Deutschland muss Herero und Nama für kolonialen Genozid und Landraub entschädigen“ | Press statement (only in German) by the NGO alliance „No Amnesty on Genocide!“ | 25.03.2015
- The Hereros & Namas’ Genocide Reparation from Germany Petition