Tension is building in Namibia over the apparent delay tactics employed by Germany as regards talks about an apology and reparations for the genocide of its indigenous Herero and Nama. It has been three years since the talks commenced, but the inaction from Germany is making tempers flare in the Southern-African country.
Everything about the talks shows signs of no improvement in sight. The negotiations are mostly held in a clandestine nature, to the extent that even members of the German parliament don't know exactly where the talks between Germany and Namibia , once regarded as a prestige project, now stand. In Namibia, an apology on the heinous atrocities committed toward the Herero and Nama is being waited for - except the patience is running out at a fast speed.
Between 1904 and 1908, tens of thousands of Herero and Nama were ruthlessly and shamelessly killed in the quest for Germany to subjugate Namibia. Namibia was a German colony that times and it was called "German South West Africa". With the negative, indelible impact it has left over the years, debates were held in Germany and abroad on the issue of Germany apologising to Namibia for the genocide and actually paying reparations. Germany ruled out the possibility of reparations at the outset of the negotiations.
With the current situation, it is clear that the German coalition will not issue out an apology, despite it being waited for by the Namibians. Efforts to try and elicit one have been stalled several times. Enquiries to the foreign ministry are always met with a standard response. The position papers with the detailed claims out of Namibia and the offer out of Germany are both classified. Whenever the delegates meet, no clear outcomes are proffered - other than brief, skeletal media statements. In Germany, no one pays serious attention to the topic. A general feeling is now prevailing - that Germany is simply uninterested in pursuing the matter.
Namibian media has been filled with reports that Germany is denying the accusations of genocide. A columnist from the government-owned New Era newspaper had accused Christian Schlaga, Germany's ambassador to Namibia, of denying German guilt for the genocide in a speech. The diplomat vehemently denied this. Schlaga has instead hit back at the claims saying that he was once again the target of "false, slanderous, derogatory and insulting statements".
The secretive nature of these negotiations is fuelling the frustration that seeped in to the Namibian populace. It is claimed, through unverified reports in the Namibian media, that there are several sticking points that are just forestalling any progress. Herero representatives, for example, claim a secret deal has been in place between the two sides since Namibian independence: Windhoek waived reparations for the genocide and Berlin committed to higher development aid. Both governments deny this.
The majority of Namibians are quite affirmative of the reparations being paid to Namibia. An IPPR survey showed two thirds of Namibian respondents are in favor of compensation from Germany, even though Germany is not showing any intentions of taking this route. Namibians are also not satisfied with their own government. Less than half of respondents in the IPPR survey said they believed its negotiations with Germany were good or "mostly good." A little over half want traditional representatives of the Herero and Nama to be involved.
On such sensitive issues, it is imperative for Germany to act as soon as possible. It is a process that must be thoroughly inclusive and that must let go of its secretive nature.