The governments of Germany and Namibia have taken the first hurdle in their negotiations on dealing with the events during the colonial era. According to German Ambassador Christian Schlaga, during their sixth round of negotiations in Berlin at the end of September Special Envoys Ruprecht Polenz and Zed Ngavirue spoke for the first time about the substance of the German position paper. Presented at the end of June, it commented in detail on the Namibian position. Ngavirue and his delegation, which also included representatives of the affected ethnic groups, accepted the paper as a basis for further talks, according to Schlaga.

Both sides have agreed to keep the content confidential. However, Ngavirue has apparently confirmed media reports to the Namibian news agency Nampa stating that Namibia is making financial claims of more than 400 billion Namibian Dollar (US $ 30 billion). This was also an issue in the Namibian parliament. The opposition party SWANU demanded a breakdown of the amounts demanded for German offenses such as homicide, slave labor, sexual abuse, theft of the land and deprivation of the right to self-determination. In addition, the opposition calls for clarification on the apparently overdrawn fees for a legal opinion on a possible genocide lawsuit against Germany. The government confirmed that it paid around 35.4 million Namibia Dollar to lawyers in London.

At their meeting in Berlin, the delegations also agreed on the return of further 22 skulls, that were taken from dead Herero and Nama, sent to Germany for research purposes and that are currently in possession of the University Hospital Charité in Berlin.

Meanwhile, in early October in New York another hearing took place over the genocide lawsuit filed by Herero and Nama victims’ associations because they are not allowed to participate in the talks. At the request of the plaintiff’s lawyer, the hearing was postponed to January because the complaint could not yet be served to the German Government. Nevertheless, representatives of the victims’ associations had traveled to New York. In addition to that, the (former) chairperson of the Nama’s association Ida Hoffmann ignored that she had recently been degraded by Nama leaders. German activists Christian Kopp and Reinhart Kößler, who support the victims’ associations, called on the Nama leaders to reconsider their decision.

Published in the column “Deutsche Institutionen” in the print edition no. 4 / 2017 of Namibiamagazin (in German only).


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Namibian-German dialogue Ngavirue Polenz Berlin November 2017

Round of negotiations in Berlin: The Special Envoys Ruprecht Polenz and Zed Ngavirue (front, 2nd and 3rd from left), Ambassadors Andreas Guibeb (front left) and Christian Schlaga (2nd from right) and the Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa and Sahel in the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Georg Schmid (back right). Photo: German Embassy Windhoek