While Germany admitted on May 28 to having committed “genocide” against the Herero and Namas ethnic groups in Namibia during the colonial era, its government refuses to pay financial compensation by asserting its development aid plan.
Germany rejected on June 9 Namibia’s demands for reparations for the colonial-era Hereros and Namas massacre, which it now recognizes as genocide, reiterating that the proposed aid of $ 1.1 billion euros would be paid “on a voluntary basis”.
“We are of the opinion that the text we have initialed represents a good basis for finally closing these negotiations”, which began in 2015, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the Bundestag, the lower house of Parliament. This agreement presented in May is the subject of criticism in Namibia, the leaders of this country having themselves recognized that the negotiated compensation was “insufficient”.
“This agreement is made exclusively on a voluntary basis, and there is no legal basis for payment” proposed by Germany, explained the German minister. “In this, it is therefore not comparable to reparations”, he insisted, reaffirming that the proposed financial aid was in the eyes of Berlin “appropriate”.
According to the text concluded in May with the Namibian authorities, Germany has pledged to pay development aid of 1.1 billion over 30 years which should benefit the descendants of the two tribes. It will be used in particular for the acquisition of land, the construction of roads in rural areas, water supply and sanitation. According to the agreement, which must be adopted by the respective parliaments of the two countries, Germany will also present an official apology for this genocide, considered by historians to be the first of the twentieth century. At least 60,000 Hereros and around 10,000 Namas (men, women and children) lost their lives between 1904 and 1908.
Germany refuses to issue official apology
The outcome of the talks is however strongly contested by representatives of the two ethnic groups and the Namibian opposition, who accuse the Windhoek government of having excluded them from the negotiations and demand for some that the amount paid be increased and qualified as reparations.
The Namibian authorities demanded an official apology and reparations but Germany has always opposed it, citing the millions of euros in development aid paid to Namibia since its independence in 1990. Berlin also believes that its recognition of ‘genocide does not open the way to any “legal demand for compensation”.
The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, drawn up in 1948 after the Holocaust, does not apply retroactively. A federal court in New York had also rejected in 2019 the procedure initiated by the Nama and Herero tribes who demanded compensation from Germany for the genocide.