Germany officially recognises colonial-era Namibia genocide

Germany has officially acknowledged that it committed genocide during its colonial-era occupation of Namibia, and announced a financial support gesture.

German colonisers killed tens of thousands of Herero and Nama people there in early 20th Century massacres.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Friday acknowledged the killings as genocide.

“In light of Germany’s historical and moral responsibility, we will ask Namibia and the descendants of the victims for forgiveness,” he said.

Mr Maas added that Germany would, in a “gesture to recognise the immense suffering inflicted on the victims”, support the country’s development through a programme worth more than €1.1bn (£940m; $1.34bn).

The agreement will reportedly see funding paid over 30 years through spending on infrastructure, healthcare and training programmes benefiting the impacted communities.

“We will now officially refer to these events as what they are from today’s perspective: genocide,” Mr Maas said in Friday’s statement, adding that colonial-era actions should be discussed “without sparing or glossing over”.

A spokesman for the Namibian government told the AFP news agency that Germany’s recognition was “a first step in the right direction”.

But some traditional leaders have accused the government of selling out and refused to endorse the package offered.

What happened during the genocide?

Friday’s statement came after five years of negotiations with Namibia – which was under German occupation from 1884 to 1915.

The atrocities committed have been described by historians as “the forgotten genocide” of the early 20th Century, in what was then known as German South West Africa.

The UN defines genocide as a number of acts, including killing, committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.

The genocide began in 1904 after a Herero and Nama rebellion over German seizures of their land and cattle. The head of the military administration there, Lothar von Trotha, called for the extermination of the population in response.

Survivors from the Herero and Nama population were forced into the desert and later placed in concentration camps where they were exploited for labour.

Many died of disease, exhaustion and starvation with some subject to sexual exploitation and medical experimentation. It is thought up to 80% of the indigenous populations died during the genocide – with a death toll in the tens of thousands.

Germany has previously acknowledged the atrocities but ruled out paying reparations. In 2018 they repatriated some human remains to Namibia which had been used as part of now-discredited research attempting to prove the racial superiority of white Europeans.

The latest deal was reportedly agreed during a round of negotiations held by special envoys in mid-May.

A declaration is expected to be signed by the German foreign minister in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, next month before being ratified by each country’s parliament, German media reports say.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is then expected to travel to the country to officially apologise.


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