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Germany recognising the colonial-era genocide in Namibia

  • Posted By
    10Pointer
  • Categories
    World Affairs
  • Published
    1st Jun, 2021

Context

Germany for the first time has recognised that it committed genocide against the Herero and Nama people in present-day Namibia during its colonial rule over a century ago, and promised financial support of over a billion euros to the Southern African nation.

About the Genocide and its recognition by Germany

  • Time Period: Between 1904 and 1908, German colonial settlers killed tens of thousands of men, women and children from the Herero and Nama tribes.
  • German Reparation: They rebelled against colonial rule in what was then called German South West Africa.
    • Germany has previously acknowledged the atrocities, they refused to pay direct reparations for many years.
    • Now it announced a fund of €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion) to help aid community projects in Namibia.

Historical background of Herero and Nama Genocide

  • Land Occupation: Between 1884 and 1890, Germany formally colonised parts of present-day Namibia.
    • By 1903, around 3,000 German settlers had occupied the central high ground of the region.
  • Tension over resources: Tensions quickly rose as local tribes saw the German settlers as a threat to their land and resources.

Herero tribe

  • The Herero, also known as Ovaherero, are a Bantu ethnic group inhabiting parts of Southern Africa.
  • They speak Otjiherero, a Bantu language.
  • Herero primarily reside in Namibia, there are also significant populations in Botswana and Angola.

Nama tribe

  • Nama are an African ethnic group of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.
  • They traditionally speak the Nama language.
  • The Nama People are the largest group of the Khoikhoi people.
  • Conflict: Violence first broke out between Herero fighters and German settlers in a small town called Okahandja.
    • Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha opted for a far more aggressive military approach.
    • The Herero fighters, fled to the Waterberg plateau at the edge of the Kalahari desert. His strategy was to ruthlessly “annihilate” the Hereros when they least expected it.
    • During the Battle of Waterberg, around 80,000 Herero, including women and children, were chased across the desert by German troops. A mere 15,000 survived.
    • Southern Nama communities had led an insurrection against German colonialism. But much like the Herero, they too were brutally suppressed. Around 10,000 of them were killed.
    • Over the next three years, thousands of Nama and Herero men, women and children were exiled to the Kalahari desert where many died of thirst.
    • Several others were sent to bleak concentration camps, and used for forced labour.
  • The Germans continued to rule the region till 1915, following which it fell under South Africa’s control for 75 years.
  • Namibia finally gained independence in 1990.

What is the significance of the acknowledgement?

  • It would be a cause for embarrassment for the country and perhaps giving other countries the impetus to also acknowledge the genocide.
  • The move is expected to stop countries to go for any such move in future.
  • This is expected to recognize the genocide by other nations such as India who had not recognized it yet.