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Africa

Is Germany moving closer to paying reparations for Namibian genoicide?

Encouraged by the visit of a German politician, Namibians have made fresh calls for the German government to admit that genocide was committed against the Herero and Nama tribes over a hundred years ago.

German parliamentary speaker Dr Norbert Lammert has on numerous occasions expressed Germany's interest in developing a partnership with the Namibian government to further develop the country.

During his visit to Namibia this week, Lammert said the South African nation had made progress during the past 25 years of independence by transforming the country into one of the most stable political systems in Africa.

While Namibians were happy to hear this, many of them - especially members of the Herero tribe - were more interested to hear how Lammert would deal with the killing of thousands of Herero and Nama people more than a century ago. In 1904 a racial extermination order against the two tribes was issued by the then government of German South West Africa.

Norbert Lammert

Lammert says it was genocide, the German government is still hesitating

Close to 100,000 Hereros and 10,000 Namas died from starvation and thirst in the desert. Others were shot, hanged or died in concentration camps. The massacre is generally considered to be the first genocide of the 20th century.

Festus Muundjua is a descendant of Herero victims. He is among those demanding the German government should pay reparations for the brutal acts, including rape, carried out by German soldiers.

"I have to look at my great grandmother every day, she looks like a German, she has green eyes," Muundjua said. "It always come to my mind, how many times was she raped, how did she feel, did anyone come to her help?"

Personal acknowledgment

During his visit, Lammert personally admitted that the massacre was a genocide but he did not make the statement on behalf of the German government. "Looking at the events which happened at that time and with our understanding of what genocide is, it was [genocide] - full stop," he said at a press conference.

Representatives of Herero and Nama activist groups in Germany and Namibia have been putting pressure on the German government for some time to admit that a genocide was committed. Herero activist Israel Kaunatjike, who has lived in Berlin since 1970, told DW he was happy with Lammert's acknowledgment of the genocide. He said it was now necessary for the governments of Namibia and Germany as well as Herero representatives to sit down together and work out the details of reparation payments.

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