1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Opposition bid to recognize Namibia genocide

July 3, 2015

German opposition parties have called on the government to recognize the massacre committed by imperial troops in Namibia as genocide. This comes ahead of the 100th anniversary of the end of German rule there.

Namibia Geschichte Deutsch-Südwestafrika Gefangene Hereros
Image: ullstein bild

The opposition Greens and Left party have thrown their support behind a bid by human rights organizations to persuade Chancellor Angela Merkel's government to recognize the mass killings of people who belonged to Herero and Nama ethnic groups between in the early 1900s as genocide.

"Between 1904 and 1908 the German empire carried out the first genocide of the 20th century,"Gysi told the DPA news agency. "The people of Namibia are still suffering from the after-effects up to this very day," he added.

"This chapter of Germany's colonial history must not be left untreated. As the legal successor, the Federal Republic holds the responsibility," Cem Özdemir co-chairperson of the Greens, told DPA.

Özdemir was speaking after the Greens on Wednesday brought a motion in the German parliament calling on the government to recognize the mass killings as an act of genocide.

On Monday, a delegation from the Namibian activists' group "Volkermord verjährt nicht" (Genocide doesn't have a statute of limitations), are to meet with German President Joachim Gauck in Berlin and present him with a petition calling on the grand-coalition government to Return of Namibian skulls highlights German colonial brutalityrecognize the massacre as genocide. Numerous members of the Bundestag are among the signatories.

The issue has been a bone of contention between Namibia and Germany for years, and in 2004, the then-German development minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, came the closest to apologizing for the killings, saying during a visit to Namibia that the "atrocities were what one today would describe as genocide."

'Good progress' in bilateral talks

According to the German Foreign Office, talks between Berlin and Windhoeck on the issue are making "good progress," but have not yet concluded. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's commissioner for Africa, Georg Schmidt to the Namibian capital twice this year in a bid to move the talks forward. While in opposition, Steinmeier, who like Wieczorek-Zeul is a member of the Social Democrats, himself brought a motion in the Bundestag, in which the word "genocide" was used.

The pressure to get the mass killings recognized as genocide has gained momentum ahead of the July 9th centenary of the end of German colonial rule in what was then German South-West Africa, as well and following a Bundestag debate in April, in which parliamentary President Norbert Lammert referred to the massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I as genocide.

pfd/kms (dpa, KNA)