Mbumba endorses Genocide Remembrance Day

Mbumba endorses Genocide Remembrance Day
Mbumba endorses Genocide Remembrance Day

Africa-Press – Namibia. President Nangolo Mbumba does not see any legal or procedural reasons, or any section of society rejecting a proposal to officially recognise and commemorate 28 May as a national Genocide Remembrance Day.

Mbumba shared these sentiments during a meeting with members of the Okandjoze Chiefs Assembly at State House last week, where numerous Ovaherero and Ovambanderu traditional chiefs as well as senior councillors met with the Head of State to exchange notes on a raft of matters.

It was on 28 May 1908, 116 years ago, that Major Ludwig von Estorff, the commander of the German colonial schutztruppe, ordered the formal closure of all Ovaherero and Nama concentration camps in the then-German South West Africa.

The Okandjoze Chiefs Assembly, which comprises eight traditional leaders, who established the assembly through an agreement, called on Mbumba and his Cabinet to work speedily to ensure the day is formally gazetted and promulgated as a national remembrance day for all Namibians.

Chaired by chief Tjinaani Maharero of the Maharero Royal House, members of the Okandjoze Chiefs Assembly reminded the President that the respective communities have for years been requesting a genocide remembrance day but to no avail.

“This year marks the 120th year since the extermination order was issued against the Ovaherero, and it marks the 119th year since the same order was also issued against the Nama, and 116 years since the closing of all the concentration camps. Therefore, we urgently seek your intervention in the gazetting of the already approved/passed motion of our Parliament to officially promulgate 28 May as the Genocide Remembrance Day in Namibia,” Maharero pleaded.

In response, Mbumba welcomed the idea of officially recognising and commemorating 28 May as the country’s Genocide Remembrance Day, saying he fully supports the idea and sees no reason why Namibia as a whole, and Parliament, in particular, would not rubberstamp the proposed day.

“Your concerns and proposals are noted but will require further discussions with all stakeholders, including relevant ministries and Parliament. Perhaps some amendments will have to be made or added, and that will have to be a decision of Parliament.

“There are also others who have been proposing other dates to be considered for the remembrance day – but if 28 May is the acceptable date for all of us, then I don’t think it’s a problem. I will support it,” said Mbumba.

Back in 2016, former Swanu president Usutuaije Maamberua tabled a motion before the National Assembly for the government to recognise a genocide remembrance day annually and proposed 28 May as the official day.

At the time, Maamberua said the purpose of his motion was for Parliament to discuss, debate – and through a standing committee, consult the affected communities and relevant authorities to determine and bring about the enactment or declaration of the memorial day.

Last year, proposals for a genocide remembrance day received widespread support from various quarters of society, including from lawmakers from both the ruling party and the opposition.

During the same meeting, the chiefs also called on Mbumba to convene a national consultation conference on genocide, where the affected communities, government and Namibians from all walks of life will come together and reach a common position on the genocide issue.

Fresh talks

Maharero added that the envisaged national consultation conference on genocide should be held in the same spirit and fashion the country organised its national land conference a few years ago.

“We totally reject the negotiation process between the two states [Namibian and Germany] that has resulted in a joint declaration, because it does not address the issue of restorative justice and reparations. We, thereby, call for a new and different all-inclusive approach that embraces all relevant stakeholders, including fellow descendants in the diaspora.

“That is why we propose a national consultative conference on genocide as per the 2006 motion of our Parliament [by the late Kuaima Riruako]. When there is a common position that includes all descendants of the victim of genocide and our government, it will speak volumes; as a united people, it is difficult to be conquered,” Maharero told the president.

While appreciative of the proposal for a national conference on genocide, Mbumba was quick to caution the chiefs not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

“I understand that the negotiations have been slow and not up to our expectations, but I do not think throwing everything away and starting from zero is the way to go.

“We can’t do that, because this process has taken us many years – since the time of Tate Pohama [Former President Hifikepunye Pohamba] – and starting from zero will not be the best thing to do, especially for me, who will be in this office for less than a year,” added the president, who urged the chiefs to unite and continue holding hands with government for the country to achieve restorative justice.


The Ovaherero and Nama genocide was a campaign of ethnic extermination by the German colonial government. It was the first genocide of the 20th century, and it occurred between 1904 and 1908.

An estimated 100 000 Ovaherero and 10 000 Namas died in the genocide.

The first phase of the genocide was characterised by widespread death from starvation and dehydration due to the prevention of the Oveherero from leaving the Namib Desert by German forces.

Once defeated, thousands of Ovahereros and Namas were imprisoned in concentration camps, where the majority died from diseases, abuse and exhaustion.

In May last year, United Nations special rapporteurs criticised both Namibia and Germany for violating the rights of Ovaherero and Nama ethnic minorities by excluding them from talks over reparations for colonial crimes against their ancestors.

The UN representatives called on Germany to take full responsibility for all its colonial crimes in Namibia, including mass murder.

Meanwhile, talks between the two governments have seemingly hit a stalemate.

At the moment, Germany has offered a paltry 1.1 billion euros or N$18 billion for developmental projects in seven identified regions as reparations for genocide, which is a far cry from Namibia’s N$1.1 trillion demand.

The latter figure takes into account loss of life, dispossession of land and displacement, amongst others.

Another issue that does not sit well with affected communities, the Namibian government and opposition parties is that the proposed N$18 billion is to be paid over 30 years.

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