Germany admitted this Friday to having committed “genocide” against the Herero and Nama ethnic populations in Namibia during the colonial era and will pay the country another billion euros in development aid.
In a statement, the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, welcomed an “agreement” with Namibia, after more than five years of tough negotiations on the events that took place in this African territory colonized by Germany between 1884 and 1915.
German settlers killed tens of thousands of Herero and Nama in massacres between 1904 and 1908, considered by historians to be the first genocide of the 20th century.
“In light of Germany’s historical and moral responsibility, we will ask forgiveness from Namibia and the descendants of the victims for the atrocities committed”, said the minister.
In a “gesture of recognition of the immense suffering inflicted on the victims, Germany will support Namibia’s reconstruction and development through a financial program worth 1.1 billion euros,” he added.
The minister specified that this is not a legal basis indemnity and that such recognition does not open the way for any “judicial claim for compensation”.
This amount will be paid over a period of 30 years, according to sources close to the negotiations, and should mainly benefit the descendants of these two ethnic groups.
“We cannot draw a boundary with the past. Acknowledging guilt and asking for forgiveness are, however, an important step to overcome the past and build the future together.” said the minister.
In a desire for reconciliation, in 2019 Germany handed over to Namibia the bones of members of the exterminated Herero and Nama tribes.
A gesture clearly considered insufficient by the descendants and by the Namibian authorities who demanded an official apology and compensation.
Germany has repeatedly opposed this, citing millions of euros in development aid granted to Namibia since its independence in 1990.
The Herero tribes now represent around 7% of Namibia’s population, compared to 40% at the beginning of the 20th century.
Germany and Namibia have been in talks since 2015 on the review of atrocities committed by the German Empire during the colonial period and possible compensation.
The German occupation of territories currently belonging to Namibia took place between 1884 and 1915.
On January 12, 1904, there was a first revolt of the Herero against German colonial rule, followed in October by the revolt of the Nama population.
It is estimated that the soldiers of Emperor Wilhelm II exterminated 65,000 Hereros out of a population of 80,000 and at least 10,000 of the 20,000 nama.
In November 2019, the German parliament for the first time used the word “genocide” to refer to this massacre and the German negotiator, Ruprecht Polenz, said the agreement with Namibia was close.