Namibian Tribes Suing Germany Over A Long Ignored Genocide

A class action lawsuit has been filed in a New York court by Namibia’s Nama and Herero people demanding damages for a genocide committed by Germany which is considered the first genocide of the 20th century.

The genocide which occurred almost 110 years ago was only owned up to by Germany last year. Germany apologized for the 1904-1907 genocide and began talks with the Namibian government to forge a common policy to put to bed the much-ignored genocide.

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The descendants of the actual people (Namibia’s Nama and Herero people) massacred in the German genocide are, however, the plaintiffs bringing the new suit against Germany. They filed the lawsuit on January 5.

In the period of 1904-1907, German troops oversaw the extermination of 85% of the Herero people. Thousands of Nama people were also killed and both groups had their land and their cattle, their primary source of wealth, seized. Women and girls from the groups were also raped.

Herero people

Two chiefs representing the two groups bringing the suit gave their reason to be an exclusion from the negotiations that Germany has set in motion. The Namibian newspaper reported that ovaHerero paramount chief Vekuii Rukoro said;

“They have decided to put their heads in the sand the ostrich way, disrespect our people and our government. We have faith that restorative justice will prevail,”

Chief Vekuii Rukoro who is also a legal advocate said that their communities have attempted going by a diplomatic route but had not gotten the results they were looking for. He said that he believed international and human rights law was on their side.

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The suit also shows that the plaintiffs are seeking reparations for the thousands of square miles of land that was seized by German colonial authorities. Berlin is reluctant to pay out any reparations insisting instead that it would instead fund targeted development projects. Ruprecht Polenz, Germany’s special envoy for dialogue with Namibia said the lawsuit would not affect the ongoing negotiations.

Polenz also said that Germany considers dealing with the genocide a political and moral question rather than a legal one. He told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, that; “We are negotiating with the Namibian government about the political and moral consequences,”