BERLIN – Germany has reached an agreement with Namibia under which the killings of tens of thousands of people in the colonial era are officially recognized as genocide and are committed to spending a total of € 1.1 billion ($ 1.3 billion), mainly to development projects.
The agreement announced on Friday is the result of more than five years of talks with Namibia on the events of 1904-1908, when Germany was the colonial ruler of southern Africa.
Historians say the German general Lothar von Trotha, who was sent to what was then German South West Africa to stage an uprising by the Herero people in 1904, ordered his troops to wipe out the entire tribe. They say about 65,000 Herero were killed and at least 10,000 Namas killed.
“In view of the historical and moral responsibility of Germany, we will apologize to Namibia and the descendants of the victims,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement.
“Our goal was and is to find a common path to true reconciliation in memory of the victims,” he said. “This includes naming the events of the German colonial era in present-day Namibia, and especially the atrocities between 1904 and 1908, sparingly and without euphemisms.”
“We will now officially call these events from today’s point of view: a genocide.”
Talks between Germany and Namibia opened in 2015, more than a decade after a 2004 visit to Namibia, in which then-Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul offered Germany’s first apology for the killings, which she said ‘which today would be described as genocide. ”
Maas said Germany, “as a gesture of recognition of the incalculable suffering”, plans to support Namibia and the descendants of the victims with a € 1.1 billion reconstruction and development program in the design and implementation of the communities affected by the genocide. will play a crucial role. ”
At the same time, he said that “legal claims for compensation cannot be derived from this.”
This reflects Germany’s view that the 1948 Genocide Convention cannot be applied retrospectively, and that its accountability is political and moral rather than legal.
The projects that Germany will now fund are expected to span a period of 30 years and will cover areas such as land reform, including land acquisition, agriculture, rural infrastructure, water supply and vocational training. They will stand apart from continued development assistance to Namibia.
Germany says representatives of the Herero and Nama were involved in the negotiations, although Berlin’s direct affairs were with the Namibian government.
Germany gained control of the desert land in the 1880s and ceded the territory to South Africa in 1915. Namibia gained independence in 1990.