Namibia: is Germany evading responsibility?

Germany has officially recognised that the mass killing of Herero and Nama peoples between 1904 and 1908 in the colony of German South West Africa (now Namibia) constituted genocide. Namibia is now to receive 1.1 billion euros from Berlin over a period of 30 years, however not as compensation but in the form of development aid for the country's infrastructure and education system.

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New Era (NA) /

Colonial patterns allowed to persist

New Era is incensed by Germany's decision no to pay compensation to the genocide victims' descendants but provide development aid instead:

“In the colonial era, Africans were regarded as 'barbarians' who lacked the abilities to bring about economic and technological change, justifying the intervention of the imperial powers. This view defined how the West perceived and presented Africa in the past, and the echoes of that view may be found today. Development aid can still be presented in a patronising way, maintaining an unequal relationship. If it is being seen as an alternative to reparations, with fewer legal ramifications, it does not dismantle the relationship that allowed the genocide to happen in the first place.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Development aid just a ploy

Gazeta Wyborcza also takes a critical view of the payment model:

“The Namibian government, which primarily represents the majority of the Owambo and not the Herero and Nama, will receive the development aid. ... The German government thereby wants to save itself and others from further demands. If it had recognised the right of the Herero and Nama to compensation, it would be more difficult to reject similar demands from Warsaw for compensation for crimes in advance.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

On the path to broader understanding

The agreement is an important step in coming to terms with the past, says NRC Handelsblad:

“Only a collective understanding of the scope, seriousness and historical significance of what has been called the 'first genocide of the 20th century' can help future generations in Namibia and Germany come to terms with their divided past. Especially in Germany itself, due to the leaden burden of the Second World War, little attention has been paid to crimes from other eras. Hopefully, the agreements with Namibia will lead to a broad knowledge of the often downplayed colonial role. What happened in imperial German South West Africa back then was, according to German historians, a harbinger of the Nazi era.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Yes to reconciliation but no to legal claims

Even if the crimes must be ruthlessly investigated their historical context must not be ignored, writes the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:

“The descendants of perpetrators and victims are not themselves perpetrators and victims. But as a state, Germany must take responsibility for its historical injustices. The German government would do well to provide extensive aid, especially to those who really need it, but at the same time not to recognise any legal claim to (further) payments. For this is about reconciliation.” (PL) /

And what about close neighbours?

The online portal sees Germany's admissions as a sign of a new openness to paying reparations to Poland:

“If it is issuing payments to the Namibian government, it will be difficult for Germany to maintain a negative stance towards the claims of its direct neighbour. Especially since the Poles were murdered only 75 to 80 years ago. ... It is in Germany's interest to settle the question of Polish claims. It is impossible to pretend that everything is fine in our mutual relations when one side is resorting to tricks and evasion on such a fundamental issue.”