New Era resident columnist Dr Charles Mubita (photo), a holder of a PhD in International Relations from the University of Southern California, answered some questions dominating current conversations on various tribes’ fight for genocide recognition.
New Era Weekend (NEW): What new dimensions do these claims add to the genocide debate in Namibia?
Charles Mubita (CM): The main dimension being brought forth is recognition of the historic facts that many other Namibians, other than only the Ovaherero and Nama, were also victims of German genocide. This is historically indisputable. This new dimension should have been the starting point right from the beginning of the reparation debate.
The very notion of trying to exclude other victims of genocide from the reparation debate is disingenuous on the part of those who are at the forefront of the exclusionist reparation debate, and has played in the hands of the Germans to prevaricate on the matter. As perpetrators of the genocide, the Germans are fully aware who the victims were and who their partners were in carrying out the genocide.
The new dimension is that people are now, rightly so, interrogating the very history of genocide. Facts may soon emerge as to how many Namibians (Ovaherero, Nama, Damara, Ovambo, Kavango and even Zambezian) were killed directly by German firepower.
NEW: Does it really matter what specific tribe was mostly affected, instead of putting up a united front to confront Germany with reparation demands?
CM: It does not matter at all. It actually makes sense that the matter is approached from a national front rather than a tribal front. Germans colonised the whole country and perpetrated heinous crimes all over. They did not just occupy certain tribal reserves. The magnitude differed but the method was the same.
It matters only when certain tribes seek to personalise, to own, to tribalise if you like, the genocidal activities of the Germans in Namibia.
While there is a clear division between Western and Eastern Armenians, especially in terms of the dialects they speak, the country was inhabited by the Bagratunis, Artsrunis, Proshians, Orbelians, Arshakids and later by the majority Armenians in the Diaspora, during the genocide period in that country. History is clear that the genocide that wiped out 1.5 million Armenians was targeted at a minority of the population. However, the reparation agenda was not pursued by a section of the population, but by Armenians as a whole, including those in the Diaspora.
For us to try and fight this reparation battle as tribes, from our chiefdom comforts, is foolhardy. How do we expect a full government, Germany, to seriously, comprehensively and conclusively negotiate with a tribe or tribes at the exclusion of others whose forefathers equally bore the brunt of German genocide, when we have an elected government?
NEW: What are your feelings on suggestions that a fragmented Namibia works in favour of Germany in this matter?
CM: It obviously does and most unfortunately denigrates the authority of our government over matters that only the government should have full authority and capacity to deal with.
Germany is aware that peace between countries and their people is established through direct talks between their respective government representatives and not through indirect channels. It is also aware that relations between two sovereign states are directly established between them bilaterally. Resolutions to conflicts that arise between them, including reparation for genocide, should be logically conducted between their respective government representatives. Other channels or self-interest structures will only serve to delay the resolution process, and offer the other party an opportunity to prevaricate and procrastinate endlessly. This is what is happening.
No one can and should attempt or be seen to be attempting to substitute the Namibian government and parliament in their constitutional role as the only legitimate spokespersons and interlocutors for all Namibians in international fora on all issues of national concern, including on the genocide issue.
NEW: If the Germans were to advance payment for their deeds in Namibia, how, in your view, should that money be used?
CM: Firstly, the purpose of reparation is not necessarily monetary but to re-establish the situation that existed before the harm occurred; serving as a vehicle for reconciliation; deterrent to a repetition of the same genocide; restore relations between the violator and the injured parties; and consequently repair or rehabilitate the physical and psychological integrity and dignity of the victims of the genocide. In international law, a breach of an international obligation gives rise to a duty to repair the harm caused, and this is what the government is trying to make Germany do.
We must admit that we have many Namibians and Germans who are blood relatives, but who, for some reason do not even know each other. Reconciliation will be primary in achieving this.
Personally, I believe government already has plans on how reparation funds, if any, will be used. However, I would wish to see that money used to bring back all the skulls of Namibians, with or without teeth, from Germany. The money could also be used to resettle the victims of genocide through restitution of their ancestral land, especially the people in southern Namibia.