EVELINE DE KLERK
In what is perhaps a bizarre decision, a little known coastal movement by the name of ‘Back to Germany Activist Movement,’ has approached the International Criminal Court (ICC) demanding that the ‘Marine Denkmal’, or Marine Memorial in English, monument removed from the streets of Swakopmund and be returned to Germany.
The monument in question, stands on the grounds of State House in Swakopmund and was first unveiled on July 26, 1908, under the German colonial regime. It has been in existence for 108 years and was designed by German sculptor Albert Moritz Wolff in 1908. The sculpture was proclaimed a national monument on January 2, 1969.
Spearheading the movement that approached the ICC is Laidlaw Peringanda, who calls himself a community and human rights activist. He also says he can trace his ancestry roots to one of the 1800’s royal chiefs of the Ovaherero people in Namibia.
Peringanda showed New Era Weekend documents, which he says, indicates that the Office of the ICC Prosecutor, Head of Information and Evidence Unit, Mark Dillion, has registered the case in the Communication Register of the Office in accordance to the Rome Statue. The case number is OTP-CR352/16.
The ICC is a permanent international court established to investigate, prosecute and try individuals accused of committing the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.
Peringanda, who claims to represent 70 000 followers of the movement, said they filed the case nine days ago with ICC who then registered the case two weeks ago.
“Yes finally our efforts did not fall on deaf ears, we will fight until the monument is removed and shipped back to Germany. It mocks the pain and suffering many Namibians had to undergo during the German genocide and this humiliation cannot be allowed to continue after 25 years,” he said.
According to Peringanda claims the ICC was the last option of the movement as government apparently refused to deal with issue.
He told New Era Weekend that they also approached the National Heritage Council, the Office of the President, the Prime Minister’s office, the Ombudsman as well as the Legal Assistance Centre, but to no avail.
Peringanda says the movement also took the matter in October this year to the Federal Government of Germany through its Ambassador, Christian Schlaga, who apparently denied ownership of the monument.
“It is apparently not in Germany’s jurisdiction. However at the Berlin Conference, held from 1884 to1885, where the General Act of Berlin Conference formulated the “Scrambles for Africa,” Namibia became part of the German Government Jurisdiction, whereby Germany in the Extermination Order said that Herero people are no longer German subjects and that they must leave South West Africa or die. This is one of the reasons why we approached the ICC as it is an independent body that does not take sides,” he explains of his movement’s motives.
Peringanda continued that the monument represents the atrocities committed against the Ovaherero and Damara/Nama speaking people that were killed during the colonial regime by German soldiers and thus should be removed and given back to Germany.
“Where is the Berlin Wall? It is gone because it, represented the ugly and brutal past of Germany. We should also be allowed to remove whatever reminds us of the painful past of colonial conquest and genocide,” he demanded. “As we have said in the past, the monument is a constant reminder of the colonial crimes against our forefathers. It is making a mockery of our people’s suffering and we do not want the monument. It must go. There is no place for it in Namibia. It represents German supremacy and as long as it still stands Namibians will never get the true feeling of independence,” he explained.
Peringanda added that the movement have trust in the ICC to investigate the Marine Denkmal, the Herero genocide of 1904-1908, the Namibian government for not removing the monument and for Germany for not taking responsibility for the monument.
“The monument must be removed and repatriated back to Germany in exchange for the thousands of our skulls in Germany and research done on our ancestors. In the book of Dr Jeremy Sarkin “Germany Genocide of the Herero” it is claimed that there are over 6000 skulls, dried skins, hair, plaster casts of faces, heads, hands, and feet in German Museums. Those must be returned to Namibia where they belong,” said Peringanda.