Rukoro’s public apology statement

Rukoro’s public apology statement

I overreacted and used words and phrases which, on mature reflection, are clearly not appropriate. I therefore wish to hereby un-reservedly withdraw the offending statements and equally apologise to the Namibian public in this regard.

We invited you in order to share our position with regard to the latest media events, in particular the [newspaper] report with the heading ‘Geingob, Rukoro at loggerheads over Third Force.’ Evidently I do not have to tell you that there were no loggerheads between His Excellency [President Hage Geingob] and I as even the newspaper itself did not bring up any. They only reported on what President Geingob said at a meeting [with representatives from the Ovaherero/Ovambanderu and Nama Council 1904 – 1908 who paid courtesy visit to State House last week].

It is true that I have in the past spoken of a “Third Force” as well as about an “Ovambo Government.” I subsequently explain that what I had said in those statements was said against the backdrop of an environment of severe and persistent harassment and marginalisation of my people by various senior government officials over a long period of time.

While defending the rights and interest of my people against the aforesaid onslaught, I overreacted and used words and phrases which, on mature reflection, are clearly not appropriate. I therefore wish to hereby un-reservedly withdraw the aforesaid offending statements and equally apologise to the Namibian public in this regard.

I did not say the things that I am being accused of; those are fabrications of my and the President’s detractors who wish to see us at loggerheads. What they are saying are character assassination and political cowardice of the highest order. I reject it with the contempt it deserves.

When I read what President Geingob was quoted as having said in The Patriot [of 03 – 09 March edition], I paused for introspection. I was emotionally moved to observe the situation in which my Senior Brother, my colleague in the construction of the constitution of our mighty Republic and, indeed, my President, has to contend with in the governance of state, with all its cut throat and unforgiving manifestations. I recalled the moments we went through and the anxieties we shared in our resolve to conclude writing the independence constitution in record time, with him at the helm. And I recalled how exciting but complicated it was to pull off the first government of the new Republic of Namibia with him as the first Prime Minister and I as first Deputy Minister of Justice.

Through these reflections I came to one conclusion, and that is, there are parallels in the dynamics of our society then and now and these parallels remain a source of grave concern.

We stand before challenging times in the history of our nation-state. We face difficult economic conditions that has pinned our state close to bowing down in desperation. These are difficult challenges, more so since we battle with the capacity to apply corrective measures. This situation therefore calls upon our government and no less our captains of industry, leaders in the private sector and in society at large, to stick together in contemplating solutions to our economic challenges.

We equally stand before the challenge of access to land by so many Namibians, particularly those who in the past lost land through colonial dispossession. While it is desirable to settle all Namibians on land as the primary source of survival, we must heed the plight of those whose forbearers were robbed of the land, killed and forcefully removed from these lands, only for some to end up in the diaspora. We know where this land is, who is on this land and how they got onto this land and no amount of intellectual discourse will diffuse the essence of the plight of the landless. And this reality cannot be masqueraded by the fact that government is at pains to acquire land for mass settlement of Namibia who yearn to be accommodated for survival. In Namibia there are those whose land was never taken, much as they experienced the worst of hardships through colonialism. However, there are those whose ancestral land was confiscated and they were driven off at gun point never to return to the graves of their loved ones.

These Namibians must be placed in a category of their own, deserving restoration in ways that will enhance economic development, emotional, psychological, peace and political stability, whilst the Resettlement Programme must be enhanced to promote socio-economic development of both the urban-poor and rural communities of our society.

Finally we stand before the challenge with regard to the case of the Nama and Ovaherero against the German government and the German State. This case stems from the German extermination orders on the hitherto two nations of South West Africa of the time, namely the Nama and Ovaherero, who were targeted for extinction and, this culminated into the wholesale genocide of these two nations, the loss of all their ancestral land, all their livestock, all their liberty, their tribal cohesion, their cultural heritage and their very existence as human beings with integrity. For decades we have petitioned the German regime for dialogue and they saw us pass-time laughing stock.

When our leaders went to Germany in 2011 to collect the skulls of our people, some Germans in the street cracked jokes to the effect that, German soldiers of the time never killed Hereros and Namas; these had died of hunger and the German soldiers must have collected these skulls for exploration as to what was the actual cause of death. This is indeed painful.

In October 2014 I as incoming Ombara Otjitambi jOvaherero [chief of Ovaherero], vowed that Germany would have to account and if the country did not respond by the 2nd of October 2015, Ovaherero would take action second to none before. As time approached we started to hear voices from the Federal Republic of Germany. In September 2015, the President of the German Parliament issued a public statement to the effect that there was no other name to what had happened to the Nama and Ovaherero people, other than Genocide. Since then there was movement and even though the course of events adopted a snail’s pace, the German Regime became at least restless and they have remained as such, albeit with intermittent tricks. We remain resolute about having to push the German Regime to come out clean: record publicly that the extermination of our people constituted an act of genocide and to apologise publicly to the genocide victims and to our Government. We want the German Regime to pay reparations to our people for having traumatised, murdered, humiliated, killed, expropriated their wealth, destroyed their cultural fabric, and for having expelled them off their ancestral land. And on this one, we shall go all the way.

We have approached the United States Federal Court through our lawyers in New York, to put the German Regime on terms and to force their leadership to show cause. I shall travel to New York alongside my colleagues from the Nama and Ovaherero leadership for preliminary consultations with a Judge of the Federal Court. These consultations are scheduled for 16 March 2017.

Let me conclude by saying that we remain convinced that justice will prevail. We believe that the day shall come when justice for our people will no longer be withheld. And when that day shall come, no person, no matter how much power they wield and how many troops they command, will have the fortitude to reverse the course of events. The Herero and Nama of Namibia shall overcome, one day, even if we have to move mountains to achieve restorative justice for the innocent blood of our ancestors, which continue to water the Freedom of this Republic.

• This is an edited public statement made by Advocate Vekuii Rukoro, the chief of Ovaherero, in Windhoek, on 09 March 2017.

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