- In August this year, the 100th anniversary of the slaughtering of an estimated 75,000 Herero and Nama in Namibia by their German colonial masters will be marked. International human rights groups urge the German government to finally "apologise the genocide" and take on responsibility.
At the Central Memorial of Germany in downtown Berlin, German and international activists have marked their protest since Friday last week. They find it unacceptable that the government still does not recognise its worst atrocities during the short period of German colonialism in Africa (1884-1916).
- Germany has to officially commemorate the genocide committed by the German 'Schutztruppe' [colonial troops], demands the Göttingen-based Society for Threatened Peoples (GFBV). They urge the government to act before the 100th anniversary of the "genocide on Hereros and Namas in Namibia".
In August 1904, the German 'Schutztruppe' committed one of the most grave crimes against humanity during the European colonisation of Africa. An estimated 75,000 Herero and Nama were slaughtered in the crack-down on a popular uprising against the newly arrived colonial masters.
Thousands were killed during the battle. After the victory of the 'Schutztruppe', the surviving Herero were chased into the waterless Omaheke Desert and physically prevented from returning. Thousands of civilians died of thirst while others were "relieved from their suffering" by the German troops.
Many of those Herero and Nama that survived this slaughtering were sent to specially erected concentration camps or to forced employment on German commercial farms. Hundreds of civilians died due to the inhumane conditions in the camps and on the farms.
Neither Namibia nor the Herero people have ever received an official apology from the German government, recognising responsibility for the atrocities. It is believed that German authorities are holding back due to the possible compensation demands from the descendents of surviving Hereros.
The human rights activists gathered in Berlin however maintain that justice must be done, even if this could have financial consequences. First of all, the "Herero genocide victims" should be honoured with a memorial tablet at the Central Memorial of Germany in the same way as other victims of German war atrocities throughout history.
- Germany should stop making a taboo out of its colonial crimes, the human rights activists demand. The German GFBV group was joined by the International Human Rights League and the Global African Congress, demanding a visual recognition of the "Herero genocide" at the Berlin memorial before the August anniversary.
A GFBV spokesman said he was disappointed with the Namibia resolution approved by the German parliament on 17 June. The resolution, as proposed by the socialist-green government, did not mention the word "genocide" and did not urge the government to issue a formal apology.
The human rights activists also in particular were angered by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fisher of the Green Party, who according to them, had lied to the press during his last visit to Namibia, in October 2003.
Mr Fischer had "given the impression that there still was an ongoing compensation court case by the Hereros against Germany in the US," the GFBV said. This was not true, the group holds. "Already in March 2002, this court case was dropped" due to applicability of the legislation, the GFBV says.
In fact, the war atrocities committed by the German 'Schutztruppe' against Namibia's Hereros and Namas are widely believed not to have been war crimes because applicable international legislation only was approved after the 1912 "genocide". Under current legislation, the slaughtering might very well have been defined as "genocide".
A formal apology and taking on responsibilities by the German government - as demanded by the campaigners - would at least morally oblige Germany to pay some sort of compensation. The human rights groups urged Mr Fischer to overlook this. "After the failure of the compensation case, he should finally apologise in the name of Germany," they added.
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