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Politics | Society

German Minister plays down Namibia visit

Misanet / The Namibian, 10 August - A German Minister is for the first time to attend a Namibian ceremony commemorating German colonial troops' massacre, or "genocide", of the Herero people 100 years ago. The German embassy in Namibia is however cautious to play the event down, saying the Minister is only in Namibia for bilateral talks.

The main focus of the upcoming visit to Namibia of German Minister for Economic Co-operation and Development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, would be on bilateral relations between the two countries and not the centenary commemoration of the 1904 war, a senior German government official said.

- I want to correct some misconceptions about the Minister's visit, the German Ambassador to Namibia, Wolfgang Massing, told journalists yesterday. "The priority focus of this visit is on our bilateral and development co-operation but not other things as seems be understood by some," Mr Massing explained.

It was widely believed that Ms Wieczorek-Zeul's four-day visit, which kicks-off on Thursday, was triggered by this year's 100th anniversary of the war of 1904-07, in which thousands of Herero and Nama people were killed by German colonial troops. Many call this war "the Herero genocide".

Mr Massing said that although the visiting Minister will speak at a commemoration organised by Ovaherero at Ohamakari in the Otjozondjupa Region at the weekend, her other only engagement with "events related to 1904" will be an informal meeting with representatives of the victims of the war.

Last week, the Ambassador hinted that his government was ready to open dialogue with the Herero people who are suing Berlin for their near-extermination by colonial soldiers a century ago.

According to a programme released by the German embassy in Windhoek yesterday, Ms Wieczorek-Zeul will meet with Namibian President Sam Nujoma, Lands Minister Hifikepunye Pohamba, Foreign Minister Marco Hausiku and the Director General of the National Planning Commission, Immanuel Ngatjizeko when she visits the country.

- I cannot tell you now what the minister will say about our relations because I don't know... but one thing is for sure: we will continue our development aid in the years to come at the same high level, the Ambassador said, adding that "Namibia has been a priority partner for German cooperation in Africa."

Asked if he expected a significant review of the two countries' existing bilateral agreements, Ambassador Massing only said that Germany was prepared for a "stronger engagement" with Namibia.

The diplomat also revealed that the visiting German Minister will hold informal discussions with some commercial farmers in the Waterberg area after her attendance at the Ohamakari commemoration on Saturday.

According to Namibian government statistics, about 70 percent of Namibia's arable commercial land is said to be owned by whites of German and Afrikaner descent, who make up only five percent of the country's 1.8 million people.

Minister Wieczorek-Zeul will conclude her visit on Sunday after a visit with Health and Service Minister Libertina Amathila, to the German-sponsored Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing HIV-AIDS projects at Brakwater on the outskirts of Windhoek.

Germany has given Namibia about N$ 500 billion (euro 66 billion) in development aid since its former colony's independence 14 years ago. Namibia was a German colony between 1885 and 1915 and turned out the most important territory in the short-lived German colonial empire, attracting many settlers.

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