Genocide: Is compensation enough?

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REPORTS that Germany has finally agreed to recognise colonial-era massacres in Namibia as genocide while French President Emmanuel Macron refused to use the word ‘apologise’ for its role in the Rwanda genocide are confirmation of the hypocrisy and arrogance of Western powers, especially when it comes to human rights and democracy.

Time and again, countries like Zimbabwe have been accused of shrinking the democratic space and gross human rights violations.

They have been funding characters who have been trying to remove the Government illegally through their regime change project.

Their silence and refusal to apologise or, at the very least acknowledge, for the massacres of innocent civilians should, under normal circumstances, open floodgates for lawsuits and reparations of the many lives they destroyed.

What is astounding is their audacity to dangle a few billions of the money they looted from Africa to silence the cries of the families and lives they brutally massacred.

The inescapable reality is that this is our money that they are using to appease us.

No thief can appease his/her victim without going through proper cleansing processes — it just does not work that way.

The Germany and French incidents bring to the fore the issue of compensation, with the niggling question being: Is money enough reparation for the heinous crimes that were committed by the colonial regimes?

These crimes should ordinarily pave the way for legal inquiries into those crimes.

What is of interest is that these countries have been at the forefront of of pushing for the arrest of several African leaders who they accuse of violating human rights.

Last week, Germany finally acknowledged that it committed genocide in Namibia during its brutal colonial rule after more than a century of stoic silence.

In order to atone for its brutality, the European powerhouse says it will pay US$1,2 billion to Namibia to fund infrastructure projects. 

“In the light of Germany’s historical and moral responsibility, we will ask Namibia and the descendants of the victims for forgiveness,” German Foreign Affairs Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement last week.

“Our aim was, and is, to find a joint path to genuine reconciliation in remembrance of the victims. 

That includes our naming the events of the German colonial era in today’s Namibia, and particularly the atrocities between 1904 and 1908, unsparingly and without euphemisms.

We will now officially call these events what they were from today’s perspective: a genocide.”

The acknowledgement came after five years of negotiations between Germany and Namibia.

Disappointingly, the US$1,3 billion will be spread over a period of 30 years and will cover such areas like land reform, including land purchases, agriculture, rural infrastructure, water supply and vocational training.

Before it lost all its colonial territories after the First World War, Germany was the third biggest colonial power after Britain and France.

After 113 years, Germany has finally come to the table to apologise for what historians have described as the first genocide of the 20th Century.

We reproduce below a story we published on March 19 2015 on the Germany genocide:

“In the 1880s, Germany made South West Africa (Namibia) their own colony, and when settlers moved in, they were followed by a military governor, a man who knew little about running a colony and nothing at all about Africa.

His name was Major Theodor Leutwein and it was him who initiated his South West Africa conquest project by using the age old divide and rule tactic by playing off the Nama and Herero tribes against each other. After a cattle-virus epidemic in the late 1890s killed a lot of livestock, Major Leutwein ‘offered’ the Herero ‘aid’ on credit. Typical of the situation most African countries find themselves in today, as a result of Western ‘aid’, the farmers amassed large debts, and when they could not pay them off, the colonialists simply seized the little cattle left. That was to signal the beginning of the ugly ghost that has haunted Germany up to this day and still haunts the Hereros. On January 12 1904, the Herero, desperate to regain their livelihoods, rebelled. Under their leader, Samuel Maherero, they began to attack the numerous German outposts. They killed German men, but spared women, children, missionaries, and the English or Boer farmers whose support they did not want to lose. At the same time, the Nama chief, Hendrik Witbooi, wrote a letter to Leutwein, telling him what the native Africans thought of their invaders, who had taken their land, deprived them of their rights to pasture their animals on it, used up the scanty water supplies, and imposed alien laws and taxes. His hope was that Leutwein would recognise the injustice and do something about it. Expectedly, Leutwein ignored Chief Witbooi’s plea. In August, German General, Lothar von Trotha defeated the Herero in the Battle of Waterberg and drove them into the desert of Omaheke, where most of them died of thirst. Herero and Namaqua Genocide was a campaign of racial extermination and collective punishment.

It is considered to have been the first genocide of the 20th Century.

It took place between 1904 and 1907, reports Wikipedia.

Justifying his actions, Trotha stated that:

‘My intimate knowledge of many central African tribes (Bantu and others) has everywhere convinced me of the necessity that the Negro does not respect treaties but only brutal force.’ Trotha was even more damning and menacing in his quest to crush the Herero.

He also wrote that:

‘ I know enough of African tribes that they give way only to violence.

To exercise this violence with crass terrorism and even with gruesomeness was, and is, my policy.

I destroy the rebellious tribes with streams of blood and money.

Only from this something new will emerge, which will remain.’

True to his word, in October of the same year, the Nama people also rebelled against the Germans, only to suffer a similar fate.

In total, 24 000 -100 000 Herero and 10 000 Nama died.

The genocide was characterised by widespread death from starvation and thirst because the Herero who fled the violence were prevented from leaving the Namib Desert. General Trotha stated his proposed solution to end the resistance of the Herero people in a letter, before the Battle of Waterberg:

“I believe that the nation as such should be annihilated, or, if this was not possible by tactical measures, have to be expelled from the country.

“This will be possible if the water holes from Grootfontein to Gobabis are occupied.” Some sources also claim that the German colonial army systematically poisoned desert wells.

In Rwanda, Macron made it clear that apology was not the ‘appropriate’ word to use for France’s role in the Rwanda genocide in 1994.

“France did not understand that, while trying to prevent a regional conflict, or a civil war, it was in fact standing by the side of a genocidal regime,” Macron said on Thursday last week during a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial where 250 000 victims of the genocide are buried.

“By doing so, it endorsed an overwhelming responsibility,” 

In 1994, over 800 000 mainly ethnic Tutsis were killed by Hutu militias in 100 days of brutal killings that began in April and ended in July.

In 2013, Britain agreed to pay compensation for the Mau Mau nationalist uprising in Kenya but that did little to appease the aggrieved victims of the brutal killings by the British colonial regime.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission estimated, in 2013, that at least 90 000 Kenyans were killed or maimed while 160 000 were detained, with torture and rape a common feature of the brutality.

After more than 50 years of fending off a lawsuit by the Mau Mau victims, Britain finally opened up and paid compensation to its victims.

“The agreement includes payment of a settlement sum in respect of 5 228 claimants, as well as a gross cost sum to the total value of 19.9 million pounds [US$30,8 million]. 

The government will also support the construction of a memorial in Nairobi to the victims of torture and ill treatment during the colonial era,” former British Foreign Secretary William Hague said then.

When all is said and done, the truth is that, besides killing our people, the colonialists looted our resources which they now dangle as compensation — that is not enough because we should share the proceeds of the resources they looted from Africa.

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