Aug 31, 2018: Namibia welcomes repatriation of remains of indigenous people by Germany

Namibia marked the return by Germany of the remains of indigenous men and women killed during the colonial era with a traditional ceremony in Windhoek’s Parliament Gardens on Friday.

The personal sorrow expressed by the German minister who traveled to Windhoek for the ceremony fell far short however of what the Herero and Nama peoples demand. But the descendants of the victims appeared touched.

German imperial soldiers massacred thousands of Herero and Nama between 1904 and 1908, in what is referred to as the “first genocide of the 20th century.”

The repatriation of the remains of the 27 Herero and Nama people is the third of its kind. It comes as the communities continue to demand a formal apology and reparations from Berlin.

“I bow my head in profound sorrow. I cannot undo the terrible injustice committed by our ancestors. But here in the land of your ancestors, I again ask for your forgiveness from the bottom of my heart,” Michelle Müntefering, Germany’s deputy foreign minister, said.

Fransiska Mureti, a Nama woman, was among those who listened at the event at Parliament Gardens. “I could feel she is touched. She is also not the one to blame because by that time she was not born, but is a generation away from that generation,” Mureti told DW.

On behalf of the Namibian government, Vice President Nangolo Mbumba as the main speaker appreciated the good will by the coalition government in Berlin to address Germany’s colonial past but insisted on full acknowledgement, apology and reparation. He looked forward to a continuation of negotiations between Namibia and the FRG on this issue.

Adv. Vekuii Rukoro, the representative of the Ovaherero Traditional Authority, citizised the Namibian government for excluding affected communities from the negotiations. This was contradicted by the Deputy Chair of the Council of Traditional Leaders, however.

The ceremony included traditional rituals and a brass band. It came after Nambian tribal chiefs and guests attended a church service held for the genocide victims in the German capital Berlin.

After the official programme the human remains of 27 Namibians killed during the German-Namibian War of 1904-07 were handed over to the National Museum of Namibia for storage. Discussions about their final destination are under way but not yet completed.