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Politics | Society

Namibia wants dialogue with Germany on Herero killings

Misanet / The Namibian, 18 August - Namibia's Prime Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab yesterday encouraged his government to "seize the moment" and enter into dialogue with the German government on the Herero genocide committed one century ago. German Development Minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul this week officially apologised for the 1904 "genocide".

- The ball is now in our court and we must make the next move, Prime Minister Gurirab said at the start of the 10th session of the current Namibian Parliament in Windhoek yesterday. "All is well so far, but the real dialogue must now commence in earnest.

The two sides would need henceforth to talk with each other and not past each other," said Mr Gurirab in response to an apology by a top German official over the weekend, for atrocities committed against Hereros during the colonial era. But the Prime Minister emphasised that it was important for Namibians who represented communities of the victims, to adopt a common position on the issue.

- The smokescreen is finally gone and the naked truth has been conceded," Mr Gurirab said. "It has taken a full century for German authorities but now finally we have heard the words that we had all along waited to hear and that mean so much to the recognition of human dignity and to the souls of our people."

The Namibian Prime Minister said the German government's apology was testimony that courage and perseverance paid off. He said the words of German Minister Wieczorek-Zeul at commemorations at Hamakari (Namibia) had acknowledged the guilt and indebtedness of her country.

Mr Gurirab added that Namibians had received Germany's affirmation of the fact that untold brutalities and suffering were imposed upon their fellow human beings. "I have often said over the years: to forgive is human but to forget is out of the question," Mr Gurirab told the House. He added that the Namibian government had to start a genuine process of dialogue to find amicable solutions to outstanding issues.

In response to the Prime Minister speech, Secretary-General McHenry Venaani of the DTA opposition party wanted to know why Namibian President Sam Nujoma had allegedly declined invitations on several occasions to commemorate the genocide. Mr Gurirab responded that the question was best directed to the President himself when next he was in the company of the parliamentarians.

Opposition MP Venaani also asked Mr Gurirab whether he shared an opinion that the development funding Namibia currently receives from Germany did not benefit families of the victims of the 1904 mass killings. Mr Gurirab declined to answer the question directly, saying he did not want to create the impression that Namibians were divided on the issue.

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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