By Nyasha Nyaungwa
WINDHOEK -Namibia says Germany has agreed to fund projects worth more than a billion euros over 30 years to atone for its role in genocide and property seizures in its-then colony more than a century ago, Namibian media reported on Thursday.
Thousands of Herero and Nama people were killed by German colonial forces between 1904 and 1908, after the tribes rebelled against German rule of the colony, then named German South West Africa. Survivors were driven into the desert, where many ended up in concentration camps to be used as slave labour and many died from cold, malnutrition and exhaustion.
The media reports cited Namibian presidential spokesperson Alfredo Hengari as saying a joint declaration outlining the agreement was made by special envoys of both countries on May 15, at the end of a ninth round of negotiations over the issue.
Hengari was not available for comment when Reuters contacted him by telephone and text message. The German foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment.
Asked on Wednesday if a deal was close, a German foreign ministry spokesman said the minister had updated the cabinet earlier in the day on the status of the negotiations and Germany was keeping to a confidentiality agreement with Namibia.
An estimated 65,000 of the 80,000 Herero living in German South West Africa, and 10,000 of an estimated 20,000 Namas, are said to have died during the period.
According to the reports, Germany agreed to fund 1.1 billion euros of infrastructure, healthcare and training programmes that would directly benefit the affected communities.
Herero paramount chief Vekuii Rukoro, who unsuccessfully sued Germany for compensation in the United States, said the reported settlement was not enough for the two communities, which he said suffered “irreversible harm” at the hands of the German colonial forces.
Germany ruled Namibia from 1884 until it lost the colony during World War One. In 1920 the territory was placed under South African administration, until 1990 when it gained independence.
The German government has previously acknowledged “moral responsibility” for the killings, which a minister has described as genocide, but Berlin has avoided an official apology to ward off compensation claims.
In 2015, it began formal negotiations with Namibia over the issue and in 2018 it returned skulls and other remains of massacred tribespeople that were used in the colonial-era experiments to assert claims of European racial superiority.