Institute - Activism & Arts - Namibia

Colonial repercussions: Germany and Namibia

Institute - Activism & Arts - Namibia

Colonial repercussions: Germany and Namibia

The German genocide committed against the Ovaherero and Nama peoples in Namibia (1904-08) was the first of the 20th century. The German government has to date failed to offer an official apology, or pay reparations to the descendants of those affected. Today, however, (post)colonial crimes and their impact are being discussed with increasing frequency and openness.


ECCHR advises Ovaherero and Nama on legal issues and supports them in communicating their demands in Germany, like the repatriation of human remains to Namibia or the return of artworks stolen during the colonial era.

Following the symposium “Koloniales Erbe/Colonial Repercussions” in January 2018, a delegation from ECCHR was invited to Namibia for the commemoration of the Battle of Ohamakari (1904).

The visit was followed by the international conference “Namibia: A Week of Justice” organized by ECCHR together with the Goethe-Institut, Akademie der Künste, and Ovaherero and Nama representatives in Windhoek and Swakopmund (Namibia) in March 2019.The topics and questions from the “Week of Justice” were played back to Berlin in November 2019 on the symposium “Colonial Repercussions: The Case of Namibia.”


As a transnational human rights organization based in Berlin, ECCHR sees its role as furthering dialogue between the different actors in this field. This is being done on several levels, in Germany as well as in Namibia. Collective trauma, and the social and economic imbalances caused by land grabbing and the genocide persist, and can only be overcome through a joint effort by as many affected persons and actors as possible.

ECCHR’s work on Namibia also aims to highlight colonial continuities in the law that persist in Germany. Part of ECCHR’s work is to present legal arguments and interpretations that are ignored by the German government and the current predominant legal opinion in Germany. This especially concerns questions of compensation and reparation for the genocide and land grabbing, which we approach from a postcolonial legal perspective.


Find additional information on the events of the series "Koloniales Erbe/Colonial Repercussions" here.

The events held as part of "Namibia: A Week of Justice" – including the symposium "Colonial Injustice – Addressing Past Wrongs" from 25-26 March 2019 in Windhoek and the conference "International Law in Postcolonial Contexts" from 27-29 March in Swakopmund – were the first of their kind in Namibia. The central topics were the German genocide against the Ovaherero and Nama peoples (1904-08) and ways forward for addressing these past wrongs in a dignified manner.

The public event in Windhoek was organized by ECCHR and the Akademie der Künste (AdK) in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut Namibia. The conference, workshops and public event in Swakopmund were part of a joint project by ECCHR and AdK together with the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation (OGF), the Nama Traditional Leaders Association (NTLA) and the Nama Genocide Technical Committee (NGTC).

The event series in Namibia attracted strong interest from a broad variety of civil society actors: lawyers, artists, constitutional historians and civil society experts came together for discussions at panels and other sessions throughout the week. Participants included: Bonita Meyersfeld (Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg/South Africa), Makau Mutua (University of Buffalo, USA), Vasuki Nesiah (New York University), John Nakuta (University of Namibia), Jürgen Zimmerer (Universität Hamburg), Werner Hillebrecht (former director of the Namibian national archive) and Wolfgang Kaleck (ECCHR).

The "week of Justice" was documented in the ECCHR publication Colonial Repercussions: Namibia.

The goal of the symposium "Symposium V: The Case of Namibia" was to trace the complex repercussions and interdependencies of German colonization in present-day Namibia and to increase their visibility in Germany. To this end, speakers from the law, politics and the arts presented perspectives on the effects of colonization, a potential constructive approach and exchange with civil society in Germany.

This was the third symposium in the "Colonial Repercussions" event series organized by ECCHR and Akademie der Künste Berlin, in cooperation with the German Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb). Topics and questions addressed during the "Week of Justice" from March 2019 were played back to Berlin.

Speakers included Ida Hoffmann (Nama Genocide Technical Committee), John Nakuta (University of Namibia) and Joshua Castellino (Minority Rights Group). The symposium was accompanied by the installation They tried to bury us by Namibian artist Isabel Tueumuna Katjavivi.

Related Topics

Related Projects



The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples. The resolution also affirms that indigenous peoples contribute to the diversity of cultures and that they must not to be discriminated against due to their traditions.
According to the principle of intertemporality, a legal question has to be assessed on the basis of the laws in effect at the relevant time.
Genocide is defined as any act committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.
Postcolonial legal criticism tries to uncover and challenge colonial continuities in both national and international law.