Historically, the German colonial crimes in Namibia have been relatively well addressed, but not legally. Since 2015, the German and Namibian governments have negotiated possible reparations for the crimes, especially the genocide of the Ovaherero and Nama. This step held enormous potential for reconciliation and providing a sustainable basis for Germany and Namibia’s future relationship. But this opportunity was lost.
The governments agreed upon strict secrecy for the negotiations, civil society in both countries therefore did not have adequate access to information. From the beginning, representatives of the victims’ descendants and the affected communities criticized that they were not properly involved. That the “reconciliation agreement” will be published as a mere Joint Declaration speaks volumes. The preceding negotiation process furthermore disregarded international participation rights based both in treaties and customary international law. The German government has relied on formal gestures while refusing all legal responsibility for the colonial crimes. Germany wants to initiate “aid programs” in the coming years – but development aid is neither legal recognition between partners on equal footing nor actual reparations.
True and sustainable reconciliation does not work like that. Read ECCHR’s statement on the Joint Declaration between Germany and Namibia here.