Century after German rule, genocide compensation deal divides Namibia


Although this is the first genocide of the 20th century, the 1904-1908 massacre of the indigenous Herero and Nama peoples by German colonial troops in Namibia remains an unrecognized chapter in history. It was not until May of this year that Berlin officially recognized its responsibility for the atrocities. Report from our regional correspondents.

In 1904, the German Empire or Second Reich occupied South West Africa, now known as Namibia, for two decades. That year, the Herero and Nama peoples rose up against the settlers, who took their land and livestock.

An ethnic extermination campaign followed: It is estimated that 80 percent of the Herero and 50 percent of the Nama were slaughtered by the Germans who retaliated. In total, tens of thousands of people have been killed, some in concentration camps.

Make amends for the unthinkable

Over the past three decades, Germany has attempted to undo the atrocities. After 15 years of negotiations with Namibia, Germany recognized its role in the genocide and agreed to pay compensation of more than 1.3 billion euros in aid to the country and the descendants of the victims.

For the latter, the aid to spend over 30 years is not enough, because the trauma remains gross and their loss is impossible to quantify.

The situation is also complicated by the fact that many descendants of German settlers still live in Namibia, as do the descendants of those born from the rape of Herero women by German soldiers. Reconciling all people in Namibia, regardless of their origin, is crucial, as our team reports.


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