Rights group wants apology for 'genocide'

A German human rights group on Wednesday demanded an official apology from Berlin for the “genocide” of native people when Namibia was a German colony.

The Society of Threatened Peoples (GfbV) said Berlin bore direct responsibility for 75 000 people who died in the southwest African country a century ago during the ruthless suppression of rebellions against German rule.

“Especially on the 100th anniversary of the genocide, the government should plead for particularly disadvantaged peoples such as the Herero, Nama and San (bush people) to benefit more from land reform in Namibia,” it said in a letter to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.

Germany ruled the former South West Africa from 1884 to 1915.

Historians say the 120 000-strong Herero tribe lost tens of thousands during the 1904-07 uprising.

“This fight for survival by the nomads, who defended themselves against the loss of their rights and the ongoing loss of their land to German settlers, became the impetus for the first genocide by the Germans,” the GfbV said.

The Herero have filed a lawsuit in the United States demanding reparations from the German government and companies that allegedly benefited from German rule.

Berlin has repeatedly ruled out an official apology for this brutal chapter in its brief colonial history, although Fischer pledged on a visit to the capital Windhoek last October to increase aid to Namibia once Germany’s economy recovers.

He also said that Germany would continue to support land reform with legal and technical know-how and training for newly resettled farmers.

But the GfbV said these pledges were insufficient.

“Berlin should no longer use the Herero’s lawsuits in the United States, which legal experts say have little chance of success, as a cheap excuse to duck responsibility for this crime,” the GfbV said. - Sapa-AFP

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