Namibia to remember Herero uprising

Namibia this weekend is set to commemorate the start of an uprising 100 years ago by the Herero tribe against German colonial rule which was crushed pitilessly and followed by a virtual genocide.

The revolt began on January 12, 1904 with Herero warriors—incensed by German settlers stealing their land, cattle and women and lynching men—massacring about 200 German civilians over several days.

They spared missionaries on the explicit orders of chief Samuel Maharero.

The Germans, who ruled Namibia, then known as German South-West Africa, from 1880 until 1915, responded ruthlessly, defeating the Herero in a decisive battle at Waterberg, northwest of the capital city of Windhoek, on August 11, 1905.

It was followed by the notorious “extermination order” of General Lothar von Trotha, and the Herero continued to be targeted until 1907.

“The Herero people must leave the country. If they don’t I will force them with the ‘groot Rohr’ (big canon),” Von Trotha wrote.

“Within the German boundaries, every Herero with or without a gun, with or without livestock, will be shot dead ... These are my words to the Herero people,” said the general, who was under the direct command of Kaiser Wilhelm II in Berlin.

Historians differ on the figures for the Herero and how many were killed.
The figures for the total Herero population then range from 50 000 to 120 000 and it is estimated that tens of thousands were butchered with only some 15 000 surviving after the campaign ended in 1907.

Roughly two-thirds fled to eastern Namibia, dying of thirst in the waterless Omaheke area, hotly pursued by German soldiers. Others fled to neighbouring colonies administered by other European nations.

The commemorations starting this weekend are two-pronged ‒ some organised by German-speaking Bishop Reinhard Keding of the Lutheran Church in Windhoek and headed by Bishop Zephaniah Kameeta, a member of Namibia’s ruling Swapo party.

Other events will be staged by the Herero but some joint ceremonies are planned.

The government is not involved in any of the functions.

Kuaima Riruako, the present 69-year-old Herero chief, told AFP: “This is a year we cannot avoid, but it enables us all to get together, Germans and Herero.”

He said there were about 500 000 people of Herero origin living in Germany.

“We share a common past with the Germans and naturally also a common present and future,” said Riruako.

The 100th anniversary of the uprising has again put the

spotlight on demands for an apology and reparations by Berlin.

A German rights group, the Society of Threatened Peoples, on Wednesday said Berlin bore direct responsibility for 75 000 people who died in what it termed a “genocide.”

“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.

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.

Since 1990, Germany, Namibia’s largest donor, has pumped in 500-million euros (628,6-million dollars). For 2003 and 2004, the figure is estimated at 23 million euros. - Sapa-AFP

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