Germany: talks on colonial-era Namibia killings advanced

AP News
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Posted: Jun 13, 2016 8:51 AM

BERLIN (AP) — Germany and Namibia are in the advanced stages of talks on officially recognizing as "genocide" a colonial-era crackdown more than a century ago in which more than 65,000 ethnic Hereros were killed, the German government said Monday. It hopes to conclude them by late next year.

Historians say German Gen. Lothar von Trotha, who was sent to what was then South West Africa to put down an uprising by the Hereros against their German rulers in 1904, instructed his troops to wipe out the entire tribe. About two-thirds of all Hereros were killed, and the order also affected smaller tribes.

The German government says the basis its approach is a parliamentary motion signed in 2012 by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, stating that "the war of destruction in Namibia from 1904 to 1908 was a war crime and genocide." Steinmeier was an opposition leader at the time and the motion didn't pass.

"The process of negotiations is quite well advanced," Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer told reporters. He said officials hope to conclude it during the current parliamentary term, which ends with an election expected in September 2017.

The aim is to produce joint declarations by the countries' governments and parliaments and to draw "conclusions for the future," which could include projects to give the descendants of the victims "development prospects," Schaefer said.

Then-Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul traveled to Namibia in 2004 and offered Germany's first apology for the massacre, which she said was "what today would be labeled as genocide." Last year, Parliament speaker Norbert Lammert said that "measured by today's standards of international law, the putting down of the Herero uprising was genocide."

Lammert noted in an interview with ZDF television broadcast Sunday that his comments were "just as unambiguous" as a resolution approved by lawmakers June 2 describing as genocide the killings a century ago of Armenians by Ottoman Turks — a vote that infuriated Turkey.

Lashing out at Germany after the vote, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan brought up the Namibia killings, saying "they should review the Namibia Holocaust."

Lammert said it was "regrettable and, in the context of recent debates, also a bit embarrassing" that the German legislature has yet to make a statement on the Herero killings.

However, he voiced "well-founded optimism" that the negotiations between Germany and Namibia will produce a result, including a resolution by Parliament, "in the foreseeable future."