Boycott threat to returning skulls
The Namibian delegation, which is currently in Germany to return some more genocide skulls, is causing major division among the affected tribes.
The remains, which were taken to Germany during the bitter colonial era, are expected to arrive in Namibia tomorrow.
Ovaherero Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako, joined by former Swapo parliamentarian Ida Hoffman, have advised their followers to boycott the activities surrounding the return of the 35 human skulls and two full skeletons.
Hoffman is the chairperson of the Nama Genocide Technical Committee.
They said government has excluded them from an exercise in which they have a vested interest, and in which the affected communities had lost land, livestock and more than 90 000 lives from 1904 to 1908.
On behalf of the affected tribes, traditional leaders, the chairperson of the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu Genocide Foundation (OGF), Utjiua Muinjangue said:
“The whole issue of genocide and reparations is about our own people, who were brutalised. It is about us, the direct descendants of these people and it can therefore not be about us, without us.”
She added that the Namibian government opted to exclude them, due to pressure by the German authorities.
“We hereby like to advise all of our followers not to have anything to do at all with the arrival of or whatever subsequent ceremonies (are conducted) for the returning skulls and remains.”
Muinjangue questioned how they can only be invited to decorate the local events, when they were excluded from the planning and actual fetching of the skulls.
Another section of the affected communities, led by acting Chief Gerson Katjirua of the Ovaherero/Ovambanderu Council for Dialogue on the 1904 Genocide (OCD-1904), also expressed unhappiness about not being properly consulted, but said that this is not reason enough to “snub what is yours”.
The OCD-1904’s chairperson Ueriuka Tjikuua said in a statement that Katjirua will be joined by Manasse Zeraeua – a claimant to the chieftainship of the Zeraeua Traditional Authority.
“After consulting our people broadly, we decided to accept the offer of Deputy Prime Minister Marco Hausiku [to accompany him in welcoming the skulls to Namibia],” said Tjikuua.
In October 2011, 20 skulls were repatriated from Germany, although it is suggested that originally about 300 skulls were in the custody of German researchers.
The skulls were part of the anatomical collection of Berlin’s university hospital, the Charité, and their return to Namibia has cast the spotlight on a dark chapter of Germany’s past. Namibia has been trying to get the remains repatriated since 2008, when a television documentary revealed their existence in the hospital’s vaults.
They fell victim to what historians have described as the first genocide of the 20th century.