18, March 2017
Descendants of two Namibian tribes who suffered one of the most horrific genocides under Germany’s colonial rule more than a century ago have now lodged a complaint against Berlin in a New York court. Lawyers representing Namibia’s Herero and Nama tribes and an American non-profit association on genocide were to appear in the court on Thursday as part of a class-action lawsuit, which seeks reparations from Germany for the mass killing of tens of thousands of people and other crimes by German settlers and troops from 1904 to 1908.
Germany has admitted that genocide took place but it has yet to make an official declaration. Berlin also refuses to pay direct reparations, saying it has generously supported Namibia’s development programs since the country’s independence from South Africa in 1990 through paying hundreds of millions of euro. The original lawsuit was brought against Germany in January under the Alien Tort Statute that allows investigations of international law violations against non-US citizens by American courts. Besides seeking reparations, the plaintiffs also demand that they be represented in negotiations between Germany and Namibia on the genocide. They say their exclusion from the talks is a violation of the UN declaration on the indigenous people.
The lawsuit claims that German colonial authorities explicitly consented to settlers’ seizure of a quarter of Herero and Nama lands — about thousands of square miles — from 1885 to 1903. Historic documents suggest that around 65,000 Herero people were massacred in the bloody Battle of Waterberg in August 1904. Around 10,000 people from the Nama tribe were also killed after they sought to rebel against the Germans during the conflict. Germany and Namibia have been in talks over the massacres but Berlin is yet to release any details of the deal being negotiated.