NA Declassified | Lifting the lid on the hidden genocide of the Namibian Herero and Nama people by German colonialists (read here).
A fraudulent land deal on behalf of merchant Adolf Lüderitz with a local chief along the Atlantic coast and the Namib Desert in the South Western part of Africa becomes the reference point for the proclamation of “German South West Africa”.
The German administration enters so-called protection treaties with local chiefs, pursuing a divide and rule policy among the different population groups.
The German administration recognises Samuel Maharero in return for his collaboration as Paramount Chief of the different Ovaherero clans, a hitherto unknown position.
The Witbooi Nama under Chief Hendrik Witbooi are attacked at their Hornkranz residence in the southern part of the country because they refuse to acknowledge German foreign rule. After many are killed, including women and children, Witbooi signs a treaty.
1890s to 1903
Several local Herero chiefs resist German colonialism and are executed. Nama also resist and are subjugated.
Following an order by Samuel Maharero, Ovaherero make a surprise attack and kill some 120-150 German farmers for encroachment on their land. They spare the lives of women, children and missionaries.
As part of a massive troop reinforcement of 14,000 soldiers, Lieutenant-General Lothar van Trotha is appointed Commander-in-Chief and replaces Theodor Leutwein as Governor of the German administration.
August to October 1904
German troops and Ovaherero clash in battles in the area of the Waterberg. The Germans kill many but fail to achieve a final victory. The Ovaherero under Chief Samuel Maharero retreat east through the semi-desert Omaheke to reach Bechuanaland (today Botswana). Maharero and some thousand of his followers are granted asylum in the British-administered territory.
Trotha issues an Extermination Order: “Any Herero found inside the German frontier, with or without a gun or cattle, will be executed. I shall spare neither women nor children. I shall give the order to drive them away and fire on them. Such are my words to the Herero people.” Most Ovaherero die in the Omaheke of hunger and thirst.
Aware of the German warfare, Hendrik Witbooi decides to rise. Many other Nama communities follow. Hendrik Witbooi dies of a battle wound.
1905 to 1908
Nama communities continue guerrilla warfare. Concentration camps are established in the coastal towns of Lüderitzbucht and Swakopmund.
Estimates of the mortality rate range from 45% to almost 80%. They peak on Shark Island.
Estimates suggest that between a half and two-thirds of the Ovaherero and a third to a half of the Nama are killed during the war and its aftermath. Victims also include many Damara, who were living with and in between the other groups.
The Whitaker report presented to the UN recognises the German warfare in South West Africa as the 20th century’s first genocide.
Namibians elect, under UN supervision, a Constituent Assembly.
21 March 1990
The Republic of Namibia is declared a sovereign state.
A century after the “Namibian war”, campaigns by German civil society groups raise awareness about the atrocities. In August, the German
Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development offers an apology during a commemoration, which the German government denounces as a personal view.
The German Foreign Ministry for the first time officially acknowledges that what happened in South West Africa was tantamount to genocide but does not apologise. At year’s end the German and Namibian governments appoint special envoys to start negotiations. The major
representatives of the descendants are not included in the talks.
In January, Herero and Nama traditional authorities file a federal class action lawsuit in a New York court against Germany, seeking recognised status in the negotiations and restorative justice. The court announces a March hearing for the case.