Photo of a Herero family from my visit to Namibia in March 2007
Upon return to the States, people kept asking what was my favorite place, what was the “best” thing we saw or did. I’d be really hard pressed to pick a favorite from so many terrific memories, but Namibia probably wins my award for “most surprising.” In Namibia, we first met Brett (and decided to keep him around for the whole next month), I went hiking on sand dunes, went sky diving, sand boarding, visited schools and small villages, went hiking at rocky cliff formations, slept under the stars, took a boat ride over the river to illegally visit Angola, and had a fantastic time throughout.
Before I started the trip planning, I’ll admit I don’t think I could’ve told someone where Namibia was on a map. But I began to read the history and culture of each county to potentially visit and quickly decided Namibia was a “must see.” It has the oldest desert in the world with famous sand dunes, and also a coast line on the Atlantic dotted with ship wrecks. It’s home to famous national wildlife parks like Etosha, and is home to the famous San/bushmen people (a la “Gods Must Be Crazy”). Like most African countries, it’s also home to trauma and hardships. Germany colonized Namibia in the 19th century then British South Africa occupied the colony during World War I. The Namib people fought for independence in 1966 (around the same time as most independence celebrations around the continent), but independence wasn’t granted till very recently in 1990. The country is young and still has a very German feel with food and drink, German and Afrikaans are still spoken, you can still use South African rand interchangeably with Namibian money, and many of the back packers and tourists we met in Namibia were from Germany. This weekend something historic happened: a family from Germany visited Namibia to formally apologize for the war crimes committed by their ancestors 100 years ago. Here’s the story from the BBC:
German family’s Namibia apology
The descendants of a German officer responsible for mass killings in 1904 in Namibia have met the representatives of the Herero people to seek pardon.
Descendants of Lothar von Trotha, who ordered the killing of Herero people, expressed deep shame over their ancestor’s actions and apologised. Tens of thousands were killed or died of starvation when the general tried to crush an uprising over land ownership. The German government has declined Herero demands for an apology.
The chiefs of six Herero royal houses met representatives of the von Trotha family in the central Namibian town of Omaruru. “We, the von Trotha family, are deeply ashamed of the terrible events that took place 100 years ago. Human rights were grossly abused that time,” Wolf-Thilo von Trotha said as he addressed the gathering. “We say sorry, since we bear the name of General Lothar von Trotha. We however do not only want to look back, but also look to the future.”
This is the first time anyone has publicly apologised for the 1904 killings, the BBC’s Frauke Jensen in Namibia says.
The von Trotha representatives travelled to Omaruru at the invitation of Herero Supreme Chief Alfons Maharero, the grandson of Samuel Maharero, who led the uprising in 1904. Chief Maherero used the occasion to draw attention to the unresolved demand for reparations from the German government. “We demand a dialogue with the present German government to obtain restorative justice,” he said.
Another member of the von Trotha family, Ulrich von Trotha, emphasised that his family was on a private visit. “Our family cannot become involved in the demand for reparations from a government,” he told AFP news agency.
Although the German government has previously expressed “regret” at the killings, it has stopped short of an apology. Our correspondent says the German government feels that an apology might bring new demands for reparations, and says its obligations to Namibia are fulfilled by its current role as Namibia’s main aid donor.
Story from BBC NEWS; Published: 2007/10/07 23:07:34 GMT