Geno­cide un­cov­ered

Deeply em­bed­ded in the bat­tle for land and pas­toral hege­mony, the first geno­cide of the 20th cen­tury— Namibia's Herero and Nama tribes by the Ger­mans—con­tin­ues to es­cape pub­lic scru­tiny RA­JAT GHAI

Down to Earth - - HISTORY -

EVEN THE pope got it wrong on this one. On April 11, 2015, Pope Fran­cis re­called the wide­spread mas­sacres of the Ar­me­ni­ans by the Ot­toman Em­pire dur­ing the Great War by call­ing it “the first geno­cide of the 20th Cen­tury”. A week later, An­glo-Nige­rian his­to­rian, David Olu­soga, writ­ing for The Guardian, pointed out that the pope’s de­scrip­tion was sim­ply in­cor­rect. That grim dis­tinc­tion be­longs to the geno­cide that im­pe­rial Ger­many un­leashed a decade ear­lier on the eth­nic tribes, Herero and Nama, in the for­mer colony of South West Africa, to­day’s Namibia.

That geno­cide re­sulted in the sys­tem­atic ex­ter­mi­na­tion of 110,000 Herero and Nama tribal peo­ple. The Ger­man govern­ment, af­ter 112 years, is only now be­gin­ning to ac­knowl­edge the “geno­cide”. A Transna­tional Congress on Geno­cide—or­gan­ised by the Ova­herero and Ovam­ban­deru Geno­cide Foun­da­tion along with Ger­man non-profits—took place in Ber­lin on Oc­to­ber 14-15 this year. But Ger­many has so far re­fused to con­sider any repa­ra­tion.

Ge­n­e­sis of the geno­cide

Though the Namib­ian coast was vis­ited by many Euro­pean explorers since the 15th and 18th cen­turies, they did not colonise it be­cause the coastal desert—the Namib—acted as a de­ter­rent. In­stead, they headed north

A pho­to­graph taken in 1907 of the Herero tribe who were forced to live in the desert and died of star­va­tion

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