EKD Apology: The Start of Something New?

The German government is urged to take “historical responsibility” for the genocide against the Herero and Nama people

June 21st, 2017
Nomcebo Jele, CD News
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The evangelical church in Germany asks descendants of the victims of the Ovaherero and Namaqua Genocide for forgiveness.


The Herero and Nama genocide was a campaign of racial extermination and collective punishment by the German empire (which ruled Namibia from 1884 – 1915) against the Namibian tribes; Ovaherero and Namaqua.

The genocide took place between 1904 and 1907 which oversaw about 100 000 Herero and 10 000 Nama deaths. This was roughly 85% of the Namibian population. These crimes were regarded as the first genocide of the 20th century.

In 2001, the Herero Peoples Reparations Corporation filed a civil lawsuit against the German government and several corporations thereof. Although unsuccessful, it raised awareness for the Namibian cause.

July 2015 saw the delivery of a document titled “Genocide is Genocide” to the then German president Joachim Gauck. The document had over 2000 signatures of German public figures including Bundestag members as well. The document called on the German government to accept “historical responsibility” for the genocide perpetrated against the Herero and Nama people.

The more the plea for reparations by Herero and Nama peoples gets side-lined, the more institutions, countries and parties have stood in solidarity with their cause. Die Linke, for example, have called on the German parliament to draft a resolution recognizing the genocide and provide Namibia with a “structural adjustment fund” to redress the long-term consequences of its colonial rule.

To keep up with reconciliation efforts, the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD) / Evangelical Church in Germany made a statement whereby it apologized for the colonial ills caused by Germany. Following this apology, they went on to create the Namibian-German Institute for Reconciliation and Development. Afterwards, they (together with Namibian partners) aim to identify and create memorial locations for the genocide in both Namibia and Germany, the return of the victims’ remains to Namibia in a dignified manner. And lastly, the development of a culture of memory – the education of Germans about their colonial history.

Although the process is still ongoing, it is evident that institutions in society play an important role in advancing Cultural Diplomacy and give their time and effort in support of this cause, where governments sometimes seem not be as much involved. This, rather, ‘menial’ apology allowed for more talks and a willingness to talk between the German and Namibian government.


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