According to an amended complaint filed by lawyers representing Ovaherero and Nama people, Germany “directed and benefited (and continues to benefit) from the genocide of the Ovaherero and Nama peoples and the expropriation of Ovaherero and Nama land, livestock, concession, taxation, and customs rights, human labor, body parts, and other property without compensation in violation of international law.”
Countering Germany’s motion to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction, the amended complaint asserts that property and wealth stolen from Ovaherero and Nama people have found its way to the USA (as part of Germany’s commercial activities), with negative consequences for the USA and New York, thereby giving the US District Court jurisdiction over the genocide issue.Amended Class Action Complaint with docket text
“We, the undersigned speakers, presenters and participants of the transnational conference “Prussian
Colonial Heritage: Sacred Objects and Human Remains in Berlin Museums” on October 14/15, 2017
in the Centre Français de Berlin recognize that communities all over the world have lost a
considerable part of their cultural heritage, including even “sensitive materials” – comprising “sacred
objects” and “human remains” – by force and fraud in the wake of colonial conquests.”
Early this year (2017), the ONGI signed a cooperation agreement with the Berliner Gesellschaft für Archäologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte (BGAEU) to conduct provenance research on Namibian human remains so that they can be repatriated. BGAEU is a scientific society in Berlin, Germany that has in its possession human remains from different parts of the world including 11 from Namibia. ONGI was invited to discuss our cooperation with BGAEU at the Prusssina Colonial Heritage: Sacred Objects and Human Remains in Berlin Museums, October 14 – 14, in Berlin Germany.
Aletta Nguvauva, Paramount Chief of the OvaMbanderu Traditional Council visited New York city to attend a court case hearing on Thursday October 12, to view Namibian human remains recently discovered at the American Museum of Natural History, and consult with Ovaherero/Ovambanderu descendants in the USA. What follows are her thoughts on the case and the struggle for restorative justice for the genocides.
What is the purpose of your visit to the USA? What do you hope to accomplish?
I came to New York to attend to a legal proceeding concerning the Genocide case that was filed here. We hoped that all aspects of the proceeding would be sorted out this time so that Germany can finally have her day in court to answer to the demands for reparations for the genocide committed in Namibia against the Nama, Ovaherero and Ovambanderu. Unfortunately, Germany has thus far refused to respond and once again did not show up in court. While that is unfortunate, it is not surprising. But I am happy that the judge agreed to our request to postpone the case until January 25, 2018.
What does this case mean to you and the people you represent?
This case means quite a lot to the Namas, Ovaherero and Ovambanderu people as it entails another attempt by the victim communities to get Germany to own up to its historical responsibilities. The case also demonstrates the determination of the victim communities to take any possible step necessary to get Germany to the point of respectfully dealing with them.
What other means are you using to try and secure restorative justice for your people?
The communities of victims have an elaborate awareness campaign going to bring the message of this genocide, most notably to Germany itself. There are also concerted attempts to inform fellow Namibians about the genocide so as to build a national understanding on the matter.
What does restorative justice mean for you? What is it that you are asking or expecting from the German government?
Our ancestors lost their livestock and land through manipulations, systematic plunder and finally confiscation. They were ultimately ordered to leave the country through the notorious Extermination Order of 2 October 1904. Their livestock and land was thus left behind as they fled for their lives.
Those who somehow survived the genocide found that it was a capital offence to own any livestock and these was thus forfeited to the new German ‘State’. Gracing rights were introduced and the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu were denied these to finally rob them of all the livestock.
Restorative justice to us means the compensation of the Ovaherero, Ovambanderu and Namas for their land and livestock that was taken from them without any compensation. We are for example, expecting Germany to make funds available for the development of the communal areas inhabited by the victim communities as well as for the acquisition of commercial farming land for the resettlement of members of the victim communities.
ONGI recently helped to uncover Namibian remains here in New York City at the American Museum of Natural History. How do you feel about that? What was it like seeing those remains?
We learnt about this development a few weeks ago with mixed emotions. My mind snapped back to the year 2011 when I first saw human remains in Germany as part of a huge delegation of Namas, Ovaherero and Ovambanderu traditional leaders who went to accompany the repatriation of the human remains from Germany under the then Minister Sports and culture, Kazenambo Kazenambo. It is never easy seeing the human remains of your ancestors, including skulls and entire skeletons, who were stolen from their motherland, sold and transported across the globe. I am deeply saddened by this discovery, and equally determined to work hard to make sure justice is served, and that the horrors perpetuated in the service of twisted notions of white supremacy are exposed so they are not repeated.
What are your thoughts on what should happen to the remains? Should they stay here as some have suggested or should they be returned home?
What is important to me is the process that we (Namibians) as a collective, should follow to come to a decision on final resting place of these remains. Look, it is my understanding that there are remains from our Sam and Damara compatriots. Culturally, these remains might have a completely different meaning or significance to them, compared to the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu. That is why I think a broad national dialogue is needed to determine the appropriate manner and timing of their return to Namibia.
It is our stated position that everything looted by colonialists from Namibia including cultural artifacts should be returned home. Human remains are even more sacred and must, after a thorough consultation among all stakeholders, and appropriate research about identity and origins, be returned home.
Speaking with One Africa Television, Jephta Nguherimo of the US based OvaHerero/Mbanderu and Nama Genocides Institute (ONGI), calls the Namibian government approach to the genocide disappointing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?
A delegation of victims and descendants of the Ovaherero and Nama genocides, and two friends and supporters of the cause of the Namibian people for restitution, visited the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) on Friday, September 15, to view the remains of eight Namibians in the custody of the museum in the City of New York, which were recently brought to their attention by Genocide and Restitution solidarity groups in the Federal Republic of Germany, especially Post Kolonial Berlin.