Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

The role of museums

When we talk about addressing the colonial past and decolonization, museums should play an active role and make their numerous voices heard. In order to play a relevant role in this context, a museum must address all issues that affect society. It must offer a space to exchange and debate ideas, for a community to present its diverse talents, and celebrate its history and culture. It has to involve today’s …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

German colonialism, reparations and international law

Reparations have become an increasingly important entry point to the conversation about the unfinished business of decolonization. Even though reparations have an established role in transitional justice and human rights, very little attention has been paid to the transition from colonialism or the legacies of colonial human rights abuses. While Namibia’s political independence was an important first step, the decolonization process did not confront two pivotal dimensions of colonial legacies. …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

Participation rights of indigenous peoples

Over the past three decades, indigenous peoples’rights have become an important component of international law and policy. This is a result of a movement driven by indigenous peoples, civil society and other stakeholders. One of its main achievements is the United Nations General Assembly’s 2007 adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. By 2010, the vast majority of UN member states supported the declaration, and none …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

From ideological fixity to moral argument

Today, international law – and international human rights law in particular – provides the dominant frame, often augmented by negotiations, for responding to acts of genocide. While this frame is necessary, it may not be sufficient to address the deeper emotional and psychological scars associated with the 1904–1908 genocide in erstwhile German South West Africa. This is because the colonial project’s ideological fixity deeply implicates aspects of international law. Moreover, …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

Racist repercussions and transgenerational exclusion

Legal means to deal with Germany’s colonial legacy

The German and Namibian governments seem to be about to finalize their negotiations on (the costs of) reconciliation. Several civil society actors and Ovaherero and Nama representatives criticize the procedure and want to be included in the negotiations – inter alia in a US lawsuit against Germany. The German government, however, denies that a genocide (in legal terms) occurred, referring to the principle of intertemporality in international law. What legal …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

The law as a (limited) means to address colonial injustice

Calls for reparations for historic injustices dominate current Namibian discourse. Such calls are directed to both the German and Namibian governments. The German government is called upon to take full responsibility for the heinous crimes committed against the Ovaherero and Nama peoples during the 1904–1908 genocide. After all, the impugned genocidal acts were perpetrated under the infamous orders of General Lothar von Trotha, who acted in the name of the …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

The genocide against the Ovaherero and Nama peoples

The German colonization of what became German South West Africa commenced in 1884 and ended with German forces’ surrender to the Union of South Africa in July 1915. The genocidal atrocities committed by German colonial troops from 1904–1908, sanctioned by General Lothar von Trotha’s 1904 and 1905 orders to exterminate the Ovaherero and Nama, significantly changed the course of history and socio-economic status of the people who lived in Namibia …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

Decolonizing intertemporal international law

As with many legal disputes concerning Europe’s bloody colonial past, conversations about the Ovaherero and Nama’s right to reparations from Germany often reach a dead end at the mention of intertemporal international law. Accordingly, one should judge the past by the legal standards of its time, not by our modern perceptions. As the rules of the past were mostly nasty and brutish, the argument goes, the victims of colonial injustice …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

Historical originis of the Ovaherero and Nama Genocide

One cannot discuss the issue of the Ovaherero and Nama genocide without referring to the causes that gave rise to it. Although Eurocentric historiographers have written most of the history of our genocide, which therefore includes undue biases, people who follow the dictates of their conscience have also written records that are more objective. The first contact between Germans and the Ovaherero and Nama occurred through missionaries, followed by many …

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Colonial railway tracks near Aus in southern Namibia ECCHR
Colonial Repercussions in Germany and NamibiaSymposium

Colonial repercussions in Germany and Namibia

The colonial past and its complex repercussions are finally present in post-colonial European public discourse. So far, however, this has had little to no effect on formerly colonized societies. One reason for this is that post-colonial structural inequalities between the so-called Global North and Global South still prevent equal access to resources and discourses, thus obstructing discussions about colonial injustice and post-colonial repercussions. Both former colonial powers like the United …

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