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Declaring genocide remembrance holiday an election ploy – opposition

Written by on May 29, 2024

… Nama, Herero leaders reject date

Opposition parties have praised the government’s move to declare 28 May as Genocide Remembrance Day, which will be a public holiday from 2025.

They argue, however, that this is an election ploy.

Minister of information and communication technology Emma Theofelus yesterday made this announcement.

The endorsement followed a letter from National Assembly speaker Peter Katjavivi recommending the adoption of 28 May as Genocide Remembrance Day.

This comes after the tabling of a supporting motion in parliament in 2016 by the late Kuaima Riruako and Usutuaije Maamberua.

The Cabinet has directed the Ministry of Justice to draft a proclamation as required by the Public Holidays Act to be certified by the attorney general for consideration and the signature of the president to coincide with the public announcement of Genocide Remembrance Day on 28 May.

Popular Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani yesterday said his party welcomes the declaration, although it is long overdue.

“The government has been dragging its feet, and is feeling the heat of the elections now. They have realised they have made a lot of people unhappy for a long time by not endorsing a remembrance day,” he said.

Venaani said this would shape how Germany treats Namibia in genocide negotiations going forward.

“Of course there are factions, which is our weakness as Namibians, but this should not water down the negotiations, which are of national interest,” he said.

Former lawmaker Mike Kavekotora yesterday described the announcement as a milestone for the affected communities.

He said as a descendant of the affected communities he is excited that events from the past are finally recognised.

“I was in parliament when Usutuaije Maamberua tabled that motion, and I supported him. Now that it’s finally recognised we need to unify, come together and push for the negotiation between Namibia and Germany for compensation.

“I therefore urge everyone to support the set date, since it would have an impact on the negotiations,” he said.

Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) spokesperson Imms Nashinge yesterday said the pronouncement should have been done a long time ago to remember when resistance to colonialism started.

“One can just hope this is genuinely done, or it’s perhaps just because it’s an election year,” he said.

Nashinge said it would be best to consolidate public holidays and have all Namibians come together on one specific day.

“Now we have Cassinga Day, Heroes Day and Genocide Remembrance Day, while it could just be one day,” he said.

Imms Nashinge


Maamberua yesterday said the arrival of the speaker of the National Assembly at Independence Memorial Museum in Windhoek yesterday where a faction of the descendants of genocide survivors convened, came as a surprise.

“The speaker does not usually attend these occasions, and for him to come made us all wonder why he is there. But the contents of the letter he delivered I never expected.

“But we thank the late president Geingob for being in favour of Genocide Remembrance Day, for we held multiple positive meetings with him, and we thank president Mbumba for taking a decisive stance to put his seal upon it.

“It will go down as part of his legacy for the descendants of genocide survivors will remember that it was under his administration.

“This day is for all Namibians, and is not just about commemoration. It is to educate our children and for nation building,” he said.

Meanwhile, disagreement on a date for Genocide Remembrance Day were expressed by the Nama Traditional Leaders Association (NTLA) and the Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA).

The secretary general of the NTLA, Deodat Dirkse, yesterday said the association rejects the declaration of 28 May 1908 as Genocide Remembrance Day, saying the first extermination order was made on 12 April 1904.

“28 May 1908 has no relation. It only speaks of the closure of camps, but people were moved to native reserves and extermination still took place.

“Secondly, we are copying the Jews, where the red army closed the Jewish camps. It was the end of the extermination for the Jews, but in our case it was not the end of the story, and 80% of the people who were killed in our genocide were killed outside the concentration camps. One example is Hornkrantz.

Ovaherero Traditional Authority chief Mutjinde Katjiua

“So to accept 28 May is to lie to ourselves and our children. We are doing our ancestors an injustice,” he said.

The Namibian earlier this year reported that chief Mutjinde Katjiua said his faction would not attend an event as it does not agree that 28 May is the date the genocide should be commemorated on.

“There are those of us who believe the impact of the genocide went beyond 28 May 1908,” he said.

The extermination order to wipe the Ovaherero people from the face of the earth was given on 2 October 1904, Katjiua said.

It is for this reason that some Ovaherero people have been commemorating Genocide Remembrance Day on 2 October annually for the past 20 years, he said.

The Okandjoze Chiefs Assembly commemorated Remembrance Day, starting on 21 May with a church service, night vigil, youth discussions and an exhibition, running until 28 May.

The group marched to Independence Memorial Museum to remember the extermination order and horrendous acts committed by Germans against the Nama and OvaHerero people during the 1904 to 1908 genocide.

Speaking at the occasion, chief Tjinaani Maharero, the chairperson of the Okandjoze Chiefs Assembly, said the brutality did not come to an abrupt end on 28 May 1908 with the announcement of the closure of camps.

Many ancestors continued to be subjected to inhuman treatment, including hard labour, floggings, and rapes, he said.

The closure of the camps was, however, a relief.

The chairperson of the organising committee, Kae-Matundu Tjiparuro, said it is a historic day as Namibia is governed by the Constitution, and therefore all groups have the right to speak with a united voice concerning issues affecting them.

“But why did it take so long?” he asked.

The post Declaring genocide remembrance holiday an election ploy – opposition appeared first on The Namibian.

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