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More than a century after a long-hushed genocide took place in Namibia while under German colonial rule, descendants of the victims had their day in court in New York for the first time. In one of the darkest chapters of African colonial history, tens of thousands of Herero and Nama people were killed from 1904 to 1908. Germany and Namibia have been in talks for the past two years about a joint declaration on the massacres. The tribes filed their class-action lawsuit in January seeking compensation for "incalculable damages" and demanding that they be included in the negotiations between the two countries. The 15 or so tribal representatives at the yesterday's hearing -- who came from Namibia, Canada and midwest America, some wearing colonial-era traditional dress -- won their first victory Thursday when Judge Laura Taylor Swain scheduled another hearing for July 21. "When I heard that she said the hearing can take place -- that was the greatest success we have achieved. This is the sign that we are the winners," said Ida Hoffmann, 69, a Namibian MP and Nama representative. While some German officials have acknowledged that a genocide occurred, the government has fallen short of an official declaration. And Berlin repeatedly refused to pay direct reparations, saying that its development aid worth hundreds of millions of euros since Namibia's independence from South Africa in 1990 was "for the benefit of all Namibians." A foreign ministry spokesman described the aid as "generous," saying it includes "record" amounts per individual and points to Germany's "responsibility." German settlers grabbed land, cattle and other means of subsistence from the locals, triggering a Herero revolt on January 12, 1904 in which they killed 123 German civilians. In the bloody Battle of Waterberg in August 1904, around 80,000 Herero fled with women and children toward Botswana.
German troops went after them across what is now known as the Kalahari Desert. Only 15,000 Herero survived. In October 1904, colonial military commander General Lothar von Trotha ordered that the Herero be exterminated. The smaller Nama tribe faced a similar fate. Around 10,000 of them were killed as they sought to rebel against the Germans during the conflict.
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