Why Germany is not Apologizing over Massacre of the Herero and Namaqua

Last week DeutschWelle, the Germany Newspaper reported , but with an air of panache, that the Berlin hospital was now returning seven out of over one million skulls to the Herero communities in Namibia. This is after more than a hundred years.These are the skulls that Germany got through a repressive and murderous operation from the Herero and Namaqua communities of Namibia during the colonial resistance war of 1904.The Germany colonial forces are estimated to have killed over 1.5 million people during this war that involved the Herero and the Namaqua Communities resisting the colonial entry of Germany forces into south west Africa. The skulls were taken to Germany to be used in medical and racial analysis research. What is so stunning about these revelations is that the Germany government has since ever refused to apologize and has never officially communicated to the affected families of the Hereroes and Namaqua in Namimibia.Event the last week decision to return the seven out of 1.5 million skulls to Namibia was not official communication by the government of Germany but just some public relations gimmick by the Berlin Hospital.

Interesting findings from the reading of the Herero history show that German colonial soldiers ferried the skulls from Namibia to Germany in a brutal manner. Research sources establish some of the 1.5 million Hereroes, were taken to Germany alive then later on killed violently to extract the skulls for research. While others were killed in the active war in Namibia, then the skulls were given to Namibian women to clean and grind them by use of broken bottle shards. Then cunningly packaged as ostrich eggs to be shipped to Germany.

One sad fact is that by 1900, Germany was already a modern civilization, with a mature legal system, modern education system, organized education system as well as responsible scientific research. Germany then was already eguipped with full knowledge of research ethics and accountability. What made the researchers of Germany to collect data for their medical research in such a brutal and dubiously ethical manner beats logic and common sense. If at all it was racism, then what type of racism was this?

Research ethics and even scientific common sense require that you don’t have to administer cruel acts to animals, plants or human beings for you to expedite your research. Informed consent is usually required from human participants before their involvement. At the end of the research, the researching organization is duty-bound to communicate a feedback. For this case Germany is bound to be ethical because it has used African skulls from the Hereroes and Namaqua of African origin, in medical researches, eugenics, racial analysis and biological as well as anthropology studies and so forth, only to return some skulls. In a spellbinding contrast Germany has ignored everything; it has acted without any ethical efforts to talk to the affected families in Herero and Namaqua communities, neither has it hinted for a possibility of feedback to the African community. Egad!

This looks like a 1974 experience among the American Negroes, who were forcefully used in Syphilis treatment research in 1974.The Negro men were injected with syphilis germs by the white researchers. They wanted to find out the life cycle of these germs and hence treatment of syphilis. After the research, the infused Negroes were not treated neither were they given a feedback.

Further comparison can provoke for a premise that perhaps the first decade of 1900 was a season of European terror. Massacre of the Herero and Namaqua was not the only one of its kind. This was also the time the British in their colonial rampage massacred the Bukusu militias that were resisting British colonial entry into western Kenya. Reading Wilber Aubrey’s Rural Rabbles and Fred Makila’s Outline History of Babukusu reveal that over 7000 people, including women and children of the Bukusu families, were killed in 1905 by the British colonial soldiers at Chetambe Falls, now the present Webuye town. The operation was organized by three British colonial vassals in Kenya; Charles Hobley, William Grant and Gunter Wagner. This was the second European massacre through the British colonial Marauders. The third European Massacre was the Armenian Massacre that was expedited by the Turkey colonial forces on the people of Armenia. The Armenian Massacre was not the first European Massacre as pointed out recently by Pope Francis. It was the third Massacre when we go by the available present historical facts.

The common feature to all these Massacres is that The European Powers have refused to apologize. Germany has refused to apologize lest they become accountable and be forced in law to pay. As once argued by one of the Germany parliamentarian. The British have never taken any effort to apologize to the affected families of the Babukusu Community. This position is taken in little care of the fresh memory and active history of the brutalities of the Chetambe Massacre among these communities. It is only Pope Francis who had to sensitize the world community on the Armenian Massacre. He made this through the speech he recently made to Armenian publics. In a retort the government of Turkey did not contrite and even suggest for an apology, The London Guardian last week reported that, instead the Turkey leadership closed the Vatican embassy in Turkey and orderd the Vatican diplomatic workers to leave Turkey.

Another daunting experience of interaction between Africans and Europe is that of black African soldiers that were conscripted into the two great wars. Most of them died in the great wars. Research shows that more than ten million Africans died in battle field as soldiers during the two great wars of the last century.Surprisingly,none of them was brought back to be buried by his or her people.Untill today affected families of Africa cannot trace the remains of their relatives that died in the great wars. Their names cannot be found any-where as engravings on the sepulchers in the commonwealth war graves. For the case of east Africa all the British common-wealth war graves bare the European names. No black African soldier was buried there. Funny enough, Africans were only innocently immolated in these two great wars. These were the wars of European imperialism.

Sadly enough, Europe treats its history with discrimination; out of the atrocities perpetrated during the first and Second World War, Europe has only accepted the Jewish Holocaust .The number of Jews estimated to have been killed by the Germans is six million people. The current historical researches show that Africans were killed by all European forces. Given the unfortunate situation that, Africans were all fighting for their European colonial masters. Thus the number of black Africans is expected to be more than ten million people. The Jewish and African societies all deserved apology from European powers. Their suffering was in the equal measure.

The Herero and Namaqua massacre was not known to the public until 1990 when Namibia became an independent state. These are the political times when information about the Herero-Namaqua Massacre got to the publicity of global community in full swing. Courtesy of the mauverick Media. The world in general and people of Africa patiently wait for fairness to be seen in relation to the European Massacres perpetrated on the new worlds during the European imperial venture in the last century.

Alexander Khamala Opicho
Lodwar, Kenya.

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Articles by Alexander Opicho