Chief Hendrik Witbooi (photo from Wikipedia)
Chief Hendrik Witbooi (photo from Wikipedia)
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UNSUNG AFRICAN WARRIOR – CHIEF HENDRIK WITBOOI:

Germany Seeks Forgiveness for Massacre of Namibians in Aftermath of 1904 Battle

Chief Hendrik Witbooi was a renowned warrior in the Namaqua Tribe of the erstwhile German colony of South West Africa (now Namibia).  Following formal establishment of the colony in 1883 by German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Chief Witbooi led “the Hottentot Uprising” which put up a fierce resistance in an attempt to expel the Germans.  In response, Chancellor Bismarck sent in German troops who defeated Chief Witbooi and his warriors. Chief Witbooi was captured and later forced to sign a treaty with the Germans in exchange for his release from captivity. But the gallant Chief was not yet done with the Germans!

As more Germans settled in their newly acquired colony, they forcefully took lands from the native Africans and also converted the natives into forced labor.  This injustice made Chief Hendrik Witbooi to rise and take up arms again against the Germans.  This time around, he teamed up with another tribal chief, Chief Samuel Maharero, of the Harero Tribe to fight the Germans in 1904.  The Africans had good knowledge of the area and the terrain and immediately gained the upper hand in the battle.  The chiefs and their warriors killed about 150 German soldiers.  Indeed, the Germans were forced to bring in reinforcement of 14,000 additional soldiers in order to eventually defeat the African warriors.   

Sadly, after winning the battle of 1904, Germany embarked on a tragic vengeance that led to the death and massacre of 75,000 Namibians.  The Africans were expelled from their lands and those who refused to leave were slaughtered.  In fact, German authorities ordered their soldiers to shoot and kill adult male Africans on sight.  Those who managed to escape from the soldiers suffered and died of thirst and starvation in the Kalahari Desert.           

Namibians captured in 1904 (photo from Wikipedia)

Fast-forward to 2015.  That year, Germany began formal negotiations with independent Namibia to return skulls and other remains of those massacred in the aftermath of the battle of 1904.  Germany had been using those skulls and remains in the colonial-era experiments to assert claims of European racial superiority.  They were returned to Namibia in 2018.

Finally, in May 2021, Germany has recognized the massacres as a genocide and agreed to create a Fund of more than One Billion Euros (about $1.34bn) for atonement.  This Fund will be used towards reconstructing and developing Namibia as a way to compensate for the “immense suffering inflicted on victims’” of the genocide.

Commenting on the events, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, acknowledged “the historical and moral responsibility of Germany” and stated that his country will seek forgiveness from the African country. And in a statement to AFP news agency, Namibian President Hage Geingob, welcomed Germany’s acknowledgement and stated that it now paves way for “an apology, to be followed by reparations.” Notably, although Germany previously accepted “moral responsibility” for massacre, it has always shied away from making an official apology so as not to be called upon to pay legal compensations.

Other observers and commentators were also quick to note that more is needed to fully atone the sins committed against Africans during the eras of colonization and slavery. 

Mr. Curtis Ross, CEO of Global Entertainment LP in the United States lamented that slavery and colonization not only stole wealth from Africans, but also destroyed much of Africa culture and civil rights.  He remarked that Germany bears a lot of responsibility because the Berlin Conference was organized by German chancellor Otto von Bismarck regulated European colonization and trade in Africa during the New Imperialism period and coincided with Germany’s sudden emergence as an imperial power.

Madam Alexandra Tchomte, an African entrepreneur/philanthropist and Managing Director of HORIZON VERT observed that the amount of the Fund set up by Germany as compensation is way too small and ridiculous when considered in light of the atrocities committed against Namibians.  She, however, noted that money is not everything and no life can be bought or replaced.  She suggested that other colonial countries like France, Belgium, United Kingdom, and Spain should also be made to pay reparations to Africans.

This article was written by our Contributor Henry D.  He may be reached at [email protected].  You too can start earning money by becoming our Independent Reporter or Contributor. Contact us at [email protected]

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