Consequences of a Genocide: Politics of Apology between Namibia and Germany

Wednesday, 22 March, 2017 - 12:00

Reinhart Kössler

A talk by Reinhart Kössler

The genocide perpetrated by the German colonial army in present-day Namibia in 1904-1908 has for a long time been subject to controversy. Only in 2015, the German government acceded to call what had happened a genocide, and this opened the door for intergovernmental negotiations which are still under way.
Against the historical backdrop, the talk will focus on the conflicts that have marked the negotiation process since its inception. These concern issues of representation, with large sections of victim groups contesting the legitimacy of the Namibian government to represent them in the negotiations; at the same time, the German side has not given a formal apology to date, and has publicly insisted that there will be no reparations as a result of the negotiations.
The negotiation process therefore is not only conflictual on a number of levels that make it quite improbable that the optimistic expectation of the German side for an imminent conclusion will prevail, but it also poses important questions for scholarly debate: the legitimacy of postcolonial states to represent specific sections of their population and the reasons for such legitimacy being contested; and the principles of transitional justice and ‘deep apology’ within the context of German memory practice after World War II.