ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Germany’s Apology to Namibia

Genesis and Implications

Tracing the genesis of Germany’s apology for genocide in Namibia, this article situates Germany in the context of colonialism and racism in Africa. It contends that Germany is morally guilty of violating human rights but is legally not bound to pay reparations to Namibia. In order to promote humanitarian international law, institutions like the United Nations need to initiate measures to compensate the victims of genocide.


The evolution of the historically entangled relationship between Germany and Namibia has witnessed a new milestone. Namibia, situated in South West Africa, was a German colony between 1884 and 2015. On 28 May 2021, Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, conceded that the German slaughter of Namibians between 1904 and 1908 was a genocide (BBC 2021). Such official acceptance of genocide by Germany is bold because genocide is a contested term in international relations. It was codified into international law through United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crime of Genocide (UNCPPG) in 1948. Article 2 of the convention defines genocide as the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part, through a range of acts, such as killing, mental harm, prevention of births, and forcible transfer of children (UNCPPG 2021).

Since 2015, Germany and Namibia have been negotiating a deal regarding their past. However, complete details of the deal are still not in the public domain. Apparently, the deal, which is plausibly meant for domestic politics, has been cleverly crafted because Germany has not committed to any financial reparations. At the same time, two things appear clear about the deal. First, Germany has assured to extend development aid to Namibia worth $1.34 billion over the next 30 years to improve healthcare, training projects and infrastructure (BBC 2021a). Second, while formally acknowledging culpability in genocide, the German President, Frank Walter Steinmeier, will reportedly issue an official apology on behalf of the German state in the Namibian parliament by the end of this year (Economist 2021).

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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