BERLIN – Germany on Friday apologised for its role in slaughter of Herero and Nama tribespeople in Namibia more than a century ago and officially described the massacre as genocide for the first time, as it agreed to fund projects worth over a billion euros.
German soldiers killed some 65,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama members in a 1904-1908 campaign after a revolt against land seizures by colonists in what historians and the United Nations have long called the first genocide of the 20th century.
While Germany has previously acknowledged “moral responsibility” for the killings, it has avoided making an official apology for the massacres to avoid compensation claims.
In a statement announcing an agreement with Namibia following more than five years of negotiations, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the events of the German colonial period should be named “without sparing or glossing over them”.
“We will now also officially call these events what they were from today’s perspective: a genocide,” Maas said.
“In light of Germany’s historical and moral responsibility, we will ask Namibia and the descendants of the victims for forgiveness,” he said.
Germany has agreed to fund 1.1 billion euros of reconstruction and development projects that would directly benefit the genocide-affected communities, he said.
Namibian media reported on Thursday that the money would fund infrastructure, healthcare and training programmes over 30 years.
Germany, which lost all its colonial territories after World War One, was the third biggest colonial power after Britain and France. However, its colonial past was ignored for decades while historians and politicians focused more on the legacy of Nazi crimes, including the Holocaust.
In 2015, it began formal negotiations with Namibia over the issue and in 2018 it returned skulls and other remains of massacred tribespeople that were used in the colonial-era experiments to assert claims of European racial superiority.