What is thefirst thing you think of when you hear the word, “Germany”? I immediately thinkof the many wars the country has been involved in. The German colonial war of1904-1907 is no exception. It was fought between the German settlers trying tocolonize German Southwest Africa and the ethnic groups that were native to thearea.
This event is significant because of the implications of the war throughstatues that stand in the streets of Namibia today, the lengths the people ofNamibia are going to in order to regain what was lost, along with the Germangovernment’s unwillingness, still, to recognize it as what it is—a genocide. German SouthwestAfrica—what is now the country of Namibia—was one of the four areas Germanycolonized in Africa in the late 1800’s. 200,000 Germans packed up and moved,unwillingly, to settle in Africa. There, they were met with two ethnic groups—theHerero and Nama people.
The German settlers began trying to make a life byfarming and finding new resources, as one does when colonizing. They soonrealized they needed assistance with these ventures and enlisted the help ofthe natives. The natives refused to succumb to the German rule, so theyrebelled. This led to the Germans driving the Herero and Nama people into thedesert by force and poisoning waterholes. More than 100,000 people died fromthis war, as stated from The Guardian. The statue thatstands in the country where the war was fought, depicts a German soldier from the colonial war of1904-1907 standing by a fallen fellow soldier.
You would think this statuewouldn’t have even had a chance to be constructed, given that the Germansstarted this terrible massacre that nearly killed off an entire ethnicity, butafter the war, the white minority came into power. There have been many politically charged actswith this statue, as it represents the apparent massacre of the Herero and Nama people,not in memoriam, but rather, in memoriam of the Germans who died. For example,protesters in Namibia poured red paint on the statue representing the lives theGermans took. Along with the statue, there are tombstones in a cemeterydedicated to the Germans who died during the colonial war. “Easily missed is asingle small plaque on the cemetery wall that gives a nod in German to theAfrican ‘warriors’ who died in the fighting as well,” (Onishi, NY Times germanygrapples).
Germany has notrecognized this massacre yet as a genocide which has many uneasy to the factof—if they don’t now, will they ever? It has been more than a century sincethis colonial war and many are unsure as to what to do about it. In fact, manyNamibians have taken to travelling to the United States in order to resolvethis ongoing conflict. Descendants of the Herero and Nama people are going tosuch lengths to sue Germany for damages they caused their ancestors. People arewondering, “how Germany will compensate and apologize to Namibia,” as stated inthe article Germany Grapples with Its African Genocide article in The New YorkTimes.