BERLIN : Germany on Wednesday handed back human remains seized from Namibia a century ago after the slaughter of indigenous people under its colonial rule, but angry descendants slammed Berlin for failing to properly atone for the dark chapter.
Herero chief Vekuii Rukoro, whose ancestors were among the tens of thousands of Herero and Nama people massacred between 1904 and 1908, said the handover ceremony should have taken place not in a Berlin church, but a German government building. He also accused Berlin of taking too long to formally apologise for what is often called the first genocide of the 20th century.
“By trying not to acknowledge the past, the German government will continue to make serious mistakes as regards present and future policies,” Rukoro told the church audience, which included government officials from both countries.
“We are after all the direct descendants of these remains and we should not be ignored.”
A Namibian delegation formally received the remains, including 19 skulls, a scalp and bones, during the church ceremony.
Michelle Muentefering, a minister of state for international cultural policies in the German foreign ministry, asked “for forgiveness from the bottom of my heart” as she handed over the remains to Namibia’s culture minister.
Several Herero women in traditional, cow-horn shaped headdress wiped away tears during the at times emotional proceedings.
“May the remains of our ancestors finally go home to Namibia in peace. May they return to the dust from which they came. May justice be done and faith in humanity be restored,” said Nama chief Johannes Isaack.
Outside the venue, some two dozen protesters held up signs that read “Repatriation without an official apology?” and “Reparations Now!”.
The German government announced in 2016 that it planned to issue an official apology for the atrocities committed by German imperial troops.
But it remains locked in talks with the Namibian government on a joint declaration on the massacres.
It has also refused to pay direct reparations, arguing instead that German development aid worth hundreds of millions of euros since Namibia’s independence from South Africa in 1990 was “for the benefit of all Namibians”.