Germany agrees to pay Namibia €1.1bn over historical Herero-Nama genocide

Survivors of the Herero genocide (Wikimedia)

This is historic, late and probably not enough compared to the loss in human lives… yet it is historic nonetheless! Germany has agreed to pay 1.1 billion Euros over the Herero-Nama genocide [Germany in Namibia: the First Genocide of the 20th Century]. This will be paid in existing aid programs over 30 years. I am always skeptical of these aid programs, because countries and companies usually get their money back that way…; plus there are probably billions worth of Namibian diamonds or cobalt mines that will profit German companies in the fine prints. Anyways, for the first time, Germany called the atrocities ‘genocide‘, but fell short of calling the arrangement ‘reparations’ and ‘compensation’ [Have Germans finally acknowledged the Namibian Genocide?]. It is a step forward, we acknowledge it, and recognize the progress. Enjoy! Excerpts below are from the Guardian.

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Germany calls atrocities ‘genocide’ but omits the words ‘reparations’ or ‘compensation’ from a joint statement.

Germany has agreed to pay Namibia €1.1bn (£940m) as it officially recognised the Herero-Nama genocide at the start of the 20th century, in what Angela Merkel’s government says amounts to a gesture of reconciliation but not legally binding reparations.

Tens of thousands of men, women and children were shot, tortured or driven into the Kalahari desert to starve by German troops between 1904 and 1908 after the Herero and  Nama tribes rebelled against colonial rule in what was then named German South-West Africa and is now Namibia.

Chained Herero men

Since 2015Germany has negotiated with the Namibian government over what it calls an attempt to “heal the wounds” of historic violence.

Our aim was and is to find a joint path to genuine reconciliation in remembrance of the victims,” the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said in a statement. “That includes our naming the events of the German colonial era in today’s Namibia, and particularly the atrocities between 1904 and 1908, unsparingly and without euphemisms.

We will now officially call these events what they were from today’s perspective: a genocide.

On Thursday, official circles in Berlin confirmed reports in Namibian media that after nine rounds of negotiations the two sides had settled on the text of a joint declaration and a sum of €1.1bn, which will be paid separately to existing aid programmes over 30 years.

Of the overall sum, more than a billion euros will go towards projects relating to land reform, rural infrastructure, water supply and professional training. Communities of Herero and Nama descendants, which form ethnic minorities in all of the seven affected regions, are meant to be involved in the development of the specific projects.

Flag of Namibia

… The text of the joint declaration calls the atrocities committed by German troops a “genocide” but omits the words “reparations” or “compensation” – a move borne out of fear that such language could set a legal precedent for similar claims from other nations.

A spokesman for the Namibian president, Hage Geingob, described German’s acknowledgment of genocide “as the first step” in the right direction. “It is the basis for the second step, which is an apology, to be followed by reparations,” the spokesman said.

Some of the numerous groups that make up the descendants of the genocide’s survivors have been critical of the framing of the negotiations from the outset and have declined to back the Namibian government’s stance. ….

World Record: Malian Woman gives Birth to Nine Babies

Flag of Mali
Flag of Mali

This is a first in the world: it is the first single birth and survival of nonuplets in the world. Halima Cisse, a Malian woman, has given birth to nonuplets, 5 girls and 4 boys, in a hospital in Morocco. They were conceived naturally. Initially, the medical teams both in Mali and then later in Morocco thought she was expecting septuplets, and so they were all surprised to find 9 babies in the end. I salute the wisdom of the country’s leader who saw fit to have her transferred to Morocco for more advanced specialist care… this shows great empathy. Excerpts below are from an article on the Guardian. Congratulations to the proud parents… it is indeed a grace!

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Halima Cisse’s nonuplets all ‘doing well so far’ after delivery by caesarean section at Moroccan hospital.

A Malian woman has given birth to nine babies – all “doing well so far” – in what is thought to be a world record for the most children in a single birth to survive.

Halima Cisse had been expected to give birth to seven babies, but ultrasounds conducted in Morocco and Mali had missed two of the siblings. The nonuplets – five girls and four boys – were all were delivered by caesarean section.

The 25-year-old’s pregnancy has fascinated the west African nation and attracted the attention of its leaders. When doctors said in March that Cisse needed specialist care, the country’s transitional leader, Bah Ndaw, ordered that she be sent to Morocco.

Halima Cisse, mother of nonuplets and the medical team and a family member in Morocco (Source: Africafreedomnetwork.com)

The mother and babies are doing well so far,” Mali’s health minister, Fanta Siby, told Agence France-Presse, adding that she had been kept informed by the Malian doctor who accompanied Cisse to Morocco.

They are due to return home in several weeks’ time, she added.

… Doctors had been concerned about Cisse’s health and her babies’ chances of survival, according to local press reports. Nonuplets are extremely rare and medical complications in multiple births of this kind often mean that some of the babies do not survive.

In pictures widely shared on social media, Cisse could be seen smiling, celebrating with her doctors near her nine children, held in a row of incubators at the hospital.

Cisse’s husband, Adjudant Kader Arby, still in Mali with the couple’s older daughter, told BBC Afrique he had been in constant touch with his wife and he was not worried about the future.

“God gave us these children,” he said. “He is the one to decide what will happen to them. I’m not worried about that. When the almighty does something, he knows why.”

Germany rules out financial reparations for Namibia genocide

Survivors of the Herero genocide (Wikimedia)

It is no secret that the first genocide of the 20th century was committed by Germany in Namibia [Germany in Namibia: the First Genocide of the 20th Century]… yet to this day Namibians have never gotten reparations, nor an apology. This terrible page of history is usually absent from history books, and all people know is the genocide against the Jews who were compensated. So to hear now that Germany is planning to “offer aid and an apology” is outrageous! Germany says it does not want to set a precedent… yet for Auschwitz there was no question of setting precedents right? They are probably afraid that more genocides will be uncovered, not just for them, but for all those European countries which took part in the scramble for Africa, and they will all be forced to pay… so now they want to give aid… no one wants their aid! After 400 years of slavery, and almost 100-200 years of colonization and neo-colonization, there is a reason why Africa is on its knees… so we do not want “AID,” plus usually this “aid” always comes as “poisoned cakes” with so many clauses and more debts to be repaid… Remember how Germany wanted to pay the Namibian government 10 million Euros [Namibia Rightfully Rejects 10 million Euros Compensation for Genocide]? while Greece is asking for 289 billion Euros? Excerpts from the article below is from the Guardian.

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Flag of Namibia

Germany has categorically ruled out financial reparations forming part of a planned formal apology to Namibia for colonial atrocities at the start of the 20th century, amid fears such payments could set a legal precedent for further claims.

… The talks are nearing completion, with broadcaster Deutschlandfunk reporting this week on plans for the president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to ask for forgiveness for the genocide in front of the Namibian parliament.

As part of the reconciliation agreement, which has been submitted to both governments, Germany is also to make additional aid payments towards infrastructure, healthcare and job-training programmes in areas of Namibia populated by the descendants of the Herero and Nama tribes.

… “Reparations or individual compensations are not subject of the negotiations,” the report says. “After 100 years they would be unprecedented. The definition of injustice set up by the 1948 convention on the prevention and punishment of genocide does not apply retrospectively and cannot be the basis for financial claims.”

… Yet countries such as Greece and Poland, which were not part of the 1990 agreement, have since repeatedly reiterated their demands to be compensated for economic and human losses sustained at the hands of German forces in the first half of the 20th century.

Namibian skulls (Reuters)

The Greek government of the conservative prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, most recently repeated its wish for negotiations relating to damages worth €289bn on the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of Greece this April.

Many of the descendants of the Herero and Nama victims continue to reject structural aid and demand direct reparations from Germany. In a joint statement issued this week, the Ovaherero Traditional Authorities and Nama Traditional Leaders Association called the reconciliation agreement a “public relations coup by Germany and an act of betrayal by the Namibian government”.

British Colonial Treaties in Africa: The Case of Banjul

Map and Flag of The Gambia

As we saw last week, the capital of The Gambia, Banjul, was first a colony of the Duchy of Courland which was then part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth or modern-day Latvia, then became a British colony. Below is a treaty signing over the island of Banjul, at the time of the British.

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Combo. St. Mary Island [Banjul]. (The map of Africa by Treaty, Vol 1, P.370 – 371)

On the 4th June, 1827,* a Treaty was signed between the Governor of the British Possessions on the West Coast of Africa, and the King of Gumbo, confirming the Cession to Great Britain of the Island of St. Mary’s and adjoining territory, from which the following are extracts :—~

Banjola and St. Mary Island.

Bathurst (modern-day Banjul) in 1824

“ The Treaty in which the Island of St. Mary’s was formerly given up to the British Government not being forthcoming, it is hereby agreed :—

“ I. Abolition of Slave Trading.

“ II. That the Island of St. Mary’s, the Cape, and the boundary bordering on other States to the southward and east ward of Coomba shall be open for every branch of commerce between the subjects of His Majesty, the King of Great Britain, and the natives of Cumba or any other kingdoms.

“III. That the Island of Banjola, now called St. Mary’s, and the adjoining territory, may be possessed by the Government and subjects of Great Britain for building and making farms in such places as are not actually possessed by any other person at the time, arranging the boundaries with the Alcaide of Baccow.

“IV. Annual Presents to be made to the King of Combo.

* H.T., vol. xii, p. 11.

How to Sign over a River? : British Colonial Treaties in Africa – The Case of the Gambia River

Map and Flag of The Gambia

As I read more colonial treaties signed on the continent, it is hard for a modern mind to understand the concept of ceding over rivers. How do you know where the river ends? Is the river part of just one kingdom? What do you do when it is split among several kingdoms? Did the Europeans take that into consideration, if they only had the signature from one king, and not others? Or did they just cause war to get the remainder of the river? What do you think?

Below is the example of the Gambia River.

On the 3rd September, 1783, a Treaty was concluded between Great Britain and France, by Article X of which the King of the French guaranteed to the King of Great Britain the possession of Fort James (Albreda) [located on modern-day Kunta Kinteh Island] and of the River Gambia.

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Cession of the River Gambia to Great Britain. (The map of Africa by Treaty, Vol 1, P.367 – 368)

On the 15th June, 1826,+ a Convention was signed between the Acting Governor of Sierra Leone and the King of Barra and of the River Gambia, with his Chiefs and headmen, for the cession of the Gambia to Great Britain.

Map of the River Gambra (now Gambia) in 1732

It contained the following stipulations:

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“ 2nd. The said Brunay, King of Barra, by and with the advice and consent of his Chiefs and headmen before named, cedes, transfers, and makes over to his Honour Kenneth Macaulay, Acting Governor of  Sierra Leone, and his successors, Governors of Sierra Leone for the time being, on the part and behalf of His Majesty the King of the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, his heirs, and successors forever, the full, entire, free, and unlimited right, title, sovereignty; and possession of the River Gambia, with all the branches, creeks, inlets, and waters of the same, as they have been held and possessed by the Kings of Barra from time immemorial ; and the said Brunay, King of Barra, with the advice and consent of his said Chiefs and headmen as aforesaid, does further cede and forever relinquish all and every right, claim, or demand for customs or duties of any description on British or other vessels entering or navigating the River Gambia, or any of the waters thereof (as have been formerly demanded and taken).

+ S.P., vol. xlviii, p. 882; H.T., vol. xii, p. 5. See also Treaties, 6th January, 1832, p. 824, and 18th November, 1850, p. 326.

Why the Name : Banjul ?

Map and Flag of The Gambia

Have you ever wondered what the name of the capital of The Gambia, Banjul, could mean? To me, the name sounds like it has some strength into it… try it: “BANGJUL.” Well, it turns out that Banjul takes its name from the Mandé people who gathered specific fibers on the island, which were used in the making of ropes. Bang julo is the Mandinka (Mande) word for rope fiber. The mispronunciation of this word led to the name Banjul.

Bathurst (modern-day Banjul) in 1824

As we learned earlier in the week (A Polish-Lithuanian or Latvian Colony in Africa?), the King of Kombo leased the area encompassing modern-day Banjul to the Duke of Courland in 1651. One could say that Banjul was a vassal possession of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth or Latvian colony in Africa. Prior to 1816, Portuguese referred to the area as Banjulo, while the British called it Banjola. In 1816, the then king (Mansa) of Kombo, Tomani Bojang, ceded the area to Alexander Grant, a British commander, who turned it into a trading post and base to control the entrance to the Gambia estuary, enforce the Slavery Abolition Act, and protect British commercial interests in the region. The British first named the area St Mary’s Island (then known as Banjulo by the Portuguese), and later renamed it Bathurst after the 3rd Earl of Bathurst, Secretary of State for War and the colonies. It became the center of British activity in the Gambia Colony and Protectorate. The town kept the name Bathurst, until independence when it was changed to Banjul in 1973.

A marketplace in Bathurst in 1910

As you look at the painting of Bathurst in 1824, you can clearly see that Gambians were fully dressed, thus once again destroying the idea repeated by Europeans that Africans were roaming naked (Description of African Dressing in 1400s) throughout the continent, or that they did not have a textile industry (History of African Fabrics and Textiles).

Banjul is the capital and fourth largest city of The Gambia. It is located on St Mary’s Island (Banjul Island) where the Gambia River enters into the Atlantic Ocean. It is The Gambia’s largest and most densely populated metropolitan area. It is a vibrant city, with great hospitality. So, as you visit Banjul, remember to look for the fiber that gave its name, and most importantly look to the spirit of the people which is strong, warm, and welcoming. Enjoy!

A Polish-Lithuanian or Latvian Colony in Africa?

Le partage de l'Afrique a la Conference de Berlin de 1884
Le partage de l’Afrique a la Conference de Berlin de 1884

Have you ever heard of the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia? Did you know that this somewhat unknown place in Europe had colonies and slave forts in Africa? And played a part in the slave trade? Did you know that it owned St James Island, modern-day Banjul, the capital of the Gambia? See… when I tell you that the plundering of Africa of her resources, both human and minerals, was perpetrated by the united nations of thieves, and that so many countries in Europe took part in it, you have a hard time understanding it right? It was not just the usual suspects: France, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, who took part in the Atlantic slave trade and beyond, but even Denmark, Brandenbug-Prussia (part of modern Germany), Holland, Sweden, Norway, and the Duchy of Courland. Let me tell you more about it.

The Duchy of Courland & Semigallia in 1740 (Source: Wikipedia)

Well, the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia was a duchy in the Baltic region, in what was then known as Livonia, which existed from 1561 to 1569 as a vassal state of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and subsequently part of the Crown of the Polish Kingdom from 1569 to 1726 and incorporated into the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1726. On 28 March 1795, it was annexed by the Russian Empire in the Third Partition of Poland. There was also a short-lived wartime state existing from 8 March to 22 September 1918 with the same name. The area became a part of Latvia at the end of World War I. At some point it was also part of Sweden.

Although small, the Duchy was wealthy and took a “modest” part in the European colonization settlement attempts of West Africa and the Caribbean. Like Brandenburg, that had far larger German colonizing power before the formation of the German Empire, the Polish-Lithuanian fief of Courland had a European expansionist past. Its colonies were established under Jakob, Duke of Courland and Semigallia, and were indirect colonies of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. During Jakob’s reign which lasted from 1642 to 1682, the Duchy established trading relations with all of the major European powers.

Duchy of Courland & Semigallia colonial possessions in Africa (Source: Wikipedia)

In 1651, the Duchy gained a colony in Africa on St. Andrew’s Island (modern-day Kunta Kinteh Island, renamed after the hero of the movie and book ‘Roots: The Saga of An American Family’ by Alex Haley) in the Gambia River and went on to build Fort Jakob on the island. The Duchy also gained control of additional land, which happened to include St. Mary Island (modern day Banjul) and Fort Jillifree. The Duchy’s colonies exported sugartobaccocoffeecottongingerindigorumcocoatortoise shells, as well as tropical birds and their much sought after feathers. They also established a colony in the Caribbean in Tobago. In the end, the Duchy would manage to retain control of these lands for less than a decade and the colonies were formally ceded to England in 1664.

Can you imagine that I, an African child, just learnt this recently? We should definitely throw away all these history books, which choose to “forget” to mention that slavery and later the scramble for Africa was like a gold rush, led by an ensemble of nations which resemble the NATO of today, where almost every European country took part in it! One may argue, what is the need of knowing this? Don’t you see that what Africa is living through today is a repeat of yesterday? Can you count the number of joint European forces in Mali? in Libya? in the DRC? Today it is called the United Nations. It is about time that Africans write their own history! Enough is enough! We need to know what happened yesterday to be better prepared for today and tomorrow.

Happy Mother’s Day 2021

Papa Wemba
Papa Wemba

To celebrate all the mothers out there… I thought of sharing this beautiful song by the legendary Papa Wemba “Mama,” from his album Nouvelle Ecriture 1997 dedicated to his mother. I dedicate it to all the mothers out there, and future mothers. Papa Wemba was the King of Rumba and King of La SAPE, and an African Planetary Star. Of his mother who was a professional ‘wailing woman,’ he said: “My mother was my first teacher and my first public. … I grew up with my mother’s melancholic singing. … When I will sing, she will say “my son, block here, and now project your voice“… when I did well, she will clap for me“(source: Tv5 – Africanité). For his mother, he composed Mama and Maria Valencia. Enjoy! Happy Mothers’s Day.

National Museum of Ireland forges plan to return looted Benin bronzes

Queen from Benin kingdom
Queen from Benin kingdom, exposed at the MET

The National Museum of Ireland has now forged plans to return the looted Benin bronzes. I hope their plans actually take form! Wen I hear of all these museums planning to return all these African artifacts, I cannot help but notice that the loot was a general or rather an international concerted affair… remember how we always hear about the international community? As you can see the distribution of the loot, in the case at hand, that of Benin City (Benin City: the Majestic City the British burnt to the ground), was done among all those European countries! This brings shivers! Moreover, when I see this, I cannot help but wonder why these museums are now so conscientious and are all talking about repatriation of these bronzes, particularly when these looted artifacts have generated millions upon millions of euros each year to their museums as part of tourism. Why will they be so happy to forfeit millions of euros in revenues for our poor African souls who not long ago were deemed too backward to take care of our very own artifacts? Also, with 3D printing being so ‘hip’ these days, I wonder if Africans will be getting the original artifacts? How will we know? Enjoy! Excerpts below are from the Sunday Times.

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The National Museum of Ireland (NMI) intends to return 21 historical artefacts looted from Nigeria in the 1890s. The Benin bronzes, which were stolen by British soldiers, have been the subject of renewed focus in recent months, with growing pressure on cultural institutions to return them.

While there is no formal plan for when the Benin bronzes will be returned, the NMI said it was committed to progressing “a restitution process” for the artefacts.