Prayers for Safe Return of Skulls

A group of Herero women, Windhoek, Namibia.

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Prayers for Safe Return of Skulls.

Sep 26, 2011 (The Namibian/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) — ABOUT 2,000 people gathered at the Bet-el Lutheran parish in Katurura on Tuesday evening to pray for the safe return of the Namibian skulls expected to arrive in Namibia on October 4.

The emotional service, jointly organised by the Nama and Ovaherero technical committees, was attended by multi-dominational church congregations.

Notable figures on the Namibian political and social landscape were Herero Paramount chief Kaimu Riruako, chief Frederick Luiperdt, Ida Hoffmann, Isaac Kaulinge, Festus Mundjua, and prominent church leaders.

Sadly, despite invitations to the Offices of the President and Prime Minister, members of both houses of
Parliament, various ministries and the National Youth Council, political parties and trade unions, members of the German Embassy, and Windhoek mayor Elaine Trepper, there was no representation.

Among those who did attend the church service, there was a palpable sense that the return of the skulls is the first step towards atonement for the genocidal war of 1904 to 1908.

But atonement comes with reparations, emphasised Festus Munjua.

“Atonement is the reconciliation of the German people with us through reparation; this cannot be achieved
unless and until we sit down and talk,” he said. “Reparation must be paid because it is a legitimate demand of the people.”

He urged the 61-strong delegation that leaves for Germany to return the skulls must raise the issue of
reparation in the officiation.

Munjua said the return of the skulls, which were kept at German museums and various universities, is in keeping with the decolonisation, and “towards healing of colonial wounds, forgiveness, reconciliation and a lasting peaceful co-existence between the people of our two countries” and amongst the Namibian people.

The return of the skulls, said member of the joint technical committee and former Member of Parliament Ida Hoffmann, is an important historic journey for Namibia.

“The body parts were acquired under brutal circumstances by the German colonial forces for research bound on confirming the ‘lower cast or sub-human’ status of our people,” she said.

The wheels to retrieve the body parts started moving with the motion in Parliament by Herero Paramount chief Kaima Riruako in September 2006.

He motivated the motion by saying: “Some of us tend to think that only the dead are victims. When children lose parents, that loss is not only felt by the family and community, but also by generations to come. When people are displaced, they lose their sense of security and belonging.”

“We have come a long way since the adoption of the motion calling for reparations negotiations with Germany over the genocide against the Herero, Nama and Damara people,” said Hoffmann.

There were internal dialogues amongst the representatives of these groups, as well as external dialogues with Germany and formal and informal research which resulted in the identification of the “genocidal remains” kept in Germany.

This was subsequently followed with bilateral negotiations that have identified the first set of Namibian skulls to be repatriated.

“But mind you, for an important journey that has shifted into second gear, the journey is far from over and is only now beginning,” vowed Hoffmann.

Bishop Zephania Kameeta who will be in the Namibian delegation to Germany said this trip should not fragment the unity of Namibia.

“If we quarrel amongst ourselves the others will look at us with suspicion,” he said. “Let us go united and
convince the others we are one nation, one Namibia,” urged Kameeta.

The delegation will leave this Sunday and is expected back in Namibia by October 4.

Until then, members of the congregation were urged to wear a black lapel.

Copyright The Namibian. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (


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