The repatriation of human remains more than a century after they were taken to Germany from Namibia has evoked painful memories of colonial wars in which primary African resistance was crushed, and genocide perpetrated (1904–08) in what was then the colony of German South West Africa. This contribution situates the current issues and practices of memory politics between Namibia and Germany within their historical context.


On 22 March 2012, the German parliament will debate a motion to acknowledge its brutal 1904-08 genocide of the Nama and Herero peoples. Germany’s refusal thus far, and its less than even ‘diplomatic’ treatment in 2011 of the Namibian delegation at the first-ever return of the mortal remains of genocide victims, demands a reassessment of suppressed colonial histories and racism.

'The German Bundestag is requested to adopt the following motion:
1. The German Bundestag remembers the crimes perpetrated by the colonial troops of the German Empire in the former colony of German South-West Africa, and bows down in memory of the victims of expulsions, expropriation, forced labour, massacres, rape, medical experiments, deportations to other German colonies, and inhuman confinement in internment camps. Academic studies estimate that the war of extermination between more

'We – the Black and white initiatives, organisations and institutions of the civil society signed below - welcome the conciliatory approach adopted by the German Federal Government as demonstrated by the visit to Namibia by the Director General of African Affairs from the Federal Foreign Office in early February 2012. We also welcome the resulting commencement of direct talks with the committees representing the descendants of the victims of the German genocide of 1904-08. We consider this more

Namibia’s indigenous Himba and Zemba people of Kaokoland in the far north-west of the country, long thought to be voiceless, isolated and marginalized, are demanding that the Namibian government ends forced land grabbing, halts plans for the Orokawe Dam in the Kunene region, stops interfering in ancestral tribal institutions, provides culturally sensitive schools and allows them to move freely across the border with Angola.