BERLIN – Germany on Friday apologized for its role in the slaughter of Herero and Nama tribesmen in Namibia more than a century ago and for the first time officially described the massacre as genocide as it agreed to projects worth over a billion euros finance.
German soldiers killed around 65,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama members in a campaign from 1904 to 1908 after an uprising against land seizures by colonists, which historians and the United Nations have long termed the first genocide of the 20th century.
While Germany has previously recognized its “moral responsibility” for the murders, it has avoided officially apologizing for the massacres in order to avoid claims for damages.
In a statement announcing an agreement with Namibia after more than five years of negotiations, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that the events of the German colonial era should be named “without sparing or glossing over them”.
“We will now officially call these events what they were from today’s perspective: genocide,” said Maas.
“In view of Germany’s historical and moral responsibility, we will ask forgiveness from Namibia and the descendants of the victims,” he said.
Germany has agreed to finance reconstruction and development projects amounting to 1.1 billion euros, which will directly benefit the communities affected by genocide.
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Namibian media reported Thursday that the money would fund infrastructure, health and education programs over 30 years.
Germany, which lost all of its colonial territories after the First World War, was the third largest colonial power after Great Britain and France. However, the colonial past was ignored for decades as historians and politicians focused more on the legacy of Nazi crimes, including the Holocaust.
Formal negotiations began with Namibia on the issue in 2015, and in 2018 skulls and other remains of massacred tribesmen used in colonial experiments to assert claims of European racial superiority were returned.