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Germany acknowledges it committed genocide in Namibia

Germany acknowledges it committed genocide in Namibia
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Germany on Friday formally acknowledged that in the early 20th century it committed genocide during its colonial occupation of what is now Namibia, killing at least 75,000 people. 

The government has also agreed to spend 1.1 billion euros, or $1.3 billion, on development projects among communities that descended from the victims, according to a statement from German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas

“In the light of Germany’s historical and moral responsibility, we will ask Namibia and the descendants of the victims for forgiveness,” Maas said. 

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“Our aim was and is to find a joint path to genuine reconciliation in remembrance of the victims,” he continued, adding, “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,” Maas said. 

The announcement comes after more than five years of negotiations between the two countries. A spokesman for Namibia's president said the news was received as a “first step in the right direction,” according to The Washington Post.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, told reporters in Berlin, “We are thankful that these long-running negotiations on how to deal with this dark chapter of our joint history could be brought to a good conclusion for both sides,” The Associated Press reported. 

According to historians, German Gen. Lothar von Trotha instructed his colonial forces between 1904 and 1908 to put down an uprising by the Herero and Nama tribes. 

An estimated 65,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama died in the killings, with many taken to labor and concentration camps in the Kalahari desert where they died of exhaustion and starvation, the Post reported. 

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According to the German foreign ministry’s press release, the project fund for Namibia will cover 30 years of development plans, including land reform, land purchase, agriculture, rural infrastructure, water supply and vocational training. 

The German government said the fund is separate from its continued foreign development aid to Namibia. 

The agreement Friday between Germany and Namibia does not include direct reparations that victims’ descendants had lobbied for, with Maas saying in his statement, “Legal claims to compensation cannot be derived from this.”

However, the foreign minister said “the communities affected by the genocide will take a decisive role” in the coordination and implementation of the agreed upon development projects.