Germany for the first time on Friday recognised it had committed genocide in Namibia during its colonial occupation, with Berlin promising financial support worth more than one billion euros to aid projects in the African nation.
“We will now officially refer to these events as what they are from today’s perspective: genocide,” said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in a statement.
He hailed the agreement after more than five years of negotiations with Namibia over events in the territory held by Berlin from 1884 to 1915.
German settlers killed tens of thousands of indigenous Herero and Nama people in 1904-1908 massacres, which historians have called the first genocide of the 20th century.
“In light of the historical and moral responsibility of Germany, we will ask forgiveness from Namibia and the victims’ descendants” for the “atrocities” committed, Maas said.
In a “gesture to recognise the immense suffering inflicted on the victims”, Berlin will support the “reconstruction and the development” of Namibia via a financial programme of 1.1 billion euros ($1.34 billion), he said, but specified it was not compensation on a legal basis.
The sum will be paid over 30 years, according to sources close to the negotiations, and must primarily benefit the descendants of the Hereo and Nama peoples.
The atrocities committed during colonisation have poisoned relations between the two nations for years.
Deprived of their livestock and land, the Hereo revolted in 1904, killing around a hundred colonisers. A year later, the Nama would also rebel.
German General Lothar von Trotha — sent to put down the uprisings — ordered the peoples’ extermination.
At least 60,000 Hereos and around 10,000 Namas were killed between 1904 and 1908.
Colonial soldiers carried out mass executions; exiled men, women, and children to the desert where thousands died of thirst; and established infamous concentration camps, such as the one on Shark Island.