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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - BERLIN — Germany has agreed to recognize as genocide its colonial-era killings of tens of thousands of people in Namibia.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced the move on Friday, saying the country would seek forgiveness from Namibia and relatives of the victims, as well as a "joint path to genuine reconciliation".
He added that Germany would also commit to spending 1.1 billion euros ($1.34 billion) on mostly development projects over the next 30 years.
"In light of Germany's historical and moral responsibility, we will ask Namibia and the descendants of the victims for forgiveness," Maas said in a statement.
"Our aim was and is to find a joint path to genuine reconciliation in remembrance of the victims. 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.”
The accord comes as a result of more than five years of talks with Namibia about the four-year period during Germany's reign as the nation's colonial ruler.
According to historians, German General Lothar von Trotha was sent in 1904 to quash an uprising from the Herero people in what was then German Southwest Africa. He is said to have told his troops to wipe out the entire tribe.
This reportedly led to the killings of 65,000 Herero people and at least 10,000 Nama.
In 2015, Germany and Namibia initially began talks over the potential agreement - more than a decade after then-Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul offered Germany's first apology for the killings.
Wieczorek-Zuel was on a visit to Namibia in 2004 when she made the apology and said the killings were "what today would be labeled as genocide".
On Friday, Maas said the 1.1 billion euros pledged to Namibia would signal "a gesture of recognition of the incalculable suffering" and would help with a "rebuilding and development" programs in which "the communities affected by the genocide will take a decisive role."
He also noted that the cash would not be available for compensation claims, reflecting Germany's position that the Genocide Convention 1947 cannot be applied retroactively. Therefore its liability is political and moral rather than strictly legal.
The projects Germany will now fund are expected to stretch over a 30-year period and will cover areas such as land reform, including land purchases, agriculture, rural infrastructure, water supply and vocational training. They will be separate from continuing development aid to Namibia.
Germany says that representatives of the Herero and Nama were involved in the negotiations, though Berlin's direct dealings have been with the Namibian government.
Germany gained control of the desert country in the 1880s and surrendered the territory to South Africa in 1915. Namibia gained independence in 1990. —Euronews
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