Namibia’s President Hage Geingob on Thursday said the country’s former coloniser Germany was ready to apologise for targeted mass killings of two ethnic groups at the start of the twentieth century.
The German occupiers of Namibia killed tens of thousands of indigenous Herero and Nama people in 1904-1908 massacres, which historian have called the first genocide of the 20th century.
Germany had been negotiating an agreement with Namibia that would combine an official apology with development aid since 2015.
“The Federal Republic of Germany has agreed that the events of 1904-1908 can be termed genocide and they are ready to render an apology at the highest level of German government,” Geingob announced during an address to parliament on Thursday.
Germany has acknowledged that atrocities occurred at the hands of its colonial authorities. Some German officials have even acknowledged a genocide occurred.
But Berlin has repeatedly refused to pay direct reparations, citing millions of euros in development aid to the Namibian government.
Germany seized the territory of modern-day Namibia in the late 19th century under Otto von Bismarck, as part of the so-called Scramble for Africa by European colonisers.
It was called German South West Africa during Germany’s 1884-1915 rule, and then passed under South Africa rule for 75 years, finally gaining independence in 1990.
Tensions boiled over in 1904 when the Herero rose up, followed by the Nama, in an insurrection crushed by German imperial troops.
In the Battle of Waterberg in August 1904, around 80,000 Herero fled including women and children.
German troops went after them across what is now known as the Kalahari Desert. Only 15,000 Herero survived.