.Following protracted negotiations, it has been announced that the skulls of hundreds of Herero and Nama people slain by German colonial troops bent on subduing what they
called South West Africa will be returned to Namibia on October 4. Their skulls were taken to Germany for anthroplogical research from 1904 to 1907; but now more than 100 years later German authorities have finally agreed to return the skulls. Namibians have been agitating for reparations for the massacre of an estimated 65 000 Herero and Nama people by Germany.
The mass killings between 1904 and 1907 are regarded as the first genocide of the 20th century. On January 12, 1904 the Herero - led by Samuel Maherero - rebelled against Germany colonial rule. In August, German General Lothar van Trotha defeated the Herero in the Battle of Waterberg and drove them to the desert in the Omaheke Region, where many died of thirst when the Germans poisoned wells and the few other water sources. This was after the general had issued his 'extermination order', which sought to clear the land of all Herero people. In October of the same year, the Nama people also rebelled against the Germans only to suffer a similar fate. Estimates say when the uprising started, there were around 80 000 Herero but by 1907 there were just 15 000. In 1985, the United Nations Whitaker Report classified this as an attempt to exterminate the Herero and Nama people. The government of Germany acknowledged its guilt in 2004 but has ruled out any financial compensation. This has not stopped a group of Herero from suing Germany for its crimes against humanity, though the Namibia government has been strangely quiet about assisting their cause.
Philip T Shingirai and Mabasa Sasa, 'A long-awaited homecoming', Southern Times, 30-09-2011
Deborah Cole, 'Germany to hand back stolen Namibian skulls' AFP October 1, 2011