As nations and societies worldwide celebrate International Human Rights Day on Sunday, the Namakhoe or Nama nation of Namibia, will not join the celebration….Professor Fritz Isak Dirkse explains….

Once again, we remind our readers of GLOBE POST’s steadfast dedication to promoting indigenous languages, heritage and culture, recognizing the rich tapestry of diversity that contributes to our global society. Through our commitment to inclusive storytelling and fostering a deep appreciation for indigenous traditions, we strive to ensure that the voices, languages, and legacies of these communities are celebrated and preserved for generations to come.

GLOBE POST is pleased to introduce an additional independent columnist, Professor Fritz Isak Dirkse. He will join Lelani Jacobs, a champion for Nama language and heritage, by highlighting the ‘deliberate’ genocide of the Nama nation who continue to suffer to this day.

About Fritz Isak Dirkse: Born in southern Namibia, he has dedicated over three decades to advancing Nama language, culture, and history. After completing secondary school in 1991, he embarked on a 31-year teaching career, contributing significantly to the development of Nama language grammar and literature textbooks. As a member of the Nama Language Development Committee since 1999, Fritz played a pivotal role in crafting secondary school Nama language materials, making Nama the fastest-growing African language in Namibia in terms of publications.

His commitment extended to collaborations with Namian College of Open Learning (NAMCOL) and Pan-South African Language Board (PanSALB) on language study guides, literature materials, and spelling rules for South African Nama. Beyond academia, Fritz established a renowned culture group, representing Namibia at international festivals. In 2006, he released an album of Nama traditional music, earning recognition at the Namibia Annual Music Awards in 2007.

In 2015, Fritz was appointed by the Nama Traditional Leaders’ Association (NTLA) Technical Committee on Genocide, focusing on culture, heritage, and advising Nama leaders on language, history, and culture. He played a crucial role in repatriating human remains from Germany to Namibia in 2018. An accomplished author, Fritz’s publications, including “Gaob Hendrik Tseib, King of Kharo!oan and founder of Keetmanshoop” (2016) and “Hornkranz Massacre – The start of colonial wars in Namibia” (2019), contribute to preserving, developing, and promoting Nama history, arts, and culture.

GLOBE POST is honoured to welcome Professor Fritz Isak Dirkse as an esteemed columnist, bringing his wealth of knowledge and experience to our platform.

The Nama Genocide – An Introduction

As nations and societies worldwide celebrated International Human Rights Day on Sunday, December 10, 2023, the Namakhoe, or the Nama nation of Namibia, will not join the celebration. This nation continues to suffer from the violation of their basic human rights, a consequence of a war that began a hundred and thirty years ago against one of the world’s most brutal aggressors, Germany. Unfortunately, the rights of the Nama people were never restored.

This European power is infamous not only for its involvement in starting both World War I and World War II but also for the genocide that claimed the lives of six million Jews in the latter conflict.The land of the Namakhoe, Kai-Namakhoe!hūb, translated by Europeans as Great Namaqualand, encompasses the entire southern half of Namibia, covering 40% of the country’s total surface area (Hoernle, 1985). The Nama people are direct descendants of the Khoekhoen, who, along with the Sān people, trace their lineage back to the hunter-gatherer Stone Age people – the first to roam eastern and southern Africa for millennia. They are believed to be the ancestors of all Khoe groups in South Africa, except the Korana and Ainikhoe (Einiqua), who are sister nations to the Nama.

In 1884, Germany decided to colonize Namibia, including Kai-Namakhoeland, to settle its own people. Namakhoeland had thirteen sovereign states governed by a gaob, or king in English. Germany’s strategy involved using missionaries as advance agents, followed by merchants and eventually the military. The favorite saying of Prince Bismarck, “the missionary and the trader must precede the soldier,” held true for Namibia as well. The signing of so-called protection treaties with Nama states, aimed at colonizing them after breaching the natural defense systems of these sovereign states, was not without challenges.

Leaders like Gaob ǀGabemab !Nanseb or Hendrik Witbooi, by his European name, refused to sign such a treaty when approached on June 9, 1892 (Drechsler, 1966). Captain Curt Von Francois, the German governor in Namibia at the time, decided to use military force to subdue Gaob !Nanseb and requested reinforcements. Subsequently, Imperial German Chancellor Leo von Caprivi announced in the German parliament on March 1, 1893, “South West Africa belongs to us! It is ours! It will remain as such!” and sent reinforcements.

Hours before the attack, Von Francois instructed his soldiers, “The objective of this mission is to destroy the tribe of the Witboois.” On April 12, 1893, Gaob !Nanseb’s settlement of ǁNâǂgâs (Hornkranz) was attacked. In the midst of the attack, not knowing the instruction to destroy the tribe and expecting ‘Nama norms of war,’ Gaob !Nanseb maneuvered his troops away from the settlement to save the lives of women, children, and vulnerable members of his tribe. Shockingly, the Germans killed almost 50% of these very women, children, and vulnerable people in the most barbaric manner, while the rest were captured as prisoners of war. The Germans did not pursue Gaob! Nanseb and his men as expected. This attack signaled the start of the Nama-German War, which lasted until March 1908.

In 1904, the war intensified, and Germany issued an extermination proclamation against the Nama on April 22, 1905, translated into Nama and Cape Dutch languages and published on April 23, 1905. However, this did not deter the courageous Nama, and Germany further issued an expropriation ordinance on December 26, 1905, by which all land and properties of the Nama would be confiscated.

Both ordinances were executed through brutal mass killings of unarmed masses. Land, livestock, and other properties were taken. Despite Germany’s demonstration of military power in World War II by seizing Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, half of Poland, and parts of Finland and Romania in one year (Culpin, 1984), Germany couldn’t defeat the Nama people, whom they regarded as savages, on the battlefield over fifteen years. Using the same missionaries, this time as mediators, Germany entered into peace agreements with Nama leaders, only to capture them afterward. Rapes, tortures and killings continued in the most unimaginable ways in the concentration camps. After the war, about 50% to 75% of the Nama nation was killed, resulting in genocide. The term genocide, which simply means the “deliberate killing of members of a specific race or tribe with the aim of destroying that race or tribe,” was coined after World War II.

The UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948, describing genocide as “a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, in whole or in part.” The process of destruction is not limited to direct killing in war and executions but includes the infliction of conditions that will lead to the eventual destruction of the particular group.

It is important to emphasize that very similar actions were taken against the Ovaherero peoples of today’s Namibia by Imperial Germany, with about 80% to 95% of the Ovaherero nation killed, and their land, livestock, and other properties expropriated. After the political independence of Namibia and continued pressure from Nama and Ovaherero peoples, resulting in the Namibian parliament’s resolution on Genocide-Apology-Reparations, the Federal Government of Germany approached the SWAPO-led government of Namibia for ‘genocide negotiations.’ Among the many preconditions dictated by German negotiators to their Namibian counterparts, the expressed exclusion and/or refusal for the direct participation of Nama and Ovaherero remain imperative for the two governments. For this reason, Nama and Ovaherero communities, all opposition parties in the country, the Namibian nation at large, and United Nations Special Rapporteurs have rejected the Joint Declaration (an agreement) issued by the two governments of Germany and Namibia.

One thought on “As nations and societies worldwide celebrate International Human Rights Day on Sunday, the Namakhoe or Nama nation of Namibia, will not join the celebration….Professor Fritz Isak Dirkse explains….

  • December 8, 2023 at 8:47 pm

    It’s a good piece of story to read. I’m in agreement with that. Interesting points.


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