By Emily Dickinson-Holdcroft, BA Social Anthropology
Ovaherero Indigenous Nation of Afrika currently fighting for reparatory justice for the genocide of the Ovaherero and Nama people, committed by Germany in 1904. This act of genocide, one that Britain is deeply complicit in given their integral involvement in the 1884-85 Berlin Conference, caused the death of 110,000 people, and is one instance of the Maangamizi* (Afrikan Hellacaust). Mbahupa has been campaigning with the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation (OGF) and traditional indigenous authorities throughout Afrika.
The history of the Ovaherero people is centuries old, but it is believed they first migrated southward to what is now called Namibia from central Afrika during the 16th century. It was only in the 19th century that the European colonisers arrived and applied their name of what was then ‘South West Africa’, allocating what is now Namibia to Germany. There were many occasions of resistance, with alliances between the Ovaherero and Nama people and an army led against the German troops by Samuel Maharero. This led to the regained control of much of the region but was followed by German colonialist’s ‘Extermination Order’ where 75% of the Herero population was killed. Those who survived often fled to neighbouring Botswana, yet when many people of the indigenous nation desired to return home following ‘independence’, the Botswanan and Namibian governments made it a requirement to leave herds and possessions behind when doing so leaving my Ovaherero stranded.
“Mbahupa’s work has pushed for the recognition of Ovaherero communities, who like many indigenous Afrikan communities have been written out of the syllabuses we study from, her work continues to further self-determination, reparations and international justice for the atrocities committed then and continuing on in forms of social injustices now.”
Mbahupa’s work has pushed for the recognition of Ovaherero communities, who like many indigenous Afrikan communities have been written out of the syllabuses we study from, her work continues to further self-determination, reparations and international justice for the atrocities committed then and continuing on in forms of social injustices now.
In 2004 Germany ‘apologised’ for what they recognised was a genocide against the Ovaherero people, negotiations further took place between 2015 and 2021 with how to move forward yet these were with the Namibian government and not descendants of those who were killed. In 2021, an offer of $1.3 billion was made to provide financial reparations over 30 years for development projects but the Herero and Nama people have openly rejected this proposal as inadequate; despite this, the Namibian government is considering an agreement. The focus on ‘development’ projects also speaks to perpetuated imposition of profit-making opportunities masked as ‘reparations’. There has been a complete lack of legal precedent set by Germany regarding reparations, and the ‘Reconciliation agreement’ does not discuss the fact that Herero and Nama land is still ‘owned’ by German Namibians.
Mbahupa’s work disrupts the legitimacy of neo-colonial control, in a country that only gained ‘independence’ in 1990, and brings light to crimes against humanity that have not seen justice and still heavily impact the Ovaherero and all Indigenous Nations fighting for liberation and sovereignty. As a result, she has faced persecution and violence, leading to her now submitting a political asylum claim here in Britain. Campaigning for Planet Repairs, the struggle for the reparatory justice liberation of the Ovaherero and other indigenous nations around the world, bringing pressure to the colonial state authorities in Namibia by demanding a plurinational assembly and solution to the colonial partition of Southern Afrika by European Countries and the UN. This could look like what has been achieved by Indigenous communities in Bolivia where the Plurinational State of Bolivia was won by popular demand and support allowing the majority indigenous communities to collectively secure their own self-determination and sovereignty and restore their leadership. This possibility has an impact for the struggles of freedom fighting communities everywhere to better organise together in internationalist solidarity.
However, as submitted in a support statement by the PRALER Law Community Lifelong Learning Study and Action Group (COLLSAG), these arguments naturally threaten the government in Namibia. They also threaten the whole constitution of Namibia, which makes Florence liable to the charge of treason risking her life and those of her community. The UK Home Office’s failure to secure a reparatory justice stay for Florence violates domestic and international law.
Despite the two attacks she has been victim of, her first asylum claim was rejected. The Crown court ‘did not accept that the account provided by the appellant in respect of being stabbed sufficiently demonstrated that the Namibian authorities were behind the attack’, leaving the question of how Mbahupa is supposed to provide satisfactory evidence for this whilst seeking refuge from her attackers. In addition, the courts ‘found that the appellant delayed in seeking asylum until after being in the UK for 4 months and considered that this damaged her credibility.’ This doubting of her ‘credibility’ highlights the issue of how those arriving in Britain are expected to immediately understand the deeply inaccessible layers of bureaucracy, whilst facing immense hardships. Context such as ‘The Caprivi Treason Trial of Namibia’ also provides vital evidence of the danger Mbahupa faces on return to Namibia, given the Caprivian freedom fighters have been imprisoned with claims of torture. Mbahupa’s campaign efforts also make her liable for treason, a fact which shall be emphasised in the fresh claim PRALER recently submitted.
PRALER argues the previous lost appeal was also in large part due to the failings of the Law Lane Solicitors that originally filed her case but refused to allow Mbahupa to submit signed statements of support and did not provide the courts with a true understanding of her position of political gravitas. In addition, this rejection of the asylum claim only further highlights the failure of the Vienna Convention in aiding refugees, as well as the systematic issues of a defunct legal system that only works to perpetuate the racist politics of Britain’s elite.
Beyond the case being essentially a fight for Mbahupa’s life given she is highly at risk if she were to return to Namibia, it is a case that reaches into the heart of discussions surrounding decolonisation. A win would mean recognition in the legal sphere that Mbahupa’s work – rejecting the colonially implemented borders and the acceptance of genocide – is valid, and is effective, as evidenced by the reactionary violence she has endured. This is one thread of the many global battles being fought to recognise, stop and repair the Maangamizi (Afrikan holocaust).
For more information about the case:
Mbahupa Action Support Team (MAST),
PRALER Migrants Action Learning Support Internationalist Link (PRALER-MALSIL)
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +44 7737 602 484
And for more updates on Florence’s case FB: PRALER MALSIL
*The Planet Repairs Action-Learning Educational Revolution (PRALER) was launched at SOAS in October 2022 as decolonial revolution taking back education for community empowerment. PRALER is brought forward by the Majority World Internationalist Solidarity Coordinating Council of Communities of Resistance (MWISCCCOR) building internationalist solidarity through educational action-learning.
Photo credit: Global Afrikan People’s Parliament Facebook