International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Reparations for Genocide Defendants

An interesting article I just read discussed reparations given to twenty-five OvaHerero and San households in Namibia for being the descendants of genocide victims. The families recently received cattle from the German Special Initiative Program through the National Planning Commission (NPC). Three cows were given to each of the households, who are descendants of OvaHerero/San/Nama people killed during the genocide committed by the German colonial army between 1904 and 1908. The cattle given were not supplied to the families permanently but were only given to them for three years so that they could reproduce calves that they could keep. After those three years, the program will collect the cattle and give them to other families on the beneficiary list. The councilor said the main purpose of rotating the cattle among beneficiaries is to improve the life of each and every descendant of the OvaHerero/San/Nama people killed during the 1904 to 1908 genocide.

This program seems almost laughable and reminds me of a question that Cohen discussed in his paper that asked, “At what point does justice delayed appear to the victims of mass atrocities as justice denied?” While it is admirable that these people respectable anything at all, I would say having to wait 100 years to see some type of justice is definitely justice denied.


3 responses to “Reparations for Genocide Defendants

  1. dlawrence27 October 27, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Not knowing much about this conflict, I was curious about the German Special Initiative and looked into it further. In 2006, the German government granted 20 million euros (N$200 million) towards the Special Initiative for “improving the social and economic living conditions” of communities that suffered during the German colonial period in Namibia. These programs were very local and small-scale—more than 200 projects are being managed by the communities themselves, based on their needs, including the livestock projects and other projects to improve the economic infrastructure. Apparently, the German Special Initiative was originally called a reconciliation initiative, but was later changed. It would seem to me that this could be seen as a sort of restorative justice based on reparations; however, Germany specifically clarified that the program did not constitute reparations. I agree that justice is denied, but it does not seem to be the goal of this initiative; rather, it seems to me that Germany’s actions were primarily based on what Germany felt was a moral, political, and historical responsibility.

  2. ookesanya October 28, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Thanks for the information! I read a little bit about the genocide (but not the program itself) at this link: and I guess the way they talked about life of the victims vs. those of the German settlers made me believe that the cows were given as reparations.

  3. slurie October 28, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Reparation is, for me, the unsolved issue of transitional justice. While we are developing many alternative mechanisms for a nation in transition from conflict or oppression, none of them seem to address the broad base of inequity that usually existed under the previous regime. While trials are important for elite perpetrators and TRCs can incorporate a more national narrative, there is little out there that adequately addresses material concerns that persist in the new era. More particularly there is often a remaining economic divide that remains between beneficiaries and victims of the oppressive regime. What is fair, and what can be done to address these circumstances? I don’t have an easy answer. One of the most present examples in this type of debate is certainly that of South Africa. There remains to be mass poverty among black South Africans and disproportionate economic standing among white ones. Much of this standing is leftover from what could be called “illegitimate advantages” gained during apartheid. Then again, can we really take money/resources away from those who benefited but were perhaps not actively supporting the apartheid regime? I am unsure. If you are very interested in this topic I suggest perusing Robert Meister’s new-ish book “After Evil”. Every question on the philosophical nature of transitional mechanisms, questioned again.

%d bloggers like this: