|Return of the Skulls: Government takes low ebb|
|Written by Bob Kandetu|
|Wednesday, 30 November 2011 23:16|
The latest in the spate of subtle debates is the announcement by Permanent Secretary Peingeondjambi Shipoh, that there were more skulls in Germany that belong to Namibia and that the government preferred to repatriate these skulls without emotion. This has raised eyebrows among some of the communities, more so those that have engineered the return of the skulls in the first place: How can the government announce the method of return without due regard to their emotions? |
Shipoh announced that, one of the reasons it will happen this way, is because the government has no money to spend on this exercise, after all, rituals such as those that were performed with the first repatriation exercise can be performed in Namibia. Furthermore, Shipoh must have said that, UNESCO policy prohibits the exhibition of human remains without the consent of the particular person before they died, or permission from the person’s family. And in the event of the skulls we do not know who the persons are and, that is why there is no permission, notwithstanding the fact that leaders from these communities put their neck on the line long before the government understood their plight.
I find Shipoh’s remarks somewhat in bad taste and insensitive at that. The initiative to repatriate the skulls was taken not by government, but by leaders of the affected communities. Therefore, the initiative must be left to guide the modus operandi in all respects, for the repatriation of all the thousands of the Nama and Ovaherero skulls that are still hidden in Germany.
While to the casual observer the rituals have no meaning and are just a cosmetic, pass-time exercise, for the affected communities this is critical to their survival, for this is the medium that re-unites the parents who were killed and beheaded as such with their descendants. Hence the pleas by those who performed these rituals in Germany, that they, the deceased, please agree to be repatriated to fill the void they left in their country of birth. So, the assumption that the rituals in question were a non-emotional pass-time affair whose necessity will dissipate with the government’s announcement that there is no money to take people to Germany to perform the rituals is as presumptive as it is dangerous.
Equally unfortunate is the assumption that, because the government does not want to spend money on this expedition, those with deep devotions to the plight of their communities cannot find a way of going to Germany on their own volition, to petition the skulls of their fore-bearers as originally intended. The very position of keeping the affected communities out of the equation brings the conundrum close to the position taken by the resident Ambassador of Germany, that the Namibian delegation that went to Germany went there with hidden agendas and must not be allowed to travel there anymore, an assertion bordering on arrogance on the part of the German government.
To this end, the Namibian government will have to come out clean.