In the early 20th century, Germany killed tens of thousands of indigenous Herero and Nama tribespeople in Namibia, its former colonial territory, reports NBC News, but over a century later, Germany officially called the actions a genocide for the first time.

  • Germany has pledged $1.34 billion in reconstruction and developmental projects for impacted communities, said BBC.

These reconciliation funds and the preceding negotiations are the first of their kind between a former colonial power and a former colony, according to BBC.

What happened during the Herero-Nama Namibian Genocide?

Between 1904 and 1908, Germany killed about 75,000 Herero and Nama people — about 80% of Herero people and nearly 50% of Nama people — after the indigenous groups rebelled against colonial rule, The Associated Press and NBC News reported.

German troops shot, tortured or drove people into the desert. Germany established concentration camps where men, women and children died from starvation, exhaustion, disease, sexual exploitation and medical experiments, reported BBC.

  • Germany occupied Namibia from 1884 to 1915, calling the country German South West Africa. In 1915, South Africa took control of the territory. In 1990, Namibia gained its independence, said the AP.

Historians consider the Herero-Nama genocide to be the first genocide of the 20th century and have referred to it as “the forgotten genocide,” says BBC. Germany’s colonial past has largely gone ignored due to focusing on the country’s Nazi crimes around the Holocaust, reports NBC News.

  • “The UN defines genocide as a number of acts, including killing, committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group,” reported the BBC.

What is Germany’s apology?

The joint statement issued in May between Germany and Namibia did not include the terms “reparations” or “compensation” but called the funds a “gesture of reconciliation,” said The Guardian. The statement denies providing reparations for fear of such language setting a legal precedent that could result in claims from other nations.

  • Germany has previously acknowledged its “moral responsibility” in the genocide but denied any form of financial compensation to impacted communities, says NBC News.

“We will now officially refer to these events as what they are from today’s perspective: genocide,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said per NBC News.

  • Formal negotiations on the issue began in 2015. Germany is the first colonial power to have this kind of discussion with their former colony, says BBC.

“Our aim was and is to find a joint path to genuine reconciliation in remembrance of the victims,” Maas said per The Guardian.

How will the funds be used?

Germany will give $1.34 billion over the span of 30 years. The funds will be separate from developmental aid to Namibia and will go toward infrastructure projects and training programs in the affected Herero and Nama communities, says BBC.

How have Namibians responded?

According to The Washington Post, many Herero and Nama people feel excluded from the current discussions. Indigenous activists and leaders have withheld their support for the joint agreement on the grounds that the statement is not enough. These individuals continue to push for reparations, says The Guardian.

A Namibian government spokesperson said Germany's statement is “a first step in the right direction,” says the BBC.