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Namibia: Statue of German colonial ruler removed

  • November 24, 2022

Authorities in the Namibian capital Windhoek on Wednesday removed a statue of a German colonial governor following a campaign to have it taken down.

Windhoek city spokesman Harold Akwenya told German news agency DPA that the statue of Curt von Francois — considered by many to be the city’s founder — would be moved to the Independence Museum for safekeeping.

The statue of Windhoek's first governor being lifted by a crane
The statue of Curt von Francois will be moved to the Independence Museum with a decision yet to be made on what should replace itImage: Lisa Ossenbrink/dpa/picture alliance

Francois’ descendent slams removal of statue

The statue of von Francois had been standing since 1965. However, a petition to have it removed — because of what it represents to many Namibians — was started in 2020 by activist Hildegard Titus.

Former mayor of Windhoek Job Amupanda told DPA that the statue’s removal was “the beginning of a process to decolonize Windhoek.”

However, not all Namibians are happy to see the removal of von Francois’ statue. Local publication, The Namibian, spoke to von Francois’ great-grandson Ruprecht von Francois, who told the publication that the move was a slight on von Francois’ legacy and amounted to discrimination against Damara history.

Von Francois’ great-grandson said that his ancestor was married to his great-Grandmother — Amalia ǃGawaxas, who was a Damara princess — and that as the founder of Windhoek he “has done a lot for this country.”

Examining Germany’s brutal history in Namibia

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Who was von Francois?

Von Francois was a senior officer in the German colonial forces and according to colonial history, founded Windhoek in 1890.

In 1893, there were skirmishes between German soldiers sent to protect German settlers and local clans including the Herero and Nama. Von Francois ordered an attack on Nama Chief Hendrik Witbooi and the village of Hornkranz during which women, children and the elderly were massacred.

The German colonial forces, like others on the African continent, brutally suppressed any attempt at insurrection. In 1904 to 1907, mass murder took place and this period of history is now widely accepted as the 20th century’s first genocide. 

In May 2021, the German government recognized the atrocities committed against the Herero and Nama as genocide and pledged to spend €1.1 billion ($1.3 billion) over 30 years for infrastructure and development aid. 

The aid did not include official reparations. Herero and Nama leaders derided the payments as “unacceptable.” 

Berlin has rejected demands for new negotiations and insists on implementing the controversial deal.

kb/dj (dpa,KNA)

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