Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Belgium, Germany & Britain’s relay-genocides race of first half of 20th century Africa: Herero, Nama, Derg Damara, Igbo

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

Genocidists’ suite

IN OCTOBER 1904, Lother von Trotha (pictured above), the general officer commanding the genocidist German military forces engaged in the genocide of the Herero, Nama and Derg Damara peoples of southwest Africa (contemporary Namibia) issued the following proclamation which he unambiguously captioned an “Extermination Order”: “The Herero people will have to leave the country. Otherwise I shall force them to do so by means of guns … [E]very Herero, whether found armed or unarmed, with or without cattle, will be shot. I shall not accept any more women and children. I shall drive them back to their people – otherwise I shall order shots to be fired at them. These are my orders to the Herero people” (Quoted in Horst Drechsler, “Let Us Die Fighting”: The Struggle of the Herero and Nama against German Imperialism, 1884-1915, London: Zed, 1980: 156-157)

A. Consequences: Haunting milestones

(1)  1904-1907: In this German state-organised genocide of Herero people, supervised by Lother von Trotha, the Germans murdered 65,000 out of 80,000 Herero during the period – i.e., 80 per cent of the total Herero population was wiped out
(2)  1904-1907: In this German state-organised genocide of Nama people, supervised by Lother von Trotha, the Germans murdered 10,000 Nama during the period  – i.e., 50 per cent of the total Nama population was wiped out
(3)  1904-1907: In this German state-organised genocide of Berg Damara people, supervised by Lother von Trotha, the Germans do not have the original population figure for the Berg Damara at the onset of the genocide, but, according to their own estimates, the genocidists may have wiped out 30 per cent of the total Berg Damara population by 1907
LEST WE FORGET, Germany had duly received the lead European-World powers’ instituted relay-genocides-in-Africa race baton from none other than Leopold II (pictured above), first cousin of Queen Victoria of England, grandson of  King Louis Philippe of France, and second king of the Belgians. It was now evident, if ever there were any doubts, that the European World-conqueror/conquest state in Africa, the “Berlin-state”right from the outset, in the wake of the infamous November 1884-February 1885 Berlin conference, was at once an occupying and genocide state. During the course of 30 years, 1878-1908, genocidist Leopold II-led Belgian monarchy/state carried out the genocide of constituent peoples in the Congo basin of central Africa (2,442,240 sq km landmass, 80 times the size of Belgium). Leopold II and the Belgian state murdered 13 million African constituent peoples (Isidore Ndaywel  è Nziem, Histoire générale du Congo: De l'héritage ancien à la République Démocratique, Paris: Duculot, 1998: 344). The génocidaire Belgian king was adamant why he supervised this long-stretched genocide, equally obsessed, as his other European league of conquerors,  with Belgian’s own share of the conquest and occupation of Africa: “I do not want to risk … losing a fine chance to secure for ourselves a slice of this magnificent African cake” (Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999: 58).

B. Consequences: Haunting milestones
JUST OVER 60 YEARS to the day after German genocidist general von Throta’s “Extermination Order” to destroy the Herero, Nama and Berg Damara peoples of southwest Africa, Britain, occupying the prized lands of southwestcentral Africa 2200 miles away in the wake of the Berlin conference, took over the baton of the European World relay-genocides race in Africa from Germany. In May 1966, Britain, under the prime ministership of Harold Wilson (pictured above), embarked on the genocide of Igbo people. Beginning in the mid-1930s, the Igbo had spearheaded the restoration-of-independence movement for the constituent peoples in British-occupied Nigeria – an agglomeration of states that are a hefty slice indeed of the scrumptious African cake à la Leopold II. Harold Wilson sought to “punish” the Igbo for their historic role. Instructively, unlike the Belgians and Germans earlier, the British were able to construct a panoply of pan-African nations from north Nigeria (especially Hausa-Fulani, Kanuri, Nupe, Jukun, Bachama, Jawara) and west Nigeria (particularly Yoruba, Itsekiri, Edo) to directly execute this genocide against an African people on the ground, on its behalf. But the actual operationalising mission itself could easily have been taken directly from von Throta’s “Extermination Order”. For Britain, its eminent position in Africa (and the rest of the world) during this epoch could not be exaggerated. It was now the European World premier power in Africa after being part of the victorious US-led alliance that defeated its German global-domination rivals twice in the essentially intra-European wars of 1914-1918 (so-called World War I) and 1939-1945 (so-called World War II). 

Such was the sheer impudence of Harold Wilson as he oversaw the slaughter of the Igbo from his 10 Downing Street London official residence,  particularly in the catastrophic months of 1968-1969, that he went on record to inform Clyde Ferguson, the United States state department special coordinator for relief to Biafra, that he, Harold Wilson, “would accept a half million dead Biafrans if that was what it took” Nigeria to destroy the Igbo resistance to the genocide (Roger MorrisUncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy, London & New York: Quartet Books, 1977: 122). Few would fail to note the  grotesquely expressed diminution of African life made by a supposedly leading politician of the world of the 1960s – barely 20 years after the deplorable perpetration of the Jewish genocide in Europe. Besides, Britain was a key participant in the drafting of the crucial 1948 UN convention on the crime of genocide, 18 years before it launched the Igbo genocide, and one of its early signatories. Britain and its pan-African allies eventually murdered 3.1 million Igbo, 25 per cent of this nation’s population. 

As the final tally of the murder of the Igbo people demonstrates, Harold Wilson probably had the perverted satisfaction of having his Nigerian subalterns perform far in excess of the prime minister’s grim target, a subject coldly stated in Wilson’s own memoirs where he notes that the Nigerian military, equipped zealously by Britain, expended more small arms ammunition in its campaign to achieve its annhilative mission in the Igbo genocide than the amount used by the British armed forces  “during the whole” of  the 1939-1945 war or “World War II” (Harold WilsonLabour Government, 1964-1970: A Personal Record, London: Wiedenfeld & Nicolson, 1971: 630, added emphasis). On this feature, Colonel Robert Scott, military advisor in the British diplomatic mission in Nigeria during the Igbo genocide acknowledges, equally gravely, that as Nigerian genocidist military forces unleashed their attacks on Igbo cities, towns and villages, they were the “best defoliant agent known” (Daily Telegraph, London, 11 January 1970).

Survivors’ commitment

And those that create out of the holocaust of their own inheritance anything more than a convenient self-made tomb shall be known as ‘Survivors’” (single sentence liner note on Keith Jarrett, The Survivors’ Suite, 1976)

Someone or a people that survives genocide is at once a survivor and victor, hence that stunning incantation of the triumph of life itself on the morrow of overcoming the slaughter, the dehumanisation, the immiseration: “Happy Survival”!

The Derg Damara, Herero, Igbo and Nama are survivors and victors and precisely because of these outcomes, these peoples will play a critical role in charting the very nature of the future relationship of Africa and Belgium, Germany, Britain and the rest of the European World. The perpetrators of these genocides, Belgium, Britain and Germany must acknowledge and atone, fully, for executing these crimes against humanity. These crimes will never be forgotten by the survivors and victors. This is the proclamation that surely endures and not General von Trotha’s “Extermination Order”.
(Keith Jarrett’s American QuartetThe Survivors’ Suite {beginning and conclusion} [personnel: Jarrett, piano, soprano saxophone, bass recorder, celeste, drums; Dewey Redman, tenor saxophone, percussion; Charlie Haden, bass; Paul Motian, drums, percussion; recorded: Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg, Germany, {?} April 1976])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

1 comment:

  1. My entire life is devoted to the independence of Biafra from Nigeria and Britain anyway.