SWAPO United, SWAPO Victorious, Now hard work...

Get Involved

Sign Up Donate Networking Have Your Say

Join my SWAPO online community, to share your vision of a better Namibia, participate in discussion forums, and receive regular updates by e-mail.Make your voice heard: Tell the world about your views and suggestions. Write to newspapers, call in to talk shows, share your experiences of the first fifteen years of freedom, and how working together we can do more.


The Experience of the Africans in the American Diaspora in their struggle for Reparations and lessons for Namibians

By Morgan Moss
Let me begin by giving honor and congratulations to all the people of Namibia who fought, survived, and died in the struggle for Namibia's liberation from colonialism, and let us always remember and acknowledge the victims of the genocide/holocaust. Germany's first holocaust of the 19th century was practiced on the people of Namibia. You are the survivors of Namibia's holocaust, you are their children and it is up to you to give meaning to their deaths and suffering to ensure that Namibia is made whole to the extent possible by those accountable. The Extermination Order of the 2nd of October, 1904 was directed specifically against the Ovaherero. It is estimated that over 60,000 Herero were killed, only 15,000 survived. Other groups affected by the genocide included the Nama, the Damara, the San, and others.

Today I wish to highlight the issues of external and internal reparations and genocide/holocaust. Ovaherero societies need to be rebuilt after the genocide. Europe had its Marshall Plan after world war two, likewise Ovaherero, Nama, Damara, San, and other society's needs to be restored.

This paper focuses on the diversity of individual actors, organizations and institutions that for over a hundred years have made up the Black reparations movement in America. It will offer an introduction to some of the historical individuals and organizations who were the initial advocates for Black reparations in America.

The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N'COBRA) states that reparations is a process of repairing, healing and restoring a people injured, because of their group identity and in violation of their fundamental human rights, by governments or corporations. Those groups that have been injured, such as, the Ovaherero, Nama, Damara and San have the right to obtain from the government or corporations responsible for the injuries, that which they need to repair and heal themselves.

For example, free education, land, technology, release of political prisoners, free or affordable healthcare, equal employment opportunities, business opportunities, compensations, and debt release.

In addition to being a demand for justice, there is a moral basis for reparation, it is a principle of international human rights law. It is similar to the remedy for damages in domestic law that holds a person responsible for injuries suffered by another when the infliction of the injury violates domestic law. Groups that have obtained reparations include Jewish victims of the Nazi holocaust, Japanese Americans confined in concentration camps in the United States of America during world war two, Alaska natives for land, and resources taken, victims of the massacre in Rosewood, Florida and their descendants, Native Americans as a remedy for violations of Treaty rights, and political dissenters in Argentina and their descendants.

A key fundamental concept that we should consider is the "Maafa". It was the "Maafa" that has historically created the continuing genocidal conditions inflicted against Black people throughout the world.

The concept "Maafa" is a Swahili term meaning "a terrible tragedy". It describes tremendous suffering, indescribable atrocities, disasters, calamities, catastrophes, and injustices against African people as a consequence of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade system, slavery, colonization, and neo-colonialism.

In all regions of Africa that Black Africans were transported through, the Black African was involved in brutal wars implemented by the European aggressors interested in exploiting the human and natural resources of the richest continent on the planet earth. Those Blacks Africans that survived the genocidal wars became prisoners of war and were placed in detention and concentration camps. Some were transported to the Americas to be enslaved by their captors. It must be clearly understood that all Black Africans began their enslavement by force and conquest.

It is imperative that all Black African people understand and internalize these brief historical facts, just as the Jews or any other exploited group of people internalize their holocaust and act on it. We as Black African people must come to the collective reality of our "Maafa".

Genocide practice in America is the deliberate and systematic destruction of African- Americans by White American's racist socio-political, economic and cultural forces. America has created and implemented concepts that justify the annihilation of Black African people in America and then try to explain explain that such concepts do not exist. For example, the CIA involvement in cocaine distribution in Los Angeles, California in the early 1980s, in which the profits were used to finance the CIA backed contra army in Nicaragua.

This involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency ( CIA) caused the proliferation of the distribution and sale of crack cocaine across the African- American communities in America, causing serious devastation within the Black communities such as, drug addiction, mental health challenges, prison incarceration, and family instability, etc. The United States tried to downplay the CIA's involvement in this incident by saying that this was an isolated situation, but in fact this was not true.

Now that we have an understanding of the concept of the "Maafa", it should help to understand the concept of genocide. As a result of the "Maafa" and genocide against African people in Africa and the Diaspora, the new wave of the reparations movement worldwide must step up the demand for reparations as the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N'COBRA) is advocating, as well as many other African organizations throughout the world. The issue of reparations has sparked the interest of African people throughout the world, therefore, the question becomes, what does this new wave of the reparation movement mean for the just cause of the redemption and salvation of African people? According to Dr. Conrad Worrill, Former Chairman for the National Black United Front (NBUF), "when we talk about demands for reparations in America, we are talking about damages, compensation, release of political prisoners, and redress of those wrongs, so that the countries and the people that are suffering from the vestiges of slavery and colonization will enjoy full freedom to continue their own development on more equal terms".

Demands by freed Blacks for external reparations in America are well documented. After the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation (freeing Black people from enslavement in America) by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, freed Africans born in America as individuals and in organized groups began petitioning the United States government and pleaded for and insisted on redress for their enslavement.

Institutions such as the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen's and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedmen's Bureau argued " that confederate lands be redistributed to the free Black Africans in America and that some form of economic redistribution was their best chance of achieving independence".

"The Bureau was authorized by the Reconstruction Congress in March 1865 to help the South

Transition from an enslaving economy to a democratic society while also establishing basic Rights for Black Americans: In addition to distributing abandoned or confiscated confederate Lands, the Bureau was charged with establishing schools for the Freed Blacks and administering Justice on their behalf. As such, it had to mediate post-civil war political ideology, Black claims to equality, and White's resistance to change. Because of lack of resources, no budget after 1870, no Congressional or Executive Branch support, the Bureau lasted for only seven years, from 1865-1872." (Paul Alan Cimbala, The Freedmen's Bureau: Reconstructing the American South after the Civil War (2005).

The director of the Freedmen's Bureau, General Howard began to set aside 40 acre plots for Freedmen in spring and early summer of 1865. In January 1865, General William Sherman's famous field order #15 divided plantations along the Atlantic coast into 40 acre parcels to be distributed to 40,000 freed enslaved Blacks. Adult males could claim forty acres, and Sherman made army mules available, this is how the phrase "forty acres and a mule" came about. By June of 1865, approximately 40,000 enslaved Blacks had settled on 400,000 acres of Sherman land. (Eric Foner & Olivia Mahoney, America's Reconstruction: People and Politics after the Civil War 32 (1995)).

The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, (N'COBRA), was organized in America in 1987 following the tradition of Sister Callie House. Since 1988, N'COBRA has developed a number of strategies designed to gain external reparations for African- Americans and is helping advance the international efforts to win reparations in Africa and throughout the world.

Dr. Mary Frances Berry's book, "My Face is Black is True", details what she calls "the first mass reparations movement led by African Americans" organized by ex-slave Callie House and the Reverend Isaiah Dickerson. In 1897 Callie House and Reverend Isaiah Dickerson formed the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief Bounty and Pension Association (Ex- Slave Pension Association), which repeatedly petitioned for pensions and eventually sued the federal government seeking pensions for former en-slaved Blacks in America, in the form of external reparations.

Frustrated with its lack of legislative success, the Association eventually turned to litigation and in 1915 filed what may have been the first lawsuit seeking Black reparations in America. In the case Johnson V. McAdoo, Callie House and the Association claimed rights to the funds collected through the controversial "Southern cotton Tax".

(Johnson V. McAdoo, 45 App. D.C. 440 (1916). This was the name given to the revenues from the sale of Southern Cotton that had been confiscated for taxes by the federal government during world war one and alleged to still be in the U.S. treasury. The lawsuit contended that the taxed cotton had been produced by wrongful slave labor, and therefore the proceeds from its sale belonged to freed former enslaved Blacks. The plaintiffs sought over $68 million US dollars in taxes collected between 1862 and 1868. The court denied the case based on sovereign immunity.

The court case Johnson V. McAdoo's rationale gave warning to a series of lawsuits against German corporations for profits they obtained through the use of slave labor during the holocaust (see e.g. Iwanowa V. Ford Motor Co.).

Dr. Frances Berry stated that the cotton tax revenues were attractive because "it could be traced in the Treasury, and thus…avoided the issue of whether congress would appropriate funds to pay for pensions as compensation for the ex-enslaved Blacks in America". The United States Congress had repeatedly rejected proposed pension legislation claiming there were no appropriated funds.

Queen Mother Audley Moore and Callie House came to be known as the guiding light of the post-world war two reparations movement. Queen Mother Moore was born in 1898 in New Iberia, Louisiana.Like most Black Americans of her generation she was a descendant of enslaved Blacks. She started her activist life as a Garveyite. She was introduced to Marcus Garvey's United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Marcus Garvey's UNIA was the first worldwide organization that promoted Pan- Africanism, Black Nationalism and established a vision for Black political self-determination and economic independence.

In 1955, Queen Mother Audley Moore started her reparations advocacy with a pamphlet entitled "Why Reparations? Money for Negroes".

In 1962 Queen Mother Moore and Dara Abubakari started the organization, Reparation Committee of Descendants of United States Slaves, Inc. with the mission to educate the grassroots community about reparations and mobilize for reparations from the United States federal government. In 1963 she presented to the United States federal government during the Kennedy Administration a petition with a million signatures she had collected.

The petition implied that without Reparations Black people in America could never be on equal terms with the White sons and daughters of former slave masters who continue to reap and enjoy the abundant benefits of the wealth created by our fore parents through their centuries of unpaid labor. (Texas Wesleyan Law Review, vol. 16, # 4 Symposium edition 2010). Germany's first holocaust of the 19th century was practiced on the people of Namibia.

To be continued


SWAPO Headquarters Mandume Strt
Windhoek, Katutura