HON DR E. N. TJIRIANGE,
MINISTER OF JUSTICE OF THE REPUBLIC OF NAMIBIA
WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, XENOPHOBIA AND RELATED INTOLERANCE,
31 AUGUST - 7 SEPTEMBER 2001, DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA
The first and second World Conferences Against Racism were held far away from Southern Africa, a sub-region whose people have been victims of racism and racial discrimination. These Conferences were held at a time when the people of Zimbabwe, Namibia and your own country were fighting against colonialism and apartheid. How fitting it is then, that the third Conference is being held in South Africa, a country whose people gallantly fought against apartheid, a system which our Organization, the United Nations, declared a crime against humanity. We congratulate you and your bureau and have full confidence that under your guidance the Conference will reach a successful conclusion.
This is the first World Conference of the new millennium, the millennium of the African Renaissance, African Recovery and Reawakening, therefore, Africans and people of African descent in particular, expect tangible results from this World Conference.
Indeed, the world's eyes are focused upon Durban. Therefore, Durban should be the turning point against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, recording humanity's zero tolerance against these evils.
Needless to say, Africa suffered most from these crimes against humanity. The African Ministers at their meeting in Dakar in January this year stated that slave trade is a unique historical tragedy in the history of humanity, a crime against humanity which is unparalleled, particularly its transnational dimension and the negation of the human nature of victims.
Equally, colonialism and wars of conquest, in particular in those countries of white settler colonialists, were of genocidal proportions and the humanity of the colonized was totally negated. As it is well known this was particularly the case with institutionalized racist system of apartheid in South Africa and Namibia, which the world determined to be a crime against humanity. These are the historical facts, which the World Conference must take into account for us to take an effective approach to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
It will be noted that apart from the injustices of slavery, colonialism and wars of conquest, Africa today continues to suffer from foreign and unjustly exploitation of its enormous resources, subjected to the dumping of unwanted surplus arms as a result of the end of the Cold War, further subjected to unfavourable international economic environment and unjustifiable foreign debts.
In this respect, the World Conference must declare solemnly that the international community as a whole fully recognizes the historical injustices of the slave trade, colonialism and the wars of conquest. I am not standing here to narrate forgotten history. I am honouring the people of Namibia who were subjected to colonialism and apartheid as indeed the entire African continent was subjected to slavery and colonialism. A people who until the 21st Century live with the effects of these evils.
It is in this context that my delegation further endorses the African position that the recognition of slave trade, colonialism and wars of conquest would be hollow and meaningless without an explicit apology by those who committed these injustices against fellow human beings.
But, Madam Chairperson, such an apology will be an exercise in futility if no mechanism is put in place for compensation and reparation. Otherwise this World Conference will be condemned by future generations.
The Namibian Delegation will leave the modalities of how such compensation and reparation will be made operational to appropriate United Nations agencies. To this end, the African proposal, namely the establishment of an International Compensation Scheme and a Development Reparation Fund is a starting point. It should be emphasized that the World Conference cannot work out the details of how such reparation or what ever the consensus will be, but just the principle. As the Conference is aware the question of reparation and compensation is central to long lasting containment of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Let me emphasize that colonialism and apartheid in Namibia meant dispossession, dehumanization, divide and rule, to mention but some. Therefore when we in Africa emphasize these issues in the outcome of this Conference, it is not a sheer obsession with the past, but the reality we live. Our past, our history provides the link to that bright future we continue to seek. The slave trade cannot be denied or belittled, for the suffering of and enduring consequences to the Africans and people of African descent are too grave to ignore.
Let me now turn to another important issue before the Conference - the situation of the Palestinians in the Occupied territories. The question of Palestine has throughout the second half of the last century generated concerns to the international community. The recent increase in the tension has been of particular concern to the international community. Therefore, in the view of my delegation the ongoing increase in violent confrontation in Palestine is an issue a conference on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance cannot but consider. With so many lives having been lost in recent months, the continued violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people is an issue this World Conference must consider.
Finally, let me allude to a factor, which if left unchallenged, have the capacity to affect the World Conference, namely, the fear of the unknown with regard to reparation and compensation. Such unfounded fear that compensation and reparation for the Africans and people of African descent by those countries who practiced and benefited from these crimes will reduce their living conditions. Such false and unfounded fear creates mistrust and suspicion.
Those of us who were subjected to the racist apartheid system understand very well what unfounded fear can lead to. The white racist settlers during the apartheid era had a fear of the numerical strength of the blacks, what they term "swart gevaar' _ black peril. That was a fear based on the injustices they inflicted upon the black people. But as we know, principled leadership has no time for revenge. And upon the defeat of apartheid, the leadership of Namibia and South Africa embarked upon the policy of reconciliation. That is a lesson the Conference could well note.
Africans and people of African descent and, indeed, all the people who suffered from slavery, colonialism and wars conquest are part of the global village. But for the global village to be harmonious and forward looking the injustices of the past cannot and should not be ignored or merely glossed over. For if we did, history will judge us harshly...
I thank you.