Speech of Ambassador Christian Schlaga at the Inauguration of Khaudum National Park Management Stations

The Minister of Environment and Tourism, the Honorable Pohamba Shifeta,
the Governor of Kavango East Region, Honorable Samuel Mbamba,
the Regional Councillor of Ndiyona Constituency,
all other traditional leaders,
the country director of the German development bank (KfW) Mr. Uwe Stoll,
members of the media,
ladies and gentlemen,
all protocol observed,

I wish you all a very good morning on this fine day in October of 2017. We have gathered here in the Khaudum National Park for a very important event in the development of the German – Namibian partnership: the official handing-over and inauguration of two new Park Management Stations in Khaudum National Park. While it looks at first sight to be the final and closing act of the German engagement with your parks programme it is, in fact, only an intermediary step in Germany´s endeavor to continue to support Namibia´s own efforts to modernize the National Park infrastructure. What happens today, therefor, does mark an important milestone in our bilateral relations – but it is only one milestone.

Please, allow me to put today´s event into the larger framework of German – Namibian relations:

The Germany of today is fully aware of the fact that the German rule of the area known today as Namibia which ended in 1915 with all its atrocities committed against Herero, Nama and other communities caused undoubtedly deep wounds and left many scars on the souls of the descendants of the victims of those days. The colonial rule also left serious negative marks on the educational structures and social fabric of the country. The following South African apartheid rule deepened those marks and scars to such an extent that it is very difficult for the independent Namibia to undo the political, economic and social results of the previous decades. However, during my first two years in your beautiful country I could witness that Namibia has come a long way towards achieving this goal.

It is true that those atrocities of more than 110 years back cause pain cast a shadow over the relationship between Germany and Namibia still today. As much as this is the case it is also justified to acknowledge the great and important steps that Germany has taken during the last about thirty years towards a normalization of our relations. An event like the one we witness today is a good opportunity to do so.

As the Ambassador to Namibia of a unified, democratic and peaceful Germany I am pleased that Germany was finally on the right side of history when the time came to actively support Namibia´s longing for independence: the then German Foreign Minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, was one of the most active supporters of Namibia´s independence within all international fora. During the following years he was an equally fervent supporter of Germany´s strong contribution to the political, economic and social development of the young Namibia. His support for Namibia is still highly appreciated by many Namibians. There is a good reason why we do have a "Hans-Dietrich-Genscher-Street" in Windhoek still today.

Thus, shortly before Namibia´s independence the German Parliament adopted a resolution in March 1989 which is the basis for the development of our relations still today. It reads:

"…because of Germany´s special responsibility for Namibia the German Government is requested to prepare for a full cooperation with Namibia in all relevant fields like economy, development cooperation and culture. Namibia shall become a priority country for German development cooperation."

Based on this responsibility Germany has always been at the forefront of all those who support and contribute relentlessly to Namibia´s own efforts to undo the educational, economic and social distortions following the German colonial regime – and deepened by the ensuing South African apartheid rule. Germany has lived up to her promise: Namibia did, indeed, become and still is the priority country for German development assistance receiving the highest amount per capita compared to all other countries in Africa. This is also reflected by the fact that Germany today is the only partner of Namibia who continues to operate with grants despite Namibia being considered a "upper middle income country" by the international financial institutions.

This look at the history of Germany´s development support to Namibia does remind us that, of course, it did and still does take place in the wider context of our historical relations.

This became particularly apparent during and after the visit to Namibia by the then German Minister for Development Cooperation Mrs. Wiezcorek-Zeul in 2004 commemorating the German colonial atrocities. Many of us are still aware that Mrs. Wieczorek-Zeul  expressed her apology and pleaded for forgiveness at Okakarara and extended her hands to the Namibian people. Hands, which were accepted by the late Paramount Chief Riruako in the presence of the then Minister of Lands, H.E. Hifikepunye Pohamba.

She was so moved and impressed by the events in Okakarara that she realized something more needed to be done by Germany. That is why and when the idea for a substantial expansion of the scope as well as the financial dimension of the German development support was born. As a consequence the German government – upon Mrs. Wiezcorek-Zeul´s proposal -  increased the amount of German support to Namibia´s development three-fold to reach an unprecedented amount of 150 Mill Euro (about 2,5 Billion N$) for the first time covering the two year period of 2009-2011 – and continued since then. Thus, all in all since 1990 Germany has committed herself to support Namibia´s development agenda with over one Billion euro – at today´s exchange rate approximately 15 Billion $NAM. Acknowledging this overall context does not mean to set this off against anything else. But the larger political context within which this happens needs to be kept in mind.

And Germany is ready to continue on this path: this was underlined only recently by the result of our bilateral negotiations in Katima Mulilo when Germany committed herself to contribute approx.. 130 Million Euro to Namibia´s development during the next two year phase 2018/19. 

And it was in Katima where we decided to extend Namibia´s park programme to other regions of the country and that Germany would continue to be Namibia´s partner on this path.  What we see today is not the beginning: during the past several years we have witnessed the official inauguration of Mahango Park Station; followed by the stations in Susuwe in the Bwabwata National Park and Ngenda in the Mudumu National Park, whose inauguration took place in 2014. And only seven weeks ago we officiated the Shisinze station in the Nkasa Rupara National Park .

That is the reason why I called what happens today “only one milestone”: because many more have already been placed and more are to follow.

Today it is Khaudum National Park: which is definitely one of the most pristine and adventurous Park in Namibia: Khaudum is a truly wild park which does make it so attractive.

Well designed and carefully planned park stations are important preconditions for effective and sustainable park management. Good Park management not only leads to the preservation of the rich biodiversity that is found in the parks, but it is also the base for the sustainable economic use of the parks.  Well managed parks attract visitors and lead to increased tourism, job creation and, thus, to generate income also for the local population. The communities benefit from jobs that are created (in lodges for examples) and from tourism or hunting concessions that are awarded in and around the parks. In return they play a fundamental role in safeguarding and protecting wildlife and natural resources in their place of living.

The Park Management Stations in Khaudum and Nkasa Rupara National Park together include a total of 61 staff houses, plus attractive entrance gates and visitor receptions, offices and workshops. The new houses will be a massive improvement on the present situation, where staff lives in old barracks and wooden shacks and will enable MET to recruit more qualified staff and improve their park management capacity.

In closing I do commend the Ministries park staff at Khaudum and all other park stations for their work and dedication in extremely difficult conditions. To be a ranger or park warden in this beautiful but harsh and dangerous environment is not an easy job, you have to be tough and courageous. Therefore, I want to thank all staff from Khaudum as well as the project team from NamParks for their hard work and commitment. You can be proud: the first signs of success are already visible: the numbers of wildlife are increasing as much as the numbers of tourists – in particular from Germany – are rising. And with your good work this is bound to continue.

Let’s give them all a big round of applause!