Africa

Namibia crowds welcome colonial-era skulls from Germany

A crowd holds a banner at sunrise at the international airport in Windhoek on Tuesday, as Germany returns the skulls taken for experiments more than a century ago Image copyright AFP
Image caption The return of the skulls followed years of acrimonious negotiations

Hundreds of Namibians have welcomed home 20 skulls of ancestors taken to Germany more than a century ago.

Warriors on horseback shouted war cries and women in ceremonial dress ululated as the plane carrying the skulls landed in the capital Windhoek at sunrise.

German scientists took the heads to perform discredited racial experiments.

Prime Minister Nahas Angula said the "tragic chapter" of history was now closed, but many Namibians disagree, demanding Germany pay reparations.

The skulls are believed to belong to 11 people from the Nama ethnic group and nine from the Herero, who died after an uprising against their German colonial rulers more than 100 years ago.

They were among hundreds who starved to death after being rounded up in camps.

"These mortal remains are testimony to horrors of colonialism and Germany's cruelty against our people," Prime Minister Angula said at Tuesday's airport ceremony.

"The Namibian nation accepts these mortal remains as a symbolic closure of a tragic chapter."

But many at the ceremony disagreed. Banners called for "Reparations now!"

"We trust that the Namibian government will engage Germany for reparations and that justice will be done," Nama chief David Frederick, whose grandfather's skull was among those taken to Germany, told AFP news agency.

Germany has expressed regret but consistently refused to pay reparations to its former colony, arguing that it has given much development aid to Namibia.

The skulls' return was agreed after years of acrimonious negotiations. Many more skulls remain in Germany.

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