Halt Port Expansion: Genocide Remains Discovered on Namibia’s Shark Island Prompt Urgent Call

Calls are growing for Namibian authorities to halt plans to expand a port on the Shark Island peninsula following the discovery of unmarked graves and artifacts tied to the Herero and Nama genocide. Forensic Architecture, a non-profit research agency, has identified sites of executions, forced labor, imprisonment, and sexual violence during the island’s time as a German concentration camp between 1905 and 1907.

Approximately 65,000 Herero people and 10,000 Nama were killed by German troops from 1904 to 1908, constituting the first genocide of the 20th century. Many died on the island as retribution for rebelling against colonial rule led by paramount chief Samuel Maharero.

Concerns have arisen about encountering human remains in waters near the port expansion area, intended for green hydrogen production along Namibia’s southern coast. Historical records suggest deceased individuals from the camp may have been disposed of at sea.

A moratorium on all development projects in the region has been urged, alongside broader investigations into potential underwater graves. Forensic Architecture emphasizes halting construction until these sites are adequately protected and comprehensive studies of the camp’s remains are conducted.

Despite the government recognizing Shark Island as a national heritage site in 2019, local communities feel little has changed in its treatment. Descendants of genocide victims, such as Paul Samuel Herero and Sima Luipert, stress the importance of preserving the site’s historical and cultural heritage.

Despite Germany’s acknowledgment of the genocide and commitment to development aid for Namibia, affected communities demand direct reparations and the return of ancestral lands, contesting the agreement reached between the two nations for its exclusion from negotiations and the inadequate redress for past atrocities.

About Geraldine Boechat 2711 Articles
Senior Editor for Medafrica Times and former journalist for Swiss National Television. former NGO team leader in Burundi and Somalia