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Germany returns skulls of Namibian genocide victims but offers no official apology

The German government handed back the remains of indigenous Namibians that were killed more than 100 years ago, but refused to issue an official apology for the genocide.

Remains that included 19 skulls, a scalp and bones, were handed to a Namibian government official at a church service in Berlin. The service marked the third time that Germany has handed over human remains to Namibia, after they were sent to Germany for now-discredited research to prove the racial superiority of white Europeans.

“We want to help heal the wounds from the atrocities committed by Germans at the time,” said Michelle Muentefering, a minister of state for international cultural policies at the German foreign ministry. Germany still has “a lot of catching up to do in coming to terms with our colonial heritage,” she added.

Around 100,000 Ovaherero and Nama people are estimated to have been killed in those four years as a result of a mass-extermination policy initiated by German colonial troops in South West Africa, currently known as Namibia, when the territory was a German colony.

However, the German government is yet to officially apologise for the genocide.

Esther Utjiua Muinjangue, chairwoman of the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation, said the service last week was “the perfect opportunity” for Germany to officially apologise.

“Is that asking too much? I don’t think so,” she told reporters.

Namibia’s Culture Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa said the two countries “still have many problems to solve”.

“We must ensure that, after we’ve reached agreements on damages, recognition and an apology, there’s a future in which the German and Namibian nations join hands and move forward.”

See more from the BBC here, France24 here and AFP here.