Namibian chief who urged German reparations dies of virus


WINDHOEK, Namibia —

A prominent Namibian traditional leader, Vekuii Rukoro, the paramount chief of the OvaHererero people who led international legal battles to bring Germany to pay reparations for its genocide in the southern African country, has died of COVID-19.

Rukoro died early Friday, secretary-general of the Ovaherero/OvaMbanderu and Nama Council, Mutjinde Katjiua, told The Associated Press.

Rukoro, who was elected Paramount Chief of the OvaHerero in 2014, represented both ethnic groups in the international legal cases.

Rukoro and other traditional chiefs have accepted Germany’s offer of compensation but said it should be improved through further negotiations, while some other traditional leaders have rejected it.

Last month the German government apologized for the colonial-era massacres and agreed to pay 1.1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) to Namibia over a 30-year period.

In what is now acknowledged to be the first genocide of the 20th century, the mass killings of the OvaHerero and Nama people were perpetrated by German colonial forces between 1904 and 1908.

Namibia is currently experiencing a surge of COVID-19. The country’s 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has more than doubled over the past two weeks from 17.31 new cases per 100,000 people on June 3 to 49.13 new cases per 100,000 people on June 17, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Namibia, a country of 2.5 million people, has a cumulative total of just over 70,000 confirmed cases, including 112 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The current surge has brought the government to restrict movement into and out of the capital, Windhoek, as well as restrict public gatherings to 10 people.

Six tourists from South Africa recently died of COVID-19 while on a bus tour of Namibia in which 37 of the 40 people on the tour became ill with the disease.

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