The controversy surrounding the siting and status of the Reiterdenkmal – equestrian monument of a Schutztruppe – is symptomatic of the tensions within post-independence Namibia as it comes to terms with its colonial history. Designed in Berlin, and erected in Windhoek next to the Christuskirche in 1912, on the birthday of the German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, the monument commemorates the German soldiers and civilians who lost their lives during the Herero and Nama uprisings against colonial rule, and the Kalahari Expedition of 1908. However, the bronze, armed cavalryman that presided over the city centre for almost a hundred years is, understandably, viewed by black Namibians as a symbol of colonial oppression, and a blatant reminder of the genocide of thousands of Nama and Herero by German troops. As a result, the Reiterdenkmal has long been on SWAPO’s list for removal – it has already been axed from the country’s list of historical monuments. But with opposition from the powerful German-speaking minority – on the grounds that for better or worse it is part of Namibia’s heritage and its removal would be a breach of their minority rights – it has been a protracted affair. First, in 2009 the monument was shunted sideways from its hillside vantage point – to make way for the new Independence Museum – to sit outside the Alte Feste. Then, under cover of darkness on Christmas Eve, 2013 – to avoid any possible confrontation – it was taken inside the old fort. Many black Namibians hope this is a prelude to the monument being shipped back to Germany, while some members of the German-Namibian community have threatened to sue the government if such a move is made.

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