Namibia pulls down German colonial officer's statue in Windhoek

The statue of a controversial German colonial officer in Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, has been taken down following pressure from activists.

Curt von François’s statue was erected in 1965 to celebrate him as the city’s founder.

Activists dismissed the claim as a “lie”, and said he was a symbol of “colonial oppression”.

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Local artists performed rituals to reclaim the land where the statue stood before workers took it down.

It is the latest statue to be removed in a worldwide campaign against symbols of the colonial era. Two years ago in neighbouring South Africa, a statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes was decapitated.

Von François was a senior military officer in what was then known as South West Africa between 1889 to 1894, during its time as a German colony.

He was the commander of an operation in the 1890s to put down a rising rebellion by the Nama people, resulting in the killing of at least 80 people, mostly women and children. It later became known as the massacre of Hoornkrans.

The campaign for the statue’s removal was led by a group calling itself A Curt Farewell.

Activist Hildegard Titus, who led the petition to take down the statue, told The Namibian news site that she was “very excited” by its removal.

She said Von François had “wrongly been called the founder of Windhoek” and that he was a symbol of “colonial oppression”.

On its website, the City of Windhoek said the present-day city was founded in 1890 when Von François laid the foundation stone of a fort, but the first recorded settlements date back to around 1849.

A crowd applauded as the statue was removed.

The decision to remove the statue from outside Windhoek City Council head office was taken last month.

It will be kept in a museum for now, but would be “re-erected” once a new spot has been agreed on, city spokesman Harold Akwenye said.

On its website, the City of Windhoek said the present-day city was founded on 18 October 1890 when Von Francois laid the foundation stone of the fort, which is known as the Alte Feste (Old Fortress).

The statue was first put up when Namibia was under the control of South Africa, then led by a white-minority regime.

It gained its independence from South Africa in 1990, the same year that anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela was released from prison.