Monday March 04, 2024

German president seeks forgiveness in Tanzania for colonial past

Published : 01 Nov 2023, 23:24

  DF News Desk
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L) and Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of Tanzania, take part in a round table with representatives of the German and Tanzanian business communities in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on Tuesday. Photo: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has apologized in Tanzania to the descendants of the several hundred thousand victims of colonial violence, some 100 years after the end of German colonial rule in East Africa, reported dpa.

"As Germany’s Federal President, I want to ask for forgiveness for what Germans did to your forefathers," he said on Wednesday during a visit to the Tanzanian town of Songea.

He assured the descendants that Germany was ready for a joint reckoning with the past, in a comment that was met with applause.

On the second day of his trip to Tanzania, Steinmeier met a family whose ancestor, Chief Songea Mbano, was executed along with 66 other leaders by the German colonial rulers in 1906.

Today the chief is considered a national hero. At the time, the colonial power had crushed an uprising of oppressed people in German East Africa, in a brutally fought war.

According to Tanzanian estimates, up to 300,000 people died in the Maji Maji War from 1905 to 1907.

German colonial history ended in 1918 with the defeat of the German Empire in World War I.

Steinmeier visited the Maji Maji Museum in Songea, one of the main sites of the war, and laid a red rose at the grave of Chief Songea Mbano as well as a wreath at the collective grave of the other combatants.

His meeting with the descendants took place without journalists present.

Afterwards, the president expressed shame and said: "I join you in mourning Chief Songea and all who were executed. I bow before the victims of German colonial rule."

Unfortunately, however, he said he could not promise that the search would be successful because it is scientifically difficult.

There are still many skulls and bones of victims of the colonial era in German museums and collections. Their descendants would like them to be returned to Tanzania so that their ancestors are finally buried properly.