President Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany offered a heartfelt apology for the crimes committed by his country during its colonial rule in Tanzania, as he visited the Maji Maji Museum in the city of Songea.
During his visit to the museum, he expressed his “shame” and asked for forgiveness, acknowledging the atrocities that took place during the colonial period.
“I would like to ask for forgiveness for what Germans did to your ancestors here,” President Steinmeier said, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging the dark chapter in history.
Tanzania, formerly part of German East Africa, witnessed one of the bloodiest uprisings in colonial history between 1905 and 1907, known as the Maji Maji Rebellion. Experts estimate that between 200,000 and 300,000 members of the indigenous population lost their lives during this brutal rebellion, primarily due to the systematic destruction of fields and villages by German troops.
Nyumbani ni nyumbani. Furaha na Tabasamu iliyoje baada ya Rais Samia Suluhu Hassan kusalimiana na Waziri wa Utamaduni kutoka Berlin Ujerumani Mhe. Joe Chialo ambaye ana asili ya Tanzania wakati alipokuwa akimsindikiza mgeni wake Rais wa Jamhuri ya Shirikisho la Ujerumani pic.twitter.com/mDCUxkG3KQ
— ikulu_Tanzania (@ikulumawasliano) November 1, 2023
President Steinmeier stated, “What happened here is our shared history—the history of your ancestors and the history of our ancestors in Germany. We must confront this history together.”
He pledged to raise awareness of these events in Germany, saying, “I want to assure you that we Germans will search with you for answers to the unanswered questions that give you no peace.”
This museum visit marked the final day of President Steinmeier’s three-day visit to Tanzania. During the visit, he also made a significant announcement regarding the return of looted artifacts from the colonial era.
Germany, he said, is open to cooperating on “the repatriation of cultural property and human remains.” The President’s statement signals a willingness to address historical injustices and to work towards healing and reconciliation.
“I want to emphasize that we are ready to right historical wrongs and return these artifacts to their rightful place,” President Steinmeier emphasized during a meeting with Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan in Dar es Salaam.
Meanwhile, in a similar context, King Charles III of the United Kingdom has been in Kenya, where discussions about the colonial era and its impact have been prevalent. At a state banquet in Statehouse Nairobi, King Charles III acknowledged the painful colonial history in Kenya during the fight for independence.
However, it’s worth noting that the King did not deliver a formal apology to Kenyans, a matter that government officials have the authority to decide. This has left some communities, such as the Gusii, Nandi, Kikuyu, and the Kalenjin Talai clan, who are demanding the repatriation of 35,000 acres of land taken during the British colonial era, feeling disappointed.
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The issue of a formal apology holds great significance for many Kenyan survivors of colonial-era atrocities, as it is seen as a step towards healing and closure. While the British government has expressed regret and paid compensation to some Mau Mau veterans, the public apology from the King is considered by many as an essential element of reconciliation.