‘Forgive us, please’

  • German President shows remorse for colonial atrocities in TZ

GERMANY President, Frank Walter Steinmeier has apologised to Tanzanians for crimes committed during Germany’s colonial rule and pledged to raise awareness of the atrocities in his own country.

President Steinmeier made the remark during his visit to the Majimaji Museum and Conversations in Songea District, Ruvuma Region on Wednesday and met with the family of Songea Mbano, one of the tribal chiefs who was killed by the Germans in 1906.

“I would like to ask for forgiveness for what Germans did to your ancestors here… I assure you that we, Germans will make every effort to find answers to all the questions that still remain unanswered and that still do not give you peace,” President Steinmeier said.

Mr Steinmeier also expressed shame at crimes committed during Germany’s colonial rule in Tanzania and pledged to raise awareness of the atrocities in his own country.

“Even those who know more about the German colonisation in Germany must be very sad and scared due to brutality of the German colonial rule, and also very saddened by the things you have narrated,”

“I feel very ashamed! I am deeply ashamed because of the things that the colonial German forces did to your grandmothers and grandfathers,” he added, insisting that Germany will confront “the atrocities of the German colonial occupation.”

Moreover, Steinmeier said Germany was ready to work with Tanzania towards a “communal processing” of the past.

“What happened here is our shared history, the history of your ancestors and the history of our ancestors in Germany,” he said, promising to “take these stories with me to Germany, so that more people in my country will know about them”.

He promised to do everything possible to find the skull of chief Songea Mbano in Germany and repatriate to Tanzania though he said it has never been easy to measure and identify human corpses.

“I promise you that, together, we will all strive to find the skull of Songea Mbano in Germany.  But I’m sorry I can’t promise you that we will succeed in getting it. I assure you that it’s not that we don’t want to or that we don’t try hard enough.”

He said Tanzania and Germany are countries that are connected by many good things including projects and great cooperation.

“We will do our best to benefit together! Tanzania and Germany are united by the burden of this difficult history, “he added

The Germany President said that his country was ready to analyse and process history, adding that analysis and process of history will involve primary school students, universities, academics and professionals of archives and museums.

Similarly, Mr Steinmeier noted the intention of his visit to Songea was to show that Germany is completely different from what Tanzanian ancestors had known.

On the other hand, President Steinmeier said that next year, the Humboldt Forum in Berlin plans to hold a joint exhibition with the Tanzania National Museum, where the history of Tanzania and the colonial period will be taken into account.

“I hope that, one year later, this exhibition will also be held here in Tanzania… From this sad history, it is possible for things to happen that will involve all of us, things that will last forever and things that will unite us in the future,” he said.

Tanzania was part of German East Africa, which saw one of the bloodiest uprisings in colonial history between 1905 and 1907.

Experts say between 200,000 and 300,000 members of the indigenous population were brutally murdered during the Majimaji rebellion, mostly as a result of the systematic destruction of fields and villages by German troops.

For his side, Minister for Culture, Arts and Sports, Dr Damas Ndumbaro said that the history of Tanzania and Germany has two different chapters including the chapter on war fought by ancestors and chapter on good things done by Germany to Tanzania.

Minister Ndumbaro, who is also a Songea Urban Member of Parliament said that Germany built schools, hospitals and provided other social services in the country.

“The most important thing is to forget the past and continue to maintain the good relationship and move forward by bringing development for people of our two nations, including our Songea town,” Dr Ndumbaro said.

Dr Ndumbaro added that people of Songea want to see the modern museum of cooperation between Germany and Tanzania be built in Songea.

“We also wish that Germany support us to improve the VETA college in Songea to enable our youth to get various training,” he added.

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