Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier apologized on Wednesday (Nov. 01) for the killings that occurred during the colonial rule in Tanzania. He met with the descendants of Chief Songea Mbano who was executed for leading a revolt in Songea, southwestern Tanzania. Steinmeier vowed to seek answers to the questions regarding the German East Africa era. German East Africa was a colony that was part of the German possessions which covered today’s Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi. The colony existed from 1885 until the end of World War I. In his speech, Steinmeier expressed his condolences and asked for forgiveness for what Germans did to their ancestors.
During his visit to Tanzania, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier paid tribute to the memory of Chief Songea Mbano, who was a courageous leader during the Maji Maji rebellion between 1905 and 1907. He apologized for the atrocities committed by Germany during the colonial era and promised to seek answers to unresolved issues that continue to haunt the Tanzanian people. Steinmeier laid a rose at Chief Mbano’s grave and a wreath at a mass grave of 66 other fighters, as a gesture of reconciliation. The Maji Maji rebellion claimed the lives of up to 300,000 people, making it one of the deadliest uprisings against German colonial rule in Africa. Steinmeier also pledged to assist in the identification of human remains, which could include the skull of Chief Mbano, but acknowledged that it would be a challenging task due to the difficulty of identifying human remains.
In 2017, Tanzania’s then-government said it was considering legal action to seek compensation from Germany for the people who allegedly were starved, tortured, and killed by German forces.
Germany in 2021 announced an agreement with Namibia, another country where it was once the colonial ruler, to recognize colonial-era massacres of tens of thousands of people there as genocide and provide funding to help the communities affected. But the accord stopped short of formal reparations.
That agreement, which some groups representing the Herero and Nama people aren’t happy with, has yet to be formally signed off on.