Dodoma, 3 November 2023 (TDI): German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued a formal apology for the colonial-era atrocities committed by German forces in Tanzania during his visit to the East African country.
The President’s apology was directed at the descendants of local war hero Songea Mbano, a symbol of resistance against German colonization.
During the early 1900s, Songea Mbano and his fellow fighters led the Maji-Maji rebellion, a courageous uprising against German colonial forces in Tanganyika, now present-day Tanzania.
Mbano and many others paid the ultimate price for their resistance, with an estimated 300,000 indigenous people, around one-third of the population at the time, losing their lives in the brutal suppression by German colonizers.
President Steinmeier expressed his deep remorse, stating, “As German President, I would like to ask for forgiveness for what Germans did to your ancestors here.”
He addressed the Mbano family at the Maji Maji Museum in Songea, southern Tanzania, emphasizing the lasting impact of this dark chapter in history on subsequent generations. He also conveyed his personal shame for the actions of German colonial soldiers but did not mention reparations.
The apology has stirred reactions in Tanzania and around the world, with some advocating for reparations as a means of addressing historical injustices. President Steinmeier’s acknowledgment of past wrongs reflects Germany’s commitment to confronting its colonial history in Africa.
Notably, in 2021, Germany announced €1.1 billion ($1.3 billion) in support for the descendants of victims of colonial-era genocide against the Herero and Nama ethnic groups in Namibia, a former German colony. This gesture underlines Germany’s recognition of its historical responsibilities and the need for reconciliation.
During his visit to Tanzania, President Steinmeier also pledged to work towards locating Songea Mbano’s remains, which may have been transported to Europe by German troops after his execution. This initiative signifies Germany’s willingness to engage in the healing process and address the legacies of colonial-era brutality.