German president faces up to colonial past on Tanzania trip |

ENTERTAINMENT

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Tuesday called for Germany to face up to its “dark” colonial past in Tanzania and said his country was open to returning artefacts looted during the era, our sister publication, The Citizen reports.

German East Africa, which encompassed Burundi and Rwanda as well as mainland Tanzania, was the site of one of the bloodiest uprisings in colonial history.

Experts estimate that between 200,000 and 300,000 members of the Indigenous population were brutally murdered during the so-called Maji Maji Rebellion of 1905 to 1907.

Most of them died as a result of the systematic destruction of fields and villages by German colonial troops.

“We must not forget the past,” Steinmeier said after meeting President Samia Hassan in Dar es Salaam on the second day of his three-day visit.

Relations between the two countries are “overshadowed by the atrocities of the German colonial occupation in the former German East Africa,” Steinmeier said.

“It is important to me that we come to terms with this dark chapter, together,” he added.

Steinmeier said Germany was open to cooperating with Tanzania on “the repatriation of cultural property and human remains”.

On Wednesday, he travels to the city of Songea in southern Tanzania, to visit the Maji Maji Museum and meet descendants of the victims.

The German president said the museum visit was dedicated to the “communal processing” of the past.

“I am very grateful and I know that this is anything but a given,” he said.

Steinmeier’s trip coincides with a visit by Britain’s King Charles III in neighbouring Kenya, which was also expected to be dominated by conversations about the colonial era.

Over the past 20 years, Germany has been gradually starting to talk more about the crimes their compatriots committed during colonial times.

In German South West Africa, now Namibia, Germany was responsible for mass killings of Indigenous Herero and Nama people that many historians refer to as the first genocide of the 20th century.

Germany has returned skulls and other human remains to Namibia that it had sent to Berlin during the period. And in 2021, the country officially acknowledged committing the genocide and pledged one billion euros ($1.06 billion) in financial support to descendants of the victims.

Germany has also started to return cultural artefacts looted during the colonial era.

Last year, it returned items from its collection of Benin Bronzes, ancient sculptures from the Kingdom of Benin, to Nigeria.

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