Mixed feelings over Germany apology for Tanzania atrocities


German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier

from ALLOYCE KIMBUNGA in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
Tanzania Bureau
DAR-ES-SALAAM, (CAJ News) – GERMANY’S second apology to as many African countries for atrocities perpetrated during colonialism ought to herald a new chapter in its relations with the continent, paving way for reparations.

In Tanzania, the admission of guilt by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during his recent official visit to the East African country has elicited mixed feelings.

While some Tanzanians anticipate this could facilitate the reparation of remains of slain tribal chiefs, in some instances, this chapter has opened old wounds.

At the same time Steinmeier’s visit and subsequent plea for forgiveness has reignited the hostilities between the current Tanzanian government and indigenous tribes over the recurrent eviction from their ancestral lands under the aegis of conservation.

The fact that a German institution is a supporter of the expulsion of the local communities is adding fuel to the fire, thus raising questions on the sincerity of the Germans.

In his recent visit to Tanzania, Steinmeier apologised for the colonial-era killings during the then coloniser’s rule.

Speaking at Songea, the site of a massacre of the indigenous Maji-Maji in the early 1900s, he assured locals he would raise awareness of the massacres when he returned to his country and pave way for what he termed as communal healing.

“Germany is ready to come to terms with the past together. Nobody should forget what happened back then,” Steinmeier said at a meeting with the descendants.

“As the German Federal President, I would like to ask for forgiveness for what Germans did to your ancestors,” he appealed.

By coincidence, the apology came at a time King Charles III, visiting another East African country, Kenya, condemned his country’s colonial era atrocities but did not offer a full-on apology.

At the helm of the German East Africa, German colonial, troops massacred an estimated 300 000 Maji-Maji representatives in modern-day Tanzania when they rebelled against colonialism. German colonisation was between 1885 and 1918.

The massacres between 1905 and 1907 coincided with similar mass killings in modern-day Namibia when the Herero and Nama tribes rose against Germany. An estimated 65 000 indigenes were killed during the uprising.

Germany offered an apology to Namibia in 2021 and pledged reparations. Namibia is the former German colony when it was called South West Africa.

In Tanzania, independent from 1961 after later colonization by the British, there has been mixed reaction to the apology.

“As Tanzanians hail Germany for that important step (apology), it is worth reminding the former colonial power that expressing remorse alone is not enough,” stated analyst, Peter Nyanje.

“It should be followed by the repatriation of freedom fighters that were taken to Germany after the Maji-Maji rebellion was brutally crushed.”

An activist based in the enclave of Tanganyika demanded that Germany returned the remains of the local king, Manga Meli, who was hanged by Germany along other traditional leaders.

At a time the government is accused of evicting indigenous communities from their ancestral lands for purposes of conversation, the prevailing sentiment is that locals are still enduring violations, this time under a government of the majority rule governed by the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

The support to conservation efforts, by a German agency, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, is further fuelling mistrust of the European country.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s government has come under fire from activists for the evictions, lately of the Maasai in the Loliondo division in the northern Ngorongoro.

Government forces are accused of brutal force in expelling the locals, who are allegedly being expelled without alternative land and compensation.

A local activist expressed disquiet about the Frankfurt Zoological Society funding the conversation initiatives.

“Asking forgiveness doesn’t help anyone at the moment. Stop indigenous’ eviction from their ancestral land,” he demanded from Germany.

Human rights advocate, Sussana Nordlund, demanded that Germany instead pleased for an apology for the Frankfurt Zoological Society’s facilitating conversation initiatives in Tanzania, at the expense of indigenous communities.

The Frankfurt Zoological Society reports it has been supporting its Tanzanian partners for more than 60 years, providing support in the form of monitoring flights, technical expertise from its car workshop, and equipment for rangers.

The agency has pledged that the integration and cooperation with the local population is a central component of its conservation work.

President Hassan said the diplomatic relationship between her country and Germany has lasted those years.

“It is Tanzania’s responsibility to continue and increase its productivity for the benefit of these two nations,” she said.

Hassan lauded Germany as an important partner in business and various development sectors including water, health and environment.

– CAJ News

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