The German president apologized on Wednesday, November 1 for the killings under colonial rule in Tanzania. The apology took place during a meeting with the descendants of Chief Songe Mbano, who was executed for leading the rebellion.
In Songea in southwestern Tanzania, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has vowed to seek answers to questions about the era of German East Africa. German East Africa was a colony, part of a German possession. Covering today’s Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, it existed from 1885 until the end of World War I. “My dear family (Songei), I mourn with you for Chief Songeu and all the others who were executed. I wish to pay my respects to the victims of German colonial rule. And as the German president, I would like to ask for forgiveness for what the Germans did to your ancestors here,” Steinmeier said. He added that Mbano was a “brave leader” in the rebellion. “I ask for forgiveness and I would like to assure you that we Germans will search with you for answers to the open, unanswered, unresolved questions that do not give you peace.” Steinmeier laid a rose at the grave of Chief Songe Mbano and a wreath at the mass grave of 66 other fighters in the Maji Maji rebellion.
It is believed that up to 300,000 people died during the Maji Maji Rebellion between 1905 and 1907. Among the skulls brought back to Germany may have been that of Chief Mban. Steinmeir promised to try to track her down, according to notes released by his office. “Unfortunately, I can’t promise you that we will be successful,” because identifying human remains is difficult even with scientific expertise, he added. In 2017, the then Tanzanian government said it was considering legal action to seek compensation from Germany for people who were allegedly starved, tortured and killed by German forces. In 2021, Germany announced an agreement with Namibia, another country where it was once a colonial ruler, to recognize the massacres of tens of thousands of people from the colonial era as genocide and provide funds to help affected communities. However, the deal stalled before reparations were negotiated. This agreement, which some groups representing the Herero and Nama people are not happy with, has yet to be formally signed.