by Ben Taylor

German President expresses shame over colonial atrocities
The German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has expressed “shame” for the colonial atrocities his country inflicted on Tanzania.

German forces killed around 300,000 people during the Maji Maji rebellion in the early 1900s, one of the bloodiest anti-colonial uprisings.

“I would like to ask for forgiveness for what Germans did to your ancestors here,” he said, speaking at a museum in Songea. “What happened here is our shared history, the history of your ancestors and the history of our ancestors in Germany.”

President Steinmeier said he hoped the two countries could together work towards “communal processing” of the past. He promised those present that he would “take their stories with me to Germany, so that more people in my country will know about them.”

Professor Jürgen Zimmerer of the University of Hamburg said that Germany has, until recently, had “colonial amnesia” around the brutality and racism of their former empire.

As part of the three-day visit, the president met the descendants of one of the Maji Maji leaders, Chief Songea Mbano, who was among those executed in 1906. President Steinmeier told the family the German authorities would try to find his remains. Thousands of human remains were brought from German colonies – partly as “trophies” but also for racist research.

In a separate development, researchers in Berlin have successfully identified living relatives of people whose remains were stolen from Tanzania and taken to Germany for “scientific” experiments during the colonial era.

The Museum of Prehistory and Early History in Berlin has been carrying out research for several years on around 1,100 skulls taken from what was then known as German East Africa. In September the museum reported that DNA analysis had provided a clear link to living descendants in Tanzania, hailing the find as a “small miracle”.

“The relatives and the government of Tanzania will now be informed as soon as possible,” the museum said in a statement.

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