President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Wednesday expressed his “shame” at crimes committed during Germany’s colonial rule in Tanzania and pledged to raise awareness of the atrocities in his own country.
“I would like to ask for forgiveness for what Germans did to your ancestors here,” Steinmeier said during a visit to the Maji Maji Museum in the southern city of Songea, according to a transcript of his speech.
Tanzania was part of German East Africa, which saw one of the bloodiest uprisings in colonial history between 1905 and 1907.
Experts say between 200,000 and 300,000 members of the indigenous population were brutally murdered during the so-called Maji Maji Rebellion, mostly as a result of the systematic destruction of fields and villages by German troops.
Voicing his “shame” at the events, Steinmeier said Germany was ready to work with Tanzania towards a “communal processing” of the past.
“What happened here is our shared history — the history of your ancestors and the history of our ancestors in Germany,” he said, promising to “take these stories with me to Germany, so that more people in my country will know about them”.
“I want to assure you that we Germans will search with you for answers to the unanswered questions that give you no peace,” he added.
The museum visit came on the final day of a three-day visit to Tanzania by Steinmeier, who on Tuesday also opened the door to the return to Tanzania of artefacts looted during the colonial era.
Germany was open to cooperating on “the repatriation of cultural property and human remains”, he said after meeting President Samia Suluhu Hassan in Dar es Salaam.
Steinmeier’s trip coincides with a visit by Britain’s King Charles III to Kenya, also expected to be dominated by conversations about the colonial era.