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German president apologizes for colonial-era crimes in Tanzania

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier addresses the media during a statement at Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022.   -  
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Michael Sohn/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved


Germany's president on Wednesday (Nov.01) apologized for killings under colonial rule in Tanzania as he met descendants of Chief Songea Mbano executed for leading a revolt.

In Songea, southwestern Tanzania, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier vowed to seek answers to questions regarding the German East Africa era. The German East Africa was a colony part of the German possessions. It covered todays' Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi existed from 1885 until the end of World War I.

"My dear family (of Songea, ed.), I mourn with you for Chief Songea, and for all the others who were executed. I wish to pay my respects to the victims of the German colonial rule. And as German President I would like to ask for forgiveness for what Germans did to your ancestors here," Steinmeier said.

He added that Mbano was “a brave leader” in the rebellion.

"I beg your forgiveness and I would like to assure you that we Germans will search with you for answers to the open, unanswered, outstanding questions that give you no peace."

Steinmeier laid a rose at Chief Songea Mbano's grave and a wreath at a mass grave of 66 other fighters in the Maji Maji uprising, German news agency dpa reported.

Up to 300,000 people are believed to have died during the Maji Maji rebellion between 1905 and 1907.

Skulls brought back to Germany could include that of chief Mbano. Steinmeir has vowed to try to find it, according to remarks released by his office. “Unfortunately, I just can't promise you that we will be successful,” because identifying human remains is difficult even with scientific expertise, he added.

In 2017, Tanzania's then-government said it was considering legal action to seek compensation from Germany for the people who allegedly were starved, tortured and killed by German forces.

Germany in 2021 announced an agreement with Namibia, another country where it was once the colonial ruler, to recognize colonial-era massacres of tens of thousands of people there as genocide and provide funding to help the communities affected. But the accord stopped short of formal reparations.

That agreement, which some groups representing the Herero and Nama people aren't happy with, has yet to be formally signed off on.

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