Tanzania Demands Compensation from Germany for Maji Maji Rebellion Atrocities

Fredrick Ngugi February 16, 2017
German soldiers are accused of killing at least 75,000 native Africans in Tanzania. BPB

Tanzanian lawmakers are demanding compensation from Germany for atrocities committed by German soldiers at the start of the 20th century during the Maji Maji  rebellion.

Throughout the era of German East Africa — a German colony in the African Great Lakes region including what is now Burundi, Rwanda, and the mainland region of Tanzania (formerly known as Tanganyika) – tens of thousands of native Africans were massacred by colonialists.

The renewed call for compensation was revived last week by Tanzania’s Minister for Defense and National Service Hussein Mwinyi who announced on February 8th that Tanzania would be seeking an apology from the German government for the Maji Maji genocide, according to Quartz.

Maji Maji Rebellion

February 27, 1906.  A black day in the history of the Wangoni. Most of the chiefs and important leaders were hanged by the German military administration. 1. Nkosi Mputa Gama, 2. Magodi Mbano, 3. Njorosa Mbano, 4. Zimanimoto Gama, 5. Fratera Gama, 6. Mtepa Hawayi Gama, 7. Mtekateka Tawte, 8. Majiyakuhanga Komba, 9. Mpambalioto Soko, 10. Songea Mbano, 11. Mputa Mkuzo Gama. Photo credit: Google

The minister said his desire to see Germany own up to its involvement in the massacres has been inspired by the ongoing court cases between Kenya and the British government.

The Mau Mau survivors in Kenya are currently demanding compensation from the British government for atrocities committed against them by British soldiers during the struggle for independence.

“Compensation is what we are looking for, and there are few other examples in the African region of countries who have asked for this compensation,” Mr. Mwinyi told Deutsche Welle in an interview.

He added that such compensation will benefit the descendants of those who died during the Maji Maji uprising, insisting that Germany should apologize for the atrocities committed in Tanzania as it did with the genocide acts in Namibia.

Last year, the German government admitted to committing genocide against the Herero people in Namibia during the colonial period and promised compensation in the form of aid.

The Maji Maji Rebellion

Maji Maji Rebellion

Seven women in chains during the rebellion. Photo credit: Atlanta Black Star

Also referred to as the “Maji Maji war” or the war of water, the Maji Maji rebellion was an armed struggle against German colonial rule in German East Africa (modern-day Tanzania).

The uprising was triggered by a German policy, forcing the indigenous people to grow cotton for export.

It is estimated that during the conflict, which lasted between 1905 and 1907, at least 75,000 people were killed, but some conflicting reports put the number at 300,000 fatalities.

Local insurgents turned to magic for protection against the Germans, with the belief that the spirit of a higher power known as “Kinjikitile Ngwale,” which was said to be possessed by a snake called “Hongo,” could turn German bullets into water.

Unfortunately, the war charm was in fact water mixed with castor oil and millet seeds and could not protect Africans from German bullets: every attack was a blood bath.

Although many rebels died in the struggle, they managed to weaken the German administration by destroying police garrisons and large cotton plantations, forcing the governor of German East Africa, Gustav Adolf von Gotzen, to call for backup from the German government.

In the wake of severe famine in 1907, insurgents could not continue with the rebellion, so they laid down their arms and submitted themselves to the colonizers.

Afterward, the colony remained calm until the outbreak of World War I.

Learn more about the Maji Maji rebellion here:

Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: February 16, 2017


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