Colonial Reckoning: Apologies, Reparations, and Historic Visits


By Joe Aura,



German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s recent visit to Tanzania was not just another diplomatic tour. His three-day sojourn from October 30, 2023, took a significant turn on Wednesday, November 1, 2023, when he publicly apologized for the colonial-era atrocities committed by German forces in Tanzania. This poignant moment of reconciliation echoed across Tanzanian hearts and history.

In a moving encounter with descendants of local hero Songea Mbano, a brave figure from the Maji-Maji rebellion, Steinmeier’s words carried weight: “This cruel deed has left its mark on many generations. It shames me. I am ashamed about what German colonial soldiers did to your forefather and his fellow warriors.” This apology reverberated on social media, sparking varied reactions. Some Tanzanians demanded more than mere words, advocating for reparations from Germany.

The arrival of colonial leaders in African countries has sparked divided sentiments. While some extend a welcome, others view such visits with skepticism. The preservation of colonial heritage by African leaders themselves has come under scrutiny. For example, in Kenya, the Maasai leaders sought redress from the British government before the King’s arrival. Historically, the Maasai were reluctant to engage with colonial rule, yet an informal alliance emerged between 1895 and 1904, benefiting both parties mutually.

The timing of the King’s visit, coinciding with the birthday of an ex-freedom fighter, bears a poignant irony. Despite this, the British extended no direct apology for colonial atrocities to Kenyan leaders during this visit. The legacy of colonialism, marked by wounds that still resonate, underscores the complexity of reconciling the past and moving forward.

As nations grapple with historical wounds and reckon with legacies of oppression, apologies serve as symbolic steps. However, the call for reparations and comprehensive acknowledgment of past wrongs continues to echo, emphasizing that healing requires more than words—it demands action and sincere efforts toward restorative justice.

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