German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier apologized for colonial-era killings in Tanzania during Germany’s rule and vowed to raise awareness of the atrocities in his country, in a step towards “communal healing” of the bloody past.

“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 Tanzanian city of Songea. “I want to assure you that we Germans will search with you for answers to the unanswered questions that give you no peace.”

Tanzania suffered under German colonial rule for decades before and after the start of the 20th century, and saw one of the region’s deadliest uprisings from 1905 to 1907.

During the revolt — known as the Maji Maji Rebellion — between 200,000 and 300,000 Indigenous people were murdered, as German troops systematically wiped out villages and fields, experts say.

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

‘Communal processing’

Steinmeier said Germany was ready to begin a “communal processing” of the past, as he met with descendants of an executed leader of the colonial-era revolt.

“What happened here is our shared history — the history of your ancestors and the history of our ancestors in Germany,” Steinmeier said, pledging to “take these stories with me to Germany, so that more people in my country will know about them”.

Steinmeier said Germany would also work to find and return the skull of an executed colonial era leader — Chief Songea Mbano — and others whose remains were plundered and brought to Berlin more than a century ago.

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