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Thread: German Colonies in Africa

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    German Colonies in Africa

    The German colony Wituland was a rarity among other short-lived German colonies of Namibia, Togo, Cameroon, Tanzania where colonial rule was harsh. In the short-lived Wituland the local population rioted against the Germans because they were leaving in 1890.

    The German colonial empire penetrated Africa as well. Namibia in the southern coast of Africa was a well known one.

    A German trader Adolf Luderitz bought some area from a local chief in 1883 what would become the southern coast of Namibia and founded the city of Luderitz.

    After the German government annexed the territory with it and named it
    South-West Africa. Thereafter a number of Germans migrated as soldiers, traders, diamond miners and colonial officials. During World War I Germany lost South West Africa and it became a South African mandate.

    German-Namibians who descended from the ethnic German colonists are today an influencial community in business, farming and tourism and Government sectors.

    Wituland, located just inland from Indian Ocean port of Lamu in the today's Kenya was a silent testimony to German colonial expansion in Africa. The Wituland had a long-standing conflict with the powerful Sultan of Zanzibar. The town lived under constant threat from Zanzibar attacks as it was a free haven for slaves fleeing from the island.

    Sultan Ahmed of Witu who happened to meet the German Africa explorer Richard Brenner in 1867 expressed his desire for Prussian protection. But Prussia was not interested in African territories as they were unifying Germany and Brenner's request was rejected in Berlin.

    But the two German travellers to Witu in 1878, the brothers Clemens and Gustav Denhardt, had more luck as Germany was participating in the scramble for Africa in 1885. Denhardt brothers concluded a treaty with Sultan Ahmed. The brothers' request for German protection for their interests was considered favourably by the famous German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck as he was in the middle of his one and only year of interest in African territories.

    Bismarck sent the warship SMS Gneisenau to River Tana where a terrestrial command of 3 officers and 30 soldiers marched 3 days through the bush towards Witu and reached the Wituland and helped to establish the German Protectorate in1885. Clemens Denhardt was solemnly appointed Minister of Home and External Affairs by Sultan Ahmed of Witu in appreciation of his success in achieving German protection. A few German soldiers were stationed in Wituland to establish German sovereignty and protect against Zanzibar attacks.

    The Denhardt brothers meanwhile tried to make monetary value out of "their" colony by establishing a company in 1887 in an era where there was a colonial enthusiasm in Germany by raising a fund for their 'German Witu Society' to develop the trade on the protectorate. But their business was a complete failure.

    In the meantime Bismarck lost his interest in Africa. Bismarck was concentrating to establish a new a powerful Germany than sharing the colonial benefits in Africa. He was trying from 1889 to improve the German-British relations, which was tarnished by the colonial competitions in African continent by the British goal of a Cape to Cairo Empire and the German's goal of a Central African Empire, uniting Cameroon and German East Africa.

    Secret negotiations between Berlin and London were initiated and the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty was arrived at top diplomatic level in 1890. Germany was about to leave its interests in Zanzibar, Uganda and on the Kenyan and Somali coasts. Germany acquired the tiny North Sea island of Heligoland, off the German coast and accessed the Zambezi River through the 'Caprivi Strip' for the German interests in Namibia.

    How the German Wituland was established for Bismarck's likes it was abolished according his dislike. German colonial enthusiasts were angry over the treaty and blamed Bismarck's prudence in exchange of Uganda, Witu, and Zanzibar for the tiny Heligoland. But Bismarck's far vision was proved later on when Heligoland was the only new German territory that survived with Germany after the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

    In German Wituland, reactions were even stronger than in Germany. They were disappointed enormously by the German Government's announcement that they violated their protection obligations. They rioted against Germans and killed a number of them. The Denhardt brothers narrowly escaped from the angry mob but they later died in Germany out of disappointment and impoverishment.

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    Thanks for posting this. I've always had an interest in Germany's African colonies. Although through my own research, I've noticed that how the colonies were run varied and weren't always that harsh. Tanzania for instance was one where the locals were treated fairly...von Lettow-Vorbeck was able to recruit quite a few native Africans during WW1. In Togo (then Togoland) the treatment of the natives and the conditions there were pretty crappy from day one until the end, Cameroon's varied from one extreme to another and South-West Africa seemed to disregard the local population outside of having them guard POW's. An interesting point from my research, the Africans in Tanzania that fought for Germany in the First World War are the only ones from the colonies that recieved a pension from the German Government. They didn't start getting a pension, which included backpay, until the 1950's. Perhaps recognition of the only colony that didn't cave in?


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