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German East Africa

Beginnings

When Otto von Bismarck, became Chancellor of the newly formed German Empire in 1871, he declared in no uncertain terms that he had no colonial ambitions, saying "For Germany to acquire colonies would be like a poverty-stricken Polish nobleman providing himself with silks and sables when he needed shirts". In spite of this he was to preside over rapid German colonial expansion in Africa and the South Pacific.

Germany's acquisition of East Africa was a result of the actions of Dr. Carl Peters, who, in spite of being a frail academic, had a vile temper and a lust for power. He formed a private organisation called the Society for German Colonization and in 1884, without Bismarck's knowledge, led an expedition through the bush to sign up unwary African chiefs to Germany's protection.

In spite of his previous statements Bismarck then persuaded the Kaiser to grant a charter to this society, which became the German East Africa Company. In this era government of colonies through chartered private companies was common, and thus the region passed into the German sphere. In 1888 the Sultan of Zanzibar, who had previously held nominal rule over the coastal areasa, signed a treaty to transfer customs duties to the German East Africa Company, under a certain amount of coercion from the German navy.

The German administration then began to enforce a number of anti-slavery measures which triggered a general revolt initiated by the Arab traders who partially depended on slavery for income. The Company rapidly lost control of the situation and appealed to the government for assistance. The German government, anxious not to lose face, were forced to recruit Askaris and with the aid of the British, (who were vigorously opposed to slavery) put down the rebellion. When it had ended in 1891, the German government assumed formal control over the area. Their first governor was Captain Wissmann who had led the troops against the rebellion.




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2000. All rights reserved.
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