Name ID 1548
Map and Guide to Tanzania
Page Number: 05d
Extract Date: 1884-1897
In the following decades no colonising power showed much concern with peace and civilisation in exploiting its colonies but Tanganyika was to suffer the most under the cruel methods of Karl Peters, otherwise known as Mikono wa Damu, 'the Man with Blood on his Hands', who left a trail of bloodshed and desolation.
Peters made his first intrusion in Tanganyika in 1875 but it was in 1884 with the scramble for African colonies that he created the Society for German Colonisation, later the German Colonisation Company. A ruthless and opportunistic adventurer, he hastily journeyed up the Wami river on the mainland: within less than six weeks he signed an impressive number of agreements with local sultans (Arab or Swahili chiefs) who, not understanding the contents of the treaties and surrounded by armed soldiers while interpreters gave a totally fake version of what was being said, unwittingly gave up their territories to the German Company.
The terms of these treaties are well known, such as the one signed by Sultan Mangungu of Msovero in Usagara: 'Treaty of Eternal Friendship - Sultan Mangungu offers his territory with all its civil and public appartenances to Dr Karl Peters, Representative of the Society for German Colonisation for exclusive and universal utilization for German colonisation', ending with 1, Dr Karl Peters, in the name of the Society declare my willingness to take over the territory', and it concluded: This contract has been executed legally and is valid for all time'.
With his valueless treaties he acquired immense territories and Bismarck, who had professed not to be interested in colonies, declared the lands to be German Protectorate by an Imperial Bill signed in March 1885.
This is how most of Tanganyika was brought under German rule, and Peters was enraged when he learnt that the rights he claimed 'illegally' over some areas in Uganda - in spite of existing Agreements - were relinquished by Germany to the benefit of England. They were exchanged for the Island of Heligoland which he called 'A bathtub in the North Sea'.
Although he was known for his ill-treatment of indigenous populations he was named Imperial High Commissioner for the Kilimanjaro District, but was finally dismissed from colonial service in 1897 after having been condemned for cruelty by a German judge. Hitler spoke of him as 'A model colonial administrator'.