Watch Indonesia! supports Campaign on the 125th Anniversary of the Berlin Africa Conference

Berlin, 10 December 2009


Asia-Africa Converence in Bandung 1955

Photo: Indonesian Embassy UK

Dear Friends and supporters,

We would like to inform you about the currently ongoing campaign on the 125th anniversary of the Berlin Africa-Conference. The struggle against the suppression and ignorance of  past human rights violations and demand to acknowledge and act upon Europe’s responsibility vis-a-vis the global south are central issues for Watch Indonesia!. Thus, we join the campaign’s call for commemoration, reappraisal and reparations for violations committed in the wake of German and European colonialism. Below, we are sharing with you the campaign’s appeal for action.

Further information in English language is available at:

The Campaign Alliance Calls for Action

125th Anniversary of the Berlin Africa Conference

commemoration – reappraisal – reparation

125 years ago, in the winter of 1884/85, the Chancellor of the German Reich, Otto von Bismarck, invited representatives of the then-world powers to the Berlin Conference. In the name of progress and humanity, and against the background of European racist ideology, the representatives of twelve European states, the Ottoman Empire, and the USA, convened to decide on the further colonial partitioning and exploitation of the African continent. In the Imperial Chancellor’s palace, the vast “Congo Basin” was assigned to the Belgian King Leopold II. His brutal regime claimed the lives of more than ten million people. In addition, the Berlin Conference marked Germany’s accession into the circle of imperial powers. In the following thirty-years, Germany was able to establish hegemony over the areas nowadays known as Namibia, Togo, Cameroon, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda. The colonial rule was characterized by exploitation of resources, corporal punishment, kidnappings, forced labour, torture, rape, concentration camps, and genocide. At least 400,000 Africans lost their lives during the brutal suppression of resistance movements alone.

However, the history of colonialism is marginalized and rarely publicly discussed in this country. At first imbued with nostalgic sentiment, afterwards ignored and supressed, the German colonial history is today perceived as harmless, as not relevant, as something that happened in the past. Educational institutions, political parties, as well as the media, refuse to re-evaluate this part of history appropriately. In addition, there is a dearth of systematic research on this topic. There are hardly any public monuments or memorial sites commemorating the countless victims of Colonialism. Furthermore, the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition on August 23rd is not observed in Germany. Instead, German streets, places, and avenues continue to be named after individuals who committed atrocious crimes during the colonial era. German museums are still exhibiting looted art and property from former colonies without commenting or explaining its true origin. Up to the present day, remains of African people, which were stolen for racist research purposes, are still stored in warehouses of German museums. 125 years after the Berlin Conference, a comprehensive and critical reappraisal of the colonial period is still outstanding.

The colonial heritage has not been overcome, neither here nor in the formerly colonized states. Current social and political conflicts in the former colonies are connected to the societal and ideological structures, which were violently established by the European occupying forces. To date, European arms exports exacerbate these conflicts. Above all, the hegemonic political and economic structures of the globe have been determined in the colonial era. European development policy has rather strengthened than reduced this disequilibrium. Economic Agreements between Europe and Africa, such as the planned Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), destroy African markets. Moreover, Europe enriches herself by exploiting Africa’s natural resources. At the same time, hundreds of Africans die during their attempt to cross Europe’s fortified borders, or they end up as Refugees, are detained and imprisoned without a reason, and have to wait for their eventual deportation. Racism occurs in form of physical and psychological violence, as well as legally and governmentally sanctioned discrimination. The historical roots of racism date back to the colonial era. Colonialism did not disappear, it still affects the present.

On the occassion of the 125th anniversary of the Berlin Africa conference we call for a fundamental change regarding Germany’s approach towards its colonial past!

We demand:


  • memorials, as well as the official celebration of the “International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition” on August 23rd
  • informative and critical commemoration plaques in public places
  • the replacement of street names which honour colonialists, or which contain racist concepts, with names of individuals who fought in anti-colonial and anti-racist resistance movements


  • critical examinations of subjects such as colonialism and racism in schools, universities, as well as other public and ecclesiastical institutions
  • support of anti-colonial and anti-racist cultural and political projects
  • joint research projects with educational institutions located in former German colonies
  • a federal foundation dedicated to the commemoration and critical reappraisal of the colonial past
  • concrete measures to address the structural exclusion of black people and People of Color from academic and political institutions as well as other social areas
  • elimination of racist legislations and administrative practices in Germany as well as necessary amendments to migration policies that contradict basic human rights


  • the recognition that German and European colonialism classifies as crime against humanity
  • the acceptance of historical responsibility for these crimes against humanity
  • material and non-material compensation for the former German and European colonies (funds for development cooperation are no reparation!)

Berlin, September 16, 2009

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