Rwandans’ skulls expected to be returned from Germany

On 1 November 2021 at 11:04

It has been six years since Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation revealed that Germany is keeping in its museum over 1000 skulls of Rwandans taken to the country during colonial era.

At the time, details emerged that the skulls were taken for research purposes but the foundation did not disclose details about the origin and names of individuals whose remains are conserved in Germany.

The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation is a Federal government body that oversees 27 museums and cultural organizations in and around Berlin, Germany.

Germany colonized Rwanda between 1885 and 1916. Following revelations that Germany has the skulls in its museum, Rwanda made possible efforts to have them back.

Speaking to IGIHE, Amb. Robert Masozera, the Director-General of the Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy has revealed that Germany expressed willingness to return these human remains pending discussions to determine the process under which the skulls will be flown back.

“We are seeking how to repatriate these human remains because they are willing to do so. The remaining task is about engaging discussions on both sides to determine the process under which it can be done and how these remains can be buried decently upon arrival,” he said.

Masozera explained that the country mulls establishing a memorial site where the skulls will be buried.

“They are our parents and forefathers. They deserve decent burial in a designated memorial site as we have made it a routine in our country. This is our wish but discussions are ongoing,” he said.

It has not been made clear if ancestors whose skulls were to Germany were killed or died of natural cause.

Masozera has explained that some details remain unknown because many people were flown secretly. He however expressed optimism that deep research might be helpful to identify their families.

The dates for repatriation of Rwandans ‘skulls are not known but Masozera revealed that Rwanda is ready to welcome them anytime.

Apart from Rwandans’ remains, Prussian Cultural Heritage revealed that it is also preserving over 60 skulls from Tanzania.

Last year, Germany has handed back to Namibia, the skulls of indigenous people killed by Germany colonialists more than 100 years ago.

The bones had been sent to Germany for now-discredited research to prove the racial superiority of white Europeans.

As Germany colonized Namibia, tens of thousands of Herero and Nama people were murdered in response to an anti-colonial uprising.

After losing the First World War, Germany was stripped of its colonies.

At the time, Belgium too over the control of Rwanda until its Independence in 1962.

Belgium also kept Rwandan cultural vestiges some of which have been returned.

For instance, the country handed to Rwanda archives and maps designed during colonial era indicating Rwanda’s wealth of natural resources.

Towards the end of last week, Belgium also handed over to Rwanda over 4000 sounds and traditional songs taken between 1950s and 2000s.

These archives were conserved by the Royal Museum of Central Africa.

Negotiations are underway to return Rwandans’ skulls from Germany.