Berlin streets to be renamed after African heroes

After more than ten years of agitations, new names for streets in Berlin’s African Quarter linked to the brutal German colonial past in Africa have been found.

The representatives of the three major parties on the district council of Wedding (Greens, SPD and Left) have agreed to rename Petersallee, Lüderitzstraße and Nachtigalplatz in honour of African liberation fighters.

Lüderitzstraße was named after Adolf Lüderitz, who established the German South West Africa now known as Namibia, Nachtigalplatz (for Gustav Nachtigal, who led the colonization of Togo and Cameroon), and Petersallee (Carl Peters, the founder of the colony of German East Africa – today’s Tanzania).

The African Quarter, a multi-cultural neighbourhood in the Berlin district of Wedding, is home to squares and streets associated with German colonial rule in Africa.

“The African Quarter still glorifies colonialism and its crimes, which is incompatible with our understanding of democracy and that permanently damages the image of the city of Berlin,” the council said in a statement last Wednesday.

CDU, FDP and AfD voted against the motion, which will be finally voted upon on Thursday in the district council. Since the Greens, SPD and Left together have the majority of the votes, it‘s certain that the motion will be passed.

There will be four new street names as the Petersallee is to be divided at the Nachtigalplatz into two streets. The rear section to Windhuker Straße will be called Maji-Maji-Allee, the front part leading to Müllerstraße is to be named after Anna Mungunda. And Lüderitzstraße is to become Cornelius-Frederiks-Straße while Nachtigallplatz will be named after the Bell family.

The name Maji-Maji is intended to commemorate the largely unknown liberation struggle of the German colonial era – the so-called Maji Maji uprising (1905-1907) in “German East Africa”. The name Maji-Maji derives from the battle cry used by the indigenous population against German dictatorship. The word Maji stands for a water magic.

Anna Mungunda (1932-1959) was a Herero and the first woman in Namibia to support the independence movement. Mungunda was shot by the police on 9 December 1959 during a demonstration against the forced displacement of the native population. Namibian Women’s Day is marked today on 9 December. 

Cornelius Frederiks, who died in 1907, led the Nama resistance war in what was then German South West Africa, now Namibia.

Rudolf Douala Manga Bell (1873-1914) was the King of Douala in today’s Cameroon. He rose up, after initially cooperating with the German colonial authorities, against their land expropriation policy and was therefore executed. His wife Emily Douala Manga Bell (1881-1936) was also an anti-colonial activist and fought bitterly against the execution of her husband.

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The decision to change the controversial street names is a major victory for the Black community and their German sympathisers who have been clamouring for their renaming for more than a decade.

Observers however say it may take some time for the streets to be officially renamed partly because some local residents may resist it for a while.

Femi Awoniyi

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