Name ID 942

See also

Map and Guide to Tanzania
Page Number: 03k
Extract Date: 1876 - 1881


Chief Mirambo, a local warlord, turned the supremacy in long-distance trading and porterage into a political, economic and military system by uniting the numerous Nyamwezi clans into a powerful kingdom in 1870 with its capita) in Urambo.

Between 1876 and 1881 he undertook missions to make alliances with neighbouring rulers and led expeditions to Burundi, the Vinza and Tongwe in the West, the Pimbwe and Konongo in the South, the Nyaturu, Iramba and Sukuma in eastern Tanzania, and to Kabaka Mutesa of Uganda.

Using Ngoni mercenaries - the 'ruga-ruga' - his rule extended from the Northwest Buganda border to Lake Tanganyika and covered the area south of Tabora down to Uvinza. To consolidate his power he made an alliance with the sultan of Zanzibar but constant incidents led to the Sultan withdrawing his support, and Mirambo's kingdom disintegrated after his death in 1884.

He is a national hero and a famous war song honours his memory; Iron Breaks the Head.

Stanley called him the 'Napoleon of Central Africa'.

Extract ID: 4003

See also

Map and Guide to Tanzania
Page Number: 06d
Extract Date: 1905

the Maji Maji war

All resistance to the Germans in the interior ceased and they could now set out to organize Deutsch Ost Afrika.

They continued exercising their authority with such disregard and contempt for existing local structures and traditions and with such brutality that discontent was brewing anew and in 1902 a movement against forced labour for a cotton scheme rejected by the local population started along the Rufiji.

It reached a breaking point in July 1905 when the Matumbi of Nandete chased their akida and suddenly the revolt grew wider from Dar es Salaam to the Uluguru Mountains, the Kilornbero Valley, the Mahenge and Makonde Plateaux, the Ruvuma in the southernmost part and Kilwa, Songea, Masasi, and from Kilosa to Iringa down to the eastern shores of Lake Nyasa.

Known as the Maji Maji war with the main brunt borne by the Ngonis, this was a merciless rebellion and by far the bloodiest in Tanganyika.

Germans had occupied the area since 1897 and totally altered many aspects of everyday life. They were actively supported by the missionaries who destroyed all signs of indigenous beliefs, notably by razing the 'mahoka' huts where the local population worshipped their ancestors' spirits and by ridiculing their rites, dances and other ceremonies. This would not be forgotten or forgiven; the first battle which broke out at Uwereka in September 1905 under the Governorship of Count von Gotzen turned instantly into an all-out war with indiscriminate murders and massacres perpetrated by all sides against farmers, settlers, missionaries, planters, villages, indigenous people and peasants.

Extract ID: 4026

See also

Map and Guide to Tanzania
Page Number: 06e
Extract Date: 1905

the Maji Maji Rebellion

Convinced by powerful witch-doctors (waganga), the people believed that special water from the Uluguru Mountains protected men with magic by turning bullets into water (maji in Kiswahili, hence the Maji Maji Rebellion). The best known mganga was Kinjikitile of Ngarambe and 'drinking stations' were installed all over to allow local populations to benefit from this magic medicine, which was in fact not so much drunk as sprinkled all over the body.

After the first assault, the Ngoni overran the Perarniho German Mission and burned down all the buildings, avenging the destruction of their huts. Sustained battles lasting three to four weeks went on all over but the Maji Maji leaders were repeatedly defeated since the Germans had no scruples in using machine guns against the fighters, who like the Pogoro and Mbunga tribesmen convinced that the Maji Maji was giving them immunity against bullets - massively attacked Mahenge in great strength, but were relentlessly mown down in dreadful numbers.

The biggest united fight against the Germans took place under command of Chief Chabruma of the Ngoni at Lumecha, ten miles east of the fortified German Boma (Administrative Headquarters) but he was routed. He started a protracted guerilla warfare but pursued by German officers and engaging in a last desperate fight in June 1906 he was badly wounded and crossed the Ruvuma into Portuguese territory to take refuge at the court of Chief Mataka of the Yao. Recovering from his wounds and planning yet one more attack he was assassinated by a pretender to his succession. Some actions lasted until 1907 around Songea but Chabruma's assassination marked the end of the incredibly violent rebellion which left between 120,000 and 135,000 dead.

The entire south German East Africa was completely devastated and the political power and economic structure of the Ngoni totally destroyed. District Commissioner Captain Richter applied a scorched earth policy and by confiscating food, provoked a two year-long famine and massive depopulation and emigration. His extreme policy came under severe criticism from those same missionaries who ten years earlier had been one of the main causes of the uprising and they now succeeded in having him relieved from his post.

Meanwhile and between March and September 1906, all the leaders of the Maji Maji Rebellion were hanged. Chief Songea, who gave his name to the town, was offered a reprieve from the death sentence because he had surrendered: he demanded to be and was hanged, fearing that his survival would be considered a treacherous act.

The Maji Maji War in Ungoni by 0.B Mapunda and G.P Mpagnala, published in 1968, documents this period with a wealth of detail and anecdotes.

Extract ID: 4027

See also

Map and Guide to Tanzania
Page Number: 09f

The Ngoni

The Ngoni (Angoni, Wangoni): caught up in battles with King Shaka's Zulu warriors (South Africa), some chiefs were forced to look for new territories to assert their lost power. In 1820 Zwangendaba, one of Shaka's commanders in Natal was chased and, crossing the Zambezi, established a kingdom between western Lake Nyasa and eastern Lake Tanganyika, reaching the Fipa Plateau around 1840 after a 2,000 mile exodus.

Break-away Ngoni bands dispersed after Zwangendaba's death in 1845 and went as far north as Lake Victoria. The Tuta settled around Kahama and became professional mercenaries known as 'ruga-ruga'.

A group of Gwangwara Ngoni under ZuluGama moved to Songea defeating the Maseko Ngoni who had defeated the local Ndendeule who moved north to the Kilombero Valley where they established the Mbunga Kingdom in the 1860s. Other splinter groups formed the Mshope Kingdom north of Songea.

The Ngoni were feared all over the country and they exercised power from Lake Nyasa to the Indian Ocean and from the North of Hehe country to the Southern Yao. German colonisation brought them under control by 1910 but not without very bloody and violent resistance.

Extract ID: 4044