John Boyes

Name ID 1281

See also

Spear, Thomas Mountain Farmers, Moral Economies of Land and Agricultural Development in Arusha and Meru
Page Number: 078
Extract Date: 1900-1916

Boma and Chiefs: 1900-1916

The boma that Meru and Arusha were forced to build in 1900 was a solid statement of the imposition of a new political and moral order. Set on a small hill at the base of Mount Meru, the fortress-like building faced out over the plains below. One approached along a 'fine wide road, equal to a well-kept highway in England', that was `carefully marked off in kilometres', the adventurer John Boyes noted on a visit in 1903.

"The road led to a place called Arusha, and as we approached it we came to our astonishment in sight of a truly marvellous building, erected in European style and surrounded by a moat....

The boma was a one-storey building of stone and mortar, with a huge tower in the centre and the whole glistened bright in the sunlight, like an Aladdin's Palace transported from some fairy-land and dropped down in the heart of the tropics. Emblazoned on the front of the tower were the Royal Arms of Germany, which could be seen nearly a mile off....

The station was walled off and, being furnished with a Maxim and a machine gun, made a formidable stronghold...."

Standing in the midst of the 'lush plantations of the Waarusha', one approached the fort along a wide straight path and entered through a heavy stone portal into an open courtyard, surrounded by stone walls, with a square, flat-topped tower in the centre and Swahili-type houses arrayed along the back wall. Boyes was impressed by the amenities:

"Water from neighbouring gullies was laid on throughout the building, and a plentiful supply was available for all purposes. Water-power was used for driving a lathe in the workshop, and the officer had a staff of trained Natives. The wood-work especially was particularly well done. Even the tiles on the roof were made by the Natives, and the building was made entirely from local material. The inside of the station was paved with stone; the living rooms were fitted with electric bells; and Herr K�ster said he hoped to install electric light at an early date."

The town itself lay below the boma and consisted of some thirty Indian, Greek, and Arab shops selling cloth, trinkets, soap, enamelled plates and bowls, beads, and copper wire. One even had a sewing machine out front and produced jackets and trousers for the German soldiers and 'more progressive natives'. Boyes found:

"Everything about Arusha was equally surprising, the streets being well laid out with fine side-walks, separated from the road by a stream of clear water flowing down a cemented gullyway. We had discovered a real oasis in the wilderness. The township was spotlessly clean and we saw Natives with small baskets picking up any litter lying about, as though the place were the Tiergarten of Berlin and not the wild interior of the Dark Continent....

Attached to the fort was a splendid kitchen garden in which grew almost every kind of European vegetable, and next to that a coffee plantation)."

The German administration, like the boma, was built on solid military lines meant to impress. German military officers served as both local commanders and district officers, alternately administering and punishing their unruly subjects. Mount Meru had been administered, largely by means of punitive raids, by Captain Johannes from Moshi. With the completion of the boma in 1901, colonial troops were garrisoned in Arusha under the command of First Lieutenant Georg K�ster, and Arusha remained under military rule until the general transfer to civilian administration throughout Tanganyika in 1906. Even under civil rule, however, district officers continued to wield considerable power in the exercise of their authority, and they did so largely free of troublesome constraints imposed by the central government. Few remained in Arusha long enough to gain much of an understanding of the local situation. Eleven district officers served an average of sixteen months each during the period of German rule from 1901 to 1916.

German officers ruled through local Arusha and Meru leaders, but in the aftermath of the mass hangings of 1900 they had difficulty identifying likely leaders and persuading them to serve. The Germans initially chose Masengye (1900-01), a son of former Mangi Matunda (1887-96), to replace his executed brother, Lobolu (1896� 1900), as Meru chief, but Masengye was deposed and imprisoned within a year for murder (see Table 4.1: Meru Mangi). Abandoning the royal Kaaya clan for a nominee viewed as a more reliable collaborator, the Germans then appointed Nyereu (1901-02) from the Nasari clan, but he too was soon imprisoned, allegedly for neglecting his duties and procuring girls for German soldiers. The Germans finally found the nominee they had been seeking when they appointed Sambegye (1902-25), a member of the Nanyaro clan and favoured neighbour of the missionaries newly re-installed at Nkoaranga. Sambegye prospered as chief, taking ten wives by 1905, and he continued as chief until 1925. He soon ceased being a mission favourite, however, and in 1905 Rev. Krause complained that his overt friendliness was but a mask for covert opposition: 'How could it possibly be otherwise! His friends are beer and women, and he knows these do not mix with the new teachings.'

Arusha, unlike Meru, had no tradition of chiefdom, so the Germans appropriated the tradition of regional spokesmen (laigwenak) that had first emerged during the warriors' raids of the 1850s, and called them Mangi after the Meru term for chief.15 Having hanged Maraai and Rawaito, the spokesmen from Boru (upper Arusha) and Burka (lower Arusha) respectively, however, they had to find replacements. The new Arusha spokesman for Burka was Ndasikoi, but the Germans also wished to reward their Afro-Arab ally, Saruni, and so they split Burka between the two men (see Table 4.2: Arusha Mangi/ Olkarsis). Both men remained in office for the duration of German rule. Sabaya (1900-11) was appointed in Boru and served until his death, when he was replaced by his eldest son Leshabar (1911-16). Arusha opposed Leshabar and burned down his home, however, forcing the administration to replace him with Lairumbe (1916-33), a wealthy cattle trader associated with the Lutheran mission.

The Germans also appointed local headmen to rule over individual districts below the chiefs. In Meru, these came initially from the ranks of local lineage or clan leaders (vashili), who normally were chosen by local clan members to mediate disputes among them and represent their interests with other clans and the mangi. Vashili became increasingly dependent on the administration, however, as they became encumbered with the unpopular tasks of raising labour and taxes.

In accord with differences in local Arusha politics, headmen were initially drawn from the ranks of local age-set spokesmen (laigwenak) chosen by their age-mates to mediate internal disputes and to represent their interests with other sets. As in Meru, however, their traditional legitimacy quickly broke down before the illegitimate nature of the tasks they were asked to assume by the authorities. Thereafter, headmen, like chiefs, increasingly became drawn from an emerging group of younger men associated with either the government or the mission.'7

While there is no direct evidence to assess the impact of these changes on the nature of local leadership in Arusha and Meru, we can place them within the context of Arusha. While neither society had a tradition of strong central authority, the military successes and increasing wealth of the warriors during the 1880s and early 1890s enhanced their status and power while eroding whatever authority the mangi in Meru or the logwenak in Arusha had possessed previously. German conquest and rule reversed this process, for not only did Talala's crushing defeat in 1896-7 damage their self-confidence and reputation, as shown by their disintegration in 1900 but, more critically, the warriors lost nearly all their cattle as well as the means to replenish them. As power and wealth shifted to chiefs and headmen appointed by the administration, the influence of the warriors continued to wane. No future Arusha age-set attained the fame of Talala; joint activities by Arusha and Meru warriors ceased; and Meru slowly withdrew from the Maasai age-set system altogether until they refused to join with Arusha to initiate Terito in the mid-1920s.

Chiefs and headmen appointed by the Germans after 1900 saw their potential power and influence increase as a result of their newly institutionalized authority, their support from the colonial administration, and their ability to use their new-found power to gain wealth. At the same time as power and status were shifting from the warriors to the chiefs, the means of attaining them were also shifting from criteria based on age, respect, wealth in cattle and bananas, and the size of one's following to those based on education, affiliation with the government and mission, and wealth gained from wages.

While the means of achieving power were changing, the ways in which it was deployed through wealth in cattle and social investments were frequently similar, thus obscuring the more fundamental changes taking place under the surface of Arusha and Meru social relations. Chiefs became known for their large cattle herds and number of wives and, following the bumper harvest of 1907, there was a spate of 'ox-hangings' around the mountain as wealthy men competed to see who could distribute the most meat to their friends and followers so that they might be 'lauded by the people'.� Such changes were gradual at first, scarcely noticeable during much of the German period, but they would become more prominent in the years to come.

Chiefs' newly-enhanced power and status did not come without costs, however. Chiefs and headmen were frequently unpopular with their followers as they became increasingly answerable to their German patrons, losing their own legitimacy in the process. Just as the Germans quickly abandoned appointing Meru chiefs from the royal Kaaya clan, so all chiefs came to owe their office to the whim of the government rather than to whatever influence or status they possessed locally. Increasingly, one's patrons became more important than one's clients, as chiefs came to have a share in the power of others, rather than exercising it on their own.

The German administration, like the conquest that had established it, was viewed as harsh and unjust by Meru and Arusha. They called Lt K�ster Bwana Fisi', or Mr Hyena. The missionaries thought that his successor, Baron Ludwig Friedrich von Reitzenstein, was 'kindly' and 'well-disposed toward the natives', respected by them because he allowed `no idling or disobedience from his chiefs or their underlings', held court according to local custom while making 'sure it was not spoiled by the long-windedness of the natives', and successfully built roads without resorting to the feared kiboko (whip).'' The missionaries' notion of respect gained by the firm exercise of authority was not the same as that held by Arusha and Meru, however, who objected to the continued use of corv�e (unpaid labour) for public works, the collection of taxes, the corruption of chiefs and, most of all, the seizure of precious land for South African and German settlers. In their exercise of unfettered power and their continued reliance on military force and coerced labour, German officials must not have appeared to be very different from the predatory trading chiefs who had preceded them elsewhere in the Pangani Valley.

Extract ID: 5653

See also

The starting point for the new face of Arusha
Page Number: 1
Extract Date: 1903

Origins of the Boma

"The road led to a place called Arusha, and as we approached it we came to our astonishment in sight of a truly marvelous building, erected in European style and surrounded by a moat", wrote English adventurer, John Boyes about the beginnings of the town he saw in 1903.

"The Boma was a one-storey building of stone and mortar, with a huge tower in the centre and the whole glistened bright in the sunlight, like an Aladdin�s Palace transported from some fairyland and dropped down in the heart of the tropics. Emblazoned on the front of the tower were the royal arms of Germany, which could be seen nearly a mile off."

"The Boma had been built on a small hill at the base of Mount Meru facing the plains. Below the town were about 30 Indian, Greek and Arab shops selling cloth, trinkets, soap, enameled plates, bowls, beads and copper wire. One shop even had a sewing machine and produced jackets and trousers for the German soldiers and "more progressive natives."

In this 1903 description of early Arusha, Boyes wrote that one approached the Boma along a "fine wide road, equal to a well-kept highway in England" that was "carefully marked off in kilometres.

"Everything about Arusha was equally surprising, the streets being laid out with fine side-walks, separated from the road by a stream of clear water flowing down a cemented gully-way. We had discovered a real oasis in the wilderness.

"The township was spotlessly clean and we saw natives with small baskets picking up any litter lying about, as though the place were the Tiergarten in Berlin and not the wild interior of the Dark Continent."

The German Boma was completed in 1901 and Arusha remained under rigid German military rule until five years later. It had been built as a military fort with a mounted Maxim machine gun. The first commander was First Lieutenant Georg Kuster derogatorily referred to in Swahili as "Bwana Fisi" meaning "Mr. Hyena".

Those "natives", as Boyes called the Waarusha and Wameru, had in fact been made to build the Boma as a punishment. Spears had been turned into digging tools; shields served as crude wheelbarrows. Swords were used to cut down trees, young women and children forced to carry thatching material, older men and women given the task of stamping barefoot on wet mud to join the stones during construction.

Extract ID: 3395

See also

Boyes, John (ed. Mike Resnick) Company of Adventurers
Page Number: 116a
Extract Date: 1903

Elephant Hunting

Next morning I was just sitting down to breakfast when news came in that the elephants had returned. I went to the shamba where they had been, but again they had left before my arrival. Following the trail into heavy forest country till after mid-day, I could hear the elephants crashing in the forest, and it was not long before I was close up to them. The bush was so thick it was impossible to see more than a few yards in front, and I had to crawl up very close to get a view of them. I caught sight of one big bull through the bush, but before I could take aim he scented me and charged right down in my direction. There was barely time to give him a shot in the forehead and dive into the bush before he came rushing past As soon as I had recovered myself I gave him another flying shot and he disappeared, crashing through the undergrowth, tearing up small trees in his mad flight and leaving a large spoor behind him. He had been vomiting all the way, and I found two or three places where he had lain down to rest, so I knew he had been badly wounded. I followed these tracks until it was dark, and then gave up the chase. Two other elephants crossed my path, but being small females I did not shoot. Finally I set out for camp, and arrived there tired out and with all my clothes torn from scrambling through the bush.

The next morning I got up early and returned to the forest to follow the spoor of the wounded elephant. After tracking it the whole day I found at dusk that it had crossed the Rau river, and the hunt had to be abandoned for that day. Being convinced I should find the elephant either dead or dying, I went out again to make a further search for it, for a wounded elephant may travel four or five days before it succumbs. I had nothing but bad luck. I saw other elephants, but they were mostly small, and if there was a bull it was usually surrounded by a lot of small cows and could not be shot.

Still waiting for X, I went on with my photography when not hunting. If news of elephant reached me I went out with my gun, but they were very shy and it was impossible to get near them. I was at a loss to account for this, until one day the fact explained itself. I had been following some elephants all day, and they were travelling pretty fast. It must have been about three or four o'clock in the afternoon when they stopped, and I was just creeping up, expecting to get a good shot at a big bull elephant, when all at once I heard a volley fired and bullets whizzed past me. A second afterwards the elephants came screaming and trumpeting in my direction, and I had to scramble to get out of the way. On recovering I saw about a dozen Swahili, armed with old fashioned rifles, emerging from the bush, and realized that it was they who had fired the volley into these elephants. They appeared as much surprised to see me as I was to see them. They told me they had been in the forest some months shooting at the elephants with their old rifles, which accounted for the animals being so timid.

Extract ID: 3603

See also

Boyes, John (ed. Mike Resnick) Company of Adventurers
Page Number: 117
Extract Date: 1903

News from Nairobi

X returned sooner than I expected, bringing letters and news from my friends at Nairobi and my camp outfit, but the mule had been sold in my absence and I had just to reconcile myself to its loss. The rain had pretty well cleared up by the beginning of July, and we pushed on getting the safari ready for making a start to Victoria Nyanza. We had a lot of trouble in securing porters, and just when we were ready to set off half the men deserted. So I left X to try and get more men and went out for a few days to see if there were any elephants about. I managed to get only a small bull. While sitting in camp one day I saw some Natives bringing in ivory to the Government station, and on inquiry found it must have been from the first elephant I had followed up for so many days. I put in a claim for it, but the officials said I could not prove it was mine, and the Government stuck to it.

Extract ID: 3590

See also

Boyes, John (ed. Mike Resnick) Company of Adventurers
Page Number: 111
Extract Date: 27 Jan 1903

Return to Africa

My visit to the Old Country, which lasted about nine months, brought on a bad attack of the restless spirit that compelled me to be off again roving. During the journey home on a German steamer - that was in the year 1902 - I had heard much of German East Africa and decided on my return to see it. Whilst at home I had made the chance acquaintance of a young man, called "X" in the following pages, who was eager to join me. He seemed so anxious to go that I finally consented, and it was agreed that he should be one of the party.

Knowing from my past experiences in British East Africa what I was likely to require for the journey, which was to be a hunting and trading expedition, I bought plenty of provisions and trade goods in England to take out with me. One thing which made me choose German East Africa was that at that time the hunting regulations there were not so strict as in Kenya Colony, or British East Africa as it was then called, and therefore I hoped to have plenty of sport. I had all my goods made up into 60-lb. loads, the limit for a Native porter to carry, and special boxes were made for me which would just hold a load.

During my holiday at home I had also been practicing photography, and I took with me a full outfit. I had, of course, a good supply of guns and ammunition,

We started from Hull on January 27, 1903, and joined the German boat at Rotterdam. Our fellow passengers were chiefly Russian Jews going out to South Africa. Instead of taking the ordinary route via the Suez Canal, the steamer went round by Cape Town, and called at all the ports along the East Coast. A younger brother of mine in South Africa, who also wanted to join this expedition, was picked up at Durban.

Extract ID: 3584

See also

Boyes, John (ed. Mike Resnick) Company of Adventurers
Page Number: 112
Extract Date: 27 March 1903


We reached Tanga and dropped anchor in the beautiful little harbor on March 27. Tanga was then a clean little town, well laid out with broad streets and avenues of trees. The inhabitants, like those of Mombasa, were chiefly Swahili, with, however, for so young an African town, a fair sprinkling of white people. There were a number of Indian stores and all the hotels were kept by Germans. There was quite a force of Native soldiers, and a very good Native band which played in the garden on the public parade. The trouble with Tanga was the climate. It was not so healthy as Mombasa, and fever was very prevalent. During the day-time it was intensely hot, and at night, as soon as the sun went down, mosquitoes gave us no rest.

An old Indian resident offered me the use of some land for a camp on the outskirts of Tanga, so I pitched our tents on this site, and all our goods were brought to the camp. I obtained licenses without much difficulty and had the guns registered and the ammunition passed through the Customs House without trouble.

Having decided to use donkeys for transport we began making pack saddles. Some Natives were engaged and a lot more trade goods bought, such as cloth and blankets, and provisions for the Masai porters we were to take with us. No donkeys were to be had at Tanga, however, and I found we should have to go to Korogwe, the then terminus of the Usambara Railway, sixty miles away, before any could be procured. The wet season was just beginning and it rained very heavily. We were very thankful when everything was on the train and safely on its way. Korogwe is situated on the banks of the Pangani river at the foot of the West Usambara Mountains. It was a most unhealthy place, a region of swamps and fever with the hateful mosquitoes ever present. The river was infested with crocodiles, which could be heard moving about in the water at night whenever we approached,

I bought some donkeys here, but not sufficient for my purpose. As all the boys and my two companions were new to the work, I had a most difficult task to get everything in order. The rain came down in a steady downpour, which made things very unpleasant. I found time to visit the station of the Universities' Mission, and was well received by the three missionaries in charge.

On the morning of Easter Sunday we began our long and tedious journey into the interior. I found that travelling had been made much easier in German than it was in British East Africa, for rest-houses had been erected by the Government a day's march apart. Headmen of the villages close by were responsible for the proper maintenance of these rest-houses. They were also expected to bring in food for the guests, chickens or eggs or whatever of their produce the travellers might require,

Our safari now consisted of about twenty-five porters, thirty donkeys, X, my brother, and myself.

It was hot work travelling with the donkeys, which were no different from other donkeys in their obstinacy, and required much coaxing to move at anything quicker than a snail's pace. The roughly made pack-saddles were continually going wrong and our progress was necessarily slow, averaging about ten miles a day.

Extract ID: 3585

external link

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Boyes, John (ed. Mike Resnick) Company of Adventurers
Page Number: 000 Table of Contents
Extract Date: 1910

Boyes in 1910

Introduction by Mike Resnick

The White Adventurers of the Lado Enclave

Photo (right): Boyes in 1910

Technique of an Elephant Hunter's Life

Further Adventures in the Congo

Gentlemen Adventurers

Round the Camp Fire

With the K.A.R. in my old Kikuyu Haunts

Donkey-Buying in the Karamoja Country

Trading in "German East"

Safari-ing de Luxe

Lost in the Bush

Nairobi to Dire Daoua

On the Road to Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa and the Abyssinians

The March to the Frontier

Across the Desert

Over the Mountains to Nairobi

Extract ID: 3430

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1928 Publishes: Boyes, John (ed. Mike Resnick) Company of Adventurers

Extract ID: 3429

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Boyes, John (ed. Mike Resnick) Company of Adventurers

The extracts from this book are also available in a MS Word document. Follow the Link.

Extract ID: 3930

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Boyes, John (ed. Mike Resnick) Company of Adventurers
Page Number: 110a


Extract ID: 3609

See also

Boyes, John (ed. Mike Resnick) Company of Adventurers
Page Number: 110b

A Kikuyu Woman being shaved

Extract ID: 3610

See also

Boyes, John (ed. Mike Resnick) Company of Adventurers
Page Number: 110c

Kikuyu Husband and two wives

Extract ID: 3611

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Boyes, John (ed. Mike Resnick) Company of Adventurers
Page Number: 113a

Snapped near Moshi

Extract ID: 3612

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Boyes, John (ed. Mike Resnick) Company of Adventurers
Page Number: 118a

Arusha Boma under "Bwana Fisi"

Extract ID: 3613

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Boyes, John (ed. Mike Resnick) Company of Adventurers
Page Number: 120a

Native with his store of Maize cobs

Extract ID: 3614

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Boyes, John (ed. Mike Resnick) Company of Adventurers
Page Number: 124a

Huts in Tanganyika Territory

Extract ID: 3615

See also

Boyes, John (ed. Mike Resnick) Company of Adventurers
Page Number: 128

Returning to Arusha

We secured another guide from the Wanderobo settlement, our old guides having been dispensed with. As no water was to be obtained at the next two camps, we took a supply with us. Two days' march through the same rugged country brought us on the outskirts of Arusha. That night, as the boys drove the cattle down to the river, I heard shouting and some of the men calling "Simba!" (lion). Picking up my gun, I rushed out on the chance of getting a shot. In the gathering dusk, which follows so quickly on the African sunset, I caught a glimpse of a lion disappearing over a ridge on the opposite side of the river, I ran up the hill, but it was too dark to see anything. Returning to camp, I got the boys to make a specially strong fence and light plenty of fires, at the same time giving them instructions to keep a sharp look-out, which was a wise precaution, as lions were prowling round the camp the whole night.

The wounded man now expressed a wish to go back home, and when I spoke to the other Wanyamwezi, who were from the same village, I found they were all anxious to get home. They had forgotten their anger against X, but I was quite prepared to give them extra pay to compensate them for what had happened. I gave the wounded man a hundred rupees, and I admit I was not sorry to get rid of them, as a wounded man on a stretcher was naturally a hindrance to the caravan. It took six men to carry him. So that night I paid them all off, giving them three weeks to get home, and paying them their wages up to the very day they expected to arrive at their own village.

Extract ID: 3600