Maji Maji in Ungoni: A Reappraisal of Existing Historiography

Author(s): Patrick M. Redmond, 1975.

The Maji Maji rebellion of 1905-1906 was Tanzania’s most spectacular manifestation of the rejection of colonial rule. It joined numerous peoples of very diverse political, economic, and social backgrounds in a struggle to oust the German power which had recently subjugated them. Of those who participated, the Ngoni of Songea district were among the most determined, some continuing the fight till mid-1906, and most suffering heavily from massive reprisals at German hands.

While the largely independent nature of the Songea rebellion has been acknowledged elsewhere,2 in general scholars have held that the Ngoni had the same reason for participating as had others who fought: the belief that the maji (Swahili, water) which their prophets were dispensing would protect their warriors from bullets, enabling them to throw off cruel and repressive German rule and regain their independence.3 The reappraisal of this interpretation which follows is based onthe supposition that the attitudes of different groups among the Ngoni toward both the Germans and the advantages of independence were variable. Not all felt either severely oppressed under German dominance or looked forward to a better life without them. Moreover, where possible this variabilityd eterminedc ommitment to rebellion. The Maji Maji among the Ngoni was not a united struggle against a hated enemy,but a conflict fomented by those whom its successful outcome stood to benefit.

The argument lies in an analysis of the political,economic,and social life in Ungoni,the country of the Ngoni, prior to colonial rule and of the German impact on it. Two factors in particulara re important: the influence of social rank on the Ngoni reaction to the Germans, and the role of the internal political situation in determining who was willing to

The Background

The Ngoni presence in Songea district was an offshoot of the Mfecane, the dispersion which followed Shaka’s rise to power and the growth of the Zulu nation in southern Africa. Of those who migrated, one group, the Maseko Ngoni, reached Songea in the 1840s, while another,the Njelu and Mshope Ngoni, came there in the 1850s. The two groups fought for control over the region and its peoples, and the earlier arrivals were defeated and driven from the area. The victors then set up two kingdoms and began a period of remarkably successful state building. Better organized politically and more sophisticated militarily than their neighbors, they had little trouble in expanding their numbers. From the early 1850s until the end of the century their population increased from less than a thousand4 to what has been conservatively estimated at 36,000.5

In the process of building their kingdoms the Ngoni created new societies in eastern Africa whose characteristics in part reflected those of their forebears in southern Africa. Political structure and organization continued to be centralized and based on royal families-the Gamain Njelu and the Tawete in Mshope-whose chosen head, called the nkosi,6 was the single most powerful person in the kingdom. He controlled the military organization with the assistance of senior members of the royal household and senior military commanders, called manduna. He directed national administration, assisted once again by leading relatives, called wantwana. Differences in political organization developed in some matters. For example, in one kingdom a few military manduna became extremely powerful and quite independent. Military tactics, weapons, and much of the organization of the fighting force also continued the way they had in southern Africa. However, numerous changes also occurred, and it was these which gradually produced new societies.

Most of these changes were the result of adaptation to the East African environment. Militarily, the system was not as refined as it had been in southern Africa. The overwhelming numbers of local people in the army had meant the general abandonment of such things as age regiments, separate military villages, and some social practices. Socially, the Ngoni adopted much of the culture of their East African adherents. For example, the language of the migrants was gradually replaced by a local language.7

Successful in forging a new society, the migrants took care to preserve their preeminent role in it. This was done through a careful emphasis on the distinction between them and their East African captives and the allocation of rights and responsibilities based on the differences. The migrants were known as the true Ngoni, while those who were captured and integrated after the newcomers arrived were called sutu. Everyone knew to which class he belonged, and the implications of this hierarchy were reflected on most levels of organization within the two kingdoms. For example, on the political level the true Ngoni held all the senior administrative posts. The sutu held junior posts, and very few of them could pose any challenge to true Ngoni control. In the military, the manduna were chosen from among the true Ngoni. The sutu could become lieutenants, although usually they had to be satisfied with positions as ordinary soldiers. In economic life, the true Ngoni controlled raiding and any benefits it brought; it was they who receivedtribute from satellite villages. The largest farms and the greatest number of people to work them were theirs. In trade, they decided which contacts to allow, and when these developed, as for example in the coastal trade, they were the ones who profited. Socially, the true Ngoni enjoyed many privileges denied to the sutu. For example, they alone could wear any clothing or choose any wife.8

Either willingly or under force, the sutu accepted these arrangements.Many acquiesced because they benefited from their status as Ngoni. They participated in military campaigns and received a part of the spoils. Some gained in prestige after proving themselves successful warriors or administrators. Many were proud to belong to the strongest in the region and to share much of its life style. But even those unwilling to accept Ngoni status were forced to endure it, since they were too weak militarily to free themselves.

These two successful and rapidly expanding kingdoms encountered the Germans in the 1890s, and submitted to them in 1897. Their surrender was a reluctant but nonviolent one, the result of three factors. First, the Ngoni feared and respected the Germans, who had defeated the powerful Hehe nation to the north. In addition, Njelu, the more powerful of the two kingdoms, was rent with internal strife.9 Finally, the Ngoni leaders were deceived. Twice previously German expeditions had entered Ungoni, talked with Ngoni leaders, demanded and received tribute and the rectification of grievances, and left. The third time they invited the leaders to talk, then held them hostage until they accepted their terms.

The Varying Impact of German Rule

Submission brought many changes to Ngoni society. Of critical importance to understanding them is an awareness of their selective effect on the Ngoni. In most cases, the true Ngoni suffered the most.

The Germans hoped to take over effective political control for the eventual purpose of economic hegemony. 10 However, the kind of control that had been established on the coast, through liwalis and akidates, was impossible inland, since the Germans lacked the resources in men and money to implement it, particularly if the existing leadership resisted total removal. Instead,they manipulated the existing Ngoni administrative system. Ultimate power was withdrawn from the Ngoni and placed in the hands of the German representative in the district, who had the final say in all local administrative matters. In the political arena this allowed him to determine the allocation of power on subordinate levels by appointing and dismissing chiefs and altering the basis of their authority through, for example, removing sections of their following. He could also mobilize the population for desired ends, such as the building of roads and general construction. In financial matters, he and his superiors decided how Ngoni resources would be used. Accordingly,he could demand the tribute that formerly had gone to other groups in Ngoni society, as well as determine Ngoni activity in economic fields such as agriculture and trade. In judicial matters, he became the ultimate of law and order. This gave him the power to make his own laws and to ensure that they were enforced by his police and his system of courts.

The appropriation of these powers brought fundamental changes to the Ngoni political system. The former division of leadership among the mankosi, wantwana, and manduna was replaced by a relative standardizing of control among all three. The more important leaders were now classified as sultans, the lesser ones as jumbes; both were given specific rights and responsibilities. They were required to receive and pass on orders, to call up labor, and to run their local administration efficiently.11 They insured that tribute or taxes were collected,12 and they handled civil court cases using customary law.13 To represent the Ngoni leaders before the administration the Germans appointed a man they felt entitled to the position: Songea, the most powerful of the military manduna in Njelu.14

Within the Ngoni hierarchy, those at the top were the most adversely affected by the system of administration the Germans imposed. Some were forced to relinquish all the senior powers they had once enjoyed. For example,each nkosi no longer had final control over matters in his kingdom. The wantwana no longer influenced political policy. The senior manduna no longer decided military and most administrative questions in their regions. Some lost important segments of their following. Nkosi Chabruma of Mshope, for instance, lost almost half his kingdom when the Germans removed large blocks of territory from his control. 15 All lost the financial benefits they once had enjoyed; tribute, regular supplies of captives, the unrestricted use of subject labor, and the profits of trade in slaves and ivory passed from their hands. Senior leaders relinquished their considerable judicial powers. Almost to a man, they were unable to find in the responsibilities the Germans were now allocating an adequate alternative to those they had given up. This was so even for Nduna Songea, who although allowed greater rights than his compatriots, exercised much less authority in all spheres of political activity than he had previously done.

While the leaders, all true Ngoni,were adversely affected by the German takeover, most sutu were not. None had held senior political power before 1897, and so may have experienced only limited changes in the replacement of their true Ngoni superiors by Germans. In fact, some of them appear to have benefited. For example, some groups apparently were able to select their own leaders under the Germans.16 To groups such as the Matengo, this change must have been a welcome one. And in legal matters, they now had the option of appealing to a neutral force. To a few this was particularly useful.17 Financially, they suffered the loss of what they formerly had gained from warfare. However, some aspects of economic life improved. They could sell their labor and keep the earnings. They could participate in trade by collecting the wild rubber then in demand; some people, such as the Ngindo, seem to have done well in this enterprise.18 In agriculture,it is likely that many were freer to produce what they wanted and dispose of it as they wished. In fact, the German appearance most probably brought a graduald iffusion of wealth in Ngoni society, a diffusion that was most noticeable to and appreciated by those members who had had little before 1897. In social life, the preeminence of the true Ngoni life style was beginning to give way to that of the Europeans and coastal peoples. In religion, respect for the elders lost meaning as its purpose was withdrawn. Replacing it were the religions of the newcomers-Christianity, brought in with the Roman Catholic Benedictines of St. Ottilien, and Islam, disseminated by traders and colonial officials. Education that prepared an individual for a military life was replaced with one stressing an administrative life under German rule. Attitudes were changing; it seemed likely that a new class would emerge.

Reaction to German Rule

The response of the true Ngoni to these events seems to have passed through two stages. At first they were tolerant of German rule; after a time, however, their feeling grew into a much stronger commitment, either in favor of or against it. The initial acquiescence apparently was due to uncertainty over the implications of submission, and was reflected in a general openness toward cooperation. Contemporary government sources suggest a willingness to discuss problems.19 Mission sources indicate a comparable receptiveness in, for example, the Ngoni’s ready acceptance of missionaries to the area,20 the more specific result of curiosity and a desire for the prestige they could bring, the hope of material benefit,21 and an interest in their culture.22

While the Europeans remained a novelty more than an oppressor,the true Ngoni continued to preoccupy themselves with matters of traditional
importance. This is most poignantly evident in the Njelu kingdom, where a disputed succession to the nkosiship showed that internal political life remained critically important. In 1898 Mlamilo died. The difficulties which arose over determining his successor brought to the fore Njelu rivalries which had been building up for more than a decade over matters half a century old. In the late 1850s, before the Njelu helped to overthrow the Maseko, their leadership had suffered severe reversals at Maseko hands. Some of the senior leaders had been killed, and a number of the Gama royal family were forced to flee west of the lake. Among those who left was the recently installed nkosi,Gwazerapasi. After the Maseko defeat, men from junior branches of the royal family-Hawai (c. 1864-1874) and Mharule (1874-1889)-took control of the kingdom. In the 1880s, when Njelu was at the height of power, Nkosi Mharule invited his kinsmen to come back from exile and a number did. But after Mharule died, the electors disagreed on their choice for a successor. According to Tom Von Prince, the most important source of information on the conflict,23 Mharule’s brother Mlamilo was the legitimate heir but he declined to serve, apparently due to ill health. The only other brothers were those who had returned from west of the lake, and their flight made them ineligible. Accordingly, sons of Hawai and Mharule were considered, as was a third possibility, Zamchaya, a son of Gwazerapasi. Zamchaya was from the
senior family and, unlike his father’s generation, was eligible to succeed,
or so Prince says. Zamchaya returned to receive the nkosiship, but a number of electors rejected him because, again according to Prince, he was unsatisfactory.24 Yet Prince fails to mention the very important reason why he should be considered legitimate when the older generation had not been. Based on their subsequent behavior, the sons of Hawai and Mharule clearly were unwilling to accept him or any of his family. In any case, the succession remained unresolved. Mlamilo chose to rule one part of the kingdom, while Zamchaya claimed another. At the same time, some of the leading manduna took advantage of the situation to assert their independence of either overlord,and dissension within the kingdom grew strong. By the time Mlamilo died in 1898, Zamchaya’s older brother Mputa had returned and claimed the throne..Though little information on the succession remains – the Germans ignored it after officially abolishing the office – it appears that Mputa was opposed by Usangila, a son of Mharule.25 According to E. Ebner, Mputa became the de facto leader; he enjoyed considerable power and simply took the title of nkosi.26 Mputa’s accession subsequently influenced the attitudes of dissident members of the royal family toward the Germans.

Among some true Ngoni, initial tolerance toward the foreigners gradually
gave way to fuller cooperation and receptiveness. One of Njelu’s senior leaders, Putire Gama, became very friendly with the missionaries. While this may suggest an openness to the new order, it probably merely reflects one stage in Gama’s growing independence of the traditional power center. 27 Usangila Gama seems to have established cordialcontacts with the German sat the administrative headquarters or fort,28 apparently in an attempt to gain support for his faction. He may also have wished to counteract the benefits Mputa gained from his relations with the missionaries. A few true Ngoni took advantage of the opportunities the Germans made available. For example, some worked for them. One, Kaziburre, a son of the Njelu military nduna Mpambalioto, became an interpreter.29 Some sons of true Ngoni leaders attended mission and government schools. They probably did so initially through force, then continued out of genuine interest. Among their numbers were Dominikus Missoro Tawete and Ali Songea, sons of the two most powerful leaders of Ungoni.

Although some true Ngoni began to cooperate with the Germans,most came to oppose them as their attitude of tolerance proved inadequate under the circumstances. Occasionally the response turned to despair. For example, after being summoned repeatedly to the fort to answer for his apparently unfriendly attitude, Fusa Gama hanged himself.30 Sometimes the response was confrontation. Philip Gulliver notes Chabruma Tawete, nkosi of Mshope, as being strongly belligerent:”[He] was far more truculent [than Mputa, nkosi of Njelu] and had several brushes with the German officers at the Songea boma… in the tradition of the high autocracy of the Mshope Ngoni [he] was far less ready to give way to the whiteman.”31 On one occasion he ignored the limits the Germans had placed on his judicial powers and sentenced to death a subject who had interfered with one of his wives. The man escaped and reported the leader,who was admonished.32

But confrontation had its limits;it fostered rebellion, and this the Germans were not prepared to tolerate. When a former subject, a Matengo chief, rebelled against German taxation policies, he was promptly and severely repressed.33 And others were made to realize that rebellion would not be taken lightly. Accordingly the Ngoni pursued a policy of non cooperation only as far as they could safely do so. Mputa Gama spurned the missionaries after 1904 when one burned the mahoka hut where he prayed to his ancestors,34 but otherwise they had to content themselves with lamenting their lot. Many must have longed to return to the free and successful life of the past,35 when they held firm control over wealth and power. Presumably they hoped for some means to restore it.

Although most of the true Ngoni found little satisfaction in the German
presence, the same cannot be said of the sutu. We already have seen a few ways in which the German impact on the sutu varied from that on their leaders. Numerous contemporary references clearly suggest considerable adaptation to the new political-situation, commenting on their willingness to give up raiding in favor of peaceful farming36 and to participate in porterage and other German economic activities.37 More recent works have also noted the openness of many sutu to the Germans. One student,remarking on oral evidence collected on their response to the newcomers, wrote: “We the Wahamba [Wandenduli]somehow appreciated a number of the German rules because they directly opposed the Ngoni rules, especially of using us as unpaid servants.”38 Certainly the reaction was not uniformly positive. Many were unhappy with taxes, forced labor, and the general mistreatment theysuffered at German hands.39 Undoubtedly these reasons were sufficient
justification for rebellion for some, but certainly not for all.

By 1905 the Ngoni had reacted to German domination in varied and complex ways. Some of the true Ngoni were adapting to and benefiting from the German presence, although most were chafing under ever increasing restrictions. Some among the sutu were dissatisfied with the harshness of German rule and the losses they had suffered, but many had improved their lot under the new masters. Into this society a powerful religious movement with strong political overtones spread in the summer of 1905.

The Spread of the Maji in Ungoni

In July 1905 some Matumbi, a people living to the east of Songea district,
took courage from a powerful maji given to them by their religious leader and began uprooting cotton plants at Nandete.40 Shortly afterward they forced the local administrator to leave the district. Then on 15 August a neighboring people, fortified as well by the medicine, attacked the German boma at Liwale. On 30 August, Ngindo and eastern Pogoro stormed the German boma at Mahenge,41 and the Maji Maji rebellion was in full swing.

While the rebellion was beginning elsewhere, the Ngoni encountered Kinjala,an emissary of the man who was spreading the maji cult. Kinjala first came into contact with a subchief of Chabruma, through whom he met the great leader. According to the evidence of a British colonial officer given in the 1930s, Chabruma was at first reluctant to accept the maji, but after consulting the ancestors and his advisers he decided to use the medicine to regain Ngoni independence.42 He ordered everyone in the Mshope kingdom to do likewise, and almost all complied even those whom the Germans had removed from his control-because they were afraid of displeasing him. Then Chabruma invited the Njelu Ngoni to participate. Mputa was receptive, and after visiting a Mshope center where the maji was being distributed he returned to Njelu to enlist the support of other leaders. Not all were willing to join-Putire Gama, Usangila Gama, and Chabruma Gama were among those who refused-but most other leaders received the water, as did the sutu. Like their counterparts in Mshope, the latter had little choice in the matter. The stage was now set for the Ngoni uprising, the most protracted and vicious part of Maji Maji.

A Reinterpretation of Participation

As noted above, most analyses of the Ngoni rebellion claim that the Ngoni fought to free themselves from European control and to restore their former state to greatness. In reports to the government written shortly after the conflict occurred and in his book published in 1909,43 Graf von Gitzen listed a variety of causes, including annoyance at taxation and other economic measures, a desire for independence, and theinfluence of superstition. The Colonial Economic Committee offered another analysis, and one of its members, John Booth, was well acquainted with the Ngoni. He considered the rebellion the result both of an attempt by Ngoni leaders to regain their power and of a spreading of the maji.44 A third group to offer their views were the Benedictine missionaries. In a report of late 1906, one of their converts described the rebels’ desire to expel the Europeans from their country.45 A more official Benedictine report came from the Bishop of Dar es Salaam; he suggested that nationalism was an important cause, comparing the rebellion to the struggles of the Tirol people in 1809 and the Germans in 1813 against Napoleon.46

John Iliffe has analyzed the views of these and other Germans47 and divided them into two opposing schools of thought: the witchcraft group, which held that the maji gave the Africans their cohesion and fanatical courage, and those holding an abuses theory, that the rebellion was a popular protest against specific injustices. Until the 1950s, most subsequent studies were composed by British colonial officials, who usually saw the rebellion as an expression of grievances against unjust
German rule. That by R.M. Bell on Liwale District is one of the most revealing. After analyzing many oral traditions, Bell concluded that Maji Maji was a “national war of independence-a fanatical and desperate fight for freedom.”48 In the 1950s, sociologists, missionaries, and converts published further work on the Ngoni. The first of these was by government sociologist P.H. Gulliver. In 1954 he wrote that Maji Maji had been a -purely political effort which had used the maji for specific purposes:

It seems clear that the Rebellion was primarily a military one in the
Ngoni warlike tradition and in an attempt to regain the old mastery by this tribe of soldiers and marauders. It cannot be said that there was a
really unified Maji Maji movement, or that the Ngoni allied themselves with the Ngindo and others-those other tribes were thoroughly despised by the arrogant Ngoni who had plundered them so easily for so waters” to rise against the white man and to resume their independence and their old way of life and war.49

In 1959 missionary Father Elzear Ebner published his major “History of the Wangoni.” He argued that the prime motivation had been the desire for independence: “They hoped to regain their independence by this war and to re-establish their former glory and greatness. The main reason for the participation of the Wangoni in the Majimaji war was a revival of Ngoni nationalism.”50 The same year an African priest from the district, Father James Komba, wrote a thesis on religion among the Ngoni in which he reiterated Ebner:

The proud Ngoni, once the sole masters of the land, could not bear the
humiliation of having masters over them. The medicine-men, who went about at this time advertising their newly discovered medicine which would turn bullets into water (maji), offered a welcome opportunity to the bellicose Ngoni to rise against their European masters.51

Since 1961 some important new contributions have been made. In 1967 John Iliffe synthesized existing interpretations of the Maji Maji rebellion. In his view, participation among the Ngoni was a delayed resistance to German rule. Elsewhere he noted that rebellion had been undertaken to reunite societies that were breaking up.52 And more recently, students supervised by Iliffe have researched motivations behind the struggle. They discovered several general complaints, as well as various particular ones, underlying Ngoni resistance. In general, the Ngoni resented being forced to donate labor to the building of the new Songea fort around 1900; they were unhappy with taxation and the demands it made on food and other resources, and were opposed to the cruelty of the German regime. Individual complaints included their disillusionment with the new system of justice. Iliffe’s students also found that the Ngoni responded to the rebellion in a variety of ways.

The library of the University of Dar es Salaam subsequently made the
accumulated data available in a bound work entitled Maji Maji Research Project Collected Papers. In 1969, two of the researchers, O.B. Mapunda
and G.P. Mpangara, analyzed a selection of this data and published it as
a research paper entitled The Maji Maji War in Ungoni. According to them, the rebellion was the result of grievances over taxation, unpaid long. The Ngoni merely seized the opportunity afforded by the “magicallabor, the decline of Ngoni political power, and the dislocation of the traditional economy and culture. They doubted the importance of the maji itself; rather they felt that political considerations were primary. They noted the internal disunity in Njelu and the varied reactions to the maji, but drew no conclusions from these.53

Common to most interpretations-Booth’s being the noted exception-is a description of the rebellion as the action of a single united people. Those like Iliffe, Mapunda, and Mpangara, who have acknowledged that not all the leaders participated or that many sutu did so under force, have not used this evidence to reinterpret the nature of the conflict, instead setting it apart as an anomaly to the main body of data. However, the nature of Ngoni society, the variable impact of German rule, and the internal political situation in Ungoni before 1905 all suggest that these instances of forced and nonparticipation point to a different hypothesis.

Because the social distance between the sutu and the true Ngoni made the impact of German rule a varied one having a much greater effect on the latter group, no mass grievance could have motivated all the Ngoni. The distinction between the true Ngoni and the sutu was not an absolutely
rigid one; some sutu felt and acted much the same as the true Ngoni. In general, however, a successful overthrow of German control stood to benefit most sutu politically, economically, and socially much less than most true Ngoni. This has been shown clearly in the above analysis; the true Ngoni suffered most from the obligation to give rather than receive tribute and forced labor, from the loss of political and economic power, and from the dislocation of traditional culture. Accepting this fact gives new meaning to the argument that the Ngoni were fighting for independence. The evidence of Booth and some recent informants makes it quite clear that the leadership hoped to free themselves. One of the latter comes from a true Ngoni, who stated:

The main reason why the Ngoni leaders accepted the Maji Maji movement
was that they wanted to get rid of German domination and thus retrieve their former political position.Before the coming of the Germans, the Ngoni leaders had been enjoying a great deal of power and and the privilege of power such as getting a lot of animals and human captives. But under German rule all these privileges were abolished and their sovereign power suppressed.54

On the other hand, the sutu were less committed to independence under Ngoni control. Indeed, most sutu might not have rebelled had they been given a choice. This is supported by various facts. First, many former subjects freed from Ngoni control by the Germans refused to participate. Their numbers included the Ruvuma Yao,55 the Nyasa,56 and many Matengo.57 Furthermore, many of those who did participate knew they had no alternative.In one source,a mission convert described clearly how strong the pressure to take the maji was.58

Forcing people to participate was insufficient,however.Essential to a
German defeat was determination. Here the maji was of crucial importance.
People who had little to gain but much to lose had to be convinced that victory was inevitable, and the maji appears to have served this purpose.59 How durable the fighting spirit was is not clear. Some sutu seem to have fought only once. For example, many Ndendeuli apparently
were mobilized only for the battle at Lumecha. Certainly once the warriors suffered military setbacks, saw the Germans taking their food, dispersing their families, and killing their friends, they lost faith in the maji. After four months the rebellion ended in the Njelu kingdom because the sutu stopped fighting. Only in Mshope, where Chabruma controlled his people with an iron grip, did fighting continue for some while longer.

The lack of commitment among some Ngoni was one factor weakening the struggle.But it was not the only one.In addition,those who advocated the rebellion were unable to unite,although it seems reasonable to assume that they made an attempt to do so. Unity had proved an asset against the Maseko around 1863 and the Hehe in 1878 and 1881; they must have been aware that challenging the Germans required the same achievement.Yet they failed,apparently for the following reasons. In the first place, opinion seems to have divided on how the benefits of success should be allocated. Odd traditions suggest this. One states that Mputa did not fight with other generals because he “feared that if he succeeded in defeating the Germans with help of the other Ngoni generals they would share his reign … this was the general feeling of most of the Ngoni leaders at the time.”60 Also suggestive is thefact that not all the leaders participatedi n the rebellion; among those who did not fight were Putire Gama, Usangila Gama, and Chabruma Gama. Putire may have been influenced by the missionaries, but it seems clear that the other two were discouraged by the outcome of the recent succession issue. Losers, they were unwilling to support a cause in which the victor, Mputa, would reap most of the benefits. In fact, Usangila and Chabruma were in the German fort during the rebellion. Although a few traditions say that Usangila was studying there at the time,61 this seems not to have been the case. His son states that he had earlier taken refuge in the fort during a quarrel with Mputa, when Mputa threatened to assassinate him.62 Another informant agrees that
Mputa planned to kill his rival after defeating the Germans.63 The refusal to support competition occurs at other times in Ngoni history with disastrous results,64 and could easily have happened in 1905.

Lack of time and a strong tradition of military independence also affected the move toward unity. Freedom of action among the military was particularly noticeable in Njelu during the 1890s and apparently continued in 1905. Only once do Mapunda, Mpangara, and others describe the Ngoni as united-at the battle at Lumecha.65 However, evidence from German historians,including the forces there, and Ndendeuli traditions say that only Chabruma’s Mshope warriors took part in the encounter.66 No traditions indicate that Songea’s, Mpambalioto’s, and Kapungu’s forces participated.Finally, while some claim that Mputa’s men were there,this is doubtful in light of the fact that he was fresh enough to fight three further battles in another region shortly after Lumecha,while Chabruma took a considerable time to reorganize.

Indeed,the battles which took place suggest that the rebellion was almost exclusively of a local nature. In early September 1905, Palangu (Mshope) killed a tax collector. Shortly afterward, military leaders in various parts of the two kingdoms killed itinerant traders in their areas.In September and October, Mputa, Songea, and Kapungu (all Njelu) made a number of attacks on the town of Kikole. During the same months, Songea (Njelu) harassed the Germans and their associates who had taken refuge in the fort. In September, Mputa and Mpambalioto(both Njelu) attacked the mission settlements at Peramiho and Kigonsera, and by December had destroyed both.In late October the Mshope combined forces at Lumecha. In early November, Mputa and possibly others (Njelu) fought three separate battles against German troops. In early 1906, Masese Mbano (Njelu) encountered the Germans in southern Njelu. In late January and early February 1906, Chabruma (Mshope) engaged them. In mid-March, Magewa, a Mshope elephant hunter, fought a German contingent, and shortly after that Palangu (Mshope) did the same. Then on 27 May and 25 June,Chabruma and
Palangu(Mshope)met them again.67 Almost all who fought either surrendered
or fled independently or in small groups and at different times.

In conclusion, the Maji Maji rebellion seems to have been the complex outcome of the existing political structure in Ungoni, and as such lacked both the full commitment and the unity such a struggle needed from its people.

The Outcome of the Maji Maji Rebellion

The Maji Maji rebellion in Songea was a disastrous failure. Although the Ngoni enjoyed the upper hand for two months, they were unable to eradicate the German presence from the district. Then the foreigners began to succeed.68 By the time Major Kurt Johannes led the Eighth and Thirteenth Field Companies of the defense forces into Songea in late November 1905, the end was in sight. Johannes intended to smash the Ngoni military state. Everywhere villages were burned, planting crops was forbidden, and men were ruthlessly murdered. In December 1906, Njelu Ngoni leaders began surrendering, and by February 1906 all but a few had given themselves up, been caught, or died. Those who had surrendered or been captured were hanged. In Mshope, Nkosi Chabruma forbade capitulation and continued fighting until late June 1906, when he and a number of leaders retreated into Portuguese East Africa.

The Ngoni were devastated by the rebellion. The true Ngoni leadership had been decimated and any possibility that those remaining could establish an independent military empire was gone forever. The sutu also paid a heavy price. Thousands died in the war and in the severe famine which followed in 1906 and 1907. By 1908 life was returning to normal in Songea. Rehabilitation brought political and economic life and activity back to what it had been before the conflict. The Germans retained the traditional political leadership, although in considerably weakened form,69 headed by true Ngoni who had remained neutral or allied with the foreigners or who had been too young to fight. They were supplemented by outsiders and some local leaders from among the sutu. Economic life changed as German interest swung toward the northern parts of their colony. In Songea people turned to migrant labor to alleviate increasing poverty. Social life changed. Many traditional Ngoni practices and customs began giving way to European ones. The distinction between true Ngoni and sutu gradually ended. The Ngoni reluctantly adapted to colonial rule, although they have never forgotten the past and the great nation that once was theirs. The Maji Maji rebellion in Songea had been a heroic struggle, but one whose slight chance of success was circumvented by its position in the larger structure of contemporary Ngoni political life.


l This essay is part of a larger study of the Ngoni which deals with the persistence of chiefship among them. I am grateful to Roland Oliver, John Iliffe, and Michael Twaddle for their constant advice and assistance, to the Commonwealth Association and Canada Council for their financial help in the course of my research, and to L. Larsonf or checking some of the references used here.

2 For example, John Iliffe, “The Organization of the Maji Maji Rebellion,” Journal of African History, VIII, 3 (1967).

3 Archives of the Benedictine Abbey, Peramiho (Songea area) [hereafter Peramiho Archives], “Kigonsera Chronicles,” 23 Aug. 1905, 21 Sept. 1906; P.H. Gulliver, “An Administrative Survey of the Ngoni and Ndendeuli of Songea District” (unpublished manuscript, 1954), Cory Papers, University of Dar es Salaam Library, Dar es Salaam, 16;E. Ebner, “History of the Wangoni” (unpublished manuscript, Peramiho, 1959), 167; James J. Komba, “God and Man” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation,University of the Propagation of the Faith, Rome, 1959), 13; O.B. Mapunda and G.P. Mpangara,The Maji Maji War in Ungoni (Dar es Salaam, 1969); O.B. Mapunda and G.P. Mpangara, “The Maji Maji War in Ungoni,” Maji Maji Research Project Collected Papers (Dar es Salaam, 1968) [hereafter MMP] 6/68/4/1, 10-11; R.M. Bell, “The Maji Maji Rebellion in Liwala District,” Tanganyika Notes and Records, 28 (1950); Iliffe, “Organization,” 495; G.C.K. Gwassa, “Kinjikitile and the Ideology of Maji Maji,” in T.O. Ranger and I.N. Kimambo, eds., The Historical Study of African Religion (London, 1972).

4 P.M. Redmond, “A Political History of the Songea Ngoni from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to the Rise of the Tanganyika African National Union” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of London, 1972), 93-94. This estimate is a rough one based on Booth’s 1905 analysis of their numbers. See John Booth, “Die Nachkommen der Sulukaffern (Wangoni) in Deutsch Ostafrika,” Globus, LXXXVIII (1905).

5 Frederick Fiilleborn, Das Deutsche Njassa und Ruvuma Gebiet (Berlin, 1906), 132, quoting Jahresbericht uiber die Entwicklung der Deutschen Schutzgebirte in Afrika und in der Sidsee im Jahre 1903/04 (Berlin, 1905).

6 For this variation in spelling from the southern African Nguni equivalent, see Redmond, “Political History,” 100, which is based on Ebner to Redmond, personal correspondence, 17 Dec. 1970.

7 For some details on assimilation, see Ebner, “Wangoni,” 37; E. Ebner, “History of the Wangoni: Revised Edition” (unpublished manuscript, Archiv der Erzabtei St. Ottilien, St. Ottilien,B avaria),8 3-84, 92-93;G ulliver, “AdministrativeS urvey,” 114; Redmond, “Political History,” 97-100, 159-165

8 Ebner, “Revised History,” 83-84, 92-93.

9 Tom Von Prince, “Geschichte der Magwangwaran ach Erzahlungd es Arabers
Raschid bin Masaud und des Fussi, Bruders des vor drei Jahren verstorbenen Sultans der Magwangwara Mharuli,” Mitteilungen von Forchungsreisenden und Gelehrten aus den DeutschenS chutzgebietenV, II (1894), 221-222, n. 3; Ebner, “Wangoni,” 105-106, 134-139, 141-142; Mapunda and Mpangara, Maji Maji, 112.

10 For comments on German rule, see T.O. Ranger, “African Reactions to the Imposition of Colonial Rule in East and Central Africa,” in L.H. Gann and Peter Duignan, eds., Colonialismin Africa,1 870-1960,I (London, 1969); John Iliffe, “The Effects of the MajiMaji Rebellion on German Occupation Policy in East Africa,” in P. Gifford and R. Louis, eds., Britain and German in Africa( London and New Haven, 1967); R.A. Austen, Northwest Tanzania under German and British Rule: Colonial Policy and Tribal Politics, 1889-1939 (London and New Haven, 1968).

11 Deutsches Kolonialblatt, XII, 11 (1 June 1901), 389-390, notes that some leaders offered labor to the Germans.

12 Chiefs did not collect taxes in all areas. Marcia Wright, German Missions in Tanganyika, 1891-1941 (London, 1971), 75-76, notes dissatisfaction at askari, or soldiers, collecting taxes.

13 Deutsches Kolonialblatt, XII, 11 (1 June 1901), 390.

14 Evidence of B.K. Mpangala, a resident of Songea’s town, MMP 6/68/4/3/13; evidence of L. Moyo, MMP 6/68/4/3/14, 6; Ebner to Redmond, personal communication,
17-21 Oct. 1971.

15 See “The Story of the Likuyu Area,” Mss. Afr. s. 585, Rhodes House, Oxford University, Oxford, for information on its administration.

16 “Tanganyika District Book” (unpublished manuscript, Library of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London), IV, 237.

17 For one example, see Mapunda and Mpangara MajiMaji, 14.

18 Alfons Adams, Im Dienste des Kreuzes (St. Ottilien, 1899), 132; “Bericht uber den Bezirku nd die MilitarstationS songea,” DeutschesK olonialblatXt, V, 18 (1904), 565.19DeutscheKs olonialblatItX, , 12 (15 June 1898), 350.

20 See, for example, C. Spiss, “Peramiho Chronicle,” Missions bldtteOr:r gand er St. Benediktus-Missionsgenossenschzauft S t. Ottilien[ hereafterM issionsbldtter(1] 899), 119.

21 Ibid.

22 Komba, “God and Man,” 11.

23 Prince, “Geschichte der Magwangwara.”

24 Ibid., 217-218.

25Ebner, “Wangoni,” 130, 158; Ebner to Redmond, personal communication, 17-21Oct. 1971.

26 Ibid.

27 Ebner, “Wangoni,” 121, notes Putire disputing with Mharule.

28 T.W. Turuka, “Maji Maji Rebellion in Njelu,” MMP 6/68/3/1.

29 Tanzania National Archives, Dar es Salaam [hereafter TNA]/155, Songea District Book, vol. 4, 87.

30 C. Spiss, correspondence, Missionsblatter (March, 1901); Ebner, “Wangoni,” 158-159.
31 Gulliver, “Administrative Survey,” 17.

32 MMP 6/68/2/13/1 and MMP 6/68/4/1 contain details on this.

33 Peramiho Archives, “Kigonsera Chronicles,” 1901, 1902, passim.

34 TNA/G9/6, Albinus to Government, no. 68 of 15 Feb. 1904; Missions blitter(1903-1904), 33-35.

35 Booth, “Nachkommen der Sulukaffern,” 197, comments on the decline.

36 Walter Busse, Bericht iber eine im Antrage des kaiserliche Gouvernements von Deutsch- Ostafrika ausgefiihrte Forschungsreise durch den siudlichen Theil dieser Kolonie (Berlin,1902). During 1902 this work was published serially in the Dar es Salaam newspaper Deutsch-OstafrikaniscZheei tung[ hereafterD OAZ].T he source used here is DOAZ, 5 July 1902.

37 C. Spiss, correspondence, Missionsblitter (1898), 103; Deutsches Kolonialblatt, X, 2 (15 Jan. 1899), 54-55.

38 Evidence of Kawahili,M MPR /S/1/69.

39 Many traditions in the MMP6 /68 series make this clear.
40 Gwassa, “Kinjikitile.”

41 Iliffe, “Organization.” I am grateful to L. Larson for information on Maji Maji in Mahenge.

42 Noted in Mapunda and Mpangara, Maji Maji, 15.

43 Deutsches Zentralarchiv (Potsdam) Reichskolonialamt [hereafter RKA], file 723, Gotzen to Foreign Office, 10 Nov. 1905; Graf von Gotzen, Deutsch-Ostafrika im Aufstand 1905/06 (Berlin, 1909); “Denkschrift uber die Ursachen des Aufstandes in D.O.A. 1905,” in Stenographische Berichte iiber die Verhandlung des Reichstages, Anlagen, 1905-1906 session, Vierter Anlageband: Aktenstuck, no. 194. I am grateful to John Iliffe for this reference.

44 RKA, file 728, Colonial Economic Committee to Foreign Office, 23 Jan. 1906.

45 Peramiho Archives, “KigonseraC hronicles,”2 3 Aug. 1905, 21 Sept. 1906.

46 Peramiho Archives, “Die Benediktinermissionu nd der Aufstand in DOA vom
Jahre 1905 oder Stellungnahmed er Benediktinermissionz ur Denkschrift iber die Ursachen des Aufstandes in DOA und Anderes,” Thomas Spreiter (manuscript in unmarked blue file, n. d.). I am grateful to John Iliffe for showing me a copy of this document.

47 Iliffe,” Effects of the MajiMaji Rebellion,” 561.

48 Bell, “Liwala District.”

49 Gulliver”, AdministrativeS urvey,” 16-17.

50 Ebner ” Wangoni,”167.

51 Komba, “God and Man,” 13.

52 Iliffe,” Organization,”4 95; Iliffe, “The Effects of the Maji Maji Rebellion,” 561; Iliffe, “The Age of Improvement and Differentiation (1907-45),” in I.N. Kimambo and A.J. Temu, eds., A History of Tanzania(Nairobi;1 969), 130-131.

53 Mapunda and Mpangara, Maji Maji.

54 Evidence of L. Moyo, MMP 6/68/4/3/14.

55 RKA, file 700, Kurt Johannes, “Bericht iiber die Tatigkeit des Expeditions-Korps Major Johannes in der Zeit vom II Marz bis 3 Mai 1906,” 18 June 1906, notes Ruvuma Yao support.

56 Peramiho Archives, “Kigonsera Chronicles,” 29 Sept. 1905, notes the Nyasa as friendly to the Germans.

57 Missionsbldtt(e1r9 05-1906),8 7-91, states that the Matengo stayed neutral. Other reports indicate that some joined the rebellion.

58 G.C.K. Gwassa and John Iliffe, Records of the Maji Maji Rising. Part I (Dar esSalaam, 1967), 20.

59For example, the evidence of M. Luoga, MMP 6/68/2/3/2.

60 Evidence of Luambano,M MP6 /68/1/3/4.

61 Evidence of S. Usangila, son of Usangila, M MP 6/68/4/3/16.

62 Ibid.

63 T.W Turuka,” MajiMaji Rebellion in Njelu,” MMP6 /68/3/1.

64 For example, in the succession dispute that took place in Mshope between 1952 and 1954. For information on this dispute, see TNA/16/37/105; Redmond, “Political History,” ch. 7.

65Mapunda and Mpangara Maji Maji.

66 G6tzen, Aufstand, 124-125, 206; Ebner, “Wangoni,” 178. MMP R/S/1/69/lb,
among others, notes the Germans fighting the Mshope Ngoni. This and other sources refer to this battle as the Namabengo or Lumecha battle. This is in contrast to Mapunda and Mpangara, Maji Maji, 23-24, who claim that there were two battles, one at Namabengo, the other at Lumecha, in late 1905. I do not follow their suggestion, as other sources do not support it. In particular, the Maji Maji records collected in 1968, which Mapunda and Mpangarau see as their main source of information, do not substantiate
their claim. Of the forty traditions collected, none confirms that two battles took place. Although two note a battle at Namabengo, one says that it was at “Lumecha, or what we may regard as old Namabengo” (evidence of M. Ngonyani, MMP 6/68/4/3/2), while eight describe a battle at Lumecha. Of the other sources, Gulliver, “Administrative Survey,” 15-16, refers to the Lumecha battle. I call it the Lumecha battle to facilitate discussion of the claims Mapunda, Mpangara, and others make concerning it.

67For details, see Redmond, “Political History;” 251-270.


69 I refer here to the retention of families noted in Mapunda and Mpangara, Maji Maji,29; Ebner, “Wangoni,” 183; Deutsch Ostafrikanische Rundschau, III, 14 (19 Feb. 1910).

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