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The Organization of the Maji Maji Rebellion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 January 2009

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This article examines the organization of the Maji Maji rebellion of 1905–7 in German East Africa, utilizing Professor T. O. Ranger's analyses of other rebellions in East and Central Africa. The rising began in the Rufiji Valley as a peasant protest against a scheme, imposed by the German authorities, for communal cotton growing. But like other African rebellions against early colonial rule, the movement acquired an ideological content from prophetic religious leaders. This ideology enabled the rising to spread far beyond the Rufiji Valley and gave a degree of unity to diverse peoples. Two religious systems were involved. In the Rufiji Valley, the first rebels received a water-medicine from the ministers of the spirit Kolelo. This maji became the symbol of unity and commitment. The expansion of the movement beyond the nuclear area probably followed a pattern of recurrent millenarian movements whose chief object was to eradicate sorcery. Such a movement implied a challenge to established tribal authorities, and was seen by them as such a threat. As the rising spread, it entered areas of stronger tribal organization and also lost something of its revolutionary character. In consequence, the later rebels utilized tribal organization. This development, it is argued, conflicted with the original purpose of overcoming past political and cultural divisions in order to achieve more effective resistance to European rule. Thus, it is suggested, the rebellion demonstrated a tension between ideology and political and cultural reality which is characteristic of mass movements, including later nationalist movements.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1967

References

1 This article draws widely on the work of Professor T. O. Ranger, to whose generosity I am much indebted. The conclusions are naturally my own responsibility.Google Scholar

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16 Dr Bryan distinguishes between a Zaramo–Luguru–Vidunda group and the Ndengereko, Ngindo, and Mbunga languages. Kipogoro may either belong to a Hehe linguistic group or be considered separately. Kimatumbi, similarly, may belong to the Hehe or Ngindo groups. Bryan, M. A., The Bantu Languages of Africa (London, 1959), 123–36.Google Scholar

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31 Klamroth, loc. cit., 141–3.Google Scholar

32 Tuheri Abraham Beho, ‘Majimaji ao Kalava Dikono’, manuscript, Lutheran Mission, Maneromango, Nov. 1965.Google Scholar I owe this reference to Miss Ritchie. See also Mwaruka, Ramadhani, Masimulizi Juu ya Uzaramo (London, 1965), 108–9.Google Scholar

33 Ranger in Stokes and Brown, 96Google Scholar

34 Schaegelen, Theobald, ‘The ethnology of the Vidunda tribe’, manuscript, 1945, in Kilosa District Book (Area Office, Kilosa).Google Scholar See also Beidelman, T. O., ‘Notes on the Vidunda of eastern Tanganyika’, Tanganyika Notes and Records, LXV (03 1966), 6380.Google Scholar

35 I use this term to include also witchcraft. The primary sources do not permit a distinction.Google Scholar

36 Douglas, Mary, The Lele of the Kasai (London, 1963), ch. 13;Google Scholaridem, ‘Techniques of sorcery control in Central Africa’, in J. Middleton and E. H. Winter (eds.), Witchcraft and Sorcery in East Africa (London, 1963), 123–41.

37 Douglas, Mary, Purity and Danger (London, 1966), 171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

38 Information from MrNdikwege, M. S., Salaam, Dar es, 07 1966.Google Scholar See also Mwenda, E. A., ‘Historia na Maendeleo ya Ubena’, Swahili, xxxiii, no. 2 (1963), 113–17.Google Scholar

39 This account is based on Ranger, T. O., ‘Witchcraft eradication movements in central and southern Tanzania and their connection with the Maji Maji rising’, research seminar paper, University College, Dar es Salaam, Nov. 1966.Google Scholar

40 The earliest Tanzanian example known to me occurred in Usambara in 1906. See the correspondence in TNA IX/A/16/I.Google Scholar

41 Kleist, ‘Bericht über die Tätigkeit der 8 Feld-Kompagnie’, 4 May 1906, RKA 700/232–41;Google Scholar report by Johannes in Deutsches Kolonialblatt, 15 Sept. 1906;Google ScholarAnlage A zum Jahresbericht über die Entwicklung der deutschen Schutzgebieten in Afrika und der Südsee im Jahre 1905/1906 (Berlin, 1907), 34;Google ScholarNigmann, Ernst, Die Wahehe (Berlin, 1908), 6, ii;Google ScholarRechenberg to RKA, 7 Jan. 1911, RKA 702/130–31;Google Scholarvon Götzen, G. A., Deutsch-Ostafrika im Aufstand 1905–6 (Berlin, 1909), 116–17, 212.Google Scholar

42 Berliner Missionsgesellschaft report in Deutsches Koloniablatt, 1 Mar. 1906;Google ScholarKiwanga, Mtema Towegale in A. T.and Cuiwick, G. M., Ubena of the Rivers (London, 1935), 55.Google Scholar

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45 Douglas, The Lele, 245.Google Scholar

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47 Information from Stirnimann, Fr. J., Dar es Salaam, Nov. 1966.Google Scholar

48 This account is based on the following sources: Ebner, Elzear, History of the Wangoni (mimeographed, Peramiho, 1959), 165–84;Google ScholarGulliver, P. H., ‘An administrative survey of the Ngoni and Ndendeuli of Songea district’, typescript, 1954, Cory Papers, University College Library, Dar es Salaam; Mpangara, op. cit.;Google ScholarMapunda, O. B., ‘Nkosi Mputa Gama’, research seminar paper, University College, Dar es Salaam, Sept. 1966; entry by O. Guise Williams in Songea District Book (Area Office, Songea).Google Scholar

49 Mpangara, op. cit.Google Scholar

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