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The Major Contributing Factors To The Maji Maji History Essay

Info: 1234 words (5 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in History

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What were the major contributing factors to the maji maji rebellion. is my research question. I chose to talk about this topic as I have an interest in finding out why Africans living in southern Sudan decided to revolt against the German rule. I plan to focus more on the major factors that contributed to the Maji Maji rebellion and by using sources such as, A History of Africa by Assa Okoth, Maji Maji: Lifting the Fog of War by Jamie Monso and various web sources which will help me bring out the major reasons for the rebellion. The Maji Maji rebellion took place between 1905 and 1907.

Summary of Evidence

The Maji Maji rebellion in Tanganyika was the most significant African challenge to German colonial rule during the period when Germany had colonies in Africa.  The Uprising from 1905 to 1907 and involved people over 10,000 square miles. [1] 

During the scramble for Africa in the 1880’s, European powers dominated much of Africa. Four major regions had been colonized by Germany, including Tanganyika, Togo, Cameroon, and Namibia. Tanzania had been largely acquired through the efforts of the German Colonization Society, founded by Dr. Karl Peters.  When Germany established its control over Tanganyika by 1898, it used a particularly violent regime in order to control the population of Tanganyika, including a policy of killing tribe rulers who resisted German colonial rule. This earned Karl Peters, who was now the Tanganyika colonial governor, the name “Milkono wa Damu,” meaning “Man with Blood on His Hands.” Throughout this period of German occupation, the Germans heavily taxed the population and a system of forced labor was also introduced, whereby they were required to grow cotton and build roads for their European occupiers which at the end they would get paid in order to pay their taxes. [2] 

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The German regime brought up the discontent among the Africans, and resentment reached a fever pitch in 1905 when drought hit the region. A prophet, Kinjikitile Ngwale emerged, and claimed to know the secret to win the war against the Germans by the use of a sacred liquid which could repel German bullets which was called “Maji Maji.” It means “sacred water,” thus; the Africans believed him and armed themselves with arrows, spears which were doused with the sacred water. The first set of warriors of the Maji Maji rebellion began to move against the Germans by attacking the small German outposts, such as at Samanga, and destroying cotton crops. The rebellion spread throughout the colony. 20 different ethnic groups were involved and were in a bid to dispel of the German colonizers. [3]  

The climax of the Maji Maji rebellion came at a place by the name Mahenge in August 1905 where a huge number of Maji Maji warriors attacked the Germans but failed to overrun the German stronghold. On the month of October 21, 1905, the Germans attacked the camp of the unsuspecting Ngoni people who had recently joined in the Maji Maji rebellion.  The Germans killed hundreds of their men, women, and children.  This attack left an estimated 75,000 Maji Maji warriors dead by 1907. The Germans also used famine as a key weapon by purposely destroying the crops of the suspected Maji Maji supporters. [4] 

But what were the major reasons for the Maji Maji rebellion? There were a number of factors that led to the up rise of the rebellion and they are as follows:

The Cotton programme: one of the major causes of the Maji Maji rebellion was cotton. Largely by chance, the German government had first directed its programme to the highland settlement areas of the north but by 1900 the programme seemed to have failed and due to being desperate for revenue, the government turned to a policy of African cash crop agriculture, so they majorly concentrated on the south. In 1902, Governor Adolf Von Gotzen announced the adaptation of the programme that was borrowed from Togo which is situated in West Africa. Cotton cultivation was made compulsory but not by individual African farmers but on communal neighborhood fields, one at the headquarters of each recognized headman known as the Jumbe. The Akidas and the Jumbes were ordered to establish a cotton plot where Adolfs’ people would come to work. After the cotton had been sold, the plan was that the workers, the Akida and the Government would share the profits equally. The programme actually failed as it was marred by the hardship to which those involved were subjected. Workers in the plantation were subjected to forced labor rather than a willing and voluntary force. Labor was controlled with brutal force and there was little motivation. The soil used for the plantation of cotton was unsuitable as the crops were poor. The marketing system also broke down and the subordinate officials pocketed the little cash they earned before it reached the producers. The Zaramo workers refuse the 35 cents they were offered at the end of the first years work and this whole scheme created very strong incentives for a revolt. So the Maji Maji rebellion was against how the Germans interfered with how the farmers grew their crops and managed their land. (A History of Africa, Assa Okoth, page 218-219)

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The advent of Arab Akidas: the compulsory and forced cultivation of an unprofitable cash crop was widespread grievance in southern Tanganyika but that was not the only major problem. The Wamatumbi hated the Arab Akidas and the askaris whom the Germans had appointed. The Wamatumbi had successfully rejected Arab influence by barring the Arabs from entering Matumbi; especially, they had refused to join the Arabs in slave trade and resisted them for many years. Under the German colonial administration, the Arabs were employed as Akidas and assigned especially to the coastal area to administer. The Maji Maji rebellion was also against the Arabs who had now been given powers by the German colonial administration who for years had had ruined their commercial and political efforts and they were also misusing their powers. Many people were captured and turned into slaves. (A History of Africa, Assa Okoth, page 219)

Outrageous conduct of German officials: The Germans handled the Africans in Southern Tanganyika with extreme brutality. On the slightest excuse the Germans resorted to public flogging and to some extent they also killed their subjects. They also established a house tax (hut tax) on the Africans and they collected the tax with excessive force. The habit of German officials especially that of their mercenaries and house helps sleeping with their wives in circumstances which were a flagrant affront to Ngindo husbands and their punishment was by war against those who offended them and the Wangindo community were left with no alternative other than to fight the Germans. (A History of Africa, Assa Okoth, page 219)


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