Nyamwezi

Name ID 1542

See also

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

'ruga-ruga'

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: 03j
Extract Date: 1870-1891

Permanent competition

In the same area, [Kilimanjaro region] and in permanent competition with Rindi, Sina had by 1870 developed a large army and was active in agriculture and cattle raids. He was still in control of his empire at the arrival of the Germans in 1891.

Coastal Arabs had penetrated deeply into the interior since 1850, establishing trading posts in the Unyanembe region around Tabora under Chiefs Swetu and Fundikira; the Nyamwezi were already known as long-distance ivory traders for the coastal Arabs since the late 18th century.

Extract ID: 4002

See also

Map and Guide to Tanzania
Page Number: 06b
Extract Date: 1891

More revolt

They were however about to face more revolts in the interior.

Starting in 1891, Nyamwezi Chief Isike fought the Germans in Tabora region in the Western part of Tanganyika. Defeated in 1892, rather than surrendering, he blew himself up in the armoury of his fort in January 1893.

Trouble flared up north with the Chagga and in central Tanganyika with the Gogo, but two major prolonged wars challenged German rule for years: Mkwawa in southern Hehe land and the famous Maji Maji rebellion which inflamed a quarter of the country for more than a year.

The Germans had occupied Hehe country and following the massacre of a delegation sent by Mkwawa, he retaliated in 1891 by ambushing in Lugalo an armed column headed by Lieutenant von Zeiewski. He seized enough weapons and ammunition to keep up resistance for nearly 3 years during which the Germans prepared their assault: in October 1894 a well-organised expeditionary force under the command of Tom Prince, an English-born German officer, stormed Kalenga, the court town of the Hehe, defeated them and captured the town. Mkwawa escaped and in spite of an enormous reward of 5,000 rupees, he was not betrayed and continued harassing German troops with guerilla actions for 4 years until 1898. Trapped, he shot himself.

The Germans' exultation at this hard-won victory ran so high that they cut off Mkwawa's head which was sent for display to the Bremen Anthropological Museum in Germany, his body being returned to his people for ritual burial. In June 1954 his head was returned and handed over to Mkwawa's grandson. Chief Adam Sapi, who was to become the First Speaker of the independent Tanzania Parliament.

Extract ID: 4024
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