What Was the Maji Maji Rebellion?

Demonstration of German weapons in front of Ngoni warriors.
Demonstration of German weapons in front of Ngoni warriors.

The Maji Maji Rebellion occurred in the year 1905 to 1907 in what was known at the time as German East Africa (modern day Tanzania). The revolt happened as a result of the German colonialists forcing the Africans in German East Africa to grow cotton for export. Each village was supposed to produce a certain amount of cotton. The village heads were assigned the responsibility of overseeing the cotton production.

5. Background

Since 1897, German colonists had occupied the area providing an oppressive environment for indigenous groups. However, rebellion had been hard to coordinate between the various ethnic groups who often had differing ideas about the policies enacted by the Germans, and found it difficult to bound together. However, this would change when the Germans attempted to force labor in the form of picking cotton upon the indigenous peoples. Cotton was an important "cash crop" for Europeans, but was not profitable for the indigenous people who often faced torture if they did not work efficiently enough.

4. Makeup of the Forces

The Matumbi people deeclared war on Germany on July 31, 1905, armed with spears and arrows. The troops were composed of various cultures and ethnic backgrounds, and were able to band together to resist the German colonists. It was estimated that more than 20 ethnic groups banded together during the Maji Maji rebellion. The word "Maji" comes from a drink that was made from water mixed with willet. It was given to the soldiers who were fighting German colonists in anticipation of their fights.

3. Description of the Engagement

In an action of revolt against German colonizers, the Matumbi people destroyed a cotton plantation and trading center. Due to this attack, Kinjeketile was arrested and hanged for treason. Before his death, he had told the people that he had already given them the medicine that turned bullets into water. The tribesmen later made an attack on a group of missionaries who were on a safari, and they speared them to death. Among them was a Catholic Bishop. They following day they attacked a post the Germans occupied.

2. Historical Significance and Legacy

As a result of the Maji Maji Rebellion, many people of German East Africa were reported to embrace Christianity and Islam. The government of Germany discouraged the settlers from harassing the Africans by treating them like slaves. The uprising became an encouragement to other freedom fighters to unite despite their cultural differences with the aim of eliminating the colonial rulers. The survivors of the Maji Maji Rebellion land became a forest and occupied by wild animals.

1. Outcome

The Maji Maji Rebellion caused several things to change. From the Ngoni tribe, about one hundred aristocrats were killed. The rate of the women giving birth reduced to 25% because most of the men were on the battlefields or the cotton plantation. Traditional leaders were replaced by westerners. Approximately 75% of Pangwa people and 50% Matumbi people died as a result of the rebellion. There was a great famine because the people concentrated on fighting the Germans. Around 15 German casualties were reported.


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