The Maji Maji Resistance
We’ll be featuring more articles on African resistance to Colonial Rule, on Tanzania’s Maji Maji resistance of 1905.
The roots of the Maji Maji resistance lie in the partitioning of Tanganyika to Germany following the Berlin Conference of 1885.
What Were The Causes Of The Maji Maji Resistance?
The causes of the Maji Maji resistance can be traced to the nature of the Colonial economy.
As with most Colonial Economies, the Germans sought to introduce an Economic system that would generate wealth for repatriation to the mother Country. In Tanganyika this required the introduction of new Taxes and Cash crops, in particular, Cotton.
Infrastructure such as Railroads was also required, and in order to complete the infrastructure projects and forced labour was imposed on Africans.
The reorganization of the Economy meant that Africans had to adjust from the established system of subsistence Farming to forced labour and planting Cash Crops in order to earn the income required to pay the new Taxes.
This imposed a financial burden on African Households, and also threatened to disrupt the Social fabric as Families and Communities were negatively affected by the undesirable change to Family relations caused by Fathers and Male figures departing the settled areas to provide labour. Cash crop farming also threatened food security as fields that were once used for subsistence crops like Millet, were now used to grow Cash Crops such as Cotton.
Women and entire communities were thus faced with harsh new alien Economic and Social realities which were so disruptive, it would lead to the outbreak of the Maji Maji resistance.
Outbreak Of Maji Maji Revolt & Reasons The Maji Maji Resistance Was Defeated
The drought of 1905 proved to be the last straw, and a Prophet named Kinjikitile Ngwale encouraged the people to revolt promising them supernatural protection from Bullets with a sacred spiritual potion called ‘Maji Maji’ or sacred water, which the people believed would turn German Bullets to water.
Participation in the revolt from 1905-07 was significant and widespread, but the German Colonial Army was able to suppress the insurrection.
In order to ensure total victory and submission, the Germans adopted a scorched Earth Policy, allowing the effects of the 1907 famine free reign, and thereby decimating a significant number of the resisting Tribes that had survived the military encounters of the revolt.
Legacy Of Maji Maji Revolt
Despite the suppression of the Maji Maji Resistance, it demonstrated that various ethnic Tribes could coalesce in opposition to Colonial Rule…This provided the seeds for a Nationalist Revolt which eventually led to the end of German Colonization, and the establishment of the Republic of Tanzania.
As part of this African Resistance series, we recommend Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa and William Chancellor’s The Destruction of Black Civilization.
In the meantime, you can check out the vintage footage of the Rebellion below.