Maji Maji War, Ngoni Warlords and Militarism in Southern Tanzania

A Revisionist View of Nationalist History

In: Journal of African Military History
Eginald P.A.N. Mihanjo Associate Professor and Director of Studies, National Defence College, Tanzania,

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Oswald Masebo Senior Lecturer and Head, Department of History, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania,

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As we come to an end of the celebration of a centenary and ten years since the end of the Maji Maji War against German colonialism, it is apparently clear that the historiography on the Maji Maji War focuses on appreciation of the Ngoni heroism against German cruelty and colonialism, as well as the loss of life caused by hunger, casualties of the war and German atrocities. It is however, noted that this view of nationalist historiography is outdated and needs to be corrected because it has outlived its usefulness as local histories and identities reveal the Ngoni atrocities, militarism, and wars against local inhabitants similar to the German rule between 1850–1890s. The nationalist historiography, like colonial historiography, pays little attention to history of victims, rather is the story of powerful state formation, states, and statism. In the nationalist case, historical investigations pay little attention on the Ngoni aggression and plunder or on this aggression’s effects on the conditions of life and the demographic dynamics on Lake Nyasa area and East to Indian Ocean from 1850s to 1907. In particular, these wars had a profound effect on the shaping of relations between 1850s and 1907. The article analyses war, militarism, and atrocities of the Ngoni on the conditions of life in East Lake Nyasa to Indian Ocean region between 1850 and 1907. The article demonstrates that during this period the people of area were harassed by Ngoni attacks and slave trade conflicts which disrupted their ways of life. And that after the German subdual of the regional powers including the Ngoni, Yao and Arab traders, relative peace and stability were restored briefly until the Maji Maji war brought further war calamities, instability and confusions. All in all, the Ngoni warlordism and militarism played large part in shaping history of modern southern Tanzania.

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