Maji  Maji rebellion  rose  up in Tanganyika   against  the German  rule and  it began  in 1905 and ended  in 1907. It covered  a large area of South East Tanganyika.  It united a number of tribes  in an area between  Kilosa  and Dar-es-  Salaam.  compared  to other  resistance  wars in East Africa  against  colonialism,   It was the most pronounced  with diverse  devastating  and constructive  effects.

The Maji-Maji  rebellion  derived  its name  from the Swahili  word "Maji"  meaning  "Magic water"  which was administered  by the prophet  called Kinjikitile  Ngwale  from River Rufiji. Kinjikitile  was  a Kololo  priest  or Spirit  medium  at Ngarambe  who inspired  the rebellion through  his imposing personality.

The most  active  Tanganyika  tribes  in this  rebellion  included  Pogoro,  Mbuga,  Ngoni  and

Ngido  people  who were  all united  by Traditional   religion.  Within  a matter  of weeks  the

rebellion  had spread from River Rufigi area to Uluguru, Mahenge,  Lukudeli  and Kilombero

valley.  It was  a mass revolt  involving  not merely  soldiers  of traditional  armies,  but all the people including  women and children.

Kinjikitile  instilled  discipline  among his followers  by promising  them victory  in the battle field  and  declared   them  not  vulnerable   to German  bullets  if they  sprinkled  river  Rufigi waters  on  themselves   before  going  for  war.  This  water  was  administered   by  Kinjikitire himself  and his assistants.  The rebellion  was organised  along religious  lines and the revolt was  dominated   by  charismatic   and  revolutionary    religious   prophets   who  replaced   the hereditary  and conservative  political leaders of South East Tanganyika.


1.    The  people  of southern  Tanganyika   were  opposed  to rule  of lumbes  and  Akidas  by the Germans.  These  local Swahili officials  were employed  as administrators,   law enforcement officers  and tax collectors.  Their  brutality  was greatly  detested  everywhere  and this united the people against  the German  administration.   They seriously  detested  the cotton cash crop compulsory  growing which policy was quite oppressive.

2.    In their attempt  to create a cash crop economy,  the Germans  undertook  a hostile land policy in which  they  grabbed  the most  fertile  land  from  its native  owners.  This  land alienation united the people of South East Tanganyika  in a rebellion  against the Germans.

3.    The  people  of  South  East  Tanganyika   had  a long  tradinoa   of  unity  against  the  foreign invaders.  They  had  resisted  the N goni  and  Long  Distance  Arab  traders  who  constantly raided  them. This spirit encouraged  them  to resist the Germans.  They  especially  hated any interference  in their trade with the East African coast that had brought them a lot of Wealth.

In order to reduce  the cost  of administration,   the Germans  introduced  taxation  policy  in Tanganyika.  The natives  were expected to pay taxes to support the central government  and public works like roads, Schools.  offices and railways.  The Akidas and Jumbes  who were used to collect  these  taxes  used  excessive  force  which  amounted  to the confiscation   of property like cattle and goats in case offailure  to pay.

Forced labour another cause for the  1905-07  uprising  in Tanganyika.  The people were forced  to  work   on  plantations    and  public   works   for  long  periods   under  degrading conditions.   The  German   labour  policy  was  also  very  unrealistic.  People  who  were employed  on plantations  were paid miserable  rates. E.g. the Wopogolo  people refused  the

35 cents for a year's  work. Besides this, labour defaulters  were imprisoned for long periods during which they worked in plantations  under humiliating conditions.

Tanganyika  people also had political leadership  grievances.  Before the advent of Germans, they all had their traditional  leaders and armies. The German  administration  had destroyed all the trade African political structures  and replaced  them with a more oppressive system. The Maji-Maji rebellion was therefore a determined struggle to regain their independence.

Need to defend their culture was also another  cause of this war. Africans  felt that they are duty-bound  to defend  their  indigenous  culture  that  the  Germans  were undermining.   Its argued  that  the Germans  pursued  a policy  of destroying   African  customs  (which  were savage) and replace them with modem ones. The Maji-Maji uprising was therefore  a manifestation of cultural nationalism.

A need to revenge  on Germans  also forced  some  African  communities  to join  the Maji- Majt rebellion.  The Ngoni,  for example,  sought  a revenge  for  Boma  massacre  of  1897 when their political  leaders  and generals  had  been  treacherously   imprisoned  or shot by Germans. They also wanted  to revenge on German missionaries  who burnt the sacred huts of traditional priests on the grounds that these were heavens of witchcraft.

Africans were totally opposed to the sexual harassment  of their wives by agents of German- rule.  The  Ngido  people   were  particularly   annoyed   by  the  abuse  of  their  women  by mercenary soldiers in Germany  army. Chabruma,  the Ngoni king had a personal reason for fighting  the German  because  they  had  given  protection   to young  Ngoni  man who  had seduced one of his wives.

Perhaps the most important  cause of this rebellion  was the role of traditional  religion. The kololo snake god cult passed rapidly over clans and ethnic boundaries  and brought diverse tribes together under one common goal of fighting against Germans.


Maji-Maji  uprising  began  in 1905 when  the Pogoro of Kitope refused  to pick cotton. The Germans  were caught by surprise. Plantations,  missions, administrative  bomas and Swahili Shops were all attacked and destroyed.

Several  German  planners,  missionaries  plus many  government  officials  were killed.  The coastal  town of Samanga near Kilwa  was looted and burnt down. In September  1905, the Ngoni joined  the rebellion.  But by then, re-enforcement  from Germany  and  Somalia had already arrived. In many fierce battles the Ngoni staged a strong resistance  to the Germans. Finally, at the battle of Uwereka  half of the Ngoni soldiers were killed,  while the Germans lost more.                               

After Uwereka,  the Maji-Maji  fighters settled  down to a two-year guerilla  resistance using ambushes,  night  attacks  and using highly  mobile  forces which  attacked  the Germans  in a surprise  dawn attacks. The struggle  was kept on by the Ngoni and the Matumbi who used hill tops to protect themselves against German garrisons.

The rebellion  begun to slacken  in 1906 when  Chabruma-the  Ngoni  king was assassinated by  a Ngoni  rival.  By  1907 the  rebellion   had  been  beaten  into  submission   by ruthless German suppression. Many died because  of the false Protection given by magic water.

The rebellion  came to an end when  Kinjikitile  Ngwale  and Mputa  Gama  the paramount chief of the Ngoni were captured and hanged.


I.    The Germans used collaboration  of some African chiefs against the rebellion.  For example, some of the Hehe fought on the German  side because their traditional  enemies the Ngoni, Pogoro and Sangara joined the rebellion.

2.    The  Germans  were  better  armed  than  the  Maji-Maji   warriors.  They  were  armed  with weapons  like  machines  and  howitzers.   the Africans  were  armed  with  out-dated  arms which could not match with the automatic  weapons of the Germans  e.g. the Matumbi had

8,000  guns but nearly  all of them  were  out-dated.  Maji-Maji  warriors  were armed With

bows, arrows and spears which could not have any impact on the Germans.

3 .    The  Germans  defeated  the  rising  by  destroying   the  means  to resist.  This  was  through scorched  earth  policy  that  destroyed  homes  and  farms  hence  causing  starvation  to the fighters.

4.    The Maji-Maji  was founded  on false protection  provided  by Kinjikitile  Ngwale  with his spiritual  powers  and magic  waters.  Actually  there  was  no magic  in the waters  and the protection  he claimed  was not forthcoming.  The soldiers  of the Maji-Maji    were mainly armed with courage  other than weapons.  Some went to the battlefield  without  arms only with wet water sprinkled on their skins. This is why they died in large numbers.

Causes  of the revolt;

1.    The spark to the revolt was governor Cardew's  hiking of Hut tax to unprecedented  levels to meet the cost of colonial  administration  as Metropolitan  British  had not provided  enough funds  to his  activities.  He decided  to  introduce  a Hut Tax of  10 shillings  a year  to be imposed  on houses  with more than three  rooms  and 5 shillings  on smaller  houses  or Its equivalent in rice or palm Kernels.

This  tax  adjustment   encountered   a stiff  opposition   from  the  local  chiefs.  It  has  been introduced without their consent and it was interpreted  as loss of independence  which they hated most thus the revolt was to reverse this situation.

2.    The problem of forced labour was another cause for Temne and Mende war. This arose as a result  for the need  of labour by the settlers  and  the colonial  governments.  These  lacked manpower,  yet  there  was  a need  to  construct   roads,  railways  as  well  as  to works  on plantations.  The solution to them, lay m forcing the interior   peoples to provide labour that certainly annoyed the Temne and Mende.

3.    The cultural arrogance  of the Creoles was another cause of the war. They were employed in the administration  because of their education  they had attained from missionary influence. The Creoles took themselves  as superior  to Afncans  and regarded  everything  of Afncan tradition  as  Barbaric.  This  cultural  arrogance   was  resented  by the  Mende  and  Temr e. Creoles were opposed to their Governor Cardew hence the war.

4.       Another cause that is advanced to explain the outbreak of the hut tax war in SIerra  Leoie  m

1898 was  land alienation    It should  be noted  that by  1896 land  ordinance  act on land allocation,  a!1 land in Sierra  Leone With   mineral  resources  was declared  Crown  land and that  waste  01    inhabited   land  be  allocated   to  white settlers.   However,   this  met  stiff opposition from the interior tribes which practiced  shifting cultivation                     

5.    With the influence  of the Creoles in the interior,  tae missionaries  followed and began their operation    in  the   interior   amdng   the  Temne   and  Mende.   With   their   teaching,    the missionaries   were  neglected  bythe   Temne  and  Mende  who  argued  that  their  teaching undermined  the respect  for their traditional  institutions.  The revolt  thus was to expel the missionaries out of their land and to re-establish their traditional institutions.

6.    Politically,   the  war  was  a popular  desire  for  independence   as  governor  Cardew  once remarked:

" The Temne  and Mende people  were sick of domination  of the white man as

reported  by the District  commissioners   and the Frontier  police  force in Sierra Leone".

This was because  the D.Cs in Sierra Leone that conflicted with the traditional authority of chiefs when people with no traditional authority  and legitimacy were appointed  into office. It was  also  common  for the  British  aadministarators    to  punish  without  trial  any chief considered   disrespectful.    Traditional    chiefs   were   flogged,   imprisoned,   insulted   and humiliated  in all ways. The frontier police  in Sierra Leone took the law in their hands. On top of this, these frontier policemen were recruited  from former run away slaves and often tried to take revenge on their former masters.

7.    in  addition to all these,  the chief judicial  powers were  greatly eroded. Justice was: administered by the District commissioners and their agents who were ignorant of the' customary law. People were imprisoned  in a manner that did not conform with the law. The new administration L'1  Sierra Leone was also arrogant, inefficient and corrupt. This was. worsened by lack of personnel that caused the government to rely on the frontier police force.

8.    Furthermore  the Mende and Temne bitterly detested the Creole traders to whom they were first losing economic power. The British administration  had placed the control of trade in the hands of Creole traders who were given licences. The Africans on the other hand were neglected. The Creole merchants fixed prices which the indigenous people resented and hence the beginning of the revolt.

9.       Another cause that is advanced to explain the outbreak of the hut war in Sierra Leone in

1898 was land alienation. It should be noted that by  1896 land ordinance Act  on land

allocation, all land in Sierra Leone with mineral resources was declared Crown land and  that watse or inhabited land be allocated (0 white settlers.

The Creoles also suffered from different kinds of complex. for example, the) spoke "Krio" (English language Africanised)   in disregard of  the  local  languages  This  greatly made femne and Mende Temne and Mende  discontented. They also dominated the frontier  police force that had been established in 1890.

But their half caste background did not make them easily acceptable in the hinterland. This rejection increased  their hostility as they ruled with a vengeance heart, bullied, looted and raged in the interior. H ence a cause for war.

The problem of forced labour was another cause for T emne and Mende war. ThIS arose as a result  for the need of labour by the settlers and the colonial governments. These lacked manpower, yet .here was a need to construct roads, railways as well as to works on plantations.  The solution to them, lay in forcing the interior peoples to provide labour that certainly annoyed the Temne and Mende.'


The Temne and Mende war broke out in 1898. It was led by Bai Bureh ruler of the Temne State of Kassa. He and his people refused to pay the hut tax for which the police retaliated by attacking them which acted as spark to the war.

Being an experienced  professional  warrior who had hired out his military Services for over

30 years, Bureh organised a skillful guerilla war against the British expenditions  through ambushes and bush fires. Bureh's target was the army and the police and he never harassed. Civilians whether a European or a Creole in this 9-month war. It was because of Bureh's gentility that his war has been described as a gentleman'S war.

When the Mende joined, the war became violent. The Mende declared a total war and massacred  all the Creole missionaries  or any Mende who collaborated  with the whites was

slaughtered.  Hundreds  of foreigners  were  killed  plus whoever  was connected  to the free town government.  Those  who dressed  in a European  style were  also killed.  Almost  over

1,000 men, women and children were slaughtered  and a lot of property  destroyed.

The Mende were however not well organised  by the Poro-secret  religious  educational  and trading society  with headquarters  at Bumpe.  Once the British  destroyed  this, the rebellion was suppressed.

More to this, by the end of 1898, Bai Bureh had given himself up. He was taken a prisoner to free town where he was welcomed  by the Creoles as a Hero. The uprising  was eventually suppressed   by  a powerful   force  consisting   o'f the  British  and  West  Indian  forces.  The Temne  and Mende  had been defeated  mainly  as a result  of military  inferiority  but  not  of poor organisation.  This followed a period of firm British control over Sierra Leone.

1.      Loss of life:


The Mende launched a total war killing anyone linked to the white government.  Over  1,000

Creoles, several Europeans, Americans  and collaborators  were slaughtered  in the war. Even people who wore European style of dress were killed.  The British  forces equally  murdered an equivalent number of the Temne and the Mende  in the war.

2. Mistrust of Creoles:

The most significant  effect of the war was perhaps  the reduction  in status  and influence  of the Creoles in the affairs of Sierra Leone and the rest of West  Africa. Consequently   many of the Creoles were forced out of Civil service and responsible  positions  in the economy,  in the civil  service  and the church.  Thus  in  1892 Creoles  held  50%  of  senior  civil  service posts while  in 1917 these percentages  had fallen to only  10%. E.g. governor  Cardew  laid down a policy  that only Englishmen  were  to administer.  The Creole  influence  was  to be kept out such that the Temne and Mende remained  uncreolised  and therefore unspoilt.

3.    The war ended with a complete  subjugation  of Sierra Leone and loss of independence.  The Anglo-Creole    partnership   in administration    and  development    of  West. Africa  came  to believe that the role of the Creoles as intermediaries  was quite unrealistic. '

4.      There was also victimisation  of African leaders:

Bai-Bureh was taken a prisoner only to be released  later when he was sick and a weak man. Many  African  leaders  were  hanged  or dethroned  as collaborators   got  employed  without considering  their capability to serve.

5.    After the suppression  of the rebellion,  with much aid from British  and West  Indian  troops, the hut tax that the Temfie and Mende had fought to remove  was enforced   The defenceless people had now to pay without much resistance.

6.    In all the Creoles lost most more than anybody else. Their death toll was higher than that of any other tribe.  In the  interior the Temne  and Mende  considered  them  as "Black  English men". Thus they found themselves at cross roads and lacked a sense of belonging.

7.    African chiefs were respected as the frontier police force  because disbanded  (dismissed), Many Africans  now got a chance to be recruited in  police force.

8.    The land laws were revised and the hut tax was reduced to favour the Temne and Mende, Thus although the Temne and Mende did Dot regain their independence,   the-war restored a lot of their dignity. Their social, political and economic powers could now at least be recognised.

9,      In commerce,  the Creoles also lost their monopoly  to big British trading firms that worked

With the African middlemen  to exploit the natural resources of Sierra Leone.

10.   Change of Creole education  in the interior.                       .

It was the British intention to extinguish  the Creole influence  not only in Sierra Leone but also in the whole of British West Africa. This had a negative civilisation  effect in stagnant' intenor societies. There were very few schools and even the type of educanon that was given was quite unprogressive. Thus after the war, Temne and Mende had to be trained purposely for tribal life that would support western civilisation  but not Creole developmant

Because of these conflicts between Creoles and the British in the interior, by 1914 not even a single road had been constructed  to connect the interior with Free town.

11.   Emergence of indirect rule:

After the war, the reorganisation  of the government  gave way to indirect rule with Temne and Mende as the main African chiefs. The British appointed  its agents to administer them. This hampered  the levels of political, economic and social achievements  that Creoles had achieved. The hut tax war generally affected the whole of Sierra Leone and her role as a nursery bed of West African civilisation collapsed.

In conclusion therefore, the hut tax  war can be said to have been a result of the British negligence  over the economic, political and social interests of the Temne and Mende. The indigenous people had lost their political power that they saw as the abuse to their traditional  set up. The course of the war was violent relying on guerilla  military tactics and African-traditional  religion. Its effects were .too bitter and far-reaching  not so much for the Temne and Mende who participated and lost the war but quite painful to the Creoles who had not even participated  in the war.