During the so-called “scramble for Africa,” all major parts of the continent were divided among European states including Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and others. Most of the empires used brutal colonization policies to enforce their rule. German regime in Tanganyika was probably the most violent (Pakenham, 1992). By 1905, local people were oppressed so much that they could no longer tolerate the discrimination and slavery. Maji Maji rebellion swept across the country, involving nearly 20 different ethnic groups (Gellately & Kiernan, 2003). The rebellion was stifled two years later. Hundreds of thousands of indigenous people were killed. However, it served as a reminder to the colonizers that local people would not suffer continuous abuse and violence, while Africans learned that unity could eventually defeat German weaponry and militarism.
Causes and Events
There were many causes of Maji Maji rebellion. Germans controlling the territory of modern-day Tanzania did not care much about the local population and its welfare. They killed kings who resisted the colonization, imposed high taxation, and used forced labor to produce resources and goods that were then sent to Europe. Those who did not obey were tortured and imprisoned (Asante, 2007). Local people were also forced to work on construction projects where they were beaten and exploited till the last breath. Africans certainly did not want to tolerate such treatment. The resentment and anger mounted until local people could no longer keep silent.
In 1905, the Maji Maji rebellion began. Religious prophet Kinjikitile Ngwale encouraged people to resist the German rule and claimed he had the magic water called maji that could protect the warriors from German bullets. More and more people joined the fight until all major tribes were involved. At first, they attacked only small colonizers’ outposts. Then, they started to destroy German property and cotton plantations, as well as attack Germans in different parts of the country (Gellately & Kiernan, 2003). Unfortunately, Maji Maji rebellion primary sources suggest that although the rebellion involved many ethnic groups, it did not have the chances to succeed.
So, why did the Maji Maji rebellion fail? To begin with, Germans had advanced weaponry and organization. They soon realized that Maji Maji rebellion was something more than a local uprising but a full-scale rebellion that could affect their profits and paralyze the production (Asante, 2007). Therefore, Germans used comprehensive military planning and strategy. They also used modern weapons and fortifications that proved superior to African’s arrows and spears. Thousands of men, women, and children were killed when Germans intervened. They attacked their villages and camps. They burned their crops that led to the famine and even greater misery that they experienced before the uprising.
Consequences and Conclusion
Effects of Maji Maji rebellion are controversial. On the one hand, what happened after the Maji Maji rebellion can prove that rebels suffered for nothing. Many people died, and thousands were displaced. Chiefs were hanged, while those managed to survive fled the country. On the other hand, Germans relaxed their policies. They reduced taxes, built schools for local people, and introduced fairer policies that considered Africans’ interests as well (Asante, 2007). More importantly, the uprising inspired later rebels. Nations that rose against the colonial rule in Africa in the 20th century realized that only through unity, people could fight the oppression and discrimination. To summarize, Maji Maji rebellion was one of the most significant events in the African fight against the colonial rule. It failed and led to thousands of deaths. However, it helped local people to change the oppressive policies and gave them hope for the eventual victory over the brutal colonizers.
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Asante, M. K. (2007). The history of Africa: The quest for eternal harmony. Florence, KT: Routledge, 2007.
Gellately, R., & Kiernan, B. (2003). The specter of genocide: Mass murder in historical perspective. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Pakenham, T. (1992). The scramble for Africa: The white man’s conquest of the dark continent from 1876 to 1912. New York, NY: HarperCollins.