The Maji Maji Rebellion was one of many uprisings against colonial power in Africa during the 19th and 20th centuries. This particular rebellion was also similar to others in that it was ignited as a result of a superpower’s greed and aggressive taxing policies. Grim times can lead to the rise of unexpected leaders–such is the story of Bokero.
German East Africa
The culprit, in this case, was Germany. Having a presence on the continent since the 19th century, by the end of the century, Germany had become a major power player in Tanzania, Rwanda, Mozambique, and Burundi–collectively known as German East Africa.
The country made overwhelming demands in the way of taxes and productivity and local chiefs were placed in charge of making sure villages achieved these quotas. As a result, many of these leaders were soured among their citizens and the social dynamics of villages changed throughout German East Africa.
The rebellion was rumbling in the region for some time when flooding hit the area in 1905. Germany still expected its quota to be met, putting more stress on the people of German East Africa. A belief in magic played an important role in everyday life in the region.
This coupled with oppression from Germany allowed for the rise of a Matumi medium Bokero. Born Kinjikitile Ngwale, Bokero believed he had been possessed by the spirit Hongo in the shape of a snake. He was believed to have the power to communicate with the god Bokera through Hongo hence his name.
A charismatic leader, he was able to motivate the people of Tanzania to lash out against the colonial government. The two-year conflict that started in July 1905 would come to be known as the Maji Maji Rebellion.