Saturday, 21 February 2015


President Jakaya Kikwete with Mkwawa's recent 14 year old Mkwawa heir to the Hehe throne. A family tie with strong links to Tanzania's history. Pic by  Michuzi.

Remembering our ancestors by performing regular rituals was common practise in many world traditions. Some of these rituals were later “dismissed” or forgotten as Middle East religions took over.  Non Christians were called Pagans or Infidels (un baptised sinners); while non Muslims were Heretics or Kafirs; and non Jewish, Gentiles. These rituals were the core of family, tribe, values and customs.

As capitalism and globalisation continues to flourish the only people “allowed” to exercise formal rituals are those in power, i.e. birth and weddings of royal classes, inauguration of political leaders etc...  
Leaders and kings are symbols of what we have forgotten and forbidden, en masse.
In 2015, we Africans, carry on such rituals via Islam and Christianity, the accepted (and adopted) Middle East traditional and spiritual beliefs of the past century or so.
 Part of our colonial heritage has made us ditch certain fundamental symbols to an extent that we are losing focus. The growing influence of the Internet and being bombarded by all sorts of gibberish is making youths (the next generation) clueless to spiritual guidance.  This is visible through extensive use of drugs and religious extremism, our ongoing nightmare.
 Chief Mkwawa as he might have looked. Pic from Matukio Daima Blog
Having said this, it is with great pleasure that the President of the United Republic showed respect to one of the biggest symbols of Tanzanian history. Early this week President Jakaya Kikwete attended the funeral of Wahehe, Chief Abdu Mfwimi Adam Mkwawa at Kalenga in Iringa. Mkwawa has given us so much vocabulary. Lugalo the 19th century main battle ground is the name of our national army’s barracks. When I was in Germany recently I chatted to a researcher who said apart from the legendary Mkwawa there were other skulls of Africans in museums.  A site called Mkwawa dot com says Mkwawa biopic film was released in 2011. Why has this film not been heavily advertised? 
Legendary Chief Mkwawa "Mukwavinyika" of the Wahehe's skull still preserved at Kalenga, Iringa.
Pic by Francis Godwin of Matukio Daima Blog.

 There is so much of our history that needs resurfacing. Bravo for Hehes and the Government continuing to show respect to Chief Mkwawa.  But what about other valiant chiefs like Tabora’s Mirambo, or Sina and Meli of Moshi, murdered by the Germans in the same era?
When I was preparing this article someone asked me how do these legends help us now?
Chief Mukwavinyika, who we know as the great Chief Mkwawa, was born in 1855 to Chief Munyigumba. Chief Munyigumba died in 1879 and a tree where the father of Mukwavinyika was buried is still lush at Lungemba, says the Mkwawa site.
The tree where Mangi Meli Rindi Makindara bin Kiusa was hanged at Korira village, Old Moshi in 1892. Pic by John Gidamali, 2013.
It is the area that this blogger comes from.

After outwitting and fighting the Germans for many years, Chief Mukwavinyika shot himself following the fierce battle at Lugalo in 1894. These were times of fierce resistance to German colonial rule. Chief Meli of the Wachagga was captured and hanged, naked then decapitated, at Old Moshi in 1892. Keen to avoid such a humiliation Mkwawa chose suicide.  Smart. No wonder the Germans were so impressed that they stole his head. Other chiefs were also killed. There were survivors like Chief Kidaha Makwaia of the Sukuma.  Or the leader of  Maji-Maji resistance of 1905 on the coast recreated by writer Ebrahim Hussein in the 1969, Kinjeketile play.  Chief Mirambo of Tabora died of an illness in 1884 and was so valiant that American journalist; Henry Morton Stanley called him the “black Bonaparte” according to Wikipedia. Allusion to Napoleon of France.
 The President consoles the distraught  14 year old heir, Adam Mkwawa. Pic by Michuzi

These guys were (and are still) heroes.
I would imagine when our forefathers were forming TAA and later TANU they must have been inspired by such ancestral giants. TAA was born in 1929, not long since the deaths of these Watemi and Mangis.
That is one thread. Inspiration. Nowadays we talk of the TANU founders and departed leaders respectfully. Sykes family, John Rupia,  Rashid Kawawa, Lawi  Sijaona, Dossa Aziz, Oscar Kambona (despite his fall out with the TANU leadership in 1967) and Mwalimu Nyerere himself. Add the Zanzibar leaders, Sheikh Abeid Karume, Abdulrahman Babu, Colonel Ali Mahfoudh to name a few.
Ancestors and past leaders offer hope where doubts whisper. 
Chief Mirambo of Tabora -seen during the last years of his heroic life. Pic copyright, public domain.

Recently UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, was accused of copying speech of a former labour leader Michael Kinnock in 1983. Mr Kinnock warned voters of Margaret Thatcher (Conservatives) and now Cameron was alerting on Labour’s business policies. During ceremonies to mark the 50th year of the great leader, Winston Churchill’s death in 1965, British people were reminded of his virtues.  
When American Presidents are inaugurated their speeches are always analysed.   John Kennedy’s on January 1961 "Don’t ask what the country will do for you but what you can do for your country” is regarded as a classic of new Presidents’ speeches.
As the novel chief Adam Abdu Mkwawa, (aged 14 and still in primary school), takes over from his ancestors, it is time to shine the light. When we complain that Africa is doomed and suffering we should peer and learn from past, ancestral energy and power. To those who managed and carried things forward despite fierce challenges.

 Published in Citizen Tanzania, Friday 20th February, 2015.

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