"African chiefs sentenced to death by the Germans for their role in the Maji Maji rebellion"
The Maji Maji Rebellion, lasting from 1905 to 1907, was an organized uprising initiated by several groups of African communities in the colonized territory of German East Africa against German colonial rule and German policy that forced them to grow cotton for export, profiting the German colonists.
German colonial efforts in east Africa were initiated by the German Colonization Society (yes, they actually had an organization dedicated to colonialist missions) led by an extremely violent and racist man named Karl Peters. In the book “The Origins of Totalitarianism”, it is said that, "[The] African colonial possessions became the most fertile soil for the flowering of what was later to become the Nazi elite". Testimony to the extremely violent nature of German colonialism in parts of Africa.
Peters, who believed Germans to be a superior race and a believer of Social Darwinism, used ideologies relating to völkisch to fuel his ruthless ambitions in German East Africa which included him murdering large segments of local populations who opposed German occupation. This led to him being labelled “Mkono wa Damu,” meaning “Man with Blood on His Hands”, by the local Tanganyika population, where he was governor.
The series of events that led to the Maji Maji uprising stemmed from a system where the Germans began levying head taxes and charging each village with a quota of cotton production through the use of slave labor.
Following a drought in 1905 that threatened the region and the quota imposed against various villages set by the Germans, several communities banded together under the command of a medium named Kinjikitile Ngwale to oppose and resist German colonial policies. Ngwale claimed to be possessed by a snake spirit called Hongo and had communicated with the deity Bokera (no substantial information found on Bokera). Through this encouner, Ngwale had put together a concoction - the maji - consisting of castor oil and millet seed, that was said to be able to turn German bullets into water.
Armed with this liquid and their traditional war tools, the united local communities, empowered by Ngwale, went about destroying German-run cotton plants. These communities included various ethnic groups such as the Ngoni, Matumbi, and Ngindo people.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of artillery and firepower in the form of machine guns and canons, the Maji Maji rebels were terribly defeated. Furthermore, German reinforcements were sent from Germany to assist the colonists in their attacks on the anti-colonial fighters.
The German governor of East Africa at the time, Gustav Adolf von Götzen, used famine as a weapon of war, destroying entire villages, burning crops and killing livestock. One of the leaders of the German troops, Captain Wangenheim, wrote to von Götzen saying, “Only hunger and want can bring about a final submission. Military actions alone will remain more or less a drop in the ocean.”
It is estimated that at least 10, 000 casualties and losses were suffered by the Maji Maji rebels, and 15 Europeans and almost 400 Askari’s (local guards employed by the Germans) were the estimated casualties on the colonist’s side.