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Mkwawa and the Hehe Wars

Alison Redmayne
The Journal of African History
Vol. 9, No. 3 (1968), pp. 409-436
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/180274
Page Count: 28
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Mkwawa and the Hehe Wars
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Abstract

The Hehe now live mainly in the Iringa and Mufundi districts of Tanzania. Little is known of their early history before the mid-nineteenth century, when chief Munyigumba of Ng'uluhe extended his rule over the other chiefdoms of the Usungwa highlands and central plateau of Uhehe. By his death in ca. 1878 he had also won important victories against the chiefs of Utemikwila, Usangu and Ungoni. After Munyigumba's death the Hehe suffered a temporary set-back when Mwambambe, who had been a subordinate ruler under Munyigumba, tried to usurp the chiefship, killed Munyigumba's younger brother and caused one of his sons, Mkwawa, to flee to Ugogo. However, eventually Mwambambe was killed in battle against Mkwawa, and his surviving followers, whom he had recruited from Kiwele, fled. By 1883, when Giraud visited Uhehe, Mkwawa was the unchallenged ruler of his father's lands, and under him the Hehe, who had only recently acquired political unity, had extraordinary military success. Their most important raids were on the caravan route which ran from Bagamoyo on the coast to Lake Tanganyika. By 1890 these raids were a threat to German authority and a major obstacle in the way of colonization and the development of trade. In spite of the Germans' effort to make peace with them, the Hehe persisted in attacking caravans and the people who had submitted to the Germans so, in 1891, a German expedition was sent to Uhehe. This was ambushed and defeated by the Hehe, who then continued their raids, causing the Germans to return in 1894 with a larger expedition and destroy the Hehe fort. Chief Mkwawa may have attempted suicide in the fort, but he was persuaded to flee and then maintained his resistance to the Germans until 1898 when he shot himself to avoid capture. The Hehe then submitted to the Germans. Mkwawa's own determination not to surrender was a very important factor in the long struggle. During this war the Germans acquired a respect for the Hehe which has affected the way that the Hehe have been regarded and treated ever since.

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