Volume 11, Issue 1
Social Organization and Social Status in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Rukwa, Tanzania
Abstract: Nineteenth century histories of Tanzania typically focus on "tribal" histories, customs, and military action. To a certain extent, this is expected. The story of how interior Tanzania came in contact with the Indian Ocean World is an exceedingly violent one. However, there are different ways of looking at interior history which highlight factors besides "tribal" histories. The story told here of Rukwa Region highlights alliances, status hierarchy, and fighting during the second half of the twentieth century. Such institutions emerged out of an "ecology of fear" which resulted in the re-organization of peoples, trade networks, and the emergence of a strong separation between common people and powerful rulers from different status groups even though they may have spoken the same language and had the same "tribal" affiliation. The fears generated by the clash of such institutions often shaped local responses to rapid social change.
This essay highlights what this re-organization meant for what is roughly Rukwa Region of western Tanzania in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Focus is on the peoples of the Fipa Plateau, and Rukwa Plains. Traditionally, these people are referred to as the Fipa, Pimbwe, Bende, Kimbu, and Konongo people. The Gongwe, a group previously not described in the anthropological or linguistic literature is also discussed.
Tanzanian history in part emerged from the accounts of nineteenth century explorers, and the needs of the
colonial and post-colonial states.As such, history of Rukwa in western Tanzania, emerges from the needs of these literate intruders. Thus in
the 1870s, explorers like Burton, Stanley, Livingstone, and Thomson told the story of conflict that hounded their movement across a social environment dominated by violent and charismatic figures.Each chief, they wrote, sought an advantage in the newly arrived world markets of ivory and slaves.German colonialists and missionaries arriving after the 1880s, told stories emphasizing the cruelty of chiefs to the local people as they sought to legitimize their own rule, and identify administrative units which could be adapted to colonial domination, taxable trade, and church building.The British arriving in Rukwa in 1920, took up where the Germans left off.Intent on imposing indirect rule in a fashion which would facilitate trade, they organized their east African peoples as "tribes," each having a language, and a chiefly lineage through whom the colonial power could rule.
Finally after 1961, the independent Tanganyika (later Tanzania) government looked to pre-colonial history to
re-establish the legitimacy of African rule in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.In this context, nineteenth century African leaders like Chief Mirambo of the Nyamwezi, are presented as figures resisting colonial intrusion.More problematic for post-colonial government and historiography has been the question of what to do about the "tribal" classification inherited from the British."Tribal" identities run counter to nationalist conceptions
of a Tanzania.
This paper discusses Rukwa's history in the context of what I call "the ecology of fear" created by the reorganization of society in the context of the intrusion from the Indian Ocean world.This is done by evaluating the interests, capabilities, and reorganizations undertaken by the various "status groups" found in Rukwa during this time.
The New Nineteenth Century Trading System and the Ecology of Fear
Rukwa—or for that matter Tanzania in general—is not only understood as a retelling of tribal
histories, but as a story of how subsistence societies organized and reorganized themselves relative to the outside world.As Iliffe notes, "Early nineteenth-century Tanganyika was not inhabited by discrete compact, and identifiable tribes, each with a distinct territory, language, culture, and political system," although the "need to describe makes the use of such collective names inescapable, even though they distort and oversimplify a vastly more complex reality." This period is important, too, since as Illife notes further, it was during
"the nineteenth century [that] Tanganyika's inland peoples made contact with the outside world through a long-distance trading system based on Zanzibar,"
and as a result, "Tanganyika experienced a transformation more intense than any other region of tropical Africa at that time."
It is my thesis that reorganization in Rukwa happened in the context of an ecology of fear featuring frequent raiding, trade in new products like guns, slaves, and ivory, and the decimation of human populations by violence, disease, and famine.This "ecology of fear" is written into the modern landscape in the form of parks and conservation areas established by the modern Tanzanian government, in places first abandoned by humans fleeing violence in the nineteenth century.The ecology of fear typically pushed people living in the region to rely on apparently older forms of social
organization, as they were confronted with new challenges created by intruders whether from southern Africa, or the Indian Ocean Coast.Notably, this happened not only in Rukwa, but in other regions of Tanzania as well.
Social Status as an Analytical Category and the "Terrible Dilemma" of Peasants
Keeping in mind that, as Iliffe noted, collective tribal names are both imprecise, but also inescapable, I
would like to experiment using Max Weber's term "status group" to describe social relations in nineteenth century Tanzania. Status groups are normally communities rooted in shared honor, i.e. a shared style of life.Status groups can be dominant or subordinated in a wider social system. Weber developed this term in the context of his understandings of how a wide range of societies in Asia, North America, and Europe developed and changed in ancient and modern times.This essay will, I believe, make it clear that thinking about Africa in this fashion is also useful.
According to Weber, status groups (Staende) are rooted in an effective claim to esteem vis a vis others.Status groups share a style of life, formal education, putative hereditary lineage, and occupational status, among a range of other conditions, which in turn result in group-based action. Sometimes claims result in a group of people who together assert rights to privileges such as trading monopolies, or even sovereignty over territory. Status groups seek to have privileges/honors become hereditary, and seek legal
guarantees.In the context of nineteenth century Tanzania, salient positively privileged status groups includes chiefly lineages, inhabitants of a particular locality, clans, followers of a charismatic leader, rainmakers, blacksmiths, mystics and religious teachers, and shared national/tribal identity.Weber goes on to note, however, that such privileges imply status groups which are negatively privileged and in the
African context include a variety of outsiders: forest people, hunter-gatherers, refugees, potters, and other outcasts.Status for negatively privileged is still expressed by pride in a particular style of life, putative hereditary lineages, occupational rights, etc., and a disdain for the trickery of the dominant group.The advantage of Weber's approach is that it reflects beliefs about stratification rooted in a range of unequal relationships, occupational monopolies, and so forth, not just tribal identity.
As I think will become clear here, reframing pre-colonial society as one
composed of status groups is particularly useful when evaluating social change in pre-colonial Tanzania. Among the higher ranking status groups asserting monopolies over powerful symbols were the chiefly lineages who dominated through charismatic means; groups of traders who developed unique economic relations with local leaders; and European missionaries who inserted themselves into leadership.Beneath such high status groups were the sedentary farming, pastoral, warrior, and even slave status groups who while often victimized by the more powerful, still maneuvered in the same social environment.
re-evaluates what happened in what is (roughly) today's Rukwa Region. What is striking from this analysis is
that across "ethnic groups," "tribes," "occupational stratification," and
status groups there were consistent caste-like relationships.The early Arab and European intruders
arriving in the nineteenth century necessarily integrated themselves into this
pre-existing status system, responding and reacting to a complex social world,
even as their presence changed it. The stories Europeans wrote of nineteenth
and twentieth century Rukwa thus are ones of violent chiefs, and violent
intruders.But the vast majority
of people were not the perpetrators of violence, but subsistence farmers
growing the grains which not only sustained themselves, but also the chiefs and
their retainers who ruled through their own armies and courts, making the
accumulation and trade in ivory possible. In this respect Rukwa was not unusual;
it was the agricultural production of the peasants that underpinned the world
of marauding chiefs, their armies, and their courts.This is because settled subsistence farming with its
granaries and ripening fields of crops, by its very nature, makes farmers vulnerable
to appropriation.Chirot calls this situation the "terrible dilemma" in which agricultural peoples are forced to make a choice
between sacrificing individual freedom and control of the production of their
labor on the one hand and ceding control to aristocratic castes for the security from raids that emerges from a powerful
protector who also in return levies military drafts and appropriates foodstores on the other. The implicit exchange is that the fruits of their agricultural labor are exchanged for the protection provided by
armies in an otherwise anarchic world.This was very much the world of nineteenth century Rukwa.
Rukwa Region is in western Tanzania and occupies four ecological
zones.First, there is a coastal
strip along Lake Tanganyika (elevation 768 meters).Secondly the Fipa Plateau at approximately 1500 meters is
the center of the Region, and currently the most densely populated area.To the west and at the foot of an
escarpment, is the Rukwa Plain at 900 meters.The Plain begins at the saline Lake Rukwa which drains an
area to the north extending to what is now Katavi National Park.Lake Rukwa itself is a geographical
anomaly; fluctuating water levels are recorded during historical times. North of Katavi National Park is a
fourth area, a vast miombo forest.
In the nineteenth century on the
Fipa Plateau where there was higher rainfall, a cultural complex organized
around horticulture and pastoralism developed. In the Rukwa Plain, where rainfall is
noticeably less, human ecology was focused by a mixture of grain cultivation
(millet and maize), small animal pastoralism, hunting, and gathering.Today, there are large ungulates,
including the world's larges herd of cape buffalo, in the area which is
protected as Katavi National Park.Only in 1970 were cattle introduced by Sukuma-speaking pastoralists
migrating from the north. Beans, which require more rainfall, are
not generally grown in the Rukwa Valley.The combination of horticulture, hunting, and gathering occured also
further to the north in the miombo
Disease and Population Ecology in the Nineteenth Century
The "diseases of civilization" like
smallpox, measles and typhoid arrived in Rukwa during the nineteenth century,
causing epidemics with high mortality well into the twentieth century.Rinderpest, a disease of cloven-hoofed
animals also decimated herds of cattle on the Fipa Plateau in the 1890s, as
well as wild buffalo and other cloven hoofed animals on the Rukwa Plain.The rinderpest epidemics contributed to
human famine in the 1890s, particularly in areas dependent on pastoralism.
Population maps published in
1907 indicated that densities were highest along the Lake Tanganyika littoral,
and in the Rukwa Plains. Densities on the Fipa Plateau (which
today are the most densely populated), and in the forested interior were low,
perhaps the result of the rinderpest induced famine in the 1890s, and the
violence and epidemics of previous decades. By the late twentieth century the density patterns
reversed, with higher densities on the Fipa Plateau, while lowlands were given
over to unpopulated game reserves.
<Traditional Tribal and Linguistic Divisions of Rukwa
Rukwa Region is at the intersection
of three Bantu language groups: Nyamwezi-Sukuma from the northeast (including
Nyamewezi, Konongo and Kimbu languages), Bende from across Lake Tanganyika
(including Bende, Tongwe, and Holoholo), and Mwika/Fipa which has its origins
in Zambia (including Fipa, Pimbwe, and Rungwa). In addition, Gongwe is a language which
has lexical similarities to Pimbwe, and many loan words from Bende.
Today, patterned multi-lingualism between the sub-groups, including widespread use of Swahili, is common.For example, Pimbwe are also likely to speak Fipa or Konongo. Status identity, today as in the past, is a function of where a person is living, identification with a particular
leader, and at-home language use although an all-embracing Tanzanian identity is today very important. Frequent inter-marriage and multi-lingualism meant that particular individuals may assert membership in more than one ethnic group.Linguist Yuko Abe has undertaken preliminary lexical studies
which reflect these relationships (see Table 1).
Bende speaking groups are found in the northern part of Rukwa, and
include Bende, Tongwe, and Holoholo speaking people. This is the most sparsely settled part
of the Region, and the only place never organized into formal chiefdoms and
incipient states. Nor did the Bende build defensive pallisaded villages. As a defensive strategy they retreated into the miombo forest, abandoning planted fields to the raiders.
A Gongwe-speaking population persists today in parts of Mpanda District,
and maintains a royal graveyard which is at the site of the old royal village, in
what is now Katavi National Park. The Gongwe are not mentioned in the language databases of the Summer Institute of
Linguistics, nor in the ethnographic literature.However, they are mentioned in British colonial documents
describing the dissolution of the Gongwe court in 1927-1928.
Joseph Thomson mentioned them in 1880, and they appear on German maps. As with other groups living today in Rukwa, the Gongwe practice dryland maize cultivation, small animal pastoralism, hunting, and gathering. They have a tradition of chieftainship.
19th Century Status Groups: Rulers, Soldiers, Traders, and Missionaries
So far, I used the traditional tribal and linguistic divisions to describe Rukwa because they are the status
labels used in the traditional ethnographic literature, especially British colonial records.Indeed, it was along such status distinctions that opportunities to rule (and be ruled) were distributed by the British between 1920 and 1961. However, in Rukwa other status distinctions were important; and when they are used, a more nuanced description of nineteenth century Tanzanian social worlds emerges.
In this spirit, I highlight status
groups found in western Tanzania which patterned strongly feelings of loyalty,
and made the pursuit of political and military power coherent. Notably these
status groups went beyond simple feelings of kinship based on land and tribe,
and included aristocracies, language groups, and occupational groups. Criteria
included groups with educational, professional, linguistic, ritual, and kin-based
criteria for membership. Each status group transcended loyalties rooted solely in
economic or kin-based interests.
In nineteenth century Rukwa,
relevant statuses included child soldiers/pages known as ruga-ruga and who were typically kept close to the person of the
chief, and in European terms might be thought of as being the equivalent of
pages or retainers in an aristocratic court.  As for
the leadership itself, chiefship was rooted in aristocratic ranks which spread
across geographical boundaries of "tribes," and were often rooted in claims of
foreign origin, which, as Tambila notes, were "a ploy to acquire a greater
measure of legitimacy" in order to rule effectively. In Rukwa, the putative origins of such
groups were the chiefly clans of the Tutsi with assumed origins in the regions
near Rwanda and Burundi, or Nyamwezi clans from near Tabora. Swahili speaking "Arab" traders formed
a status group.The Catholic order
of the White Fathers, which arrived in the 1880s, also in effect brought a
status category for themselves from Europe, which, as is described here,
developed in a fashion similar to other local aristocratic ranks.
The ruga-ruga were boys who were separated from their families at a young age, and
raised to be the personal retainers/soldiers for a chief.
They were raised in chiefly courts to be loyal to their commander.The status was acquired as a result of
initiation rituals, not birth.  Shorter describes these boys as . wild young men, a heterogeneous
collection of war captives, deserters from caravans, runaway slaves, and
others.without roots or family ties, and they owed no allegiance other than to
their chief or leader.
He also notes that:
Nearly every Nyamwezi chief had [ruga-ruga] during the last quarter of
the nineteenth century.[they were] standing armies of young, unmarried
professional soldiers, especially trained to fight and terrorize their
enemies.they often wore mutilated parts of the bodies of their enemies as
ornaments, and their name is said to derive from this fact.Many of them wore belts made of human
entrails and necklaces of human teeth.The ruga-ruga
were encouraged to smoke Indian hemp to make them fearless and excitable.Their weapons were bows and arrows,
spears, and muzzle-loading guns.
Nyamwezi and Tutsi Ruling Castes 
The term Nyamwezi applies to a variety of status groups which are found
in Tanzania today, and in the past.Today, the term refers speakers of a language living in the Tabora area.In the nineteenth century, the term was
also applied to low status occupational status group, including the porters who
carried goods from the interior to Bagamoyo on the Indian Ocean coast on behalf
of Arab traders.Also, nineteenth
century explorer accounts of Rukwa describe these chiefs of the Pimbwe, Kimbu,
and Konongo as being "Nyamwezi."Indeed, Bennett even notes that there was a Nyamwezi chief in what is
now Katanga Region of the southern Congo. Well-known chiefs in Rukwa identified
as Nyamwezi included Mirambo of the Nyamwezi, Simba of the Konongo, Nyungu ya
Mawe of the Kimbu, and Kasogera of the Pimbwe.
The term Tutsi
today refers to the traditional ruling castes of Burundi and Rwanda. There was also a Tutsi ruling class
among the Waha and Wahangaza of Tanzania. And as Willis points out, the Tutsi
chiefly caste in Fipa has an origin myth indicating that they migrated from the
north from the area of what is now Rwanda/Tanzania/Uganda. Each share cultural characteristics including
a focus on cattle herding, chieftainship traditions, and royal regalia.As Willis notes, however, it is not
clear whether this is the result of an actual migration from the north, or
cultural diffusion.  For the purposes of this paper, though,
this does not matter.The point is
that there is a chiefly caste in Rukwa that has putative origins in migration
and symbolically identifies with other leadership castes ranging from Uganda, to
the Fipa Plateau.The Tuutsi status
groups of Rukwa monopolized the symbols of leadership before the nineteenth
The chiefly castes of Rukwa—both the Nyamwezi and
Tuutsi—controlled routes passing through their territories by the
1860s.This became more lucrative
as the Arab-generated trade in ivory, guns, and cloth increased. Control meant that chiefs and their ruga-ruga monopolized trading rights and
demanded payments from the caravans in the form of guns, goods, and other
supplies with which they could strengthen their own military position.Implicit to this ideal was the sale of
the supplies that the caravans needed to feed and care for porters, slaves, and
others.In this context, chiefly
succession in Rukwa was negotiated in the context of alliances (and enmities)
which spread across western Tanzania.
Arab Traders as a Status Group in Rukwa
Zanzibari Arab traders were resident in the chiefly courts of the Fipa
Plateau, Gongwe, and Simba at the time Europeans arrived in the 1850s-1870s. They were involved with the practical
governance of the area via the ruling chiefs.In many respects they served a function similar to that of
merchant minorities such as Chinese in Southeast Asia, Lebanese in West Africa,
or Jews in parts of Europe. In this context, they often became the
financiers and advisors to royal courts.For this reason perhaps, European explorers accustomed to observing the
phenomenon elsewhere in the world, described the Arab courtiers as being
"ministers" or "prime ministers" at the fortress at Karema, Simba's, and the
Fipa Plateau.Whether this
formally corresponds with such a modern bureaucratic category is
improbable.After all, too often
Arabs had their own ruga-ruga to
guard the caravans.What is clear
is that Arab traders by the nineteenth century established themselves as a
separate status group with legitimated monopolies over various aspects of trade
and governance in the area of Rukwa.Tambila regards the success of Arab newcomers as . proof of the fact that expanded trade opened possibilities
to more people than established chiefs alone.But this access was also a source of instability because the
rising class of merchant/hunter warlords with their ruga-rugas and hangers-on were potential power sources.
European White Fathers as a Status Group in Rukwa
The Catholic "Order of Africa" (known as the "White Fathers" due to the
color of their cassocks) established a mission station at Karema on the shore
of Lake Tanganyika in 1885 after purchasing it from King Leopold's International
African Association (IAA).The
immediate goal of the White Fathers, many of whom were French, and all of whom were
ritually initiated into a religious order, was to establish a mission station to
spread the Christian gospel.
In the context of a dangerous world though,
the mission station at Karema was far more than a church: it also provided a
home for escaped and redeemed slaves, proselytisation, and the maintenance of a
secure place for visiting Europeans.Necessarily, the priests fortified the station against military
attack.Guns inherited from the
departed IAA proved particularly useful for the White Fathers' "small military"
when seeking compliance from nearby Bende villages, whether it was for
protecting territory, housing redeemed and escaped slaves, attacking
uncooperative villagers, or mounting defenses against potential raiders. The White Fathers found recruits for their "military" among the escaped slaves they sought to protect, refugees, and
famine victims, as indeed the Nyamwezi chieftains in the region also did.In the process, the mission at Karema
became a "state unto itself," and began to negotiate with neighbors in much the
same fashion as the other chiefly figure in the region.  For example, when the White Fathers
negotiated with Chief Msuulwa of Nkansi/Fipa, they were admitted to his court on
"equal status with Arabs and other Muslims."Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the White Fathers
turned the tables, though, and began demanding political homage from the leaders
of the Fipa Plateau.
In 1893, the German colonial military arrived, which enhanced the role
of the White Fathers in Rukwa.Understaffed
German authorities delegated many of the responsibilities for governance, most
importantly that of judging crimes, to the French-speaking White Fathers.The White Fathers in turn used this
authority to further their own goals for the elimination of witchcraft
(especially trial by poison ordeal), proselytization, agricultural improvement,
and the establishment of churches and schools.
As Smythe in particular points out,
the White Fathers were the most consistent foreign presence in a remote region
where the outside political powers changed frequently.
Between 1870 and 1970, political shifts included that of indigenous chiefs, to
German military officers, British colonial officers, and finally the
independent Tanzanian government.The presence of foreign White Fathers did not dissipate until the 1980s.While few European White Fathers remain
today, the church they established remains strong and influential.
Pre-Colonial Rukwa: Ngoni Raiders, Arab Traders, and "Little Wars"
The first Ngoni warriors invaded southern
Tanzania in the late 1830s, setting the stage for an extremely violent
nineteenth century.The Ngoni are
typically described as having an origin in southern Africa.Using infantry techniques developed by
Zulu warriors, they made their way into what is now Tanzania in the 1830s from
bases in Malawi.As Koponen notes,
though, presumably as with other marauders in nineteenth century Tanzania, the
Ngoni (also called Watuta) were
warriors who had origins in many places. Indeed, Koponen believes that only a
few hundred of the 16,000-20,000 invading Ngoni in the early nineteenth century
actually originated in South Africa.As with ruga-ruga, most Ngoni were
refugees, former slaves, conquered peoples, adventurers and others who had
joined for any number of reasons as the invaders pushed northward.
Using superior infantry formations, especially stabbing swords, the
Ngoni entered Rukwa in the early 1840s, deposed the chiefs of the Fipa Plateau,
and took the available cattle back to "Ungoni" to the south, probably Malawi.
The Ngoni invasion into Tanzania
probably went as far north as Biharamulo near the southern shore of Lake
Victoria over the next decade, but then receded.The Ngoni returned to Rukwa a second time in the 1850s; the
English explorer Richard Burton passed through Tabora and northern Rukwa in
1858 and described the devastation such attacks left: "The route before us lay
through a howling wilderness, once populous and fertile, but now laid waste by
the fierce Watuta [Ngoni]." Shorter makes the argument that the
Ngoni activity stimulated surviving Africans to organize more systematically a defensive
and offensive military, perhaps giving birth to ruga-ruga traditions. He further
asserts that it was at this time that surviving chiefdoms began to re-organize
themselves into pallisaded fortresses to protect themselves against further
The next intruders into the region
were Zanzibari Arab traders who reached Unyanyembe/Tabora in Central Tanzania
by the 1830s and Ujiji shortly thereafter in their search for slaves and
ivory.The purpose and
organization of the Arab traders created a fundamentally different status
group; they were not interested in plunder, but in the protection, staffing,
and provisioning of trading caravans which would walk from central Africa
(today's Tanzania and Congo) to Zanzibar on the Indian Ocean Coast.Trade was focused by world demands for
ivory and for slaves for plantations on the Indian Ocean littoral. Trade goods
purchased included guns, beads (which Burton and Cameron described as being
used as currency), and cloth. Guns in particular re-oriented power
Trading caravans in nineteenth
century Africa were difficult and expensive to organize, because few areas were
secure from raids by locals.Travel
was by caravan which carried not only trade goods, but the arms and provisions
needed to feed the porters, protect ivory, and prevent slaves from escaping. Explorers paid tributary passage fees to chiefs who controlling stretches of the road. Two safe spots for the
caravans were the fortified cities at Tabora/Kazeh, and Ujiji, which soon became notorious as slave depots during the mid-nineteenth century.
Oral and written accounts indicate that by the 1850s, the chiefs of
southern Rukwa, occasionally purchased slaves, traded foodstuffs to caravans,
and most importantly, traded ivory for guns. Arab traders settled in the region
semi-permanently as hunters and traders, typically while acknowledging the
sovereignty of a local chief.The
good news for Rukwa was that there was no indication that peoples were systematically
victimized by slave raiders in the manner that the Congo was; Zanzibari Arab presence
in the region was instead focused on the trade in ivory, a function of the
large elephant herds in the Rukwa Valley.
The "Little Wars" Shift Status Arrangements (1860-1898)
Locals refer to the period between about 1860 and 1898—i.e.
between the time of the Ngoni invasions, and the arrival of the German colonial
army—as that of the "little wars" between chiefs.Shetler writing about the Serengeti
where similar events occurred
calls it the "Time of Disasters" when violence and famine dominated
relationships, and a wilderness was created by human depopulation. The accounts of locals as well as
explorer journals from Rukwa reflect this view well.Richard Burton's 1858 travel journals focused on the
violence he found in Rukwa, most of it stemming from the invasion of the
Ngoni.Stanley's descriptions of
Rukwa in 1870 also focused on the violence he observed.He also saw plentiful signs of buffalo,
elephant, and rhinoceros, reflecting perhaps an abundance of forest abandoned
by human horticulturalists terrorized during the previous decade.
In response, fortified towns were built which served both defensive and
offensive military purposes.These
fortresses as is the case of horticultural empires elsewhere, were towns within
walls which protected the power of the chief, including wealth in the form of
ivory and foodstuffs.Privileged
residents typically included the chief sorcerer, administrative chief, keeper
of the royal regalia, the chief's wives, and the dwellings of the ruga-ruga. The queen mother typically also had an
honored dwelling, reflecting a common division of authority in much of central
Africa. Typically such fortresses also had a
dry moat, and a palisade of logs.At least one of the moats described by Shorter was apparently filled
with sharpened poisoned stakes.
Such fortresses were a place for loyal vassals to retreat in the event
of attack.But they were also a
place for powerful chiefs to consolidate power by providing a location to
concentrate soldiers, protect foodstores, store ivory, and hold court.Isolation of the chief from the common
people added to the mystery and majesty of the chiefly position, and were
symbolic elements used to assert authority.
"little wars" alliances emerged and enmities developed between local chiefs. Venturing unprotected into the forest
to hunt animals, tend crops, or establish homesteads put men at risk.The net result in Rukwa was the
emergence of frontier areas in which human population was sparse due to the
dangers from enemies.The most
important of these areas was probably between the Pimbwe, Gongwe, and Konongo
in what is now Katavi National Park.Each grouprecalls accounts of attacks by the other.Perhaps the most vivid was an account
of how Chief Kasogera's mother was impaled on a post after being skinned alive
by Gongwe hunters, presumably in the late nineteenth century.
A type of fluid power developed in
the context of chiefs, Arabs traders, European intruders, and little wars is
illustrated well by a document created by the elephant hunter Swahili Matumula from
the Indian Ocean coast, with a representative of King Leopold of the Belgians,
at the inland compound owned by the Nyamwezi/Konongo chief Simba in 1877. The
agreement is a transfer of sovereignty for Karema, a lakeport traditionally
occupied by the Bende-speaking clans, but which became a slave depot for the Swahili
from Kilwa, Matumula, a few years previously "by right of conquest."The agreement reveals a great deal
about the status stratification between the locals of the region, who were only
recently "conquered" by Matumula's ruga-ruga,
the role of powerful Arab traders (most of whom are nameless in the explorers'
writings), and the European representative of King Leopold of the
Belgians.Most importantly it was
negotiated in the presence of Simba, the patron of Matumula. But also what is not written is
significant.Mirambo, who also
asserted sovereignty over the area if not by right of conquest, on the basis of
his reputation for ferocity, is missing from the agreement:
I Matumula a native of Kilwa [on
the Indian Ocean Coast], landowner by right of conquest for five years past of
Karema Territory.I give to the
Sultan of the Belgians and to his subjects, the part they will choose, on the
said Territory belonging to me, where they may build and cultivate.
I deny myself and refuse to my
successors the right to send them away in future or to molest them.If they are attacked I shall defend
them by force of arms and if they give way we shall die together.
The Sultan of the Belgians [i.e.
King Leopold] and his subject will have an absolute sovereignty over that part
of the Territory given away, the boundary of which will extend one mile in
radius around the spot on which they will build their first settlement.
This act has been drawn up in
the presence of Matumula, Cambier, a subject of the sultan of Belgians,
Alijmasi and Mournie, written at Simba's on Friday the Fifth day of Ramadhan in
the year 1298 [1877 AD] of the Heijira.
This agreement reflects a mix of European, Arab, and African
concepts of sovereignty, as well as bureaucratic rule.The Belgian was Joseph Cambier who
negotiated on behalf of King Leopold of the Belgians, who was establishing the
private companies which would bring devastation to the Congo after the Berlin
Treaty in 1884. As for Matumula, he apparently
considered himself a vassal of the Nyamwezi Simba, rather than the other Nyamwezi
Chief Mirambo, who was an enemy of both.
The Fortresses of Late Nineteenth Century Rukwa
Pallisaded fortresses, or "royal
villages," dominated social
organization in Rukwa and nearby areas during the nineteenth century (see
fortresses had dry moats, and wooden pallisades requiring the mobilization of
large numbers of people to construct and maintain.In the case of the fortresses at both Pimbwe (in the Rukwa
Valley) and Kisuumba (on the Fipa Plateau) (See Figure 1), they were apparently
about four to five hundred meters across.The chief Simba's fortress to the north was, according to Thomson,
larger, and the most impressive he saw in Africa.During the violent period when the maintenance of such
fortresses focused social organization, the farming population clustered ever
nearer, abandoning more distant fields as indefensible.When the power of the marauding
brigands, chiefs, and others dissipated in the early twentieth century, the
farming population retreated back into the more remote areas.
villages themselves typically lasted only a few decades before either
indigenous raiders, or campaigning outsiders breached the walls.Nevertheless the fortresses were
particularly important in the nineteenth and early twentieth century as farming
peoples dealt with the changes associated with the invasion of Ngoni from the
south, and the arrival of the first Zanzibari-Arab trading caravans bringing
ivory, slaves, cloth, and firearms after the 1830s and 1840s.
Cameron in 1873
described a fortress built by who he called "Kimbu refugees" as a strong
stockade in which the gates closed and guns and spears protruding through the stockade by
which it was surrounded.The huts were flat-roofed and built in the form of long
parallelograms, the whole being surrounded by a heavy stockade with only two
entrances.Over each of these was
a sort of crow's nest, where the defenders of the gate took up their position
and were furnished with a supply of large stones to be used on the attacking
This demand for
military-like organization and engineering required large work parties, which
in turn required leadership rooted in a capacity to command obedience through
dispatch of ruga-ruga, control of the
rains, and spiritual life.
Rukwa's Relations with Mirambo and Beyond
As the diffusion of political
traditions with roots in Rwanda, Burundi, and Tabora demonstrate, Rukwa was
never isolated from outside influence.There are in fact cultural clines and political traditions stretching across
central Africa.In the nineteenth
century, the best known political force in the region was the chief Mirambo,
scion of a Nyamwezi clan from west of Tabora.Mirambo commanded an army of ruga-ruga who between the 1860s and his death in 1884, operated in
an area between Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika. Mirambo did this by negotiating
alliances against the Arab traders of Tabora, with the Europeans who arrived in
the 1870s, and 1880s, as well as chiefs ranging from the Fipa Plateau to
Mirambo of course was not the only chief seeking fortune in the context
of ruga-ruga, aristocratic ruling
castes, Arab traders, and European explorers, although for a short time he was
perhaps the most successful at doing so.Others in Rukwa who maneuvered within this system included Nyamwezi
personalities like Nyungu ya Mawe (in Kimbu) and Kasogera (in Pimbwe); various Tuutsi
chiefs on the Fipa Plateau; the Arab merchant minority; European White Fathers;
and King Leopold's IAA. Chiefs in
Rukwa had at least indirect relations with groups in today's Congo, Zambia,
Burundi, Central Tanzania, and ultimately the Indian Ocean World and
system—which also had elements of anarchy—was not eclipsed until
the German colonialists asserted bureaucratic control in the early 1900s.In many ways, the system persisting
today in Rukwa reflects this history.
European Traders Arrive: the International Africa Association, the Lakeport of Karema, and the
Rigidification of New Status Relations
The first of the pallisaded forts Stanley encountered was the small "Konongo"
fortress called Mrera which he wrote controlled three or four villages.There were nine bleached human skulls
at the entrance to this encampment, the result of feuds Stanley wrote, between
Konongo and Wazavira. They were armed with muskets,
presumably obtained from the coastal trade system. The next day, though, Stanley remarks
upon the desolation of the villages that they passed through. The chief "Simba" he wrote had desolated
these villages, and the inhabitants fled, leaving gardens for Stanley's caravan
Joseph Cambier of the IAA was
the next journal-keeping European to arrive in Rukwa, in 1877.As with previous visitors, he observed
more warfare, and pointed out that the Nyamwezi Chief Mirambo was dispatching ruga-ruga to demand villages of Rukwa
pay him tribute.Cambier proceeded
to purchase the fortress at Karema from Matumula as described above, displeasing
Mirambo who claimed the right to tributary payments from the region, despite
its distance from Tabora.Bende homesteads
outside Karema were attacked by Mirambo's ruga-ruga,
raising anxiety within the IAA fortress.
It was in this violent context
that King Leopold's IAA sent four Indian elephants to Karema for use in the
Congo territories.Only one lonely
elephant actually made it to Karema, and as a result, two Englishmen in
Leopold's employ, Carter and Cadenhead, returned to the Indian Ocean Coast. To avoid fighting between Mirambo and
the Arabs around Tabora, they took a more southerly route through Kasogera's
fortress at Pimbwe.Mirambo,
allied with Simba, had in the meantime raided onto the Fipa Plateau, and swung
back to attack the fortress at Maji Moto as well.
Allied with Mfundo, a former chief of Pimbwe/Maji Moto, Mirambo
organized an attack on Kasogera's chiefly compound.
Kasogera in turn forced Carter, Cadenhead, and their armed caravan into the
compound to assist in the defense of the fortress.But when the combined forces of Simba and Mirambo attacked, Kasogera's
forces retreated.Only Carter and
Cadenhead remained, and were killed by Simba/Mirambo's soldiers.
The Court at Fipa-Nkansi and the Arrival of Europeans
The Fipa Plateau also experienced a
period of wars in the 1870s and 1880s which created new alignments.The "kingdom" itself was split in two,
Lyangalile and Nkansi, under the command of chiefs Kapuufi and Kimalaunga respectively.Kimalaunga became especially well-known
for his capacity to deliver violence as he and his ruga-ruga sought a part of the ivory trade which emerged in the
Rukwa Valley.He also apparently
raided Lyangalile for cattle on a regular basis.In doing this, he displaced the nomadic Nyika, a group long
in conflict with horticulturalists and pastoralists on the Fipa Plateau, and
established alliances with groups of Nyamwezi. According to the Nkansi chronicle as
cited by Willis, in the early 1870s:
Kimalaunga set himself up as ruler of the Lyangalile part of
Rukwa and the people declared themselves for him.Kapuufi sent for help to Kiyungi, king of the Nyamwezi [in
Tabora].The king [Kiyungi] sent
many soldiers under a man called Mwaana Katwe.But this force was defeated by Kimalauunga and fled back
home.Kapuufi then sent elephant
tusks as a peace offering to Kimalauunga, but he responded by killing the
bearers.Soon after this the Nyika
rose against Kimalauunga and defeated him.The Nyika routed Kimalaunga again in great battle in which he
brought Kwa, Kuulwe, Wanda, and Konongo to his aid, but without avail.
As described above, the young
English explorer Joseph Thomson arrived in Rukwa in 1880 during the maneuvering
between the local chiefs including Simba (Konongo/Nyamwezi), Mirambo
(Nyamwezi), Nyungu ya Mawe (Kimbu/Nyamwezi) Kasogera (Mpimbwe/Nyamwezi),
Kapuufi (Fipa/Tuutsi), and Kimalauunga (Fipa/Independent).More so than earlier explorers, Thomson
had an eye for ethnographic detail, leaving more complete descriptions of the fortresses
as he maneuvered his expedition in the region.On the Fipa Plateau, he described the compound of chief
Kapuufi.Thomson's approach to the
chiefly compound was negotiated by Arab intermediaries from Kapuufi's court at
Kisuumba/Nkansi, who only invited him into the royal village after the caravan
spent a cold night on the plain outside the village:
Early in the morning, after
breakfast a royal messenger arrived, with the intelligence that his master was
ready to give me an audience.Proceeding to the town, with my usual guard for state occasions, we
passed a fine herd of cattle.Entering the town by the strongly fortified gate,
we found ourselves a perfect labyrinth of inner bomas, or pallisaded
quarters.Crossing over a variety
of dunghills and filthy cesspools, which indicated that the cattle passed the
night within the royal precincts, we reached Kapufi's [sic] palace.It differed from the other bomas only in size.
Thomson goes on to describe the women of Kapuufi's court who
he reports were all "plump and fat," but he said showed no signs of idleness.  He observed the weaving of cloth
(presumably from locally grown cotton), pounding of skins, and preparation of
food. Willis emphasizes that the people of
the Fipa Plateau at that time were prosperous, and able to support large herds
of cattle—which of course was what attracted Kimalauunga's raiders in the
Thomson then visited the Gongwe "village" in the Rukwa valley a few days
later.At the time that he visited
in May 1880, he reported that Gongwe was an independent village, and owed
feudal tribute only to the Arab governor of Unyanyembe (Tabora) not the
neighboring chiefs like Kasogera, Kapuufi, or for that matter any of the
"Nyamwezi" chiefs in the area like Nyungu ya Mawe, Simba, or Mirambo.Thomson using a variety of status-based
terms described the population as being a mixed one of Wangwana (free men),
Wapimbwe, Wakhonongo, and Wanyamwezi, rather than as an independent chiefdom. 
But most impressive to Thomson was
Simba's town where he arrived a few days later.He described it as covering an area that was three-quarters
of a square mile, and had large squares created by the construction of houses
which had their doors facing inwards.Inside and outside the squares were "ordinary native houses."
Simba personally met
Thomson. This is the only written description that is left of this
important leader, although it is apparent that he did occasionally meet with
other Europeans like Cambier.Thomson was particularly impressed with the low quality of Simba's dress,
and the fact that he moved within his village with a certain level of
anonymity.Simba told Thomson that
he was a classificatory brother of the Nyamwezi chieftains Mnywa Sele (Nyamwezi
Governor of Tabora), and the Kimbu chief Nyungu ya Mawe (Kimbu/Nyamwezi). 
Irrespective of Simba's power,
by1880 Mirambo sought to re-establish influence in Rukwa; indeed, this was not
to be the end of Mirambo's depredations.Using the Carter and Cadenhead affair as a pretense to turn the tables
on his erstwhile ally Simba, Mirambo infiltrated soldiers posing as refugees
into Simba's village.These
soldiers in turn opened a breach in the wall, which was used to sack the
And so the town Thomson only a few months earlier described as "the largest I
have seen in Africa" became a forgotten ruin, known not even to the local
historians I queried in 2004.
Simba disappears from European accounts after 1880, and Nyungu ya Mawe
and Mirambo died in 1884.The
point of this is to emphasize that Rukwa bled severely since at least the time
the Ngoni first arrived in the 1840s until the 1880s.The violence was intensified by the fact that no one group,
leader, clan, tribe, or status group dominated politically or militarily.Rather, every putative chief sought
political advantage by commanding followers who risked annihilation in their
violent world, be they African, Arab, or European.In this respect, the weak European mission and trading
settlements of about 1890 were not that different than the traders like
Matumula (the elephant hunter), or other chiefs like Mirambo, Simba, Kasogera,
Nyungu ya Mawe, or Kapuufi, all of whom sought some level of hegemony using
violence.There was no peace for
decades, as each sought advantage from inside walled-villages.Nor was there an easy peace for the
intruders; every mission, hunting camp, explorer station, or trading post was
built with an eye to military advantage.This was a logical response in a chaotic world in which refugees, freed
slaves, and ruga-ruga bands were all
Pax Germanica, Pax Brittanica, and Pax Tanzanica in a Remote Corner of the World
The Imposition of German Rule
It was in the context of the ongoing
"little wars" that the German Empire first arrived in Rukwa in 1893 as a
military force.In remote Rukwa,
colonial hegemony meant acknowledgement of German sovereignty by accepting
flags, payment of in-kind taxes to the German military government, providing
soldiers to the new power, and for the chiefs, wearing German uniforms.In short, from the perspective of the
subsistence farmer paying tribute, relationships to the new German power was
similar to what had happened in Rukwa under the various marauding chiefs.
Demonstrations of brutality were
also part of the German strategy.In Rukwa, the Germans attacked the weaker points, especially the
unfortified Bende in their scattered villages, who typically responded by
abandoning fields, and retreating into the forest.
Sakalilo Village, the fortress of
the renegade Chief Kimalaunga near
the shores of Lake Rukwa, was destroyed by German troops armed with Maxim guns
and cannon in 1893.  Exhausted by their own fighting, and in
awe of German firepower, the more powerful chiefs grudgingly gave in to the
imposition of German rule.Chiefs
of Fipa Plateau, Pimbwe and elsewhere, offered fealty to the representatives of
the German emperor, provided labor to build roads, sent soldiers, and submitted
serious disputes to German arbitration. Those who did not do so, were subject to whipping, fines,
imprisonment, and execution. For example, Kimalauunga who had
terrorized the Fipa Plateau for a decade or more during the "little wars," and
was widely believed to have super-natural powers, was finally imprisoned by the
Germans, and then shot dead while "trying to escape" in 1899. The Germans tried
to use his death to symbolic advantage:
He was [then] removed from his
chains and his head cut off.The
next morning the Wafipa were called to bury the body but they refused,
expecting to see the body at any moment turn into a lion and attack them.The other prisoners were then made,
much against their will, to dig a grave and bury the corpse.
A second chief on the Fipa Plateau, Yuulamaasi of Lyangalile
was also arrested by the Germans for stealing cattle, but was simply fined and
released.He too died shortly
thereafter, however, and was succeeded by Kuundawanantu, who after a few years
of cooperation with the Germans fled to the bush to resist and to re-establish
the traditional rights of chiefs.The Germans responded by holding his family members hostage, and
mounting an aggressive search.After fleeing northward, Kuundawanantu surrendered, two to three months
later.The Germans, after ordering
the attendance of all chiefs from the Fipa Plateau, publicly hanged him.Willis considers this to be the actual
end of any independent states on the Fipa Plateau. German power was harsh and brutal, but
its ubiquity also freed the people of the incessant warfare between the chiefly
For the historian, the arrival of
the Germans introduced the advantage—or perhaps crutch—of written
the nature of the conflicts emerging between the traditional rulers, the
occupying Germans, and after 1916 the British, provides insight into what
happened and how African leaders responded.Shorter writes particularly effectively about how active the
German and British used their power to pick chiefs of the Kimbu in neighboring
Mbeya. The same happened across Rukwa as
lineage-focused British administrators sought rulers who were both legitimate
and compliant, and who could rule their "tribes."
In the slow assertion of control,
the Bende clans provided the greatest challenge.They were victims (successively) of armies raised by Simba,
Mirambo, Fipa, White Fathers, and Germans.The Bende clans never responded by creating their own
fortresses, however, but rather by retreating further into the bush, and with
the British who, thirty years after the arrival of German colonial power, still
found it difficult to collect taxes from the Bende clans.
Perhaps illustrative of
difficulties in political
incorporation are the clashes three Pimbwe leaders, Kalulu, Ngomayarufu, and
Nsokolo had with the European colonialists over boundaries and ritual rights
between about 1900 and 1940.Each
resisted and cooperated with the Germans or British in attempts to maintain
their own chiefly authority.But,
their story illustrates how the chiefs' political power dissipated between
about 1900 and the 1940s.
The Decline of the Pimbwe Chiefs in the Early Twentieth Century
The pallisaded fortress of the Pimbwe was built around a hot spring
known today by the Swahili name "Maji Moto."Pimbwe tradition traces the origin of the settlement using a
king-list that has approximately 23 chiefs. Kalulu of Pimbwe, a young boy, became
chief at the cusp of the German intrusion, probably in the early 1890s. Succession though was handled as a
regional affair requiring the approval of the Tuutsi chief at Nkansi on the
Fipa Plateau.The Tuutsi chief in
turn referred the case to the newly arrived Germans at Bismarkburg.As the scion of an older branch (Mfundo)
of the Pimbwe royal family that pre-dated the Nyamwezi Kasogera, Kalulu was
awarded the formal chiefship over another claimant, Kasogera's grandson
Ngomayarufu.So while Kalulu
prevailed at the hearing, the Germans also ordered the Chief of Nkansi to divide
the country between the two claimants. Ngomayarufu objected to this and was
sentenced to two months imprisonment, and his claim to the throne discarded, at
Kalulu quickly became well-known for
his aggressiveness towards the colonial powers, and used his command of ruga-ruga and trade routes to assert
fortunes were reduced "some years later" (presumably in the late 1890s) when he
refused a German requisition of soldiers for a punitive expedition against the
Bende to the north.Ngomayarufu
complied with the request, and was rewarded by the Germans with the assignment
of ten villages slightly to the east of Kalulu, probably about 1900.
As for Kalulu he was subsequently
arrested after . he was told by a witchdoctor named Mwana Kalembe that
he must never shave his head without rubbing it over first with a human
heart.Kalulu sent out two of his ruga-ruga who killed Wamikamba (Jumbe of
Mikamba) and then cut out his heart.Word of this reached Kasanga [Bismarkburg].Kalulu was arrested, sentenced to a long term of
imprisonment and to fifty lashes in two installments of twenty-five.The ruga-ruga
were beaten.After his release Kalulu returned to Pimbwe, and only left when the
White Fathers established a mission there.
Other records indicate that the
White Fathers established their mission at Pimbwe/Maji Moto in 1907, which is
the first datable event since the departure of Thomson in 1880.The White Fathers built their mission
station inside the Pimbwe/Maji Moto village walls, but soon had a falling out
with Kalulu after a sacred stone was destroyed, a grove of trees around the
royal graves was cut down, and the villagers restricted from using the hot
spring.As a result
Kalulu took objection to the presence of
the mission and gave it out that he would cause the spring to dry up. (The
Mission admits this and says Kalulu was ordered by the Germans to move to a
village four hours away). Kalulu had certain rites carried out by the witch-doctor
Mwana Kalembe.The following year
(1910) there was an earthquake and the spring dried up.Kalulu said he would return when the
mission had left, which they were soon forced to do.Two years later there was
another earthquake, the spring was re-opened and Kalulu returned to [P]imbwe
[where he reasserted control of the villages to the east of Ngomayarufu].
The British occupied German Bismarkburg on the shore of Lake Tanganyika in
1916 during World War I, which included Pimbwe/Maji Moto in its jurisdiction.Ever the schemer, Ngomayarufu requested
permission from the British to build a new village.Kalulu quickly reported the fact that the new village was in
his territory, and the British promised to send "the bwana" to investigate the
claim. The District Officer did not arrive,
and Kalulu responded by ordering the new village burned.In response, the British deposed
Kalulu, fined him, deported him from the area, and installed a more compliant
Ngomayarufu as chief of the entire country.Ngomayarufu subsequently died in 1923, precipitating yet
another succession crisis by a young alcoholic "half-wit" Zunda, who was
reportedly addicted to marijuana (bhangi).Zunda displeased the British, who
received repeated complaints from the villagers about his drinking and other
"immoral habits."The British were
relieved then when he suddenly died in 1928; it was rumored that his death was by
As for the pallisaded
fortresses, the last were abandoned in 1927 under British programs to re-settle
villagers into sleeping sickness settlements. By this time, the pretense to chiefly
rule dissipated further as the British staffed their district offices with
European colonial officers.While
chiefs were still occasionally borne on palanquins by courtiers, more and more
they became creatures of British rule, subservient to the District Officers
sitting in distant District headquarters.A final Pimbwe revolt of sorts occurred in 1944 when Chief Nsokolo, his
court officers, and ruga-ruga prepared
a stew using a sacrificed boy mixed with sheep meat, which in turn was fed to
the villagers at a feast.Human
sacrifice had long been assumed to be a common means for the Pimbwe royal
lineage to gain mystical power, and Nsokolo and his sorcerer felt that this was
an appropriate way to regain power they felt was slipping away. Villagers weary
of such behavior, reported the incident to the British District Commissioner,
who arrested Nsokolo and his court. They were then transferred to the jail in Kasanga, and eventually sent to
Tabora to be tried and hung. At least in 2001 and 2004 when I
conducted interviews, the villagers remembered the execution with a great deal
of approval—the rule of ancient chiefs was viewed as part of a cruel past
and was little lamented.
The Twentieth Century Demise of the Chiefly Rule, and Chiefly Caste
Marking the demise of an old
phenomenon like the construction of pallisaded fortresses, chiefly rule, and
chiefly caste is inherently difficult.Nevertheless, the archival and oral records provide some indication of how
this happened in Rukwa.
The "little wars" which apparently
began in the context of first Ngoni raids, and the penetration of Arab traders,
probably ended in the 1890s in the context of declining ivory trade caused by
the depletion of elephant, declining human populations as a result of famine,
violence, and disease, and the establishment of the German military station at
Bismarkburg.Most importantly, the
alliance of German military and French White Fathers produced a level of
political stability rooted in their capacity to assert what Max Weber calls the
monopoly over the legitimated use of violence in a particular territory.Violent though this monopoly was, the
rapid destruction of villages and execution of dissident chiefs, whether in
Rukwa, or in more distant Iringa, during the Maji Maji rebellion (1904-1906),
precipitated acquiescence of chiefs to German sovereignty.At least in the general picture, ruga-ruga were controlled.
This "stability" of course eventually evolved into domination from
British centers of power after they acquired sovereignty in Tanganyika in
1920.But, not until 1927 did the
British have enough authority that they could order the concentration of the
population of the Rukwa Valley into new village sites under policies
emphasizing public health (especially sleeping sickness control), road
construction, agricultural production, and wildlife conservation.Conservation became particularly important
in Rukwa as an emerging system of parks and reserves in which wildlife and
forests were established, and farming excluded. As for the remaining Gongwe, whose traditional
settlements were located in the heart of the new conservation area, they were
dispossessed of their rights to conduct court trials by the British, and
dispersed.The Pimbwe court was
moved away from the fortress at Maji Moto, where it was dominated by the exiled
Kalulu's followers, to Usevia where the successors of Ngomayarufu, including
Nsokolo, taxed, collected, and judged on behalf of the British
authorities.The remaining chiefly
courts of the Fipa Plateau meanwhile followed the British to the administrative
capital of Sumbawanga, abandoning the chief Kapuufi's fortress-village that
Thomson described at Kisuumba-Nkansi.Pallisaded villages were no longer protected from bush fires, and the
remnants of the walls and gates were destroyed by fire and the elements.When Aylward Shorter surveyed Kimbu for
such sites in the 1960s, all that generally remained were the remnants of
ditches. Only in one place did he find a
structure which, it was claimed, was the remnants of a gate.
The symbols of powerful
independent chieftainships such as the ruga-ruga,
right to conduct trials, installation ceremonies, etc., of course continued for
some time after the disappearance of actual local rule.But the symbols were just
that—symbolic in the context of a more powerful British colonial
government.If there was any
pretense of independent royal prerogative in the region, this ended with the
hanging Chief Nsokolo and his courtiers in 1944.In turn, bureaucratic control was consolidated by the
British, and passed to an independent Tanganyika in 1961.Chiefs at that time were given the
option of cooperating with the new government, or confining themselves to
ritual activity.While a few like
Chief Nsalamba of the Konongo were elected to the first Parliament of
independent Tanganyika, this in fact provided only a minor token of the local
ritual authority their grandfathers previously had.
At the beginning of the
twenty-first century, Rukwa is still remote from the bustling markets of the
Indian Ocean world and the services offered by the central government. Farmers are still by and large embedded
in a subsistence lifestyle in which they grow what they eat, build their own
houses, and have large numbers of children.Only minor vestiges of ruga-ruga
and chiefly rule remain.So while
lives focused by subsistence agriculture are similar, Rukwa is notably more
peaceful then during the nineteenth century when every petty chief maintained ruga-ruga, epidemic disease stalked the
land, and the human population declined as a result.Instead, since about 1950, the population has expanded
rapidly, pushing farmers back into areas abandoned by fearful villagers in the
nineteenth century.Just how
peaceful the area has become is highlighted by Willis' 1989 article "The Peace
Puzzle" about the twentieth century Fipa Plateau. As he notes, the Fipa became a society
with exemplary traditions of dispute resolution, despite the violence of the
nineteenth century.In the context
of a social order—externally imposed though it may be—norms for the
peaceful resolution of disputes emerged among a people who only decades before
were viciously attacked by neighbors and mounted raids of their own.
The enforcement of the peace by the
state has created its own paradox, though.Peace means that human farming populations can expand back
into the forest abandoned by their fearful ancestors.In the meantime, however, the forests took on a new value to
the independent government in Dar Es Salaam—as game parks which have
value not only locally, but in the global marketplace where conservation is a
potential source of revenue for a cash-strapped government. In this context, fear of arrest for
poaching or farming restricts access to fertile lands, even in times of famine. So in twenty-first century Rukwa, a
population which could not occupy forest fringes due to the ecology of fear in
the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, now cannot do so because the
powerful national government which guarantees the peace also conserves the
Just how tenuous this arrangement is
can be seen by the resurgence of vigilante movements in Tanzania during the
late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.Called sungu sungu,
in Rukwa (and elsewhere), such self-help justice organizations reflect the weaknesses
that government institutions have in such areas, particularly in terms of policing.Such village justice system, contain
elements of "trials by ordeal" and emerge out of the desire for order in a
society threatened by anarchy. Sungu
sungu share the same emphasis on internal solidarity, secret ritual, and
righteousness that chiefs in nineteenth century Rukwa exploited.Fortunately, in modern Tanzania the
state is not so weak that such freelance militia can terrorize as widely today
as they did in nineteenth century Rukwa, or for that matter in twenty-first
century eastern Congo.But sungu sungu still raise the ugly
possibility of the anarchy of the nineteenth century.
A Contingent History of Twenty-First Century Western Tanzania
A point of this article is to expand the historical understandings of western
Tanzania beyond traditional tribal, political, and military histories which
have been the focus of a number of excellent tribe-specific ethnographies such
as those of Shorter (1972), Willis (1981), Tambila (1981), and Smythe (2006).In doing this, the article has emphasized
the status based relationships which structured the extraordinary violence, the
ecological context, and the social psychology of fear in a rapidly changing
society.It did so in the context of dominant
leadership status groups which
crossed tribal boundaries. Such a
context made it possible for the Swahili Matumura's right to sell "the country"
of Karema to the Belgians in 1877, and later the important role that White
Fathers played in the political governance of late nineteenth century
Rukwa.These roles emerged in the
context of cross-cutting leadership traditions, not tribe-specific ideologies.
Nineteenth century social change in Rukwa occurred in the context of
pre-existing traditions of leadership, military activity, and tributary relationships.What was observed was that in each of
the more densely populated areas, traditions of chieftainship through the rule
of putative outsiders emerged.This created a social space for population movements as new status
groups became more salient, including
those of a merchant minority, soldiers, missionaries, peasants, and even
refugees. In the absence of any
central power, outsiders, whether African, Arab, or European, asserted the
trappings of the independent leadership caste by creating fortresses,
controlling weapons, collecting tribute, protecting followers, attacking
enemies, and controlling trade.From this position they entered into negotiations with established
chiefs.None though imposed a tabula rasa on the societies that they
Underlying this was an implied fear, whether of neighbors, Ngoni,
European, or long distance raiders.This "ecology of fear" is of course common among farming societies such
as those in nineteenth century Tanzania and elsewhere who, as LeBlancwrote,
lived with a constant threat of attack from the morning raid, picking off a
person who leaves the village, or inviting enemies to a feast where they are
simply slaughtered. In the historical record of Rukwa,
such violence was common, and frequent.Stealth and trickery were routine, including Simba's mistake of
admitting putative refugees to his compound in 1880, Mirambo's shifting
alliances, White Father raids on the Bende, the impalement of Kasogera's
mother, the German sacking of Kimalauunga's capital Sakalilo, and Nsokolo's
bizarre cannibalistic feast of 1944.The evidence of routine violence is evident in what early explorers like
Burton, Stanley, and Livingstone observed in abandoned villages, and especially
skulls on pikes.As much as
traditional geographical constraints like weather on settlement patterns, this
fear provided the parameters in
which nineteenth and early twentieth century history unfolded.
If there was an organizing tradition
to political leadership in the pre-colonial Rukwa, it was found in caste-like
leadership status categories, rather than traditional tribal units rigidified
by the British. The leadership
complex across the region was often composed of putative outsiders—be
they Tuutsi, Nyamwezi, Arab, or European.Control of local population was also through a separate subordinated status
groups of young people, be they called royal pages, ruga-ruga, Nyamwezi porters, slaves, converts, or freed
slaves.Common peasants were at
constant risk of attack and needed the promise of refuge in one of the
well-defended fortresses; undoubtedly their "ethnic" or "tribal" loyalties
shifted accordingly.For this
reason it is more appropriate to think of their status as being a peasant, who
because of their social status, risked becoming a refugee, slave, or Catholic
convert, rather than a Fipa, Pimbwe, Gongwe, or Bende.The social system of Rukwa was
ultimately rooted in a need to protect crops, land, and livestock.This meant peasants were faced with
what Chirot described as "the terrible dilemma" between individual freedom and
security. In the case of Rukwa this "ecology of
fear" patterned human interaction in a way that determined the limits of social
activity, as surely as rainfall and crop selection do.
Much can be surmised about
what the introduction of nineteenth century trade meant for the ecology of the
Rukwa region in the twenty-first century.The introduction of the ivory and gun trade made
possible—necessary—the maintenance of pallisaded fortresses in the
more heavily populated areas.The
increasing supply of meat brought about by guns may well have led to a
demographic expansion in the mid-nineteenth century.There was a nastier side, however, that of the emergence of
the military rivalries in which predatory groups flourished.But this success in terms of population
growth, even in the absence of slave raiding, was short-lived, probably only a
matter of decades.What is more,
the elimination of horticultural humans and probably elephants in the late
nineteenth century led to the re-expansion of the forest fringe.It also may well have led to the
expansion of the large herds of animals, particularly cape buffalo, now found
in the Rukwa River Valley.An open
question for further investigation is what key species were in the region in
the past?Has Katavi National Park
always been dominated by buffalo, or is this domination a by-product of the
ecology of fear of the nineteenth century?
The five cartographic representations reflect political and
social changes that occurred in Rukwa Region between about 1880 and 2000.
Map 1 is of German East Africa and reflects political boundaries, settlements, and
the caravan routes which were of relevance to Rukwa in about 1912. The
central railway from Dar Es Salaam to Kigoma was under construction by the
German colonial power at that time.
Map 2 reflects the approximate boundaries of the different chiefdoms/linguistic
groups present about 1880. As described in the text, Ujijji and Tabora
were Arab trade depots. The station at Gongwe paid tribute directly to
Tabora. Karema was a station of the Belgian International African
Association, Simba was a Nyamwezi chief with hegemony over what is now
considered the Konongo area, and there were two Fipa chiefdoms (Lyangalile and
Nkansi). The Nyamwezi area to the north was dominated by Chief Mirambo,
while the Kimbu area was dominated by the Nyamwezi Chief Nyungu ya Mawe.
Sakalilo was the fortification of the Fipa Chief Kimalaunga. The Bende area was occupied by dispersed
clans who spoke Bende dialects.
Map 3 reflects activity in the region in 1904-1905, and is in part based on the first
systematic cartography done in Rukwa.
The German established the region as the military district of
Bismarkburg, with headquarters at Kasanga/Bismarkburg on the shore of Lake
Tanganyika. Lake Rukwa waas inexplicably beginning to dry up, and the
human population was probably declining rapidly as a result of disease, famine,
and violence. The Germans and the Fipa court established the town of
Sumbawanga which in turn was to become the population center for Rukwa
Region. Uruwira and Karema were two of several Catholic Mission stations maintained
by the White Fathers.
Map 4 reflects Rukwa Region in 1930-1948 when the British reorganized their new
colonial possession. Rukwa was part of the Western Region of Tanganyika
Territory, with headquarters in Tabora. Sumbawanga became the population
center, and a network of gravel roads was established. Pimbwe/Maji Moto was
abandoned in 1927, and the Pimbwe court moved to Usevia. Gongwe was
dispersed at the same time. In the late 1940s, a railway spur to the new
town of Mpanda was established in order to take advantage of the gold mine
established there.Lake Rukwa's
levels had risen since 1905.
Map 5 is a representation of Rukwa Region in approximately 2000. Three
areas were established as either a Game Reserve (Ugalla) or National Parks
(Katavi and Mahale Mountains). In these areas, settlement was prohibited
by the central government. The population centers were in Sumbawanga,
Namanyere, and Mpanda. Maji Moto village was re-established on the old
site of Pimbwe. Two new major population concentrations established in
Rukwa were the Burundian refugee settlements established at Katumba and Mishamo
in 1973 and 1978 repectively. The road networks (not shown) reflected
 For example,
Shettler (2007) describes similar nineteenth century violence and abandonment
in what is now Serengeti National Park.
 In Tanzania,
distinctions were in turn maintained through rituals symbolized, as Iliffe
(1979:38) describes, by symbols of authority such as horns, drums, chiefly
regalia, royal retinues, and in some places umbrellas (see also Shorter1972:101
for a description of the royal regalia of the Kimbu.
 Such an
approach could also perhaps be used with Uganda.Reid (2002) uses the term "class" to describe pre-colonial
status distinctions. However, as
Weber (1946:146-147) points out, the term "class" presupposes the presence of a
market economy, while "status group" does not.
explicitly refers to the dispossessed as a negatively privileged status group,
albeit one marked by a lack of privileges.See Weber 1946:190-191
 Rukwa Region
as a political sub-division of modern Tanzania is a late twentieth century
appellation.Earlier in the
twentieth century the region was made up of the political sub-divisions of what
was earlier Bismarkburg and Ujiji (German times until 1916), Western/Tabora
Region of British Tanganyika, Mbeya, Kigoma, and Tabora Regions (British
Tanganyika), etc. Rukwa Region as
an administrative region of independent Tanzania was not gazetted until the
early 1970s with a Regional headquarters at Sumbawanga.
this paper has forced me to choose terms for royalty.In the literature, the word "king" is often applied to
larger polities, and "chief" to smaller ones.However, usage is in fact inconsistent and in many respects
creates artificial distinctions between polities which are more similar than
different.In this paper, I have
opted to use the word "chief" as a rough translation of the Swahili words "mtemi" (which is related to the verb "to
cut") and "mwene," a term specific to
interior chiefs in a number of polities of the Great Lakes Region which may or
may not use Swahili.All of the
polities discussed here interacted directly or indirectly, and the fortunes of
particular chiefs and polities fluctuated quickly—a polity which was
small one decade could become large the next, and vice versa.
Schoennbrunn 2006 for a discussion of violence and vulnerability in East Africa
before 1800 CE.
 In 1939,
lake levels returned to historical levels (see Kjekshus 1977:77 and Dean
and Borgerhoff Mulder 2004.
 see Koponen
 The place
name Pimbwe in Tanzanian common usage is known as Mpimbwe, and the people of
the area are the Wapimbwe.In this
paper, I have chosen to use the term "Pimbwe" throughout. For Rungwa, see Willis 1981, and Walsh
and Swilla 2001:279.
to Pimbwe sources, the chief of the Pimbwe married a Ukonongo woman from a
specific clan. The throne passed
to a son of this woman. (Interviews with Daniel Kasike and Chief Nsalamba, July
Kibaoni Interviews 2001, Abe personal communication, and interviews with Mtemi
Beda July 2001, and Gongwe elders July 2001.
Tongwe, and Holoholo are all considered variations of Bende languages. Tongwe is still used for villages near
Kigoma on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. Holoholo is considered to be an archaic term, although it is used in
British colonial records to describe particular villages in the northern part
of Mpanda District, and southern part of Kigoma.A Bende Dictionary was recently published (Abe 2006).
with Chief Beda, July 2001.
 See Lamb
 See Moisel
with Gongwe elders in Sitalike Village, July 21, 2001, and trip to Gongwe
village site, July 24, 2001.
 The chief
list for the Gongwe as described to me in July 2001 is as follows: Before the
arrival of the Arabs (about 1850): Kongwe, Miombe, Vibe, Sishambuka. After the Arab times: Shambwe, Tende I,
Sunga I, Kakamba, Sigulu (about 1900), Lukandamila, Tende II, Sunga II, and
Kakamba II (Tende Sigulu).Sunga
II died about 1999, and the Gongwe were given permission to bury him in the traditional
royal graveyard, which is now inside Katavi National Park. Kakamba II (Tende Sigulu) in 2001 lived
in Mpanda where he was active in local town politics. Source: Interview with
Kakamba II (Tende Sigulu) in July 2001.
 However, as
Benedict Anderson (1991) pointed out, they are also the imaginings of a
European belief system that equated territory, mother tongue, and political
leaders as being congruous and redundant distinctions. This may have been a convenient
short-cut for Europeans dividing up the Ottoman, Russian, Austrian-Hungarian,
and German Empires after World War I. But the assumption that territory, mother tongue, and political identity
are inherently related is not necessarily good social science when assessing
the rule of organizing society in Europe or Africa.
(2006:15, 152) describes "ruga-ruga"
as being a word that Europeans used it to describe the "King's" soldiers. What is clear, is that the capacity to
draft and command ruga-ruga was key
to the power of anyone who wanted to participate in nineteenth century
trade.Those who did not command
such a military force were unable to protect trade stores. In contemporary twenty-first century
terms, the ruga-ruga were child
soldiers.Meaning they were boys
taken at a young age from their parents, and raised to have primary loyalty to
their ruga-ruga brothers, and their
commander.Such young men, raised
by their brother ruga-ruga, were
lethal tools in the hand of a charismatic leader.
(1981:45-48) also discusses older aristocratic statuses, such as the Twa who
ruled Ufipa in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries.
 See Shorter
1972:276-279 and 1969:11.
 A Catholic
missionary establishing a station in the Fipa highlands in 1911 claimed that
villagers were attracted to the station not out of commitment to the Catholic
faith, but because close association with the missionaries made it much less
likely that the king's soldiers would take their goats (see Smythe 2006:15).
 The term "caste"
is used specifically here to describe groups whose ideals assumed a superior
raking, and excluded marriage with groups regarded as inferior (see Weber 1946).The term is used here even thought the discussion is not of
India.Nevertheless, as Weber
notes, while the phenomenon is strongest in India, the term can be used to
describe similar social phenomena elsewhere.
1971:28; kin charts typically identify each of these chiefs as having their
origins in one clan of Nyamwezi (Nyayembe) who had their traditional home in
Unyayembe (Shorter 1969:9).
 See e.g.
Shorter 1969:7-11, and Bennett 1971:33-36.
 The term
"caste" of course comes from India, and has long been used in sociology and
anthropology to describe endogamous status groups which have occupational
monopolies within a system of social stratification.Weber (1946) explicitly used this word to describe this
system in both India and Europe. Despite the dated nature of the word, I think that it is still the best
word to describe the relationships between leadership groups in nineteenth
century Rukwa, and the masses of horticultural peasants.
1981:29-32; the Nyamwezi of Tabora also had relations with the Tutsi who lived
on the Malagarasi Plains herding cattle (Bennett 1971:5).
 It was
probably in this context that the Tutsi King Kapere of Ufipa married the Tutsi
Queen Theresa of the Waha (Kigoma Region) in the 1950s. For a more complete discussion of the
term Tutsi, see Waters 1996. Bennett writes that the Nyamwezi also had relationships with Tutsi
living in the Malagarasi Plains as cattle herders in the nineteenth
century.As with the term
"Nyamwezi", the term various forms of the word "Tutsi" have many meanings
across central Africa.Lemarchand
(1993) elaborates this in his description of Burundian caste relations. Waters (1995 and 2003) discusses how
the term "Tutsi" was used in a variety of circumstances, including in western
Tanzania, in Burundi, Tanzanian refugee camps for Rwandans in the 1980s, and
urban Burundian refugees in Dar es Salaam in the 1990s.
 Besides control of trade routes, chieftainship in
Rukwa included a capacity to try miscreants accused of witchcraft and other
crimes by poison ordeal which involved taking a poison—if the miscreant
vomited, he was assumed to be innocent, and if he died, he was assumed to be
guilty.An alternative to this was
to place the fruit of the umwaafitree
in a pot of boiling water.If the
accused was able to retrieve the fruit without burning his hand, he was
innocent.If the hand was burned,
he was guilty (Willis 1966:21).
(1979:41) indicates that the Arab traders may have penetrated as far as Ukimbu
by the 1825.They were present as
an independent community under the protection of the Buganda King (Uganda) in
the 1870s (Reid 2002:27-28).
Hamilton and Waters 1996, Weber 1946, Schuetz 1944.
2006:5, Tambila 1981:96-98, 100-102.
 See Smythe
 See also
1981:80, Shorter 1972:276.
 A number of
the blue beads described by Burton (1858:398) were recovered from an
archaeological excavation in Kibaoni Village at the northern end of the Rukwa
Valley in 2004.The excavation was
done inside a small fortress which had been occupied in the nineteenth century
by officers of the Pimbwe chiefdom (see O'Brien, Waters, and Mapunda 2004).
 See Waters
 The explorer
David Livingstone was "found" by Henry Stanley in Ujiji in 1869. Livingstone, who was always steadfast
in his opposition to the slave trade, was staying in Ujiji where ironically he
was hosted by the Omani Arab and Swahili slave traders who were receiving ivory
and slave shipments from the Congo across Lake Tanganyika. See also Livingstone (1874).
 Slavery was
legal in mainland Tanzania until the British abolished the institution after
World War I.Villagers in Kibaoni
VIllage reported that the last redeemed slave in their village had died in
 Today, of
course, there are substantial elephant herds in what is now Katavi National
Park.It is not known what the
status of such herds were in the mid-nineteenth century when the area which is now
the park was occupied by humans who cultivated grains, and hunted. See Situt et al., (2003) for a description of human/elephant ecology.
with Daniel Kasike, Msago Omari, and others about the compound of Maji Moto,
2001 and 2004.
 See Willis
1972:118; I heard a similar story about sharpened stakes being placed at the
bottom of the dry moat in Pimbwe in 2001. Shorter's account refers to "snakes" instead of "stakes." I assume (along with one of the reviewers of Shorter's book) that this
is a typo.
 Tambila 1981:54; oral descriptions of
the compound at Pimbwe/Maji Moto indicate that there was a similar design.
 See LeBlanc
2003 for a general discussion of this phenomenon.Also Shetler 2007:135-166.
Daniel Kasike, 2004.
 Simba a nom de
guerre of an important Konongo/Nyamwezi chief, meaning "lion" in
Swahili.The same figure, who
guaranteed the sale of Karema in 1878 to the International African Association
of King Leopold, is known as being a scion of the Nyamwezi royal family who
left the Tabora area, and organized the Konongo into a substantial walled town,
probably in the 1860s (see Stanley 1913 (1969), Thomson 1889 (1968), Shorter,
1972:245 and 1969:8-9; Bennett 1972, Tambila 1981).The Scottish explorer David Livingstone (1874:233-237)
passed along the lakeshore in 1872 and noted not the depredations of the Ngoni,
but the villages burned by a chief "Simba" who lived inland from Lake
Tanganyika.Konongo and Pimbwe
informants when asked about Simba in 2004 did not know of him. Instead they attributed the attack on
Pimbwe to Mirambo.
 Quoted in Tambila 1981:85.
 Koponen 1994:588-589, and Shetler
 Cameron 1877, 1, 128,
129-130; Stanley's (1872:257) description
of such fortresses was similar, though focused more on military utility: "Their
bomas [walls] are so well made that one would require cannon to effect an
entrance, if the villages were at all defended.They are skillful also in constructing traps for elephants
and buffaloes.A stray lion or
leopard is sometimes caught by them."
 Mirambo's European acquaintances were impressed with
his capacity to command—Stanley compared Mirambo to Napoleon—although
it is unclear that the hegemony he exercised was greater or lesser than his
contemporaries like Nyungu ya Mawe, Simba, or others.However, Mirambo's approaches to political dominance are
better known to Europeans, and for this reason, he makes a stronger impression
on the written record.As a
source, he provides an important context for understanding the more remote and
lesser known chiefs such as those in Rukwa.
refers repeatedly to the threat posed by the Wazavira. There are no other references by other
writers to this group so far as I can see.Presumably they were eliminated as a threat between the time
that Stanley passed in 1871, and the arrival of other explorers some two to ten
years later.It is not clear
whether the term applies to a clan, secret society, tribe, or brigand
group.However, they did seemingly
inspire terror in the anarchic societies Stanley found.
 The final
lonely elephant lasted only a few months in Karema before it too died.
was described by my informants as Pimbwe (Interviews of Daniel Kasike, and
Zakaria S. Kalulu July 2001). Quoting Carter's diary, Bennett describes him as Nyamwezi, as does
Shorter 1972, p. 270 n. 11.
Lamb (1929) describing the accession of Kasogera
indicates that he was probably a commoner, and/or caravan leader. All sources agree that he was outside
the normal line of Pimbwe succession. His reign was particularly violent.After defeating the Konongo, probably in the 1860s, Kasogera
was deposed by Mfundo.Kasogera in
turn went to live in Sakalilo with the Fipa Chief Kimalaunga. Mfundo reigned cruelly for seven or
eight years before in turn being deposed by Kasogera, who then returned to
Pimbwe.Mfundo responded by
seeking refuge with Chief Mirambo in Unyanyembe, and he accompanied Mirambo in
1880 when he invaded Fipa, Pimbwe, and Simba's polity. Despite Mirambo's success at Pimbwe,
Mfundo refused to stay, and Kasogera retained the chiefship and immediately
purged potential challengers, putting a number to death.
 See Bennett
1972:111-129, and Lamb 1929.
 The Nyika
(or Nyiha) lived on the Fipa plateau at the time that the Fipa first arrived
before the eighteenth century.The
chronicles of the Fipa collected by Willis (1981:49-52 and 62-64) describe them
as nomadic hunters and gatherers who fought with the horticultural and pastoral
Fipa until the nineteenth century. A population of Nyika lives today in Mbozi District of Mbeya Region.
Chronicle quoted in Willis 1981:92.
 Thomson 1880:218-219.
 Fatness in
women was considered a sign of beauty in several other places. Thomson (1880:221) mentions
Karagwe.More recently, Mushikwabo
and Kramer (2006) describe the phenomenon in the pre-colonial Rwandan court.
 Thomson 1880:221.
Thomson (1880):231; villagers born in Gongwe who
were from Sitalike showed us the remains of the ditch and wall of a Gongwe
village in 2001 and 2004.
(1981:93), writing from a Fipa perspsective, describes the alliances that Simba
created as being "a predatory, slave-raiding state in Ukonongo," although it is
not clear that his capacity for slave trading was particularly notable in the
context of greater depredations by Zanzibari Arabs in the Congo.
1972:134-135, and Shorter 1971:117-120
(1972) also describes the slow demise of the fortresses in Kimbu during the
late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The stockades of the Pimbwe, according
to one report, also had by 1897 changed character, and were of the type to
repel animals, rather than protect from human enemies (Kjekshus 1996:77).
1981 and Kjekshus 1977.
 In the
Rukwa Valley there was also an ecological change as Lake Rukwa inexplicably
dried up (as did other lakes of East Africa at the time, see Calvin
2002:157-158).As a result,
between 1905 and 1929 in particular, vast herds of animals moved into the Rukwa
Valley which became a grassland. See Kjekshus 1996:76-77. For the German assault, see Willis 1981:206,
and Shorter 1972:267-268. The German commander apparently attacked on the basis
of a tip-off from an Arab trader. This tip-off was related to Willis decades later with some glee by the
Fipa story-teller who resented Kimalaunga's maurauding more then the duplicity
of the Arab, or the brutality of the Germans (Willis 1981:206).
with Daniel Kasike.
 Quoted in
1981:211-214, see also Shorter 1972:267-269.
archival records on microfilm and the Tanzania National Archives are replete
with kinship charts which were used to assess decisions they made about
inheritance of "chiefdoms," and other offices they needed to administer the
colony.British ideology about the
legitimacy of kinship in determining chiefs reflected a need to promote
compliant tax collectors to serve the colonial state.
 See Kigoma District Annual Report 1927, quoted in
(1966:54) lists twenty three chiefs in his list, and apparently used Lamb (1929)
as a source.Other lists provided
by oral informants in 2001 were shorter reflecting both memory compression, and
variations in accounts from different lineages. Presumably, the ancestors of
the Pimbwe lived at Maji Moto at least since the eighteenth century, if not
earlier.Pottery shards apparent
in ditch walls up to 100 cm. below the current surface would indicate horticulturalists
were there at least several hundred years.The remains of the dry moat were measured at 315 m. on the
north-south axis, and 488 meters on the east-west axis in 2004.
 Kalulu was
probably born in the early 1880s. The death of Kasogera led to a succession crisis in the late 1880s due
to the fact that potential claimants had been purged following the sacking of
Pimbwe by Mirambo/Simba and their ally Mfundo in 1880. As described in the text, Kalulu was
from the house of the deposed Chief Mfundo.Kalulu was chief of the Pimbwe until the 1920s when he was
arrested and exiled by the British for failing to show them deference in a
legal dispute.He pressed his
claim to the chiefship for at least ten years after this. According to his grandson Isaac Lyoba
Kalulu, Chief Kalulu died in 1968. Other sources include Daniel Kasike and Chief Nslamba. All commented on the role of using
human hearts as a way to preserve power.
 The Pimbwe
at this point recognized the authority of the Fipa at Nkansi over them. On the other hand, there was also a
tradition that the Pimbwe chief must always marry a Konongo bride. Sons of this marriage were eligible for
the chieftainship upon the death of the chief (Interviews with Daniel Kasike,
 See Moisel
 Lamb 1929.
southern part of Bismarkburg Region came under British occupation beginning in
1916.The northern part of
Bismarkburg was under Belgian occupation from Kigoma between 1916 and
1920.In 1920, the Belgians
retreated from western Tanganyika and handed sovereignty over to the British
who were to administer the area as part of its League of Nations Protectorate. Belgium received what is now Burundi
and Rwanda as a Protectorate. Sources: Various oral interviews in 2001.
 Lamb 1929,
and interviews with Daniel Kasike 2001.
oral sources, 2001 and 2004. Especially Daniel Kasike, Zakaria Lyoba Kalulu, and Msago Omari.
with Daniel Kasike and Msago Omari 2001, see also Willis 1966:54n, Lamb 1929.
though, there is little nostalgia for British rule; interviewees without
exception were Tanzanian nationalists.
 As Shorter
(1972:337) heard his interviewees in the 1960s remark, "after the white men
stopped the Kimbu-Nyamwezi wars, the only people to make war again in Ukimbu
were the white men themselves."
with Chief Nsalamba, Mtemi Beda, Daniel Kasike, and others 2001, and 2004.
(1998), and Brockington (2002) have written critical evaluations of how park
policies in Tanzania have expropriated traditional land rights from indigenous
peoples.Shetler (2007) has
written about the interaction between human ecology, and the development of
parks in northern Tanzania.
Paciotti and Hadley's (2005) description oftrials conducted by Sukuma sungu sungu in the villages of Mpimbwe sub-division in the early
part of the twenty-first century. Abrahams (1989) also discusses the sungu
sungu in the Nyamwezi areas around Tabora.
 The effect of human violence on ecology is apparent
when the presence of the massive herds of Katavi National Park are
considered.Katavi today is what
in the nineteenth century was a frontier area in which few of the Konongo,
Pimbwe, Gongwe, or Bende could establish themselves and instead abandoning the
land.This abandonment created the
ecological conditions necessary for the large herbivores to flourish,
particularly as human populations declined in the context of repeated
onslaughts of disease and violence.
 Sources include : Moisel 1904-1905, Willis 1981:57 163,
166, Koponen 1988:82, 198, Kjekshus (1977)1996:11, 123. Cartography by Janna
 Moisel 1905.
O'Brien, Waters, and Mapunda 2004.
Notes on Sources: Interviews in Mpanda District, 2001 and 2004
Mpanda District was visited in June-July 2001, and July 2004 for research purposes under the auspices of COSTECH. A short week long visit was made to Kibaoni (Rukwa) in February 2004 for logistic purposes. The 2001 trip was focused by oral history. The 2004 trip was focused by archaeology, the results of which are reported elsewhere.
Formal research interviews for which notes were taken are below. Research assistants in Kibaoni were Mr. Michael Sungula (2001 and 2004), and Mr. Renatus Kaanzyemu (2001). Mr. Omari Msago played a very important informal role in the development of research protocols, and facilitation of interviews during both trips.
In Mpanda town, Mr. Gadiel Sindamenya was a collaborator, and we wrote a Swahili papers "Historia na Kabila ya Wagongwe", and "A History of the Bende" together on the basis of our interviews. These were distributed locally as photocopies. The assistance and collaboration of these four men are gratefully noted.
Data and impressions were also gathered in informal settings involving many participants on trips to the sites of former fortresses at Maji Moto, and Gongwe. The dates of the trips are listed below.
Chief Nsalamba, June 15, 2001, June 19, 2001, June 25, 1991, July 25, 1991, July 6, 2004 (all in Mpanda)
Mtemi Beda, July 4 and July 9, 2001 (Mpanda)
Batromeo Chundu, June 30, 2001 (Kibaoni)
Beda Shauritanga, June 29, 2001 (Kibaoni)
Brazio Kasumbi, June 29, 2001 (Kibaoni)
Chief Nsalamba and Phillip Mbogo July 26, 2001 (Mpanda)
Clement Mkalala, June 26, 2001 (Kibaoni)
Daniel Kasike, June 20, 2001, June 29, 2001, July 7, 2004, July 14-15 (Kibaoni and Maji Moto)
Adolph Kikwala and Emily Kapama, July 11, 2001 (Maji Moto)
Malko Katala, June 20, 2001 (Kibaoni)
Moris Mapelani, July 2001 (Kibaoni)
Mzee Maruko Katala June 20, 2001 (Kibaoni)
Mzee Zakaria S. Kalulu, July 26, 2001 (Mpanda)
Mzee Zakariah-Founder of the AICT church. June 18, 2001 (Mpanda)
Victory Kalelembe June 22, 2001 (Kibaoni)
Pius Magazi June 21, 2001 (Kibaoni)
Trip to Maji Moto, July 11, 2001 (Kibaoni)
July 14 and 15, 2004: Tour of house of Tadeo Ngomayarufu (Usevya) and Maji Moto (Daniel Kasike)
Emily Kapana and Mzee Adolph Pigachai Kikwala
Petro Kanyegere (Kibaoni), June 30, 2001
Mzee Isaac Lyoba Kalulu in Mpanda, June 18, 2001
About July 18, 2001, Chief Kakamba II (Tende Sigulu) of the Gongwe People (Mpanda Town).
July 20, 2001-Sitalike Village Office
July 24, 2001-Visit to Sigulu's Ngoma, Katavi National Park with Gongwe Villagers from Sitalike.
Abe, Yuko. A Bende Vocabulary.
Bantu Vocabulary Series No. 13. Research Institute for Languages and
Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA). Tokyo: Tokyo University of Foreign
Abrahams, Roy. "Law and Order and the
Ste in the Nyamwezi and Sukuma Area of Tanzania. Africa. 59, No. 3
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Tony Waters is a professor of sociology at California State University, Chico. In 2003-2004 he was a Fulbright Scholar at The University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He has written extensively about Tanzania, refugees, economic development, and public education. Among his books are The Persistence of Subsistence Agriculture: Life Beneath the Level of the Marketplace (Lexington Books 2007), When Killing is a Crime (Lynne Rienner 2007), Bureaucratizing the Good Samaritan (Westview 2001), and Crime and Immigrant Youth (Sage 1999). He lived and worked in rural Tanzania between 1984-1987, and 1994-1996.
Reference Style : The following is the suggested format for referencing this article: Tony Waters, "Social Organization and Social Status in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Rukwa, Tanzania," African Studies Quarterly 11, issue 1: (Fall 2009) [online] URL: http://africa.ufl.edu/asq/v11/v11i1a3.htm.