Frank Lahmann: Chapter 2: Establishment of effective German Control in South West and East Africa: 1894 - 1907
Establishment of effective German Control in South West and East Africa from 1894 to 1907.
The most influential person in South West Africa between 1894 and 1905 was its first governor Theodor Leutwein. When Leutwein landed in Swakopmund on January 1st, 1894, both he and the Berlin government were fully aware that due to long distances and poor means of communication between the colony and Germany, the governor himself would probably have to take all the local decisions.1 His freedom of action was further enhanced by the almost total disinterest in colonial administration on the part of the Imperial German government and Reichstag, which merely wanted to keep colonial expenditures as low as possible. As a result, the role of the home institutions during Leutwein’s governorship was very limited, save for one occasion, when his decision was rescinded (Credit Regulation, 1903), all his local decisions received ample home support. He had the personal choice of either pursuing a confrontation policy with the natives initiated by his predecessor Major von Francois, or of devising a new one. In East Africa as well, there is little evidence that indicates interference from the home institutions, although freedom of action there resulted from different reasons. The vast expanse of this territory combined with the numerous hostile African tribes and a ridiculously small German military presence resulted in a much later date (1907) for the achievement of effective German military and civil control. Under these unstable conditions, no home or local colonial policy evolved and thus government influence was per force impossible.
Although Leutwein was a military officer who had taught military tactics in Germany, he decided on a peaceful course in South West Africa.2 He advocated the creation of’a modern authoritarian state in which the natives would occupy the lower echelons. He intended to foster acceptance by the natives of this new state in a peaceful manner, through just and humanitarian treatment of the Africans and by building up a trustworthy relationship between him, his administration and the native chiefs. To this end, he first travelled all over South West Africa to negotiate, make peace treaties and dispense justice as the need arose.3 Leutwein’s economic program for the colony, which entailed the establishment of large cattle raising farms by white settlers who would export their surpluses also foresaw no coercive measures. He firmly believed his plans would materialize through free competition between the Africans and white settlers. He also thought that the Europeans’ greater industriousness would enable them to acquire more and more pastureland until they constituted the dominant element in South West Africa.4
The successful implementation of Leutwein’s system thus depended on three major factors: a well-disciplined and co-operative European population, sufficient time (the governor thought in terms of decades) to accustom the Africans to European rule and, above all, the natives’willingness to lose their independence and their customs and become subservient to the Europeans.5 But the 1897 cattle plague (Rinderpest) abruptly changed the natives’ way of life when two-thirds of their cattle died, forcing them to seek employment with Europeans.6 Contrary to Leutwein’s objectives, this put the natives in direct contact with the European way of life. This unforeseen disturbance was further aggravated by the Europeans’ hostile attitude to Africans in urban centers. Finally, Leutwein himself, who had underestimated native resistance to German rule, was forced to admit the failure of his policy when full-scale war broke out in 1903-04.
Prior to the 1880’s, South West Africa was by no means a peaceful area. The two major native groups, the Herero and Hottentot, had since the sixteenth century slowly migrated north into the territory from South Africa. The Herero finally occupied an area in the north around Windhoek and the Hottentot settled in an area south of this town. However in the nineteenth century, their respective expansion resulted in an armed struggle for territorial supremacy, which ended in the mutual exhaustion of the parties involved rather than territorial conquest. This state prevailed from 1870 to 1880 at which time the Hottentots renewed hostilities. In 1885, the paramount Herero chief Maherero signed a Treaty of Protection with Germany in order to enlist German assistance against the Hottentots.
However, it soon became apparent that Commissioner Ernst Göring, the sole representative of “German might’t in the protectorate, possessed no significant coercive power and could not force a settlement on the Hottentot chief Hendrik Witbooi nor could he protect the Herero against Hottentot raids. This precarious situation deteriorated to the point that Göring himself was forced to leave the territory and seek safety in the British enclave of Walvis Bay.7
In 1891, a new effort was made to pacify the tribes and establish German authority in the colony. But the new German Commissioner Curt von François did not convince the chief of the Witbooi-Hottentot tribe, Hendrik Witbooi, to accept a German treaty of protection and subsequently launched a military attack against the Witboois. In the ensuing confrontation, von Francois lacked sufficient troops and was consistently outmanoeuvred. As a result Leutwein was sent to Africa in 1893 to investigate and stabilize conditions in the territory.8
Leutwein arrived in South West Africa in the midst of a war initiated by his predecessor, which had brought native respect for German authority to its nadir.9 He therefore set as his two most urgent tasks, the acceptance of German sovereignty and the successful termination of the Witbooi war. With this purpose in mind, Leutwein travelled to Okahandja, the traditional residence of paramount chiefs to discuss with Herero chiefs and assure them of his peaceful intentions. He then organized a punitive expedition against the Khaua-Hottentot chief, Andries Lambert. His tribe had not only raided neighbouring Africans under Germany’s protection, but also murdered a German trader.10 Leutwein, accompanied by a small detachment of troops, managed to surprise the chief and arrested him without resistance. 11 In the subsequent negotiations Leutwein offered to drop all charges if Lambert recognized German sovereignty, surrendered his arms, returned the stolen merchandise and promised to remain peaceful. Upon acceptance of these terms, the chief was released to supervise the return of stolen goods.
But Lambert took advantage of his release to organize an attack. He was therefore promptly rearrested, court-martialed on the original charges and executed the day after.12 Although Leutwein’s willingness to grant clemency had been foiled by the chief’s attitude it is clear that he did not plan any military measures to punish the tribe as a whole. He rather preferred to have German sovereignty accepted through peaceful means. He did not appoint a new chief, but had him chosen by a general assembly of the Khauas. Within a short time of his arrival, Leutwein had judged and executed a native chief without armed conflict. Moreover, he had succeeded in gaining partial approval for his measures from the Khauas through his willingness to negotiate even though militarily superior.
The governor’s next undertaking was the conclusion of a protection treaty with the Fransman-Hottentots.13 Here again, Leutwein refrained from any military action, in spite of the fact that the whole tribe had barricaded itself and was ready to attack him at his arrival. Leutwein circumvented a confrontation by visiting the chief, Simon Kooper. The following negotiations lasted three days and came to a successful conclusion only when Leutwein threatened to break off talks.14 All the Hottentot tribes except the Witboois had by now accepted German ‘protection’. It can rightfully be claimed that at this point in time Leutwein had managed to build a personal and trustworthy relationship with the native chiefs. This can be attributed, among other factors, to his extreme attention to native complaints, his observance of proper forms whereby the natives were treated as equal negotiating partners, and to his commitment to peaceful colonial penetration.15 Leutwein’s principles of objectivity and fairness in dealing with Africans bore fruit.16
A further opportunity to extend German authority occurred in June 1894 when Samuel Maherero requested German assistance in a succession dispute to the position of paramount chief of the Hereros. When the chief Maherero died in 1890, no successor had been designated. In the resulting tribal intrigue, Maherero’s fourth wife managed to convince the Okahandja headmen to elect Samuel Maherero, her son. One of her main arguments was that Samuel had represented his father in previous negotiations with Europeans and therefore had the necessary experience to deal with the new rulers. However, by electing Samuel Maherero, other powerful rival claimants were passed over. Consequently, the former commander-in-chief of the old Maherero Riarua and the eastern Herero chief Nikodemus refused to recognize the new paramount chief, whereas German authorities did. So Samuel Maherero called on the Germans to enforce his claim.
Leutwein obliged forthwith, realizing that a positive involvement in this case would clearly reinforce the legality of Germany’s protectorate power. Accompanied by forty soldiers, he first met Maherero near Okahandja. In a grand gesture of public support, Leutwein read the treaty of protection, lauded the chief for having wisely requested government intervention and offered garrison protection in Okahandja.17 Next, he mediated between Riarua and Samuel, convincing the former to relinquish some of the prerogatives bestowed on him by Samuel’s father. Finally, he solved the controversy between Samuel and Nikodemus by confirming the latter’s position as independent sub-chief of the Mbanderu (eastern Herero) in return for his recognition of Samuel Maherero as paramount chief.
The implications of this settlement were two folded. Not only was it a precedent establishing the governor’s right to interfere in chiefly succession, but it also increased native trust in the government. The Africans now felt that the goverment’s ultimata could become subject to just and unbiased arbitration.19 Moreover, its immediate effect was a general rapprochement between the colonial government and the Herero made visible by courtesy visits and requests for advice on tribal matters.20
Leutwein’s activities throughout the territory never overshadowed his main concern, the pacification of the Witbooi. Soon after he arrived in the colony, he located the tribe’s main fighting force in the Nauklooft mountain range between Windhoek and Angra Pequna and immediately entered into correspondence with Hendrik Witbooi, again giving ample evidence of his genuine wish to negotiate a protection treaty with the Hottentot tribe. Leutwein’s main arguments were that Germany now assumed ultimate authority in the territory, that all major tribes had accepted German protection and that Witbooi’s continuous raids were endangering peace. Hendrik Witbooi, who always displayed a considerable understanding of European policies and state system, refused, pointing out that he was as independent as English and French rulers and had the right and obligation to remain so. He would not become subject to an emperor he did not even know.21 Having exhausted all means to come to a peaceful settlement, Leutwein had no choice but to uphold his authority by force. However, he realized that the outcome of a confrontation involving the limited forces at his disposal was extremely dubious. So he decided to await German reinforcements, and at Witbooi’s request concluded a two-month-armistice in itself an anomaly in colonial warfare.
Despite renewed correspondence after the armistice, no agreement could be reached. In his last letter, Leutwein finally admitted that Witbooi’s refusal to submit to German authority was “...no sin... but dangerous for the existence of the German protectorate...”22, and that further exchanges were therefore useless. He also expressed the hope that both sides would pursue the war, which under the circumstances was unavoidable, in a humane way.23 The actual fighting lasted just over two weeks and resulted in the defeat and subjugation of the Witbooi tribe, which signed a treaty of protection on September 15th, 1894. The terms of this treaty were extremely generous and no punishment was imposed on the tribe. Hendrik Witbooi and his followers could return to the homeland around Gibeon with their weapons.24 Governor Leutwein held that the imposition of harsh conditions could breed guerrilla warfare and once again he insisted on a fair treatment.
For the first time in his career, Leutwein was criticized by the Imperial German government for having concluded such a generous agreement. Immediate opposition also came from urban centers in the colony, which communicated their displeasure to colonial pressure groups in Germany. Popular opinion in Germany denounced the treaty as being too lenient, demanded Witbooi’s execution and the disarmament of the whole tribe.25 But Leutwein justified his position to the government, which then adopted a waiting attitude on the matter. The treaty was finally ratified a year later in November 1895 after Witbooi had helped crush an uprising by the Khaua-Hottentot against German authorities.26
The signing of a protection treaty with the Witboois was a major victory for Leutwein. Not only had he proven his principle that the Africans could peacefully adapt at least superficially to the European way of life, but he had also stopped the reversal of his decision by the central institutions in Germany. The latter point was particularly important, coming at a time when native trust in the governor was growing. Another important outcome of this treaty was the supplementary agreement with Hendrik Witbooi effectively establishing tribal conscription into the German protectorate troops.27 Witbooi was to be the last to join the general uprising in 1904. Till then, he remained one of the government’s most vigorous supporters.28 The termination of the Witbooi war and the conclusion of a protection treaty with chief Manasse of Omaruru established complete German sovereignty in South West Africa.
Native recognition of German authority and acceptance of measures which encroached on traditional authority and customs turned out to be two different things. One such issue came to the fore after the signing of the so-called Frontier Treaty in December 1894 which delimited tribal land from crown and concession company land.29 This agreement had been signed by the government and Samuel Maherero without prior consultation with the other chiefs concerned. Moreover, since it severely restricted the hitherto unhampered movement of Herero cattle, its impact on tribal life was far reaching. During a meeting of the Frontier Commission, on which Herero chiefs were represented, most chiefs rejected the agreement and challenged Maherero’s right to conclude such a treaty. But Leutwein insisted on acceptance in principle of the treaty and through additional territorial concessions, won the commission’s approval. The treaty was then recognized by a general assembly of Herero chiefs in January 1895. However, the terms of the treaty were not observed, particularly by the eastern chiefs Nikodemus, Tjetjo and Kahimema, who boldly let their cattle graze on “European land”.30 Leutwein interpreted such action as a direct challenge to the paramount chief’s authority. He thus informed Samuel Maherero that he planned to convince the sub-chiefs as to the legality of his position, by a peaceful demonstration of power.
It was characteristic of Leutwein that he believed a demonstration of imperial power combined with his own persuasive qualities would suffice to instill a genuine desire among the natives to abide by an agreement that would fundamentally alter tribal life. But on the way to the eastern Hereros the Mbanderu, Leutwein received word that they expected a military attack and were ready to fight, information which was verified upon his arrival at the Herero werft (village). Direct confrontation was avoided by Leutwein’s determination to remain on a peaceful course, despite advice from his deputy-governor Lindequist, who wanted to teach the Herero a “lesson”.31
Negotiations finally began and were centered on Samuel Maherero’s paramountcy. All three eastern chiefs claimed this title but could not agree on a formal nomination. After two days of discussion, they reconfirmed Maherero as paramount Herero chief whereas Nikodemus was formally installed as chief of the eastern Herero in the area around Gobabis. The succession question settled, the chiefs were then reminded to observe the new borders agreed upon in the Frontier Treaty. But to no avail Herero cattle continued to graze outside tribal land. Concession companies and settlers voiced numerous complaints in regards to the unauthorized use of their land. Leutwein then decided to enforce one of the terms of the treaty giving him the legal right to confiscate animals trespassing on European land in the neighbourhood of Okahandja.32 The Herero interpreted this as cattle robbery and tempers flared high. However, when half of the proceeds from the sale of the cattle were turned over to the chiefs, the situation began to stabilize, except in the east where the Mbanderu rose up in open rebellion in March l896.33 There the situation was exacerbated by Nikodemus’ personal grudge against Leutwein for having denied him possession of the town of Gobabis as his chieftaincy’s residence. The speedy suppression of the uprising and the execution of its leaders Nikodemus and Kahimema in June 1896 prevented a further spread of unrest.34 Leutwein’s leniency was again criticized by concession companies and settlers, who demanded a general disarmament of the native population and a preventive war.35 For this reason, the governor sought and received support for his policy from the home government.
Leutwein’s diplomacy and fairness succeeded in establishing good personal relations with the African chiefs. He believed so fervently in his position that he thought it sufficient to make it the basis for the transformation of native society. Leutwein never seems to have realized, or refused to realize, that the natives’ initial acceptance of European authority was not due to a sudden trust in German rulers, but was merely an instinctive reaction to guard as much tribal coherence and independence as possible in the face of Germany’s military superiority. For Leutwein the chiefs were seen only as rulers of states. He grossly neglected their role as preservers of tribal customs and religion. For this reason Leutwein concentrated on the chiefs, whereas he rather neglected the tribes. After the Mbanderu experience, the governor admitted that colonial policy had of necessity to be inhumane, but talked about native resistance as being a struggle “...for existence of the nation...” referring to the tribe as a political rather than a social unit.36 In his eyes, the Mbanderu uprising was but a local event connected not to his interference in the natives’ way of life but to the delimitation of their property. Actually, Leutwein’s assumption that the natives would peacefully adapt to European rule, never materialized.
Despite the Mbanderu unrest in 1896, the colonial governor continued to defend the viability of his approach. With the creation of boundaries and areas for European settlement, he had launched his economic program, the ultimate goal of which was the development of a large European cattle breeding industry within several decades.37 Immediate measures were merely designed to provide the white population with the necessary land to commence this process. Direct economic competition between Africans and Europeans was encouraged. Never doubting the outcome of such competition38 , Leutwein believed that the Africans’ important cattle wealth at that time would allow a gradual transition to European dominance. He did not think his program constituted an immediate threat to tribal existence, but was rather a scheme whereby the natives would gradually lose their wealth, the chief’s prestige and power being directly related to his wealth in cattle, and be forced to integrate into European society. In other words, the individual’s personality would eventually supersede tribal membership.
However, this dream was disastrously shattered. In 1897, one of the most devastating cattle diseases, the Rinderpest, was carried into the colony from South Africa.39 According to available records; this epidemic annihilated between eighty40 and ninety percent41 of the Herero cattle, resulting in the immediate impoverishment of the Africans. Moreover, the Rinderpest was followed, by a malaria epidemic, which affected up to ninety percent of the Herero.42 As a result, many Africans sought refuge in European settlements, which, although not unaffected, offered a greater degree of safety against this affliction. Deprived of their livelihood, the Herero sought employment with Europeans on a massive scale. Most of them tried to get employment with the government. Others looked for alternate jobs, and considerable numbers depended on charity or resorted to begging. Leutwein at first welcomed this natural disaster and expressed the belief that it had actually pacified Hereroland.43 He failed to realize that the Rinderpest was more than an economic disaster for the Herero and that it had destroyed the very basis of their social system. Initial African apathy during this calamity eventually grew into resentment against the newly-imposed colonial social order, a fact totally ignored by the governor.
The European farmers on the other hand, did not suffer large losses during the Rinderpest, since their cattle benefited from an inoculation program initiated by Dr. Koch’s assistant, Dr. Kohlstock. Both had previously worked in East Africa where Dr. Koch had discovered vaccines against sleeping sickness and cattle disease. In fact, the epidemic was a blessing in disguise for the settlers. Previously the Hereros’ vast cattle herds had kept beef prices low. Now that their monopoly of the cattle market had suddenly been broken, cattle breeding became a profitable undertaking. The urgent need for draught animals and the necessity to restock depleted herds resulted in high prices giving the economy an entirely new face. The balance of power between Africans and Europeans was now seriously altered. Previously, the Europeans superior organizing ability had been offset by the Africans’ greater wealth. But this advantage, which would have allowed the Africans to gradually adapt to the new system was now eliminated, nullifying yet another of Leutwein’s basic policies.44
A third major component in the governor’s scheme was the role to be played by the white population in South West Africa. For if German rule was to be peaceful, it was essential that the settlers reinforce Leutwein’s principle of a fair and humane treatment of the natives. To this end, he had instructed all his civil servants and military personnel to maintain good relationships with the chiefs in their respective areas45. However, the European population repeatedly denounced the governor’s measures as being too lenient. The population of Windhoek, the largest town in the territory, had been particularly vocal in its criticism. Although this town had a mere six hundred and ten inhabitants by 1903, it had developed into a typical urban center. Being the capital of German South West Africa, it was exceptionally well-protected and never endangered during periods of unrest. This security had encouraged a feeling of superiority in the European inhabitants of the town, which was reinforced by the fact that the Africans they encountered in Windhoek were either prisoners-of-war or domestic servants bearing no resemblance to their free and unbroken counterparts in tribal areas.46 These white settlers opposed Leutwein and boldly demanded that the Africans’ land and cattle be confiscated and turned over to them.47
In rural areas, good relationships between Africans and Europeans were not uncommon, since the latter were in a minority and almost totally dependent upon neighbouring tribes for the supply of labour and food products. In some instances, Europeans were even integrated into the tribe’s power structure. However much brutality occurred to Africans working on European farms away from their tribe. These people were subject to harsh and instant punishment such as whipping or beating for the slightest mistake. If such maltreatment was brought to court, a majority of the white jurors assured leniency to white offenders, whereas the Africans were judged with unproportioned severity. Although Leutwein intervened in some of the most blatant mistrials, the majority of cases never found a just hearing.48
Another envenoming practice, was the extension of credit to Africans by European traders. Having lost the main staple of their diet, milk and beef, the Hereros became more dependent on European goods. Moreover, deprived of their principal means of barter, they were now forced to give up land.49 European traders were quick to take advantage of this predicament by extending credit and demanding horrendous prices for their goods.50 Of course, the Africans could not meet their payments and the traders then invoked the law to evict natives from their land or utilized the government as bailiff to the same end.51
In 1899, Leutwein issued a decree regulating the extension of credit in order to check these abuses and save the government’s credibility with Africans. The decree also stipulated that credit issued before the regulation was void and could not be sued for.52 Another important clause vested responsibility for credit payment solely in the individual and not in his tribe, thus protecting land defined as tribal property.53 Traders and concession companies fiercely opposed Leutwein on this question. At a mass meeting in Windhoek, they condemned the decree as restricting civil liberty.
Considering the seriousness of the charge, the governor deferred the whole matter to Berlin for an ultimate decision.54 Finally in 1903 the Berlin government rescinded Leutwein’s decree. Based on a recommendation from the Colonial Council which held that the state had no right to interfere with the extension of credit, the Imperial government allowed all forms of credit while limiting the claiming period and legal action to a twelve month period.55 The traders then embarked on an unprecedented wave of forced collection, egged on by a sense of urgency due to the twelve-month-deadline. This increased tensions in South West Africa to the breaking point.
The general uprising of 1904 was thus sparked off by abuses arising from a regulation which had been designed to curb them. But the ultimate reason is undoubtedly the failure of Leutwein’s program. None of his basic assumptions ever materialized. The white population in general did not adopt his peaceful and idealistic views and openly discriminated against Africans. Admittedly, Leutwein’s idea of slow integration of the Africans into the white community was accelerated by circumstances out of his control (Rinderpest), but he realized too late that social tensions between Africans and whites had already been rising before this event. Moreover, the governor’s perception of African society as just another political structure prevented him from realizing that the Africans’ resistance was not so much political as it was centered on their determination to protect their way of life, their culture and retain social fabric. He mistook superficial obedience for willingness to integrate. Whereas external circumstances did accelerate the process of confrontation, Leutwein’s misinterpretation of the African response to his program was the major stumbling block to integration, and by itself would probably eventually have prevented its success at any rate.
While Leutwein was able to quell African resistance to the initial German penetration in South West Africa relatively fast, thereby allowing him to build up a colonial administration and implement a specific colonial policy, Germany’s East African colony was not brought under firm control before 1907. Although German interests in the East African coast dated back to the first part of the nineteenth century when the important Oswald firm of Hamburg established trading stations in Zanzibar, actual territory was acquired only in 1885.56 That year, the German adventurer Carl Peters managed, within ten days, to conclude twelve treaties with local potentates, thus acquiring a considerable amount of land on behalf of his employer the private Society for German Colonization.57 The German East Africa Company was then founded by Carl Peters, and the Society transferred its treaty rights to it. The German East Africa Company was then granted an imperial letter of protection and given the right to administer the protectorate. However, the German East Africa Company soon proved itself incapable of maintaining law and order in the colony. The Arabs revolted in 1888 and in January 1891 Germany resumed full responsibility. The next sixteen years constitute an unstable period of penetration and establishment of effective German control.
With the defeat of the Arab uprising in December 1889, Germany gained control at least over the coast of its new East African colony. However inland the presence of the Germans was hardly felt. If it was thought that the suppression of the Arab rebellion had instilled in the Africans a sense of respect for German military might which would facilitate the penetration of the interior, facts were soon to prove otherwise. In 1891, Emil von Zelewski the commander of the colonial defence force set out from the coast into the interior with fourteen other Europeans and three hundred and fifty African soldiers on a punitive expedition against the powerful Hehe people in the south, who had consistently raided neighbouring tribes. This contingent was nearly annihilated when ambushed by the Hehe; only four Europeans and sixty Africans survived this first confrontation.58 Having successfully repelled German attempts to subjugate them, the Hehe continued molesting other tribes and collecting levies from trading caravans passing through their territory. Governor Julius von Soden decided to suspend military action against the Hehe since Africans in other parts of the colony were also resisting German penetration by military means.
The Chagga, a less powerful tribe living in the northern part of the territory on the slopes of mount Kilimanjaro, whose favourable climate attracted many settlers, also resented European intrusion. Underestimating the Chagga’s determination to resist, the Governor in 1892 sent a small expeditionary force to punish them. This military expedition was also thoroughly routed. In light of the importance of this area to German settlement, another contingent was assembled under the leadership of Friederich von Schele, the new Commander of the colony’s Defence Force. This second punitive expedition successfully defeated the Chagga and brought the northern part of the territory under effective control.59 The Nyamwesi tribes in the colony’s center also proved recalcitrant. Occupying the central highlands around the town of Tabora, they controlled the colony’s main trading routes extending eastward from lake Tanganyika to the coast, and constantly impeded traffic along this route. Headed by their chief Siki, the tribes went so far as attacking minor German military contingents accompanying trading caravans. For this reason a military expedition was dispatched in 1892 to punish them. But the undertaking failed since the Nyamwesi withdrew, leaving only their deserted headquarters for the Germans to destroy. The Germans heard that chief Siki planned to enlarge his army and kill all the Europeans in the area. So in early 1893 they dispatched a new force, led by Lieutenant Tom von Prince, which succeeded after two days of fighting in destroying Siki’s army. Faced with imminent imprisonment, Siki committed suicide.60 However, it was not before the end of 1893 and after several more minor military confrontations that all the Nyamwesi tribes were brought under control.61
In September 1893 Friedrich von Schele was appointed Governor of German East Africa. He was determined to restore Germany’s military prestige lost at the hands of the Hehe people in 1891. But continued African resistance in other parts of the colony occupied his military forces. However, by October 1894 a contingent twice the size of the force defeated previously by the Hehe was finally ready to undertake its mission.62 The Hehe meanwhile had not remained idle. They built a twelve-foot high, eight-mile-long stonewall to protect their capital city Kalenga. The ensuing confrontation was extremely fierce. A sustained German bombardment of Kalenga failed to produce any tangible results. Finally a fierce frontal assault led by Governor von Schele himself allowed the Germans over the wall and into the city, which they captured after severe street fighting in mid-October 1894. The Hehe chief Mkwawa managed to escape with a handful of followers, and for the next four years resorted to brutal guerrilla warfare in which he was fully supported by the ostensibly-subdued Hehe nation. So effective was Mkwawa’s struggle against the European intruders that in spite of the creation of a German military post in Iringa close to Kalinga and numerous expeditions against the Hehe chief, Germany’s claim to authority in that part of the colony was constantly subject to question. After four further years of continued resistance, in poor health and increasingly restricted in his activities, Mkwawa killed himself in July 1898 thereby marking the end of Hehe opposition.
The lengthy concentration of military forces against the Hehe in the south temporarily weakened the German military presence in other areas. This nearly resulted in a disaster. For while von Schele was busy combatting the Hehe, coastal Arabs led by Hasam bin Omari penetrated the southern coastal town of Kilwa. Following stiff fighting the Arabs were finally repulsed by the German garrison stationned in that area. Unrest continued however, because the Yao tribe who had migrated into the territory from Mozambique in the early part of the nineteenth century, also rebelled against German rule. But in 1899 they were driven back over the border and the district was finally pacified.64 So by 1901, the entire colony appeared subdued, although African resistance was kept alive by a few Ngoni tribes in the south-western part of the colony, while other areas like Buha in the extreme north west were quiet but still outside German control.
Adolf von Götzen was named Governor of East Africa in March 1901. He believed that the time of violent confrontation and establishment of German rule was over, and so adopted a more liberal attitude towards the Africans. But German control over the colony was in reality still very weak. By 1903 German military and administrative personnel amounted to no more than one hundred and twenty-six Europeans, while one thousand five hundred and sixty Africans were employed by the government as auxiliary personnel. This small nucleus governed a huge population of seven million six hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants occupying a vast area of three hundred and ninety-five thousand square miles.65 In an attempt to ameliorate the perilous state of financial affairs in the colony, Götzen tried to enforce tax collection and the compulsory growing of cotton, a popular commodity in Germany. Another of his aims was to incorporate the native African chiefs into his administrative structure, making them personally responsible for the conduct of their tribes. At the same time, he instructed his officials to abstain from violent tax collecting methods. The success of his approach seemed to be borne out by the continuation of relatively peaceful conditions throughout the colony.66
Therefore German officials were taken completely by surprise when an uprising suddenly broke out in July 1905 throughout the southern area of the colony. The Maji Maji rebellion - maji being the Swahili word for water administered to many of the African combatants in order to protect them from injury - soon engulfed the whole southern half of the colony, uniting a multitude of tribes in their resistance against the German overlords. In spite of the immediate mobilization of German military forces and the recruitment of additional African soldiers, the main resistance was not broken until May 1906, while some fighting continued to exist in the south eastern part of the territory until the advent of the 1907 famine. This uprising, by far the most extensive and serious occurrence in that part of East Africa, is most commonly explained as an attempt by witch doctors to restore their former power and as an African response to abusive tax collecting methods.67
So from 1891 to 1907, German rule in East Africa was marred by a nearly continuous string of indigenous uprisings. Under these circumstances, the government’s main objective remained inland penetration and the subjugation of all tribes to German authority. Except for a few coastal towns like Dar es Salaam and Tanga, no effective colonial administration existed as long as the hinterland was not brought under firm control. There was therefore little reason to devise a long-term policy for the colony. Even if peaceful conditions had prevailed, the implementation of a sustained policy would have been very difficult as none of the first three governors in office between 1891 and 1896 resided longer than two years in the colony and that resistance to German rule did not subside. Eduard von Liebert, who became Governor in December 1896 at the height of the Hehe guerrilla warfare, continued his predecessors’ strategy of forceful African subjugation and establishment of military stations to be later converted into administrative centers. From 1901 on the Germans had relative control over the territory.
But when Governor Götzen encroached on the African way of living by trying to enforce general taxation and compulsory cultivation of cotton, this resulted in the general uprising of 1905, indicating that the Africans’ spirit of resistance had still not been broken. This uprising brought about a re-examination of Germany’s colonial policy, the alternatives being the pursuance of the old policy of minimal involvement and the risk of future rebellions, or the adoption of a positive colonial policy. In the latter case the mode of the colony’s future developnent was yet to be decided.
The German central government interfered very little in the development of these two colonies. In South West Africa it limited its role to silent approval of Governor Leutwein’s reports. The only significant instance of direct intervention was the repeal of his Credit Regulations of 1903, which initiated the uprisings of 1904. In German East Africa, indigenous resistance was a drawn-out affair and prevented the elaboration of a positive policy. As long as East Africa evaded German control, there was no way for the government to assert its influence. Throughout this period the Reichstag tried to keep the colonial budgets as low as possible, which resulted in the understaffing of the colonial administration. In 1900 it underlined the abusive treatment of the East African population as responsible for the continued unrest in that colony.68 But apart from this rather weak criticism, the disinterest of the central institutions in respect to colonial matters remained constant.
Footnotes (Text is continued thereafter)
l-J.H. Esterhuyse, South West Africa, 1880 - 1894, (Cape Town: C. Struik (PTY) Ltd., 1968), p. 202. See also Theodor Leutwein. Elf Jahre Gouverneur in Deutsch-Südwestafrica (Berlin: Ernst Siegfried Mittler und Sohn, 1908) p. 17.
2-Helmut Bley, South West Africa under German Rule, 1894 - 1914, 2nd. ed. (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1971) p. 4, note 3.
3-Deutsches Kolonialblatt, 1894, pp. 119, 320. See also Leutwein, p. 28.
4-Ibid., pp. 270, 410.
5-Helmut Bley, ”Social Discord in South West Africa, 1894 - 1904” in Britain and Germany in Africa, ed. P. Gifford and R. Louis (London: Yale University Press, 1967) p. 612.
6-Zimmermann, p. 272.
7-Esterhuyse, p. 138.
8-Leutwein, p. 17.
For the early history of South West Africa, see Esterhuyse.
9-Leutwein, p. 19.
10-Esterhuyse, p. 203.
11-Deutsches Kolonialblatt, 1894, p. 320.
l2-Leutwein, pp. 21 - 24.
13-Deutsches Kolonialblatt, 1894, p. 345.
l4-Leutwein, pp. 28 - 29.
15-Ibid., p. 21 and Esterhuyse, p. 219.
l6-Bley, p. 21.
17-Deutsches Kolonialblatt, 1894, p. 114. See also Leutwein, pp. 59, 60.
18-Ibid., p. 60 and Deutsches Kolonialblatt, 1894, p. 488.
19-Bley, p. 21.
20-Deutsches Kolonialblatt, 1894, p. 87.
21-The main letters are all reprinted in Leutwein, pp. 32 - 44.
22-Leutwein, p. 44.
24-Ibid., p. 57.
25-Bley, p. 33.
27-Leutwein, p. 57 and Deutsches Kolonialblatt, 1896, p. 188.
28-Leutwein, pp. 432, 433, 306.
29-Deutsches Kolonialblatt, 1895, p. 165.
30-Leutwein, p. 72.
31-Bley, p. 55.
32-Leutwein, pp. 72 - 77.
33-Ibid., pp. 92 - 97.
34-Ibid., pp. 97 ff.
35-Bley, p. 65.
36-Ibid., pp. 64, 68.
37-Leutwein, p. 410.
38-Ibid., p. 271.
39-Ibid., pp. 126, 127.
40-Zimmermann, p. 272.
41-Bley in Britain and Germany in Africa ed. P. Gifford, p. 627.
42-Bley, p. 125.
43-Deutsches Kolonialblatt, supplement 1899, pp. 125 - 128.
44-Bley, p. 126
45-Leutwein, p. 555.
46-Bley, p. 86.
47-Ibid., p. 85.
48-Leutwein, pp. 223, 224.
49-Ibid.,pp. 246 - 248.
50-Ibid., p. 559.
51-Ibid., p. 372.
52-Ibid., p. 561.
53-Ibid., p. 562.
54-Ibid., p. 559.
55-Ibid., p. 567.
56-Townsend, p. 131.
57-W.0. Henderson, “German East Africa”, in History of East Africa, ed. Vincent Harlow, Chilver and Smith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965) v. II, p. 124.
58-Robert Cornevin, “The Germans in Africa Before 1918” in Colonialism in Africa, 1870 - 1960, ed. L.H. Gann and Peter Duignan (London: Cambridge University Press, 1969), p. 408 and Harlow, p. 135.
59-Harlow, p. 136.
60-G.S. P. Freeman-Grenville, “The German Sphere 1884-98” in History of East Africa, v. 1, ed. Roland Oliver and G. Mathew, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963) p. 443.
6l-R.I. Rotberg, “Resistance and Rebellion in British Nyasaland and German East Africa, 1888-1915: A Tentative Comparison”, in Britain and Germany in Africa, ed. P. Gifford and R. Louis, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1967), p. 671.
62-Oliver, p. 446.
63-Gi.fford, pp. 671, 672 and Oliver, p. 446.
64-Iliffe, p. 18.
65-Townsend, p. 265 and Oliver, p. 448.
66-Harlow, p. 137.
67-John Iliffe, “The Effects of the Maji Maji Rebellion of 1905-1906 on the German Occupation Policy in East Africa”, in Brtain and Germany in Africa, p. 570, see also Zimmermann, pp. 252, 253.
68-Harlow, pp. 137, 138
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