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Courage enabled him to stop long history of exploitation of natural resources

WHILE the nation is still grieving after losing its leader let us look back in history to see what happened to its people during and after colonialism.

History shows in the Germans started to show their interest of occupying this country sometime in 1844 when Carl Peters a notorious adventurous started his mission which led to the formation of Society for German Colonization which concentrated its activities along the banks of Rufiji river because at that time hunting of wild animals was a popular sport in Europe and Selous had a unique package which contained all their needs from area.

The interest grew stronger in 1848 when the German missionary Johannes Rebmann became the first European to see Mount Kilimanjaro. News of Rebmann’s discovery was published in the Church Missionary Intelligencer in May 1849, but disregarded as mere fantasy for the next twelve years.

The Geographical Society of London held that snow could not possibly occur let alone persist in such latitudes and considered the report to be the hallucination of a malaria-stricken missionary.

While the British were very busy with other parts of East Africa, the Germans put all their interests in some parts of Tanganyika especially Mahenge because the Mahenge Mountains cover an area of 2802.29 square kilometres and mountains are an outlier of the Eastern Arc Mountains while the Kilombero Plain lies to the north and west, and separate the Mahenge Mountains from the Udzungwa Mountains.

Selous Game Reserve lies on the ecosystem which includes the Ulanga Valley which is an intact natural wetland ecosystem comprising myriad rivers, which make up the largest seasonally freshwater lowland floodplain in East Africa.

History shows that right from the initial stage of colonization of Tanganyika this area created special interest to explorers because geologists say the Ulanga or Kilombero River is formed by the convergence of major rivers coming from the south, that flow north from the mountain ranges of southern highlands especially those in Njombe and Iringa regions on the eastern slope of the East African Rift and south from the Udzungwa Mountains, Mahenge Mountains and others.

History shows that at the peak of slave trade, Mahenge area was notorious as the home of slave hunters because the Mahenge Mountains are covered with beautiful evergreen forest, miombo woodland, grassland, and heathland. On its side the Ulanga Valley is characterized by its large populations of large and amazing mammals of Africa such as the buffalo, elephant, hippopotamus, leopard, lion, and puku.

Different researches indicate the majority of the world’s puku population live in the Ulanga Valley. The Ulanga Valley is home to one of the largest populations of Nile crocodile in Africa and is an important breeding ground for bird species such as the African openbill, white-headed lapwing, and the African skimmer.

The Ulanga Valley is also home to a number of species only found in the Valley, such as the Udzungwa red colobus monkey and three species of birds, the Ulanga weaver and two undescribed species of cisticolas. These and other natural resources sent colonialist out of their minds and started to scramble for Africa.

In 1879 Scottish explorer and cartographer Keith Johnston died at Beho Beho after leading an expedition around great lakes of Africa, before and after the explorer just like other parts of Selous became a centre of attraction hunters from all over the world as the scramble and partition of Africa was underway.

The spirit of exploitation of Africa is well expressed by Frederick Selous when he said “Well, you see, one day I am going to be a hunter in Africa and I am just hardening myself to sleep on the ground.”

Meanwhile in 1884 pioneered by Carl Peters, the Germans started to put more efforts on Tanganyika, that came after an expedition of the Society for German Colonization, led by Carl Peters, that followed after he had reached Zanzibar and made the local chiefs on the opposite mainland sign “protection contracts” promising vast areas to his organization.

Once it had gained a foothold, Peters’ new German East Africa Company acquired further lands in Tanganyika. History continue to show from August 1888, the organization tried to take over the coastal towns of Tanganyika against the fierce resistance by the Arabs slave traders who feared to lose their business and ask support from local population.

The haughty attempts by Emil von Zelewski, the German administrator in Pangani, to raise the company’s flag over the business centre sparked the uprising in February 1889 under the leadership of Abushir.

In1896 German colonial governor Hermann von Wissmann designated Selous as a protected area, that came to be after the colonization of Tanganyika which was enabled by Carl Peters, it is being said that he convinced the indigenous peoples of East Africa to give Germany control of their land, allowing Germany to have a colony in East Africa and it is believed that he was able to do this by impressing the natives by firing guns, wearing impressive clothing, and flying flags.

Peters became the administrator of the region but because of his brutal treatment of the natives he was known by the natives as Mkono wa Damu, meaning “the man with blood on his hands”. In strengthening their power in Tanganyika, in In July 1891, the German commissioner, Emil von Zelewski led a battalion consisting about 320 soldiers to suppress the Hehe who had refused to be under colonial power.

On 17 August, that happened when the Germans were attacked by Mkwawa’s 3,000-strong army at Lugalo, who, despite only being equipped with spears and a few guns, quickly overpowered the German force and killed Zelewski. On 28 October 1894, the Germans, under the new commissioner Colonel Freiherr Friedrich von Schele, attacked Mkwawa’s fortress at Kalenga.

Although they took the fort, Mkwawa managed to escape. Subsequently, Mkwawa conducted a campaign of guerrilla warfare, harassing the Germans until 1898 when, on 19 July, he was surrounded and shot himself to avoid capture. The above account shows natural resources of this country had impacted the relation between Tanganyika and its colonial powers even before Selous became a hunting reserve in 1905.

The same year Majimaji rebellion started under the leadership of Kinjikitile “Bokero” Ngwale because Germany levied head taxes in 1898 and relied heavily on forced labour to build roads and accomplish various other tasks. In 1902, Carl Peters ordered villages to grow cotton as a cash crop for export.

Each village was charged with producing a quota of cotton. The headmen of the village were left in charge of overseeing the production, which set them against the rest of the population.

History show that Tanganyika became under British colonial rule just after the end of the first World War then in 1961Tanganyika became independent and through revolution Zanzibar became independent in 1964 and the two parts merged on 26th April 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania or Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania, like other countries in Africa the journey to a full economic independency has come across different challenges.

In August 2017, the Tanzanian government advertised for bids to construct a 2,115 megawatts hydroelectric dam across the Rufiji River in eastern of the country, the government of Tanzania has been considering establishing this power station since the 1960s because when completed, the dam will be the largest power station in East Africa, fourth largest in Africa and the ninth largest in the world.

This power station is located in Selous Game Reserve, one of the world’s largest World Heritage sites, the power station and reservoir lake are planned to occupy approximately 1,350 square kilometres within the game reserve.

Sighting some negative impacts on the ecosystem some scientists are discouraging the government from doing this strategic project, in what can be considered as a sign of neocolonialism the Germany parliament, the Bundestag, raised concerns over the future of the Selous game reserve, the largest wildlife park in Africa, which members of the parliament said it will face critical challenge to its survival after the government of Tanzania signed a contract to build a mega hydro-power project at Stiegler’s Gorge inside the reserve.

Bundestag members had asked the German government to assist Tanzania to find alternative ways that would help the country to produce electricity outside the Selous game reserve, the wildest and largest wildlife sanctuary in Africa. Members from parties forming the German coalition government said in a debate over a bill on the same subject that the envisaged mega hydro-power project will jeopardize the status of Selous Game Reserve as a World Heritage Site.

On its side the government responded by the establishment of Nyerere National Park, covering more than 30,893 square kilometres which portioned from Selous Game Reserve, this make the new park to be the largest national park in Tanzania and also one of the world’s largest wildlife sanctuaries.

Nyerere National Park is home to several species of wildlife such as African Wild Dogs, lions, wildebeests, giraffes, zebras, hippopotamuses, rhinos, antelopes, hyenas, African wolves, and a large number of crocodiles in the Rufiji River. God Bless Tanzania and its people!


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