Samia hints on possible return of Mangi Meli's skull

Samia hints on possible return of Mangi Meli's skull

PRESIDENT Samia Suluhu Hassan on Saturday hinted on the possible return of skulls of Tanzanian chiefs.

The Head of State disclosed that the Foreign Affairs docket and that of Tourism and Natural Resources are currently engaging former colonial masters, including Germany to have the remains repatriated to the country.

“The government, through the two dockets is in talks with the countries to ensure a possible return of the skulls,” said President Samia while addressing chiefs, clan leaders and Kilimanjaro residents at a public Cultural Festival held at Moshi Cooperative University (MoCU) on Saturday.

Calls for the return of the chiefs’ remains have been spreading for years in Tanzania. Still in contention are the remains of Chief Mangi Meli of the Chagga tribe, which are said to be currently preserved somewhere in Germany.

As a chief for a little less than a decade, Mangi Meli fought the German colonial occupation of territory in Kilimanjaro. He was executed for his resistance on March 2, 1900, by hanging at a public square.

The legend has it that his head was then cut off and shipped to Berlin, Germany at the request of the Ethnological Museum’s Head of Africa and Oceania Department, Felix von Luschan.

Four years ago, Mr Isaria Meli who is Mangi Meli's 87-year-old grandson, demanded that the Germany and Tanzanian governments work together to get the skull sent back.

He is said to have taken a DNA test in Berlin after being invited by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (known by its German initials SPK), which is looking after the archive of human remains.

Currently, Germany holds over 5,000 skulls of its former colonial subjects, including 200 from Tanzania. Among the skulls, six are from Moshi, dating back to the time of Mangi Meli’s death.

Meanwhile, the President revealed that the government is currently updating a special database for chiefs and other traditional rulers. According to President Samia, a total of 92 chiefs had by January been registered on the database.

“That includes me in the long list of the chiefs,” she said.

President Samia was last year installed the Head of Chiefs by the Union of Chiefs in Tanzania (UCT)  in a colourful ceremony held on September 8 at the Bujora Cultural Centre in Kisesa ward in Magu District, Mwanza region.

She earned the name of Hangaya that literary translates to a shining star. The President also assured the UCT that the government will continue honoring chiefs and other traditional leaders in the country for their role in preserving values, traditions and heritage.

Ms Samia said the Information, Culture, Arts and Sports Ministry is also preparing a special archive on chiefs and their contributions to the country’s liberation struggle, noting that a handful of chiefs from Mbeya had already been identified.

“More than 200 buildings belonging to Chiefs have been already identified and the government will strive to have them preserved,” she said.


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Author: DAILY NEWS Reporter in Moshi

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