Returning Tanzania’s history…

Chagga want chief Meli’s skull back from Germany

By Valentine Marc Nkwame, Arusha Times

“Elders in the Old Moshi location of Kilimanjaro region have one more task for the outgoing president, Benjamin William Mkapa. They want him to hand over the responsibility of bringing back the skull of their former traditional leader, the late Mangi Meli Kiusa bin Rindi Makindara to the incoming president, lest the issue is forgotten.Mangi (Chief) Meli who was hanged by the German colonialists in early 20th century was one of the heroes of the former Tanganyika colony, who stood firm to fight against the colonial encroachment around the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. He reigned in the 1890s.Meli was later on brutally killed by German colonial soldiers in the open while his people watched. He was hanged to death, after which, the German colonial administration ordered that his head be chopped off and taken to Germany where it is believed is still kept in a museum.Mangi Meli’s great grandson Isaria Anael Meli pointed out recently that the Old Moshi community has been making several attempts to follow up their historical Chief’s skull since 1968 for the sake of restoring it back for essential traditional ritual procedures but their efforts have ended in vain. …….”

“…. According to Isaria the community of old Moshi believes that in the absence of their former chief’s skull, the necessary rituals could not be performed and as a result natural calamities such as mysterious deaths within the Mangi’s clan and the community in general are threatening the area. Other misfortune connected to the absence of the skull includes; poverty, diseases, insufficient or destructive rains, famine, and the drying up of about 90 percent of natural water springs which originated from the mountain, plus the fact that the grounds in the area keeps getting barren.Before Mangi Meli was hanged in 1898 another local chief, Mkwawa, a courageous and persistent freedom fighter committed suicide to avoid being captured by the German colonial soldiers. After his death the German also cut off his head and sent it to Germany. However, Hehe made persistent demands for its return and it was brought back to Tanzania where it is being kept in his capital at Kalenga in Iringa region.

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