The fiercest battle in 1891 at Lugalo

Germans military might ..

After the Germans had managed to colonise the coastal area of Tanganyika, they started to move further inland. At that time the Hehe were also expanding towards the coast. Chief Mkwawa was shocked to hear about the Germans military might. The Germans also were worried about Chief Mkwawa. They knew he was a ruler who commanded a vast area and was powerful enough to cause them a fair amount of trouble. Both sides tried some diplomacy to avoid war. However, all hopes were dashed, so the Germans decided the best way was to fight against Chief Mkwawa. They sent a small battalion on a mission to engage Chief Mkwawa at Kalenga. The leader of this ill-fated force was Commander Gnye Von Zelewski.

The Germans threw caution to the wind in their march to Kalenga. They ignored even the basic military principle of sending a recce patrol ahead of the main force. They had too much confidence in their might. Chief Mkwawa, carefully chose an ambush site and tracked the Germans movements all along. A Hehe army of three thousand men laid a trap at Lugalo. While the Germans set camp on the right side of the stream, they had no idea of the danger facing them on the other side of the river.

The famous victory ..

Chief Mkwawa had instructed one of his men to fire a shotgun as soon as the whole German force was within the trap. This was to activate the trap. But as fate would have it, one of the German soldiers who had not yet entered the trap saw a flock of guinea fowl and fired at them. All hell broke loose after this as the Hehe army sprung from their positions and attacked the Germans.

The few soldiers who were out of the trap used machine guns to kill many Hehe soldiers. It is estimated that a thousand Hehes died at Lugalo as a result of the guinea fowl fiasco but the German force was also decimated as only two officers and fifteen men escaped. This fighting took place on August 17th, 1891. Today, we can see commander Zelewski’s name as the first among the officers’ names engraved on the monument at Lugalo. This was the famous victory for the Hehe but a costly one too. Some Hehe soldiers and commanders deserted after this. It is said that the Hehe got three hundred German guns at Lugalo.



Kalenga, Iringa, Tanzania