The death of Chief Mkwawa marked the destruction of the Hehe kingdom.

Mkwawa’s last camp ..

After the fall of Kalenga on the 30th of October 1894, Chief Mkwawa opted for a guerilla war. His guerilla activities inflicted constant losses on Germans, who never knew where he would hit them next. Chief Mkwawa always moved between their patrols. He was supplied with information and food in the very localities where German troops were operated. The inhabitants declined to give any information and denied all knowledge of his presence.

Chief Mkwawa exercised an inexplicable influence over the natives who, when the pursuing troops surprised his camp, would time after time hurl themselves on the soldiers, sacrificing themselves merely to give Chief Mkwawa the chance to escape. No scheme for his capture was possible, and no German knew even what he looked like. In 1898 when German Governor offered a reward of 5,000 rupees for Chief Mkwawa’s head, there was no Hehe willing to take it.

On the 19th of June 1898, Chief Mkwawa set his last camp at Mlambalasi on the way to Kalenga to secretly inspect his fort. The Hehe came to warn him that a company of German forces led by Sergeant Merckel was near by. Chief Mkwawa realised that he could not get away. It was the end. But he was not going to be taken as prisoner.

He had two bodyguards with him. He ordered one to collect firewood and light a fire. When it was burning, he sent the other to fetch more firewood. This bodyguard, who overheard what the Hehe told the Chief, realised that Chief Mkwawa was about to kill himself but that he would first shoot his two bodyguards so they should accompany him to the other world.

The death of Mkwawa ..

The bodyguard ran some way into the forest, then stood listening. When he heard the first shot, he knew that it had taken the life of his companion. A few moments later, he heard the second shot and knew that Chief Mkwawa had taken his own life. Chief Mkwawa shot himself in such a way that his body fell into the fire. This is how he hoped to prevent the Germans from capturing him even in death.

At this moment, the German patrol appeared. The bodyguard told the Serjeant that Chief Mkwawa was dead, pointing to the bodies. The Serjeant did not believe him and aimed a shot at Chief Mkwawa’s head, which penetrated the skull. The Serjeant then cut off Chief Mkwawa’s head and took it to Iringa town as proof that Chief Mkwawa was no more.

Chief Mkwawa’s headless body was handed to his family for burial. His skull was sent to German and kept at Bremen Anthropological Museum. The headless body was buried at Mlambalasi.The other bodyguard body was also buried at Mlambalasi. The death of Chief Mkwawa marked the destruction of the Hehe kingdom and power.

The ambush of the German forces at Lugalo on the 17th of August 1891, the destruction of the Hehe fort at Kalenga on the 30th of October 1894 and the death of Chief Mkwawa on the 19th of June 1898 were key events in the German colonization in East Africa.



Kalenga, Iringa, Tanzania