Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Arab Uprising in German East Africa (1888–1890)

Arab Uprising in German East Africa

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Arab followers of Abushiri ben
Salim al-Harthi, with tribesmen of the Tanzanian
hinterlands vs. German East African government

PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): German East Africa

DECLARATION: No formal declaration

MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Arab rebellion against
German colonial rule

OUTCOME: Rebellion was suppressed, and the region came
under direct control of the German government.




In November 1884 Carl Peters (1856–1918), head of the
German East Africa Company (Deutsch-Ostafrikanische
Gesellschaft, DOAG), obtained land rights for more than
140,000 square kilometers of land in East Africa from the
local chiefs, thereby beginning German colonization in
Africa. Peters convinced Kaiser Wilhelm I’s (1797–1888)
“Iron Chancellor,” Otto von Bismarck (1815–98), to
declare the region a German protectorate in 1885. With
Germany’s blessing the DOAG exploited the native labor
and resources along the East African coast and even
expanded beyond the negotiated realm, particularly into
In 1887 indigenous Africans attacked two DOAG trading
posts in Zanzibar. In April of the following year the
company signed a treaty with the sultan of Zanzibar, Said
Khalifa (1852–90), in effect bribing him in return for a 50-
year lease of the Zanzibar coastline. The treaty, coupled
with the increasing arrogance of the DOAG, touched off
new hostilities. On September 4, 1888, an Arab landowner
from Pangani, Abushiri ben Salim al-Harthi (fl. 1880s),
organized an uprising. Together with black Africans from
both the hinterlands and the coastal regions, Abushiri
drove a number of DOAG representatives from the townships
and took many others prisoner.
German cruisers, including the Leipzig, steamed in to
protect the two key colonial posts of Bagamoyo and Dar es
Salaam, where DOAG personnel remained until reinforcements
arrived. On January 30, 1889, Bismarck approved a
2-million-mark loan to aid the German protectorate in East
Africa. From this point on the region came under the direct
control of the German Reich, which dispatched Captain
Hermann Wissmann (1853–1905) as a military governor.
By the end of the year Abushiri was arrested and
executed. Wissmann instituted a reign of terror throughout
the region, murdering thousands of sympathizers
and establishing harsh penalties for all transgressions
against German authority. By 1890 the uprising had been

Further reading: Richard Oliver and Gordon Mathew,
eds., History of East Africa (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1963); Helmuth Stoecker, ed., German Imperialism in
Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).

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