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The Coming of the Ngoni

The Ngoni were Bantu-Nguni speaking people of Northern Zululand in South East Africa. They were originally Ndwandwe people under Zwide’s leadership. But when Shaka defeated Zwide, one part of his group in 1840s moved to East Africa into two groups of the Maseko and Tuta under
Zwangendaba. They moved to Tanzania from Natal and Swaziland between 1840s due to “Mfecane” (time of trouble). They are currently settled in south west Tanzania around Songea town.
The Ngoni invasions illustrate the influence of external forces on the lives of the indigenous people. However, the Ngoni brought innovation and changes such as military techniques, skill and weapons. A study of the Ngoni will enable students to appreciate the current settlement patterns and way of the life of the southern Tanzania.


Reasons for the Ngoni migration
·                     The Ngoni migrated due to the tyrannical and dictatorial rule of Shaka: The Zulu ruler was cruel in nature as he severely tortured people and those who failed to respond to his order were killed. Due to this some people decided to seek refuge by migrating to other areas.
·                     External pressure from the British and Boers: They moved because of external pressure from the British and Boers in the South who were moving Northwards occupying their land.
·                     It was due to overpopulation: Thiswas caused by the fertility of soils and the reliability of rainfall between Drakensberg Mountains and the Indian Ocean.
·                     Pastoralism reason: Some Ngoni people owned large herds of cattle and northwards looking for pasture and water for their animals. So they wanted to look for more fertile land for their cattle. They also experienced famine and drought that led to lack of food and water.
·                     The influence of their leaders: Men like Zwangendaba, Maputo and Zulugama provided good leadership. This encouraged them to move onwards.
·                     Overstocking: It could also have been due to overstocking of their animals as they were having spirit of cattle rustling, i.e. they had great desire to steal other people’s cattle. For example they went on driving away and confiscating other people’s cattle during their conquest and expansionist wars.
·                     Increased knowledge of military tactics by the age regiments:These were powerful military forces and dedicated to professional war, which was their livelihood. They believed that they could have other territories through migration.
Movement and settlement of the Ngoni to East Africa
They began their movement from South-East Africa in Northern Zulu land under the leadership of Zwangendaba in 1820. The Ngoni migration took place in the 19th century, and was the last major movement of Bantu people into East Africa
There were three groups of the Ngoni in East Africa as:-
·                     The Ngoni Tuta
·                     The Ngoni Ngwangara
·                     The Ngoni Maseko
They then crossed river Zambezi and river Limpompo and moved northwards in search of new land. Later in 1835 they divided into two groups. The one group under the leadership of Zwangendaba passed west of Lake Malawi and settled at Ufipa in 1840. They were attracted to this area here because of the many herds of cattle around.
Zwangendaba led the biggest Ngoni group that entered in East Africa. They crossed the Zambezi River, moved through Malawi and Zambia until they reached the fipa plateau in around 1840’s. Zwangendaba died here in around 1845, and his followers splint up into five sections.
Three sections returned south to Zambia and Malawi while the other two such as Tuta and Gwangara sections remained at ufipa. Another group under the leadership of Induna Maputo (Maseko Ngoni) passed East of Lake Malawi and settled at Songea. When Zwangendaba died around 1845, the Ufipa Ngoni disagreed and split into five groups.
Whereby the two groups remained in East Africa such as Tuta and Gwangara Ngoni, three groups moved out of East Africa that is to say, one group moved to Malawi and the two moved back to Zambia.
The Tuta Ngoni, the smallest group left in Ufipa, moved northwards fighting and crashing with the Holoholo near Lake Tanganyika, they disrupted the trade route between Tabora and Ujiji. In the1850s they invaded the Nyamwezi capturing many and incorporating them in their ranks. They finally settled at Kahama South of Lke Victoria.
The Gwangara Ngoni under the leadership of Zulugama moved eastwards to Songea where they met the Maseko Ngoni. The two groups fought and the Maseko Ngoni were defeated and pushed out of Songea in 1860’s.
Some Maseko moved back to Mozambique while others moved to Kilombero valley where they became known as the Mbunga. Another splinter group moved to Newala, Masasi and Tunduru. From Songea the Ngoni raided widely, finally settling southern Tanzania among the Bena, Hehe and Sangu. The Ngoni migration which started around 1820s had ended by the year 1860s.
Why were the Ngoni successful in defeating/conquering the people of East Africa
The Ngoni came in big numbers and were strong:On their way they absorbed or fought off the people they encountered, capturing the young for worries and young women for wives.They had good military organization with age-regiments calledimpis” (strong army).
The Ngoni had a large, well trained and disciplined army; they were grouped in age-regiments which were maintained for long periods.The Ngoni did not cultivate but rather lived by plundering from others this enabled them to have a standing army always ready for battle.
They had superior weapons such as the short stabbing spear (Assegai) and big cowhide shields, which only left soldiers face exposed to the enemy, protected the worriers. Instead of the long throwing spears which had to be thrown one by one, the Ngoni adopted short stabbing spears and clubs known as Assegai, copied from Shaka the Zulu.
On the other hand their enemy used the long throwing spear. They used this for close hand to hand combat, and the warriors could be protected by the large cow-hides shields which left only the warrior’s face exposed to the enemies.
They had superior military tactics such as cow horn method (semi-circle), which was unfamiliar in East Africa. They fought in organised age regiments and could attack their enemies using the cow horn formation. They also chose clear open spaces for fighting and liked attacking their enemies during nights.
They met small and fragmented societies, which were unable to challenge their military organisation. Slave trade had undermined most of the communities of southern Tanzania.The Ngoni were successful due to their determination. They were determined to conquer and obtained places for settlement. This was due to the fact that they were already chased away from their homeland, and their only alternative was to get determined and fight any people they came across.
The East African people were caught unaware and therefore did not offer much resistance. The Ngoni were successful because the local people whom they were fighting with were so weak ad lived in small groups, which could not resist/challenge the sudden and unexpected Ngoni invasion.
Disunity among the East African people who lived in isolated societies, made it easy for Ngoni to defeat them.
The Ngoni were fully united under their commanders. They were successful because of their unity and solidarity. They mixed freely with the non-Ngoni speaking people.They had strong military leaders for example, Zwangendaba, Induna and Maputo who were able to unite and command the Ngoni.
They used assimilation policy, i.e. they absorbed the people they defeated. They would force the captured men from other tribes to join them and became Ngoni warriors.They also made themselves fearful to their enemies by wearing the skeletons of their victims.
The Ngoni military organisation
The Ngoni were small group of people but were able to make their presence and authority fell by the local people because of their leadership, outstanding military efficiency and their capacity to absorb conquered people into their armies.
Militarily the Ngoni were organised in large standing armies and age regiments; people of the same age trained together, which brought unity and efficiency.They used the short stabbing spears called assegai rather than the long throwing spears which meant that the warriors could attack more effectively at a close range
They used large cow hide shields, which could not be easily penetrated by spears. They used the cow horn method of surrounding an enemy and attacking from all sides giving the enemy little chance to escape.
They often fought on their feet and in open areas for easy movement. They moved in a large numbers which helped them to outnumber their enemies who were often caught unaware, they used to absorb and assimilate all conquered people.
The Social, Political and Economic Effects of the Ngoni Migration
Explain the social, political and economic effects of the Ngoni migration
Effects of Ngoni invasion or migration in East Africa
Positive effects
·                     The Ngoni invasion led to the rise on outstanding leaders to prominence. These included Mirambo, Nyungu ya Mawe and Mkwawa, who used the Ngoni military tactics to build their states.
·                     Many small Ntemi chiefdoms came together (united) and formed large political units under strong leaders to fight the Ngoni for example Sangu and Hehe (re-organisation).
·                     There was formation of new societies/tribe like the Mbunga.
·                     The Hehe under Mkwawa were able to resist the Germans.
·                     There was spread of Ngoni customs and culture for example initiation ceremonies where girls were taught sex educations and circumcision.





·                     It led to formation of a large Ngoni society in East Africa as they absorbed many people.
·                     It led to the ormation of some societies by those who used Ngoni tactics for example Nyamwezi under Mirambo.
·                     It led to the introduction of new weapons eg. assegai, cowhides and shields.
·                     From the Ngoni invasion people learned how to become organised from smaller disorganised society, to well organised bigger political systems. These were to be under the control and leadership of organised, strong and efficient rulers such as the Sangu chief, Hehe etc.
·                     There were intermarriages between Ngoni and Nyamwezi which subsequently led to improved relationships between the invaders and indigenous people and an increased population.
Negative effects
·                     They caused the loss of lives leading to depopulation in some areas where they got warriors this was especially in southern Tanzania. This was due to the killing of people in the expansionist wars e.g. the Mariti remnants of Rugarugas killed so many people.
·                     They introduced military organisation and tactics to such an extent that the Ngoni lost their superiority. e.g Holoholo were able to defeat the Tuta Ngoni when they re attacked them.
·                     Their movement led to wider spread of devastation, depopulation and displacement of people.
·                     They destroyed the economy of the people of southern Tanzania when they grabbed their cattle (the Ngoni were cattle plunderers). The Ngoni invasion led to poverty, i.e. it led to the creation of the class of poor people as their property continued to be destroyed and persistently looted during the wars.
·                     The Ngoni led to formation of refugees who lived by plundering and killing i.e. the Mariti and Rugaruga who were later used by ambitious men like Mirambo and Nyungu ya Mawe to form their empires.
·                     The Tuta Ngoni on their movement northwards, disrupted the trade particularly between Tabora and Ujiji.
·                     There was loss of peoples’ language, culture and customs (detribalisation of people), i.e. the raids caused many people to become homeless and tribe less. This led to people losing their identity. In addition, such groups became terrorists who lived by war, plunder and hunting for ivory. They included the “Rugaruga” who began hiring their services as mercenaries to any chief willing to pay them.
·                     Ngoni disturbances disrupted normal cultivation leading to famine. There was widespread famine due to the scotched-earth policy of fighting circumstances, crop could neither be planted nor harvested, and people were forced to abandon farming.
·                     They led to insecurity since the new weapons and military tactics increased warfare and aggression in East Africa.
·                     The Ngoni intensified slave trade in East Africa, this was because they displaced people from their homes and so making it easy for slave raiders to catch and sell them.
·                     It led to increased warfare among the African societies, including those areas that had been peaceful before.







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