The Chagga politics and their Chiefs (Mangi)
Chagga chiefs

The Chagga people historically belonged to many clan groupings commanded by Mangis (chiefs). Clan names like Moshi, Swai, Marealle, Lvimo, and Mrema are examples. As a result, the region was split up into several chiefdoms. The chiefs were well renowned for fighting one other and occasionally forming coalitions in their drive for dominance. As a result, the number of chiefdoms decreased over time. Machame, Kibosho, Mamba, Mwika, Kibongoto, Uru, Usseri, Kirua Vunjo, Mkuu, Marangu, Mashati, Arusha Chini, Masama, Kahe, Old Moshi, Kilema, and Keni-Mriti-Mwengwe were among the 17 chiefdoms that existed by 1968. The chiefdoms were further split up into smaller groups known as mitaa.

Through Nyerere’s socialist and integrationist initiatives, the chiefly system in Tanzania was eventually abolished once the country gained its independence.

Tanzania attained independence in December 1961, and Tanganyika was freed from colonial domination under the socialist leadership of Julius Kambarage Nyerere (1922-1999), who was elected president in 1962. Julius Nyerere was a politician of principles and intelligence who was regarded as one of Africa’s most prominent people. He went by the name Mwalimu (teacher), and he had a vision for education that was full of potential. Although Nyerere voluntarily gave up his position of power in 1985, his efforts to establish the nation are still evident today. Tanzania underwent a number of political and economic changes beginning in the middle of the 1980s under the leadership of President Ali Hassan Mwinyi. The administration made the decision to go from single-party control to multiparty democracy in January and February 1992. Eleven political parties were registered as a result of legal and constitutional reforms.

The first multiparty elections in Tanzanian history were two parliamentary by-elections held in early 1994, which the incumbent Chama Cha Mapinduzi [CCM] party won. Tanzania conducted its second multi-party general elections in October 2000. Benjamin W. Mkapa, a candidate for the incumbent CCM party, won the presidential election with 71% of the vote after defeating his three main competitors. After ten years in office, Benjamin Mkapa stepped down in 2005. Jakaya Kikwete, a candidate for the governing party, won the presidency with a commanding lead in the December 2005 elections.

Observations made by westerners in the eighteenth century suggest that Chaga Kingdoms were completely distinct and had little influence from their ancient progenitors. The kingdom structure appears to be similar in Ugweno’s nearby north Pare Mountains region.

The old clan kingdoms of the Mashariki, however, continued to be the ritual hub of life among the early Asu in the south Pare Mountains and did so even into the nineteenth century. However, not long before 1000 AD, a new sort of monarchy called Mangi, which originally meant “the arrangement, planner,” emerged among the ancient Chaga of north Pare and among their descendants who lived around Mount Kilimanjaro.

Read about the Chagga People of Mount Kilimanjaro

Mangi ‘s role in the economy, politics, and world

One of East Africa’s most prosperous ethnic groups is undoubtedly the Chagás. Like many African communities, the Chaga women have prominent positions in everything from economic to educational matters. A significant portion of the economic advancements in northern Tanzania are stimulated by chaga women.

The Mangi were powerful rulers who oversaw Chaga affairs even during colonial times and ruled primarily clan-based territories. Despite the fact that Mangis are currently less common, for the majority of young and adult Chaga males, the name “Mangi” still reigns and represents the most respectable identity.

Mangi Meli

Mangi (King), Meli a Chaga chieftain in the late 1890s, (or Mangi Meli Kiusa bin Rindi Makindara) passed away in 1900. In March 1900, the German colonial authorities executed him by hanging. Meli, who played a significant role in the struggle against colonial expansion on the Kilimanjaro slopes, is one of the heroes of the former Tanganyika province.

After being captured, Meli was found guilty of insurrection and hung in front of his people. The German colonial authorities ordered the removal of his head after he passed away, and it is thought to have been taken to Berlin for phrenological research. After then, it was reportedly kept in a museum.

Mangi Meli engaged in two conflicts with the Germans. In the first conflict, which lasted for two days in June 1892, he beat them by assassinating a German governor and military commander on Kilimanjaro, Von Burlow, and driving them off of Kilimanjaro altogether. They went back and battled him in the second war in August 1893, bringing with them mercenary Nubian warriors from Sudan and additional Zulu soldiers from South Africa who had more modern machine guns.

They overcame him in just two days. He eventually withdrew and sought peace with the Germans, who imposed a number of terms and conditions. He was penalized for helping to establish a new German army post at Old Moshi with labor and supplies, which he did. Before that plan could be carried out, he was arrested, imprisoned, and after a trial, he was found guilty and hanged alongside his 19 followers at his home in Old Moshi, Tsudunyi village, on top of a deep ravine to the Msangachi river. It was revealed that in 1900, he had once again conspired with other Chagga, Maasai, and Meru leaders to bring the biggest war to the Germans.

These followers were other leaders from other regions in Arusha and Kilimanjaro. His head was hacked off and taken by the Germans.

His skull has been sought for more than a century in an effort to repatriate it to Tanzania for a befitting burial.

Mangi Shangali (from Mushi Clan)

Tanzania’s Machame is a region located on the southern flank of Kilimanjaro. The biggest and most populous of all the Chagga states in Kilimanjaro, it was described as a great African giant by Hans Meyer in 1889. Its monarch, the Mushi Dynasty and later Shangali, was considered to be a huge African king with influence spanning all Chagga kingdoms save Rombo as early as 1849.

By the 1860s, a German explorer named Von der Decken (also referred to as Baroni by the Chagga) described Machame as a union of western Chagga kingdoms that included Narumu, Kindi, Kombo, and extended as far as the western end of Kibongoto, each with its own chiefs ruling under the monarch of Machame. The Mushi clan has historically provided the rulers (including the well-known Shangali, who is a Mushi descendent), and certain Mushi clans are still referred to as WaMangi today (Chiefs).

Mangi Sina and Mangi Rindi

By the end of the nineteenth century, both the Mangi Sina and the Mangi Rindi possessed enormous armies. They united with Rindi to oppose Sina when the Germans invaded in the 1880s and established colonial control.

With the Germans, Rindi had already negotiated and signed a contract in 1885, making Moshi the Germans’ colonial capital.

Mangi Mkuu – The Paramount Chief

The Chaga conducted an election in 1952 to choose Mangi Mkuu, the “Paramount Chief,” to manage their affairs and negotiate on their behalf with colonial rulers. Divisional chiefs John Ndaskoi Maruma of Rombo and M. H. Abdiel Shangali of Hai were defeated in the election by Thomas Marealle of Marangu. Before the election, Petro Itosi Marealle of Vunjo, another divisional head, withdrew from contention.

Marealle solidified the authority of the other three divisional chieftains, giving the Chaga more strength and autonomy. His headquarters were in Marangu. However, Marealle’s demise took place during Tanganyika’s war for independence for two key reasons:

He first lost the trust of those with western education. When Makerere University’s Chaga students denounced him in their school publication, he publicly humiliated them when they returned home in a “old” tribal manner. [More information required] He put his trust in Petro Njau, the wise party organizer who had introduced him. Njau began working on winning the elders of the clans and the seasoned conservatives in 1958. This was a phony attempt to get back to the glorious tribal past. However, Mangi Mkuu had complete faith in him and the exaggerated claims of his popularity that Njau had made.
Second, on Kilimanjaro, Mangi Mkuu and T.A.N.U engaged in combat. He continued to support T.A.N.U. for Tanganyika’s goals for the country.

Long after he had started to summarily deal with local T.A.N.U critics at home, he continued to support Julius Nyerere personally and as the national leader, possibly because he felt that these critics did not need to be taken seriously because they were insignificantly unrepresentative of the people. As a delay tactic against T.A.N.U., the British Administration attempted to convene a council of chiefs in Tanganyika in 1957–1958. Mangi Mkuu wrote to the governor requesting that Nyerere be given the opportunity to address the chiefs. The demand was turned down. Mangi Mkuu did not personally oppose Nyerere or the national movement as a whole until 1959, when he was fighting for his political life.

Mangi Mkuu opposed Nyerere’s visit to Moshi in January 1959, when he was already extremely defensive at home and the town was hosting an open-air TANU conference. A few months later, he warned the mountain’s chiefs they would be fired if they supported TANU.

Mangi Thomas Marealle & Queen Elizabeth

But the rupture occurred earlier in the local Chaga political arena. It didn’t originate from the TANU branches per se, which, despite beginning in 1955 on the mountain, had made little progress among the populace. It originated with Machame, the main competitor that Mangi Mkuu had deposed in 1951. The key moment came when Chief Abdieli Shangali supported his son-in-law Solomon Eliufoo with all of his authority.

From 1953 until 1956, Eliufoo, a commoner from one of the oldest clans in Machame and a teacher with a Lutheran education, lived and worked in the United States and Great Britain. He joined the TANU chapter in Machame and came back in 1957 as a teacher. He started politics in 1958 and was appointed by the Hai divisional council, whose head was his father-in-law Chief Abdieli Shangali, to the Chagga Council. He won a seat on the TANU ticket in Dar es Salaam’s legislative council that same year. Since 1958, he has been actively involved in national politics, serving as minister of health from 1959 to 1960 and minister of education from 1962 to 1967.

At the local level, he organized and led the opposition to the Mangi Mkuu, and by 1959, he had founded the Chaga Democratic Party to advocate for the democratization of local administrations as well as the resignation or abdication of the Mangi Mkuu.

The Chaga Democratic party’s resistance prompted a standstill in the Chagga Council before the end of 1959. The question of whether a referendum should be held on Kilimanjaro to determine whether the Chaga preferred a Paramount Chief for life or a president who was alternately elected was put to a vote in the council. The Mangi Mkuu was disbanded after the referendum, which was narrowly won. The power of the chiefs was weakened after independence as a result of Nyerere’s socialist and integration programs.

Even though they are not as well-organized as they once were and the Mangi is not involved in the day-to-day affairs of the contemporary Chaga, they formerly lived under the dominion of the Mangi Mkuu. The Chaga still have respect for the Mangis. Some groups continue to exercise their “right” to govern, such as the Mushi clan in Machame, who frequently refer to themselves as Watu wa kwa Mangi (people from the Chieftainship). The Chaga today work as contemporary wage workers in major, developed cities or overseas and are also business owners in the Kilimanjaro and Arusha region’s tourism sector.

Some of the Chaga’s customs, like as the “kihamba,” a family piece of land often passed down from one generation to the next, are still practiced today.

After being introduced to the region in the late nineteenth century, coffee has become the main income crop for many Chaga people, but maize and bananas are still important mainstays. The Chagga tribe is renowned for another traditional beverage called mbege. It is produced using millet and a unique kind of banana.

Learn more about Mbege, the traditional drink from the Chagga People of Kilimanjaro

Notable Chagga Chiefs/Mangis

Those famous chiefs from the Chagga people of the Kilimanjaro region in no particular order includes

  • Mangi Rongoma of Kilema
  • Mangi Horombo of Keni
  • Mangi Rengwa of Machame
  • Mangi Mashina of Mamba
  • Mangi Mosha of Kirua
  • Mangi Marealle of Marangu
  • Mangi Sina of Kibosho
  • Mangi Rindi of Moshi
  • Mangi Meli of Moshi
  • Mangi Warsingi of Uru
  • Mangi Ndeseruo of Machame
  • Mangi Shangali of Machame
  • Mangi Lokila of Kibosho
  • Mangi Kikare of Kirua
  • Mangi Kombo of Kilema
  • Mangi Masaki of Kilema


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Dec 8, 2022
Ꮃe are a grⲟup of volunteers and starting a new sсheme in our community. Your site provided ᥙs with valuable information to wοrk on. You have done a formidable job and our whole community will be thankful to you.
Dec 8, 2022
[…] to be showered with goat blood and plant juice before being given a meeting with Masaki, the chief of Moshi. This is according to his report in the Church Missionary Intelligencer. The chief is still a […]
Apr 30, 2023
Great read about the Chagga politics. Would like to visit Moshi one day.
Apr 30, 2023
Hello everybody! We are a family from Italy:) We want to tell you about Our experience of traveling from Europe to Tanzania, it was necessary to get to Kilimanjaro Airport, upon arrival in Tanzania. Friends suggested Tranquil Kilimanjaro, and you know, everything went well! We got there without any problems, the driver helped with the luggage, brought it to the markets on the way, and suggested a lot of interesting things about climbing Kilimanjaro) I was pleased that their website is in different languages, including Italian: So not for the sake of advertising, we recommend and put a firm 5 of this company! Good luck)
Jun 25, 2023
Hola, quería saber tu precio..
Fides Temba
Jul 4, 2023
Who is chief Kirita?
Jul 4, 2023
Mangi Kirita, the son of Mangi Fumba/Pfumba was the Chief of Kilema Area, who did a great job helping missionaries to ensure that many schools are built in Kilema to stimulate the development of the Kilema area. It should be remembered that in terms of the development of their areas, many of Kilimanjaro chiefs were in complete competition. Mangi Kirita himself who ruled Kilema for 20 years was honored even by the church and buried there on Mount Ngangu, Kilema which is the sacred area of the church.
Dec 23, 2023
I wonder why Mangi Maruma of Rombo is not in your list, eventhough you mention him in the article itself as a contender for the Mangi Mkuu election. I met John Maruma in 1962 (I was only 14 at that time) and he showered hospitality on our family. At that time my father was Beekeeping officer for the district, and he was supported in his ventures by both Maruma and Mareale. In Old Moshi my father befriended Thomas Merinjo in 1961. Merinjo spoke German with my dad and told him the Germans had once installed him as the leader of Old Moshi (probably after the incidents/war with Mangi Meli). I still have pictures of Merinjo and of John Maruma.
Jan 3, 2024
Hi Martin, Would you kindly be able to share the pictures of Mr. Merinyo and Mangi Maruma. They are both very important figures in the history of the Chagga. My email is

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