The people and inhabitants, native to the area around Mount Kilimanjaro and on the foot slopes of the Mountain are predominantly the Chagga people that speak the Chagga language or dialect. Tanzania is a Swahili-speaking country but the Chagga use this language as their mother tongue.

History of the Chagga Clans

Chagga historical Mangi chiefThe Chagga people of Moshi and Kilimanjaro have lived in the vicinity of the mountain for ages. The Chagga might be one tribe but subdivided into many clans. These clans were categorized under different chiefdoms.

Long ago, these clans weren’t as unified as their modern-day descendants. They even went into a civil war amongst clans. The Chagga clans are known as mitaa in their local language

Each clan had a clear-marked territory to protect along the southern and eastern sides on the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. The territory boundaries were marked by rock outcrops, valleys and rivers.

The modern-day Chagga are a united tribe but in the olden days, each of the 15 clans fought for rights to take control of either side of the slopes of the mountain.

From the south-west of Mount Kilimanjaro, which marked the Kibongoto territory, there existed 15 territories subdivided on the slopes of the mountain extending but with limits to the boundary on the northeast of Mount Kilimanjaro which belonged to the Usseri clan

Only the Mamba of all the Chagga clans owned expansive land extending from the forest line up to the plains that engulfed the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. Mamba Clan’s land did not stretch beyond the slopes and the whole mountain had visible makings of footprints belonging to some big five animals like buffalos and elephants

Three main cascading footpaths connected the territories, each at a different elevation level. The footpath crossing at the centre was almost always well maintained and offered better convenience.

Despite the good form of the path, it was a risky choice as it led directly to the heart of the chiefdom belonging to the respective Chagga clan.  Many chose that path and were never seen or heard of ever again especially during clan disputes.

But the upper and lower paths were frequented by members of clans and other people; peace was never a guarantee between various chiefdoms of the Chagga tribe of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Related: The Kikuyu tribe of Mount Kenya

Chagga Chiefs

Chagga chiefs were revered by their people and held immense power and authority in their hands, both within the borders of their own territories and in the other territories whether there were coalitions or bad relations. Interclan wars were mean to conquer and regain territories and land alike. Everyone from other clans needed special permission to pass through other lands belonging to the opposite Chagga chiefs.

Even the first westerner to discover Mount Kilimanjaro had to seek permission from the Chagga chiefs. His name was Johannes Rebmann,

Modern Day Chagga people

Modern day chagga peopleIn this era, the Chagga have put away their past differences and are a unified unit. Many things have changed and the clans have come together to form the modern-day Chagga tribe. Apart from the Chaggas, different people from different parts of Tanzania and even abroad live together in harmony and even different tribes work on the mountain.

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