Why is Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania?
Kilimanjaro Tanzania

According to unofficial claims, Queen Victoria is “allegedly” the reason why Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania and not in Kenya. The map of Kenya has an unusual thing about it. The boundary runs in a straight line from Lake Victoria to the coast, with just a slight twist. That inconspicuous slope would be meaningless if it didn’t neatly position Africa’s tallest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, on Tanzanian land.

The most common legend regarding how the crucial curve came to be is that Mount Kilimanjaro was handed to Queen Victoria’s nephew, the future Kaiser Wilhelm II of Prussia, as a birthday present. While the narrative is beautiful to a point and simple to cite as proof of the European countries’ arrogant attitude about Africa’s borders, it is incorrect.

The Tanzania-Kenya boundary exemplifies the haphazard character of the delineation procedure, which was eventually legitimized by an official mapping done in the early 1900s. While the Berlin Conference was undoubtedly a get-together when several nations divided Africa like a huge pie, the idea that the Queen gave away an entire snow-capped mountain on the spur of the moment is unfounded.

The position of Mount Kilimanjaro appears to have been agreed upon by Germany and Britain, with the sole point of controversy being where the dividing line from the peak to Lake Victoria terminated.

The British planned a railway that would run from Kilimanjaro to Speke Gulf, whereas the Germans offered a line that would run from Kilimanjaro to Musoma. A straight demarcation line from the northeastern corner of Lake Victoria to Mombasa is shown on another map from the German side. Kilimanjaro appears on both maps as part of what is now mainland Tanzania.

Was Kilimanjaro Mountain swapped for Mombasa Coastline?

Why Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania (1996) by Schneppen Heinz provides a more credible explanation for the oddity. “To put it another way, the Germans had conquered Kilimanjaro but not Mombasa, and the British had conquered Mombasa but not Kilimanjaro.” Kilimanjaro is now in Tanzania because Mombasa is in Kenya.” (See page 18)

Schneppen’s claim is based principally on the provisions of the 1 July 1890 Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty.

Germany and the United Kingdom agreed on a number of territorial interests in the Treaty. In return for Heligoland and the coast of Dar es Salaam, Germany gave up its claim to the Sultanate of Zanzibar, which at the time extended to what is now Kenya’s coast.

Heligoland is a strategically important island that protects Germany’s North Sea naval stations. Wilhelm saw Heligoland as a key component of his strategy to outshine the British in naval might.

According to legend, the young prince grumbled to his grandmother about how she had two mountains but he had none. The matriarch, dubbed “Grandmother of Europe,” then commanded her followers to give the future Kaiser one high snow-capped mountain in East Africa.

A Victorian humorist was most likely responsible for this emotive “lavish royal gift” fable. It then grew in popularity as a marketing ploy popularized by tour operators and other tourism players.

Between the early 1880s until Germany’s loss in World War I, the country’s East African territory encompassed what is now Burundi, Rwanda, and mainland Tanzania, which was known as Tanganyika at the time. Britain used the Sultanate of Zanzibar as a stooge.

While the Heligoland Treaty makes no mention of a mountain, the delineation lines surrounding that area of the frontier do not appear to have changed. It is more likely that the Germans obtained Kilimanjaro by relinquishing their claim to Zanzibar and its whole Sultanate, which encompassed what is now the Kenyan Coast.

Because the treaty left them with the Dar es Salaam coast, Germany would not have been concerned about handing away the Sultanate’s coastline.

The legend of the Queen who gave her grandson a mountain has endured the test of time, yet it is fiction. While it typifies the excesses and arbitrary dividing that led to the formation of modern-day East Africa’s borders, there is no evidence to back it up. In the genuine story, there is a Guinness World Record. The pro-British Sultan Hamad died six years after the Heligoland Treaty and was succeeded by Sultan Khalid.

The British chose Hamud, another pro-British figure, and utilized a provision in the 1886 Zanzibar-Britain Treaty to give Khalid an ultimatum to quit.

The struggle to depose him began at 9 a.m. on August 27 and concluded at or before 9.40 a.m., a mere 40 minutes later, making it the world’s shortest war.

The Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty put an end to Germany’s interests in the Sultanate of Zanzibar, which explains Schneppen’s claim that Mount Kilimanjaro was included in the trade, but unrecorded in the treaty’s provisions.

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