Khaua-Mbandjeru Rebellion
The aboriginal African natives of the area originally referred to by the Portuguese as Angra Pequena
Angra Pequena
Angra Pequena was a small coastal area in what is now known as Lüderitz, Namibia.First discovered by Europeans in 1487 by the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias. On April 10, 1883 Heinrich Vogelsang first landed at Angra Pequena...

 did not share the European attitude of private property ownership. Indeed, the entire "purchase" or "lease" by Heinrich Vogelsang, representative of Lüderitz, was fraudulent for several reasons. The Herero and Nama explained in detail that land was shared communally; no person, not even a chief, could sell or lease lands that didn't "belong" to them. From the European legal perspective, use of land by indigenous people, which had since been "bought" or "leased" by others, was viewed as "theft". Similarly, the indigenous people really did not "steal" other people's cattle, as the concept of cattle "ownership" was equally questionable. Nevertheless, the Germans in what later became known as German South West Africa based their sovereignty in the area not only upon fraud, but a profound misunderstanding about the nature of property. Thus, when the indigenous people objected, the Germans viewed this as a legally-based rebellion. (Recall, the Germans were not legal occupiers to begin with.) Several quotations will be cited below where it is claimed that Germans "purchased" cattle, horses, etc.: please keep in mind that this concept of "purchase" (assuming it was ever true) was a German concept, not a concept of the indigenous peoples. From the viewpoint of the indigenous peoples, the Germans simply stole cattle, horses, etc. Perhaps this is why it is sometimes said that cattle, horses, etc were forcibly "purchased".


The Khaua-Mbandjeru Rebellion took place in 1896, before the Herero and Namaqua Genocide
Herero and Namaqua Genocide
The Herero and Namaqua Genocide is considered to have been the first genocide of the 20th century. It took place between 1904 and 1907 in German South-West Africa , during the scramble for Africa...

, which began circa 1904. Thus, the Herero and Nama already had a precedent as to how the Germans intended to act in German South West Africa.

One of Theodor Leutwein
Theodor Leutwein
Theodor Gotthilf Leutwein was colonial administrator of German Southwest Africa from 1894-1904. Born in Strümpfelbrunn in the Grand Duchy of Baden, he replaced Curt von François as commander of the Schutztruppe in 1894...

's most urgent tasks in German South West Africa was to establish German sovereignty throughout the colony. Unfortunately, he did this by interfering with tribal organization.

Circa 1894, a German trader had been murdered in Kaiǀkhauan (Khauas Nama) tribal territory around Naosanabis (today's Leonardville
Leonardville is the name of the following settlements:* Leonardville, Kansas* Leonardville, Namibia...

), "and the chief had refused to hand over the murderer to Major Kurt von François
Curt von Francois
Curt Karl Bruno von François was a military and political figure in the early days of German colonialism in Africa. He is remembered as one of the pioneers of German Southwest Africa ....

. In addition, the Kuaha had attacked a group of tribesman from Bechuanaland, who lived on their lands under German protection. They had killed many people and had stolen their cattle. Finally, the Khaua chief had ill-treated a Berg-Damana chief who had acted as von François's messenger and demanded the surrender of the German trader. By these actions the Khaua chief, Andries Lambert
Andreas Lambert
Captain Andreas Lambert, also: Andries Lambert, Nama name: ǃNanib, was the second Kaptein of the Kaiǀkhauan , a subtribe of the Orlam, in the eastern area of South-West Africa, today's Namibia....

, had flouted every aspect of public order with an almost systematic thoroughness."

Leutwein wanted to discipline the Khaua for political reasons, especially because the Bechuanas who had been attacked, had been under a protection treaty.

"In February 1894, a few weeks after landing in Swakopmund, Leutwein marched to the Khaua tribal centre with a hundred troops and one field-gun. ... His tactical surprise was only intended to prevent the tribe from scattering, and to allow him to appear as the representative of victorious state authority. ... in the negotiations of 17 March 1894, Andries Lambert accepted Leutwein's conditions[, which] involved the recognition of German sovereignty, the surrender of arms and munitions, the return of stolen cattle and the pledge that he would act 'peacefully and quietly' in the future."

To ensure compliance, Andries Lambert was released "to supervise the surrender of arms and stolen goods, but hostages were detained, among them the chief's brother. The chief then attempted to escape from the Germans with his whole tribe, but the preparations ... were discovered".

Lambert was arrested and subsequently executed. This is thought to be the first execution of a Namibian traditional leader by the German colonial forces. Historical records indicate that Leutwein intended to set an example for much stronger tribes not to stand in his way.

In the aftermath of this incident, Leutwein "called a meeting of the remainder of the tribe[.] ... The meeting decided the succession. Since the legitimate heir had been brought up with a branch of the tribe in Berseba the meeting appointed Andries Lambert's brother regent until the arrival of the new chief. He and the whole tribal assembly signed the protection treaty, which was to be ratified later in Windhoek by the new chief. Their weapons remained impounded and were to be returned only 'after quiet behaviour'. The horses were forcibly purchased by the Germans and the money deposited in Windhoek until the new chief should come to present his credentials. The stolen cattle were returned to the Bechuana who were promised their living areas 'in the name of His Majesty the Emperor'. Previously they had only leased [sic] them from the Khaua. ..."

The tribe's submission meant it was "forbidden to wage war and to raid [sic] cattle", even though these activities were the entire basis of the tribe's economic existence. Without "raiding" cattle they could not hope to survive. (Unlike the Herero, the Khaua did not increase their small herds by systematic cattle-raising, and they had no organised system of reserve supplies.)

"In the longer term, Leutwein's policy had a devastating effect on the Khaua tribe. Not only had the chief been made liable to deposition, but no substitute was found for their nomadic life of raiding and hunting. Their whole tribal structure was shattered. Although the material and organisational framework had been preserved for the tribe to live independently on the basis of cattle-breeding ... the Khaua could have benefitted from these opportunities only if they had been their own independent and rational decisions. ... There was no opportunity for a gradual process of acculturation to take place. ...

"In 1896 The Khaua rebelled against the restraint in which they lived. The revolt was defeated, and the tribe scattered into prisoner-of-war and forced-labour camps and lost their entire territory."

Native Uprisings and Their Results in the Leutwein Era, 1896-1903

Year Indigenous Group Result
1896 Mbandjeru and Khaua Mbandjeru Dispersed; leaders shot dead; 12,000 cattle taken away. Khaua disarmed and interned in forced labour camps; their territory taken.
1897 Afrikaaners Tribe Captured; leaders shot.
1897–1898 Zwartboois Tribe Disarmed and interned in Windhoek.
1900 Bastaards from Grootfontein Tribe Disarmed, dissolved and partly interned in Windhoek.
1903 Bondelswarts Tribe Disarmed, the run-away leaders banned

Various other uprisings of indigenous peoples took place well before the Herero and Nama rebellions of 1903-1908. Examples include the Damara uprising of 1888, Topnaar uprising of 1891, Ovambanderu uprising of 1896, the Grootfontein Baster uprising of 1901, and the Kavango uprising of 1903.

See also

  • German South West Africa
  • Herero Wars
  • Research Materials: Max Planck Society Archive
    Research Materials: Max Planck Society Archive
    At the end of World War II, the Kaiser Wilhelm Society was renamed the Max Planck Society, and the institutes associated with the Kaiser Wilhelm Society were renamed "Max Planck" institutes. The records that were archived under the former Kaiser Wilhelm Society and its institutes were placed in the...

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