Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.

Kamwana, Elliott Kenan (B)

Watch Tower

Christian separatist church leader; introduced Watch Tower movement to central Africa.

His first Christian affiliation was with the Free Church of Scotland Mission in northern Nyasaland (now Malawi), where he led a mass Presbyterian revival between 1899 and 1903. He was then baptized an Adventist by Joseph BOOTH. He visited South Africa with Booth and there joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses. On his return to Nyasaland in 1909 in introduced the Witnesses’ Watch Tower Movement and preached that the millenium would come in 1914, when all Europeans were to leave Africa. Within a few months he baptized more than 10 000 people into the movement. British authorities grew alarmed and sent him back to South Africa.

Kamwana next went to the lower Zambezi River in Mozambique and preached until 1914, when the Portuguese returned him to Nyasaland. After the outbreak of World War I the British blamed him for their difficulties in recruiting Africans into the army and imprisoned him in the Seychelles and Mauritius. The failure of the millenium to arrive in 1914 had only a slight impact on Kamwana’s adherents. He returned home in 1937 to find his movement still alive, and led a much reduced Watch Tower movement through the 1950s.

Mark R. Lipschutz and R. Kent Rasmussen


Linden, Jane & Ian Linden. “John Chilimbwe and the New Jerusalem.” JAH 12 (4) (1971): 629-51.

Shepperson, George A. & Thomas Price. Independent African: John Chilembwe and the Origins, Setting and Significance of the Nyasaland Native Uprising of 1915. Edinburgh: University Press, 1958.

Barrett, David B. “Who’s Who of African Independent Church Leaders.” Risk (Geneva, W.C.C.) 7(3) (1971): 23-34.

Rotberg, Robert I. The Rising of Nationalism in Central Africa: The Making of Malawi and Zambia, 1873-1964. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967.

Pachai, Bridglal (ed.). Livingstone, Man of Africa: Memorial Essays, 1873-1973. London: Longmans, 1973.

This article is reproduced, with permission, from Dictionary of African Historical Biography, 2nd edition, copyright © 1986, by Mark R. Lipschutz and R. Kent Rasmussen, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California. All rights reserved.