Classic DACB Collection

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

Mwaka, Andrea

Anglican Communion (Church Missionary Society)

Andrea Mwaka was one of the few and best known indigenous leaders in Ugogo, and to a great extent in Ukaguru too. It likely that Andrea knew Damari Sagatwa because Chamuhawi and Mpwapwa are only six miles apart.

His kinship name “Mwakamubi” is often shortened as “Mwaka.” “Mwakamubi” is a Kigogo word meaning “tragic year.” However, it is the shortened form “Mwaka” that is common, and is the one used throughout this study. “Mwakamubi” refers to an event in the late 19th century during which Andrea Mwaka’s father, chief Mugube Makanyaga of Kongwa and Ibwaga, lost a battle against the Wabera (a neighbouring ethnic group). The battle ensued from a dispute over elephant tusks which Makanyaga took from a dying elephant in the forest, but one that the Wabera hunters claimed they had shot earlier but had escaped only to die later. The elders on both sides decided, as was customary, that the dispute be settled by a hand fight in the open on a neutral ground. Only spears and shields were to be used.

But the Wabera fighters split into groups. One group remained in the open, another hid in the bush along the path to the fighting ground. While the procession to the fields went on, the hidden Wabera men ambushed Makanyaga’s men and shot at least two fighters. The remaining fighters and Makanyaga, their chief, fled towards their own village. By then news had reached the councils of elders that Makanyaga had lost the fight and run away. The village council of elders refused their chief entry into his palace, and cursed him. He went into exile, and when initially approached by delegates from the elders to beseech him to return home, he refused, partly because he feared for his life, but also due to anger at the way his own people had treated him. He stayed in exile at a village called Nyamuhero for seven years after which he agreed to return and assume his chieftaincy. When he returned, he renamed all his children. Unfortunately Cleopa couldn’t remember the original names of Mugube’s children because the story of the event was told to him several decades ago. But the man who was later baptized “Andrea” was renamed “Mwakamubi.” [1]

Andrea Mwaka, son of chief Mugube Makanyaga, was born at Kongwa. His date of birth can only be guessed at. Perhaps the date of his baptism may offer a better clue to his date of birth. Both his son Cleopa Mwaka, and the Clergy Register [2] agree that he was baptized in 1886. [3] But Cleopa Mwaka argues that since his father had been circumcised already, and though he might not have been as old as 19 (as he told his son), he was probably 15 and not 12 as estimated and recorded by Henry Cole who baptised him. His estimate, which based on the age of circumcision is probably right. This puts his date of birth around 1871. [4]

CMS archival and printed sources, as well as published books suggest that Andrea was a slave. [5] The following account gives details of how the confusion and inaccuracy over Andrea’s status might have originated. Andrea was kidnapped on his way back from Mpwapwa where he followed, but missed his father, who took another route back home. It shows that Andrea must have been an ambitious teenager but one who was also still prone to deception by a local slave dealer. Some Chamuhawi villagers intervened and took Andrea to chief Dikunguwale Madimilo, the local chief of Chamuhawi. The chief fed him but refused to let him go home, and enrolled him in Cole’s instruction class under his own surname as if he was one of his children. This concealed Andrea’s true identity. The custom of chiefs taking slaves they owned to mission schools instead of their own sons was common in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Chief Mugube Makanyaga began the search for his son, and learned chief Madimilo Dikunguwale had refused him permission to go home, and that the latter demanded a ransom which, in those days, was a normal custom regarding “lost” humans, animals, or property. But given the circumstances, Makanyaga considered this to be unfair and organized his army to fight and rescue his son. Henry Cole who lived at Chamuhawi at the time heard the war cry, and intervened. He agreed to pay the ransom to Madimilo-a large piece of garment, mgolole. He then asked Mugube Makanyaga to allow his son Andrea to remain at Chamuhawi mission station and continue his education there.

It is apparently this incident that some CMS missionaries misinterpreted thinking Andrea had been enslaved in the conventional usage of the word. It is this misinterpretation that appears in archival and printed CMS sources. [6] Writers such as Keith Cole, Carl-Erik Sahlberg have followed the same misinterpretation and suggested that Andrea was a slave. [7] Andrea Mwaka’s family and other people deny this, and state that he was merely kidnapped, and handed over to the chief of Chamuhawi who behaved rather mischievously towards his fellow chief, namely Mugube Makanyaga, the father of Andrea Mwaka. [8] The only difference of opinion between Elimerik Mlahagwa of Chamuhawi, and Cleopa Mwaka (Andrea’s son) is that the former thought that Makanyaga went to Mpwapwa to attend a court case at the German fort, and not to fetch food.

But this is less accurate, because if Mwaka was 15 years old in 1886 at his baptism (after staying with Henry Cole for some time), his kidnapping must have taken place a couple of years or so back, ca. 1884. Evidence suggests that at this time, the fort had not been built at Mpwapwa. Carl Peters completed his treaties with chiefs in Ukaguru and the northeast in 1886, and since then he had concentrated his commercial and political interests there. CMS missionaries at Mpwapwa or Chamuhawi do not mention the presence of the Germans at Mpwapwa in their letters written even in November 1888. But they mention the German presence in their letters written in March 1889 in connection with the Arab coastal uprising. This suggests that the Mpwapwa fort was established at the beginning of 1889, and was commanded by Lieut. Giese who was in charge when Bushiri attacked it in June and July 1889. [9]

While attending school at Chamuhawi, Mwaka worked as a domestic assistant for Henry and Henrietta Cole since 1882, and because of this connection was able to visit England twice–first in July 1883, and again in December 1889. On the first trip he accompanied Cole after the death of his wife at Chamuhawi, and on the second he travelled with May, Cole’s second wife.[10] His son Cleopa recalls what his father shared with him about his trip to Europe:

Raphael Akiri: Now tell me. How did he get there?

Cleopa Mwaka: He said that he was a childminder for the missionaries, and looked after their children. In those days travel was only by walking, up to Dar es Salaam. There was no railway. …They then boarded a ship. He said when they reached the Dead Sea, they showed him mount Sinai. They told him, “You often hear we read about Sinai. That is mount Sinai.” It was from a distance, on the eastern side. Then they passed through Suez, and arrived in Maselos [Marseilles] in France. There they took a train, and travelled through France, until they reached the shores on the other side. They took a ship, and landed at Dover. They took a machine [train] and arrived in London. In London his responsibility was to look after the children, and help with the domestic work. [11]

While in England, Andrea Mwaka did not only mind the children, but also had the opportunity to visit various places, including the London underground rail stations. [12] His mature age, and humour probably contributed to his ability to cope during his time in Britain, because he told his son Cleopa how he often made jokes with his hosts, for example by referring to the underground stations as “heaven.”

By July 1908, Andrea Mwaka had already been a teacher for some 16 years. This suggests he started working as a teacher in 1892.[13] In 1895, he was accompanied by his first wife Debora [14] to Frere Town divinity school in 1896 [15] where he studied with other teachers (Matayo from Chamuhawi, and Asani Mugimbwa and Daniel Chowe from Ukaguru). [16] Much of Andrea Mwaka’s lay ministry was at Chamuhawi. It is therefore here where his contribution was most notable.

Despite the presence of CMS missionaries at Chamuhawi, it is Andrea Mwaka’s name that is often associated with the success of mission work there especially early this century. After meeting him during his earlier visits to central Tanzania (April 1900, and October 1902), Peel wrote, “Christians and catechumens enjoy a peculiar blessing in the ministry of their quasi-pastor Andreya, whose faithfulness and thoroughness were easily apparent.” [17] His decision to appoint him as quasi-pastor as early as 1900 [18] must have been influenced by such qualities. Despite Peel’s observation, that “this very valuable teacher is not clever,” he declared in 1903, “but he is one who ought to be prepared for ordination as a village pastor.” [19] In 1904, Peel testified to Andrea Mwaka’s good work and leadership at Chamuhawi (formerly Kisokwe):

…The Lord has blessed the people under his care. The Christians at Kisokwe were fortunate in having Andreya, (…) as their quasi-pastor. Under his leadership they repaired the church, the school, and another large building, contributing labour and material of the value of more than £20, a considerable sum for such poor people. The adult baptism in the district numbered fourteen. [20]

During the Maji Maji uprising, Andrea Mwaka was left to carry on at Chamuhawi, and supervised mission work in other places. His son Cleopa Mwaka refers to that time, and what his father did:

…There was a time when the Europeans left [their stations]. But during that time they left him behind. They stayed there for some time because they suspected they might be attacked. When they returned, they found him doing a very good work. [21]

In 1906, on average, 200 worshippers attended Sunday service regularly at Chamuhawi. Daily attendance at the local elementary school was about 100. [22] From August 1907, Chamuhawi and Kiboriani were without a resident CMS missionary because Westgate and his wife went on holiday in Canada. Despite this, Andrea Mwaka, successfully carried on with his work. In that year, Chamuhawi had 223 Christians and 26 catechumens, far ahead of Mvumi that came second with 83 Christians, 13 catechumens, though of course Mvumi had 520 scholars compared with 413 at Chamuhawi.[23]

In the CMS mission report for 1909, the mission acknowledged Andrea Mwaka’s devotion and faithfulness to his duties, and described him as someone who continued to give every satisfaction. [24] In his capacity as quasi-pastor, he had indigenous staff to supervise, and this included Andrea Kanyanka, a Kaguru missionary. [25] Earlier (in 1905), Mwaka had been allowed to convert a house previously used by Henry Cole at Kisokwe into one that suited his needs and occupy it. The mission allocated 60 rupees for the task. [26] This shows the respect he received from the CMS missionaries. In another show of respect, in 1908, Andrea Mwaka’s salary [27] was increased from 10 to 12 rupees. [28] This was done in recognition of “the most efficient way in which he carries on the work at Kissokwe [Chamuhawi] and his long service as teacher (and now for some time as senior catechist or quasi-pastor) extending over 16 years.” [29] But that was only a modest sum because in 1903, a rupee was worth only just over 1.3 shillings. [30] To put this in the context of the British currency (sterling pound) used later, a leap has to be made to a decade or so later. In 1915, 20 rupees (Rs20) was thought to be equivalent to one pound sixty eight pence (£1.68p), [31] which suggests a rupee was equivalent to just over eight pence. So Andrea Mwaka’s Rs12 was equivalent to only 96 pence at the time.

Andrea Mwaka remained at Chamuhawi until 1921 when he moved to Buigiri after his ordination as deacon at Mombasa Kenya-then the base of the diocese of Mombasa, which covered Kenya and Tanzania. Three years later he was ordained as priest in 1924 at Buigiri. Cleopa (his son) was modest about his father being chosen for ordination:

That is known only by the Europeans themselves. But what I think was the reason was that he had been a convert for a long time, and he attended courses at Kongwa several times. These [kind of] reasons. Maybe his character as well. Of being committed, and loving the work. [32]

Andrea’s commitment that earned him much respect from both the indigenous Christians and CMS missionaries when serving as a teacher and quasi-pastor continued even after his ordination. In the early 1930s, George Chambers described him generously as follows:

Andrea Mwaka is a mine of wisdom, trusted by his fellow men and consulted on all sorts of matters. He has a great sense of humour, and a wonderful power of applying Christians ideals to African conditions when appealed to for his judgement. In all his ministry he ever seeks to bring his people into living touch with their Saviour and their Lord. [33]

Being the only pastor in Ugogo since 1921, he spent up to a month away from his home visiting churches at Zoisa, Itiso, Hombolo, Lindi, Msalato, Ngh’ungu, Ngh’ongh’ona, as well as Dodoma (at chief Birinje’s on the southeastern part of the modern city of Dodoma). His visits were by no means confined to Tanzania. He also attended church meetings at Mombasa, Kenya.

As a trusted leader, Andrea Mwaka’s work in Tanzania involved also looking after parishes whenever a CMS missionary pastor went on extended holiday. In 1928 he served at Mpwapwa briefly when Reuben Flinn went on holiday for a year. [34] He returned to Buigiri towards the end of that year, and served there until 1932 when he went to Kongwa to look after the church when Wynn Jones went on annual holiday. Then he began what became the beginning of the end of his work and life. “In the summer [dry season] of 1933” says Cleopa Mwaka, “the construction of the Dodoma cathedral church was completed. They told him, ‘You will serve at Dodoma.’ From Kongwa he went straight to Dodoma. He didn’t return to Buigiri.” [35] Even there, Andrea Mwaka’s responsibility extended well beyond the city parish. “It covered the town and the surrounding villages. He became responsible for villages located west of Buigiri, as well as Msalato, Ngh’ungu, Malindi, Zangh’a …” [36]

In the same year, Andrea Mwaka became one of the first four canons (senior pastors advising the bishop on general church work in a diocese). [37] The date Andrea Mwaka was honoured as a canon was historically significant for the diocese of Central Tanganyika which was established in 1927. The first meeting of the diocesan council met from 27 July to 1 August 1933 at Mvumi. [38] This council was put in place after the promulgation of the constitution of the diocese on 15 July 1933 that brought to an end the exclusive “all-white” executive committee of the CMS mission which had hitherto governed the mission. [39] It was at this council that Bishop Chambers named Andrea Mwaka and his colleague Haruni Mbega as canons. [40]

Unfortunately, Andrea Mwaka, now 62, did not live long after the momentous year during which other indigenous teachers were ordained too. His son, Cleopa Mwaka says, “in July 1935 he became ill with fever. He died on the last day of August. And since he died after midnight, the Europeans say it was the first day [of September].” [41] Cleopa Mwaka is right, for indeed, that is the date that writers such as Keith Cole have used. Cole writes, “on September 1935 Canon Andrea Mwaka died, and his loss was keenly felt by the whole Church throughout the Diocese.” [42] Putting aside the cultural difference as to whether a new day starts at midnight, or at sunrise the next morning, one can note the generous tribute to Andrea Mwaka by Keith Cole-his death was a loss “keenly felt.” In 1937 the diocesan council established a memorial fund for Andrea Mwaka, and resolved that a pastor’s house be built at a proposed Christian village in Dodoma town in his memory. [43] By January 1939, the house had been built. [44] Later, (but before the African bishop was elected in the Diocese of Central Tanzania in 1971), an international primary school designed to cater mainly to the children of Christian and secular expatriates serving in Dodoma was dedicated to Andrea Mwaka. The school is called, “Canon Andrea Mwaka Primary School.”

That such an honour would be bestowed on an African during the colonial era when many church buildings (whether used for worship or other purposes) were dedicated to the Europeans and Australians, or took their names from the Bible, was quite extraordinary and remains one of the visible symbols of his legacy to the church in Ugogo. The modern Diocese of Central Tanzania also decided (in the mid-1990s) to extend the honour by dedicating a secondary school in the city of Dodoma to Andrea Mwaka. [45]

Even though he had been given the name “Mwakamubi,” meaning “tragic year,” Andrea Mwaka became a blessing to many as a person and a minister. A number of informants interviewed for this study, people who had either seen him or heard of him, testify to this:

Mwaka was an exceptional man. He was a calm person, with listening qualities, and was energetic. That was how he was perceived by people. (…) He drew people through his calmness, and his ability to fulfil what people expected of him. (…) That is why people loved him, and think it would have been better for him to be here today! But because that is impossible, he is gone. But he is remembered for those things. [46]

In fact he was someone with a good sense of humour. He was compassionate. He was much loved. [47]

Such was the life and work Andrea Mwaka, “a trusted leader and great pastor.” [48] Beside his work as a teacher and pastor, he would certainly be voted one of the modern indigenous Tanzanian saints who made a substantial contribution in God’s work in Ugogo in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Raphael Mwita Akiri


  1. See Church Missionary Intelligencer (CMI), July 1889, 433; CMI, December 1889, 433, 739-743; Proceedings of the Church Missionary for Africa and the East (PCMS), 1890, 54.

  2. Clergy Register, CMS Mission and Diocese of Central Tanganyika (DCT), 1913 onwards.

  3. The date given by Cleopa, namely 10 November differs with that recorded in the Register of Clergy, which is 10 October. The latter is probably accurate, on date and month, because with rare exceptions, baptisms were recorded soon afterwards on the very day.

  4. The Clergy Register puts it at c. 1850, and Sahlberg at 1865, but these estimates are perhaps too early. See Clergy Register, CMS Mission and Diocese of Central Tanganyika (DCT), 1913 onwards; Sahlberg, Krapf to Rugambwa, 130.

  5. Cf. e.g. “The Christians at Kisokwe were fortunate in having Andreya, a freed slave, as their quasi-pastor.” See Proceedings of the Church Missionary for Africa and the East (PCMS), 1904, 98; K. Cole,* A History of CMS, 66; Sahlberg, *Krapf to Rugambwa, 130. Sahlberg writes, “In his youth he was a slave….”

  6. Ibid.

  7. Keith Cole, A History of CMS, 66. Sahlberg writes, “in his youth he was a slave….” Sahlberg, Krapf to Rugambwa, 130.

  8. Cf. Cleopa Mwaka, oral interview, 4/7/1997; Elimerik Mlahagwa, oral interview, 28/6/1997.

  9. See Church Missionary Intelligencer (CMI), July 1889, 433; CMI, December 1889, 433, 739-743; PCMS, 1890, 54.

  10. Knox, Signal on the Mountain, 148.

  11. Cleopa Mwaka, oral interview, 4/7/1997.

  12. Ibid.

  13. Minutes, Executive Committee of the CMS Mission (EC), 13-14/7/1908, G3 A8/0/1908/47.

  14. Debora died later, and Andrea Mwaka got married to his second wife, Marita, the mother of Cleopa Mwaka.

  15. PCMS, 1897, 100.

  16. Knox, Signal on the Mountain, 147, 148.

  17. Peel, “Usagara and Ugogo Revisited,” G3 A8/O/1903/38; idem. CMI, Vol. XXIX, March 1904, 193.

  18. Peel to Baylis, 8/3/1900, G3 A8/0/1900/14; idem. CMI, Vol. XXIX, March 1904, 193; Minutes, EC, 13-14/7/1908, G3 A8/0/1908/47.

  19. Peel, “Usagara and Ugogo Revisited,” G3 A8/O/1903/38.

  20. PCMS, 1904, 98.

  21. Cleopa Mwaka, oral interview, 4/7/1997.

  22. Report/Review of the Usagara-Ugogo Mission/Ukaguru-Ugogo Mission (RUUM), 1906, G3 A8/0/1907/23.

  23. PCMS, 1908, 62.

  24. RUUM, 1909, G3 A8/O/1910/40; Ernest Doulton to Baylis 6/12/1909 G3 A8/0/1910/13.

  25. Doulton to Baylis, 21 /11/ 1910, G3 A8/0/1910/83.

  26. Minutes, EC, 28-29/7/1905, G3 A8/0/1905/40.

  27. A note on salaries to indigenous teachers: CMS missionaries (who numbered about half the indigenous staff) were paid salaries ten times more than that of all the indigenous staff (put together). Until the end of 1902, teachers’ salaries were paid in clothes, but rupees were to be used from 1903 onwards. The rates were fixed as follows. Teachers who received 10 pieces of clothes received eight and a half rupees; and seven and a half and five rupees was paid to those who received eight and six pieces of clothes respectively. This time (January 1906), the only consideration given by the executive committee was that absence from home did involve extra expenses. For that reason an additional four pice a day for food was to be paid for each full day a teacher spent visiting an outpost and sleeping away from home. (Minutes, EC, 12-13/12/1902, G3 A8/0/1903/11 and 10/4/1906, G3 A8/0/1906/46)

  28. Minutes, EC, 13-14/7/1908, G3 A8/0/1908/47.

  29. Ibid.

  30. CMI, June 1903, 453; cf. W. G. Peel, “Usagara and Ugogo Revisited 1902-1903,” MS, G3 A8/O/1903/38; idem CMI, Vol. XXIX, March 1904, 196.

  31. See T. B. R. Westgate, In the Grip, 73.

  32. Cleopa Mwaka, oral interview, 4/7/1997.

  33. Chambers, Tanganyika’s New Day, 33.

  34. Minutes, Church Council of the Tanganyika Mission (CC), 3 /11/1928, Mackay House Archives (Diocese of Central Tanganyika) [MH]; Cleopa Mwaka, oral interview, 4/7/1997.

  35. Cleopa Mwaka, oral interview, 4/7/1997.

  36. Ibid.

  37. Haruni Mbega (who was ordained with him in 1921 and made responsible for Ukaguru) and two CMS missionaries Stanley King (who served mainly in Ukaguru), and Ralph Banks (who served in Ugogo) were also appointed canons at the same time.

  38. Minutes of the first Diocesan Council (DC) of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, Mvumi, 27/7-1/8/1933, MH. The diocesan council is the executive body of the Synod (general assembly) in most churches of the Anglican Communion.

  39. It must be emphasized, that it was not until April 1947 when the African Canon Yonathan Songola became a member of the diocesan council. See Minutes, DC, 19-23/4/1947, MH. The number of African representatives in the council was increased to three when the Synod meeting of 1948 elected Canon Daudi Muhando, and Rev. Yohana Omari to join Canon Yonathan Songola. See Minutes of the Synod of the Diocese, Dodoma, 6-10/1/1948, MH.

  40. Hewitt, Problems of Success, 192.

  41. Cleopa Mwaka, oral interview 4/7/1997. This writer visited Andrea Mwaka’s grave at the old cemetery at Mvumi “mission” hospital. Since as Cleopa Mwaka notes, the custom in those days was that dead bodies should not be moved from the location where death occurred, Andrea Mwaka was buried there.

  42. K. Cole, A History of CMS, 66. Sahlberg follows the same date. See Sahlberg, Krapf to Rugambwa, 130.

  43. Minutes, DC, 1-3/9/1937, MH.

  44. CTDL, No. 42, January 1939, 6.

  45. In passing, it may be observed that far too many African Christian institutions, churches, and places of worship are named using Jewish (“biblical”) and European (extra-biblical) names. The fetishism of equating Western or Semitic cultures with Christianity itself is one reason for this. The other is ignorance about the indigenous leaders in the history of the churches in the non-Western churches, and their contributions.

  46. Nehemia Uguzi, oral interviews, 18 and 19/6/1997.

  47. Esta Chali, oral interview, 26/6/1997.

  48. The phrase was used by Bishop George Chambers to describe Andrea Makwa. See CTDL, No. 4, January 1929, 4.

This article is reproduced, with permission, from “The Growth of Christianity in Ugogo and Ukaguru (Central Tanzania): A Socio-Historical Analysis of the Role of Indigenous Agents 1876-1933,” unpublished Ph.D. thesis (University of Edinburgh, 1999) by Raphael Mwita Akiri.