In the early 19th century a young German, Carl Peters, was so excited by the reports of explorers, Burton, Speke, Livingstone and Stanley, about East Africa that he set up , of his own accord, a Company for German Colonization. Thereby starting what later became German East Africa – now Tanzania – the northern boundary of which was East African Protectorate controlled by the British and is now Kenya .
Longido was, and is, an area near the borders of present day Tanzania and Kenya . By 1914 it had become a major German settlement area with established plantations of sisal, coffee and other cash crops at the northern edge of the Usambara highlands
The Battle of Kilimanjaro at Longido took place in German East Africa, early November 1914, a few months after the outbreak of World War 1 in Europe.
Since small German raiding parties had already begun to ambush British detachments, the destruction of German forces in the area bordering British East Africa was a key objective of the British plan of operation. “The strategy was faultless on paper.” The brigade included colonial volunteers called East African Mounted Rifles. Wrong intelligence reports estimated the German military presence to be in the region at 200 men; however, there were 600 askaris in three companies plus the colonial volunteers of 8th Schützenkompagnie [rifle company] of 86 young Germans on horseback.
“On November 3rd 1914 about 1,500 Punjabis of the British force came up the slope at night near LONGIDO and, at daylight in the morning fog were caught in the crossfire of a strong German defensive position”. The Indian infantry fought well, but during the day there was a considerable number of casualties. By mid-morning a mounted patrol of the German rifle company ambushed a British supply column and some 100 donkeys carrying water were scattered by the German horsemen. Also many of the carriers panicked and dropped their loads leaving food and ammunition behind as they ran away. By dark the British officers, having accomplished nothing pulled out and down the mountain ,and marched back to British East Africa. “This defeat of the invaders by a force less than half their size cooled the enthusiasm for war especially amongst the British volunteers.” The eventual outcome of the so-called British conquest of German East Africa failed. Although in 1919 Tanzania was mandated to Britain by the League of Nations, Tanganyika gained its independence from Britain in 1961.
The actual town of Longido in the area of the same name, is some 80 kms north of Arusha, close to the Kenya border. Many Maasai live here in their traditional huts. Maasai men in their red robes can be seen walking the often dry and dusty plains with their livestock. The land is dominated by pastoral land, governed by tribal land rights. Over the years, thousands of acres of pastoral land have been set aside by the government for schools, clinics, game parks and camp sites. In 2007, Longido became a district, and the government began constructing district offices and buildings. The Government’s action was explained as: “The aim of the district council is to bring service closer to the people. The Maasai people should not be worried because we want to make sure that the land is used sustainably.” However these developments have encroached on traditional grazing land and threatened the basis of Maasai culture and livelihood – their cattle.