Das Recht Der Dschagga


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When a young chief who with his age group is taking over the independent administration of the country the principles of ruling are stressed to such an extent that they amount to a real system of instruction for the chief.

This happened in Moschi when the regent Tukia retired with his age group and handed the province over to young Rindi. One Masiwa Temu at that time presented the body of precepts in an impressive manner. The fragments that still live on in the memory of the old people are here quoted at length as direct testimony of the sense of justice that dominated an age group. . . .

"Chief, we shall now step aside and deliver the province into your hands. If you ignore the advice of your men, you will not keep the country which you now receive from your father through our hands. Kiengerya mringa mfongo fukafo—matsotso: ’What increases the waters so that the canal is filled? The dripping springs.’ Support the poor man, that he may marry, and you will add to the country issue that fights bravely. Thus you will find men who are willing to serve you and who, when the time comes, will gladly shoulder a difficult task, which others would perform with resentment only.

"The place where an orphan survives is under your wing—and you will gain a circle of allies who till your fields for you. But if you shake your wings in displeasure, the orphans die—and you have no allies to till your fields.

"If you use your wings to protect the weak against the strong, i.e., the rich, by whom they are sorely pressed, you become their refuge. And those who gladly and frequently bring you victuals are just those humble ones whom you have rescued.

"A bird named ndo (raven) inhabits the steppe. With his wings he pushes the young out of the nest so that they fall to the ground and are eaten by the beasts of prey. That is the reason why this kind of bird is so rare. Don’t do as it does, chief, don’t push with angry wings. If a poor man comes into your yard, never turn him away; don’t scold him, don’t shun him. Help him instead, that he may regain his strength. This will enable you to summon the youth class to the grove at frequent intervals. But if you turn away the poor, your country will soon pass into the hands of an alien chief. . . .

"You must give clear and definite instructions and assemble the people at the right time. Then they will rejoice in having one who unites them. . . . We say that you have the eye of an eagle, that your watchful glance reaches into every part of your province. But if you depend on yourself alone, you will still remain blind. Into every territory you must send a special agent, to whom you give meat and other necessities. He will inform you what noteworthy things take place. Then you can summon the leaders and old men from all the territories and tell them what alarms or puzzles you. . . .

"If by chance even a leper comes to you and wishes to speak with you, don’t despise him, but follow him to the banana grove and listen to what he may have to tell you. It may well be that he alone was passed over when a plot was being hatched against you and now he has come to disclose it. . . .

"If you turn to oppression and impoverish the country and turn it into a poorhouse—that is your concern. Chief, never send sneaking agents around in the country to find out for you who has just brewed himself a little beer. These sniffers waste one half before they bring you the other. And the people become shy and secretive. If a farmer has brewed some beer and brings you some of it, accept it in good faith. If then his neighbor comes and accuses him, implying that he has brewed many vatfuls, don’t mark him down for punishment; that would ruin your country. Instead, conceal a warning in a joke; and he will thank you with a gift.

"You must always remember: As the wives of a man struggle for the favor of the common master, so the men vie with one another for the favor of the chief. . . .

"Don’t take over the country and destroy it as Orombo did. When Orombo saw the increase (in children), he said: ’They are all squatty!’ And he destroyed them, and thus his country went to ruin. Chief, do not destroy the country with your anger. While Orombo was still a lad he had the hyenas encircled by fire and burned. Then the survivors sang the chant of curses upon him. He also had all the lizards killed, and that only because one had strayed into his mouth while he was drinking. As chief he commanded that all children of short stature be killed, because he wanted only makisawu, long-legged people, about him, he himself being one. Thus the Wangumai, the Masai, had an easy task among the other chiefs when they urged them to betray Orombo. . . .

"If you hear that there are people inclined to treason, don’t decide anything alone, but summon those who belong to your body—your trusted associates.

"You are the pillar of the country, but don’t quarrel with it. If you do, we shall have to depose you and give the realm to your brother. They will not dare to tell you openly, when your reign becomes injurious to the country. But they will sing you a song: oruka luwode wuve. Heed the warning and reform. . . .

"The root of the baobab cannot be found, no matter how deep one digs. To dig out the root of the baobab is impossible. It is just as impossible to propitiate a dead man who left an oath of revenge behind as his last will. We tell you the same as we told your brothers at the age group change: Do not conspire against the life of a brother. A single evil deed in your house can annihilate your whole kinship; for who can satisfy a dead man’s desire for revenge? . . .

"The wife of a man is never struck. She is man’s donkey and carries his things. A man or a lad who is cursed or taunted by a woman shall swallow his anger. . . . If you punish a man who struck another man’s wife and take away cattle from him, the whole province will approve. Since the days of our fathers it has been impressed upon us that a man’s wife may not be struck. Men may strike each other, but no one is to lay hands upon a man’s wife. If a man is struck by a woman, he is to complain to her husband and settle with him, with blows, if necessary. . . .

"If a lad jostles an old man so that he falls to the ground and exposes himself, the children will perish. Tolerate no arrogance toward the old people. Whoever insults an old man, injures the whole country. . . .

"If a widow has children, let aid be given her by recommending her to the care of the leader of the district. If she has a son she is not to marry again. Then the boy will suffer want and perhaps even perish for lack of care. A woman who has girls only should marry again and get her inheritance. . . .

"If you sit down, no matter where, to partake of meat and see a veiled young woman (sign of pregnancy) pass by on the road, give her of what you eat, for she bears the coming generation. And if you are drinking beer, let your attendant bring her a cup that she may moisten her lips and pass by in peace. If you begrudge her these things your children will perish.

"We, the old men, now step aside and give the country to you and your men. We want to see how you rule it with their aid. Beware of a hasty decision. Let no anger seize you when someone comes bleeding to the council meadow and says to you: mangi, ndzimbahe: ’Chief, I am killed!’ Listen to both parties in the regular process of the law. It may turn out that the bleeding man was the one who sought the quarrel. Then you must say: ’Keep your cut to yourself.’ Investigate an accuser thoroughly. Do not act on instigation of an accuser, but summon two leaders and discuss the matter with them. Then do what they advise you.

"Keep the envy of neighbors in mired. Perhaps someone comes to you and accuses his neighbor of receiving a clandestine visitor from the (enemy) province Kiboscho, and of having slaughtered a fat ram for him. As proof he brings you a fresh bone, which he rescued from the waste. In reality, however, it is the bone of a sick goat which the accuser had to kill. If the accused person denies his guilt and, offering a head of cattle as pledge, wishes to know who the accuser or witness is, then you must name him. If the examination of the two does not clarify the matter, let them take the judicial test of the kimanganu [ordeal].

"When a man brings you the gift of an ox with the request that you have a clan brother of his killed, do not grant it, for not all in the clan would approve. But do not refuse the gift either. Put it in the kraal and summon a council of four trusted men, before whom you lay the matter. They will give you information about the state of affairs. One of them is to warn the threatened man that he should betake himself without delay to your house and beg for his life. This gives you an opportunity to call an assembly of the men, whom you inform that so-and-so has asked you to protect his life. The men will finally tell you that they cannot imagine who might want to see this person dead. Then name the man. This forces you to bring to light both the ox and the giver. But add that you are ignorant of who might have warned the threatened man. After that let the men settle the matter by themselves. They will force him who hates his brother to ask you for the return of the ox, instead of which he will give you two others. And he must remove his brother from your protection with a conciliatory gift of two cattle.

" You are the chief over all men. Grant the frightened one his life. Do not overlook hands crossed in suppliance and extended toward your lap. Give him back part of the animals given you in repentance.

"Do not drive away the poor man who brings you his gifts of produce secretly. Appreciation shown him who thus knocks at your gate brings still others, until the whole country becomes your source of gifts. Even in times of famine you will never suffer want. . . . The poor man fasts and denies himself food. Do not demand the poor man’s only cow for taxes. It is his only real possession and he sacrifices much to give it proper care, because his existence depends on it. Do not let yourself become prejudiced against him, as though he were only begrudging you the tribute. He will never improve if you take away his one and only possession. His wife will leave him, for she does not wish to live in a cold and empty house. Thus you have turned him into a dangerous person who may emigrate and betray the country. ’The roots of a banana plant are not pulled up until the fruit has matured.’"

The official transfer of the council ground to the next age group included also the commendation of the chief to the loyalty of the group. Care of the chief and care of the country were synonymous: "Today you men take over the country. The chief is yours. We make it plain—the chief belongs to you. . . . Whoever delivers up his country and becomes a mouse gnawing at the border, before him the chief will throw down his staff. Yes, even before a councilor of the chief the staff will be thrown down when he harbors intentions of cutting the throat of the chief. . . . "

The mouse gnawing at the border is the traitor who has commerce with neighboring chiefs. The throwing down of the staff by the chief is the pronouncement of the death sentence.1

1Gutmann, B.n/an/an/an/an/a, , 349–357, passim (C. H. Beck’sehe Verlagsbuchhandlung. By permission).


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Chicago: "Das Recht Der Dschagga," Das Recht Der Dschagga in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed May 27, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=54V795X3GRA9XVW.

MLA: . "Das Recht Der Dschagga." Das Recht Der Dschagga, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 27 May. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=54V795X3GRA9XVW.

Harvard: , 'Das Recht Der Dschagga' in Das Recht Der Dschagga. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 27 May 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=54V795X3GRA9XVW.