Kilwa is a coastal District located about 330 Kms to the south of Dar es Salaam; it is one of the 6 districts of the Lindi Region of Tanzania. Kilwa is divided into three different towns: Kilwa Kivinje, Kilwa Masoko and Kilwa Kisiwani with Songo Mnara and Sanje Ya Kiti. The population of Kilwa is about 180,000; most of them live in poor conditions.
In the early 16th century, Vasco da Gama extorted tribute from the wealthy Islamic state, but not soon after, another Portuguese force commanded by D. Francisco de Almeida took control of the island in (1505) after besieging it, It remained in Portuguese hands until 1512, when an Arab mercenary captured Kilwa and expelled the Portuguese. The city regained some of its earlier prosperity, but in 1784 it came under the rule of the Omani rulers of Zanzibar. After the Omani conquest, the French built and manned a fort at the northern tip of the island, but the city itself was abandoned in the 1840s. It was later part of the colony of German East Africa from 1886 to 1918.
Kilwa it is bordered to the North by the Pwani Region, to the East by the Indian Ocean, to the South by the Lindi Rural District and to the West by the Liwale District. Kilwa Kivinje was the site of the German’s southern administrative headquarters in the late 19th Century. The old Boma and German market hall are from this colonial period. There is still a good number of old colonial buildings and crumbling remains of ancient Omani buildings and mosques.
A community member who lived in Kilwa from his young age upto 1960 explains that the Khoja community came to Kilwa in the late 1800s and established shops and engaged in trading. By 1905 (1320/1321 AH) there were about 50 families, later on 22 families proclaimed the Madh’ab of Ahlulbayt (A.S.) and separated from the main stream Khoja Ismailis. Following this episode, in 1906, they had to look for a suitable place to establish a Mosque, Imambargha and Madressah; they approached the German Consul General in Kilwa, who considering their fate sympathetically gave a big plot free of charge. The same plot where the Mosque, Imambargha and Madressah were built and still exists, it is said the project was completed by 1912.
Around the same time, a land was obtained behind the Imambargha for Cemetery and a wall made from coral stones mixed with lime was built around it which still exists. By this time there were 25 families of Shia Ithna-Asheri and 35 families of Ismaili in Kilwa, where previously the Ismaili Cemetery was being used for all Khojas.
The KSI Jamaat of Kilwa which was formed in around 1905/1906 is no more. The building housing Imambargha on the first floor, Musafarkhana and two shops on the ground floor and the adjacent Cemetery are in dilapidated condition, and deserted. It is reported that the census which was carried out in Kilwa Jamaat by AFED in 1946/1947 recorded a population of 112 heads, the Jamaat grew in the later years to 175 (1958/9 figures) but the number did not sustain for long. As the economy of Kilwa Kivinje worsened, the families started moving out to look for greener pastures; some went to Lindi town which is 176 Kms from Kilwa Kivinje and some to the coastal city of Dar es Salaam which is 300 Kms. From 1960 to 1970, most of the families had left Kilwa, leaving behind the structures built by the founders of the Kilwa Jamaat through great sacrifices and hardships.
On Sunday, 24th November 2013, the AFED Hon. Treasurer, Al Hajj Mohamed Hemani, the Hon. Secretary, Alhaj Aunali Khalfan and accompanied by two elders of our community originally from Kilwa, namely Alhaj Gulamabbas Dharsee from Dar es Salaam and Alhaj Ramzan Dhanji, presently residing in London travelled by road from Dar es Salaam to Kilwa. They noticed that there is a need for substantial repair and renovations works needed to maintain this historical place of our community. It is estimated that the cost of all works involved to bring the facilities to a useable and good status is about US$25,000/-.
Donors who wish to contribute funds towards this project are welcome and are requested to contact the AFED Secretariat in Dar es Salaam. The repair works will start as soon as possible.
We are thankful to Alhaj Gulamabbas Dharsee to give his valuable time for his time and for the supervision of the repairs and renovation works of the existing buildings in Kilwa.
Alhaj Gulamabbas has also informed us that there was one “Wadi” (Shamba) named Hussein Bagh was bought in early 1900s, at Rupees Five Thousand through donations from the elders of the community the income from the Shamba helped to pay for the workers’ wages etc. Presently there is no information available on the whereabouts of the Shamba, and no documents can be traced.