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From my memory of when I watched Black Panther (it's been a few months), Killmonger knows how to and is able to get into Wakanda by himself it seems. This answer says that he needs

Klaue's dead body to gain favour from the local Wakandans and foment a rebellion

But that doesn't match my recollection - the rebellion is almost ready and Killmonger doesn't seem to need to gain favour.

Why does Killmonger team up with Klaue in the first purpose then, if Klaue serves no purpose in getting to Wakanda?

I can only guess Klaue was used as a narrative device as a call back to previous films?

If not, then what purpose does Klaue serve to the story?

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    That would be a mini-boss ;D OK, OK, a secondary antagonist.
    – Mithoron
    Apr 28 at 17:54

2 Answers 2

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No one knows who Killmonger is before he gets to Wakanda. Sure he can easily reveal himself as a Wakandan and N’Jobu’s son but bringing Klaue’s body in gets him through the gate more easily. Especially as the Wakandans know him as a mercenary against them so they’d be most likely to turn him away and think of him as lying before taking it to be the truth.

It also plays into his showmanship bringing the dead body in and calling it a gift. Getting himself an audience with the king and council before revealing his identity.

Lastly, though and most importantly it elevates his status. He’s not just some mercenary Wakandan that doesn’t know the traditions. He was able to do what the king couldn’t do, this buys him favour with those already upset with the king for not being able to bring Klaue in.

Killmonger: I'm standing in your house... serving justice to a man who stole your vibranium and murdered your people. Justice your king couldn't deliver.

Black Panther

In short Killmonger doesn’t need to start a rebellion he needs to get allies and people to support him in challenging for the throne and then keeping it if he wins the challenge.

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    I'm guessing this was his plan all along?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Apr 29 at 12:15
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There's some subtext to the presentation as well revolving around W'Kabi of the Border Tribe. The dialogue only hints at this sub-story

One day, as Wakanda prospered, a weapons trafficker named Ulysses Klaue managed to infiltrate Wakanda and steal a quarter-ton of vibranium. To facilitate his escape, Klaue triggered a bomb at the border, killing several members of the Border Tribe, including W'Kabi's parents. Unable to recover from this trauma, he began to devote a deep hatred to Klaue and swore to hunt him down until his death.

Klaue wasn't just some criminal at this point. He was more or less the Wakandan version of Osama Bin Laden, the man who plotted the Sept 11, 2001 attacks. W'Kabi (and a lot of others) wanted him dealt with, something that King T'Chaka (T'Challa's father, who was apparently more isolationist) was unwilling to handle (all quotes from this transcript)

T'CHALLA: Klaue has escaped our pursuits for almost 30 years. Not capturing him was perhaps my father's greatest regret. I wish to bring Klaue back here to stand trial.
W'KABI: My parents were killed when he attacked. Not a day goes by when I do not think about what Klaue took from us, from me.

Things do not sit well with him when T'Challa returns empty-handed

W'KABI: What's going on, brother? Where is Klaue?
T'CHALLA: He's not here.
T'Challa's eyes lower regretfully
T'CHALLA: He slipped through our hands.
W' KABI: Slipped? For 30 years your father was in power and did nothing. With you I thought it would be different. But it's more of the same.

Manwhile, Erik Killmonger became highly skilled at taking down governments

ROSS: Now these guys [referring to Killmonger, et. al.] are serious. They will drop off the grid so they can commit assassinations and take down governments.

Killmonger knew a great deal about Wakanda's politics, undoubtedly from his father, Prince N'Jobu. Klaue's attack on Wakanda would have been known to N'Jobu (30 years from 2016 would put this attack somewhere around 1986, well before N'Jobu's death in 1992) and it's very possible Killmonger was told of it. As such, he would know that not only would it get him immediate respect from the Border Tribe (most of all W'Kabi), but also gain him their political allegiance as well (which it did).

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  • Just to add to the last part, we know Klaue's attack was known to N'Jobu and referenced specifically in the conversation between N'Jobu and T'Chaka. T'Chaka specifically informs that the vibranium was stoled by Klaue, says that Klaue would have needed inside help, then asks N'Jobu why he betrayed Wakanda, with a clear implication that Klaue and N'Jobu worked together to make that attack/heist happen. With Killmonger having access to his father's book/diary thingy, it's entirely plausible (but as far as I know not confirmed) that he knew about Klaue on the very day he found his father killed.
    – DariM
    May 3 at 22:39

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