THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ABDULWAHID SYKES (1924-1968). THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE MUSLIM STRUGGLE AGAINST BRITISH COLONIALISM IN TANGANYIKA. Mohamed Said. Minerva Press. 1998. 358pp.
The key to this complex fascinating and at times infuriating book lies in the first paragraph of the author’s introduction.
‘This work is a product of my own experience and exposure to the memories and recollections of many people, and to events which took place in Dar es Salaam. Being born in Dar es Salaam where the modem politics of Tanganyika, as mainland Tanzania was then known, had its strongest bas~, I have many recollections of personalities and events which took place at that time. Word of mouth from people who saw events take place before their very eyes enriched my knowledge. When I was a student of Political Science at the University of Dar es Salaam where the research for this book actually began, I found out that what was taught about nationalist politics in Tanganyika did not tally with what I knew. Gradually I came to conclude that there was a deliberate attempt to down play the role of certain personalities in the nation’s political history.’
The ‘personalities’ referred to are revealed in the book to be the Muslim leaders in general, and his hero and subject Abdulwahid Sykes in particular. Note that the author, born in Dar es Salaam in 1952, was a two year old toddler when T ANU was formed, only 9 years old at the time of UHURU, and a 16 year old teenager when his subject died. He had perforce to rely largely on his father, his family and their friends for information, reinforced later by his own extensive and scholarly academic research.
His filial piety is to be commended as is his transparent loyalty to Islam which illuminates his book. The problem for the reader however is that the result of this blend of reminiscence repetition hearsay experience and scholarship is an extraordinary literary maze with paths leading in all directions through time and space, hundreds of characters appearing and reappearing in bewildering succession, until one hardly knows which way to turn. Although I have the advantage of having known personally many of the leading figures, albeit some 40 years ago, including Abdulwahid Sykes himself and his brothers Ally and Abbas; Ally in particular having been a close friend. The illustrations include an enchanting photograph of the Sykes boys in the 1930s, the youngest Abbas clutching a bunch of flowers and Ally wearing a white pith-helmet! Their father Kleist, a legendary character, died in 1949 before I came to Dar es Salaam, but I knew his kinsman and fellow Zulu Machado Plantan, editor of ZUHRA, quite well. They brought the courage energy and intelligence of the Zulu to the drowsy denizens of Gerezani, ensuring for themselves a secure place in the Muslim elite so often referred to by the author.
Kleist Sykes enlisted in the German Army at the age of 12 and fought in World War I. His eldest son Abdulwahid was conscripted into the K.A.R. aged 17; inspired by this Ally ran away from home aged 15 to volunteer for the War. They served together in Ceylon and Burma, where on Christmas Eve 1945, they made a pact to found a political party after the War. Its’ name was to be ‘Tanganyika African National Union’ (TANU). Ally remembers that Abdulwahid wrote the name of the proposed party in his diary. Later Ally personally designed the TANU membership card (similar to his Tanganyika Legion Card) and chose the national colours. (Black for [text missing in original]
The reader is rewarded for his pains however when he finds some of the precious pearls which Mohamed Said has uncovered in the depths of his research, referred to in Dryden’s couplet at the start of the book:
‘Errors like straws, upon the surface flow.
He who would search for pearls must dive below.’
They include: a tribute to the liberal Governor Sir Donald Cameron who encouraged the founding of the African Association in New Street in 1930; the fact that the colours of the Young Africans’ Football Club, green and black, were the same as TANU’s and their supporters identified with the new party; the strange tale of the banishment by the British of Sheikh Abdallah, the Liwali of Mikindani, the centre of Islamic knowledge, after ‘declining to perform duties not conforming with his status, dignity and respect to Islam .. .’ What were they?! the revelation that there were only 630 registered voters in Muslim Bagamoyo District from a population of 89,000 in the 1958 election; and, in lighter vein, Trevor Griffith-Jones is referred to as the Chief Secretary on page l39 where the then Attorney-General, the late Sir Arthur Grattan-Bellew, is also delightfully described as Gratten Below! Finally, the author’s claim that Nyerere, having been supported for the leadership of TANU in 1954 by Abdulwahid Sykes, then Chairman of the Tanganyika African Association, and the Muslim elite on whose support he also initially relied to gain independence from the British, quietly chose to ‘forget them …’; he goes further still citing a catalogue of alleged arrests, detentions, vote rigging and even cooking the Census and bribery by the independent Government of Tanzania in order to ensure the downgrading of Islam.
Mohamed Said recalls the fact that Muslims had lived on the coast since the 8th Century, whilst the 19th Century Christian Missionaries were relatively recent arrivals in the wake of the Colonial rulers. Eight Christian Ministers of Education held office in succession until the appointment of Professor Kighoma Ali Malima as the first Muslim Minister in 1987. ‘In Islam politics and religion are inseparable … in 1955 we saw how Muslims managed to establish a secularist -nationalist ideology as a means of forging national unity. Separation of religion and politics was therefore one of the sacred and cherished ideals of TANU. It is from this background that we can now understand the contradictions which came to engulf Tanzanian politics soon after Independence.’
Here I must leave it to the readers to make up their own minds since I was not there after 1973. In any event the author, whilst striving to maintain academic detachment, has seen to it that the Muslim case has not gone by default.
I can only close by saying that throughout my own service in East Africa and Tanzania (1943-1973) I never noticed any anti-Muslim bias by the British or the Tanzanian Governments. If anything rather the reverse since the great local rulers revered by the British like the Sultan of Zanzibar, the Liwalis of the Coast, Chief Adam Sapi, Chief Abdallah Fundikira and the merchant princes H.H. The Aga Khan, Abdulkarim Karimjee and V.M. Nazerali were all Muslim. After all, Nyerere’s successor was a Muslim; ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating.’ CASE NOT PROVEN.
IN QUEST OF LIVINGSTONE. A journey to the Four Fountains. Colum Wilson and Aisling Irwin. House of Lochar. 1999.242 pages. £13.99.
In this quite exceptional travel book a man and wife, each with distinctive reactions and intuitions, describe a cycling odyssey through south-western Tanzania, while endeavouring incidentally to inject some meaning into the three most fundamental influences on the lives of African people -colonisation, Christianity and the slave trade.
Considering the immensity of such a task it is unsurprising that the issues are not as comprehensively examined as they obviously need to be, but the findings and observations of the writers provide many fresh insights into them. Unusual also is the fact that sometimes contradictory interpretations of the same scenes and events are freely and candidly expressed by two accomplished writers with excellent powers of description.
Both, like Livingstone, are brave and determined. Whereas most travel writers tend to journey in comparative comfort and spend a lot of time on research and passive observation, Colum and Aisling are under constant attack from the elements and other natural obstacles such as mud and sand as well as occasionally suffering from the limitations of mechanical transport. While expressing astonishment at Livingstone’s stoical fortitude and endurance they unwittingly reveal their own steadfastness and courage, for they were not constantly accompanied, as he was, by a train of devoted servants. Aisling, it would appear, suffered more than her husband.
Explaining the choice of transport Aisling writes: ‘Authenticity is allimportant … We had to be free to pass into the depths of the land, not knowing when we would return to a road. Bicycles were the answer; they would be our pack-animals.’
While Colum was intrigued by Livingstone’s exploratory obsession, Aisling was more interested in the seemingly irreconcilable aspects of his character, including the psychological effects of his upbringing in Blantyre, Scotland, as a child worker in a cotton mill, accentuated by his religious convictions and his ‘ascetism’. She writes: “In a sense he sought pain. His was a conscious and deliberate endurance. ”
She compared his impatience with his fellow whites with his sensitive and sympathetic attitude towards Africans, even understanding their resistance to Christianity. Livingstone wrote ‘Africans are not by any means unreasonable. I think unreasonableness is more a hereditary disease in Europe than in this land.’ This seems illogical when one considers Livingstone’s behaviour to his long-suffering wife who died on a previous Zambesi expedition, and his children, for which he later suffered remorse.
There are intriguing accounts of meetings with missionaries, including the White Fathers and the Benedictine monks at Mwimva. Simon and Celia, of the African Inland Mission, told them: “The life of an African fanner is very similar to the life described in the Bible. Their food, their clothes, their houses -it’s much closer to the Bible than our lives in the West. They understand spirituality here.”
On the question of cultural interference, Colum refers to ‘the cold intransigence’ of the missionary movements and believes that many African churches ‘became a vehicle for those attempting to realise a nationalist dream’, leading to the ‘African socialism’ of President Nyerere and the problems of ujamaa and villagisation, with which he deals sympathetically.
About another aspect of Tanzanian life Colum has this to say: ‘As I returned from the market the rain began. Fierce stuff, it thrummed on the dusty ground around me and formed rivulets down the road. I remembered that Livingstone’s equipment for dealing with the rain had included a small segmental boat and paddles. We were bringing nothing but waterproof groundsheets. To succeed in following Livingstone would depend on a long series of triumphs over broken bicycles, swollen rivers, pathless mountains and endless swamps. How could we possibly triumph over such odds?’
Succeed they did, and the story of their pilgrimage through many Tanzanian villages into Zambia, including a number of fascinating photographs, is a riveting one.
John Budge THE BOERS IN EAST AFRICA. ETHNICITY AND IDENTITY. Brian M. du Toit, University of Florida. Bergin and Garvey. 1998.209 pages.
This book provides a fascinating account of Boer Settlement in East Africa. My interests in the Afrikaner began when as a boy in Holland I was gripped by books about the Boer war detailing Boer victories. The book briefly discusses the scramble for Africa, the Boer war, and its aftermath and looks in greater detail into the role ethnicity played in the Boer settlement into East Africa and in its final demise in the early sixties.
The Boer defeat in the Anglo -Boer war in 1902 and the destruction, bitterness, and divisions which it caused among the Afrikaners was the root cause for the Boers arrival in East Africa. Today Field Marshall Lord Kitchener, the British War Hero and victor, would possibly sit in the cells of the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague accused of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. After my own childhood years in Japanese concentration camps I fully understand Boer feelings. My mother cursed the Japanese until the day she died.
The period of active settlement in East Africa was short -1905 to 1908. Neither the British (in Kenya) nor the Germans (in Tanganyika) enjoyed or encouraged the arrival of the Afrikaners, a troublesome lot of suspect loyalty. Their story is one of adventure, hardship, suffering, tenacity, and a brief period of triumph and economic success after World War II, but in the final analysis, one of failure as the Afrikaner returned to his roots in the South and abandoned the land of which he had never become a part.
The scramble for Africa is a story of Europe’s unbridled audacity and arrogance during which it grabbed a continent much larger than itself. A couple of enterprising young Germans and a gunboat off Zanzibar yielded up Tanganyika. By 1913, 79 German officials supported by black Zulu, Sudanese and Somali mercenaries controlled 7.6 million Africans. There was resistance but it was quickly overcome at a time when the country suffered from disastrous rinderpest and an outbreak of smallpox; locust attacks inflicted famine. Afrikaners did not like the German administration in Tanganyika. It was strict and bureaucratic and Germans tended to think of African interests as being paramount. Many settlers soon moved on into the Belgian Congo or into British East Africa. They found life under the Germans too restrictive. One German woman married to an Afrikaner is quoted as having discouraged and warned the Afrikaners on the ship bound for German East Africa, that in German territory the unfettered lifestyle of the Boers would clash with strict German laws. The Afrikaner wanted space and solitude. He was not going to get it.
Du Toit traces Boer ethnicity back to factors, such as race, language, culture and especially to religion and education. I was fascinated to read that in 1873 an Afrikaner had argued that Afrikaners included people of Dutch, French, German, English, Danish, Portuguese, Mozambican and Hottentot extraction. The Afrikaner moved away from this broad concept of Afrikanerdom and turned to the ill-fated concept of pure white, protestant, Afrikaners.
Du Toit discusses what he describes as the Boers ‘trekgees’, a spiritual inability to remain long in one place and the ‘treklus’, the desire for novelty and adventure as part of the Boer spirit. Long before the Boer war, Boers had fanned out far into the African interior, but conditions after the Boer war, rather than “trekgees”, triggered off the exodus to East Africa. Boers moving to Kenya had often stood with the British and were regarded as traitors in the South. Those moving initially to German East Africa, were the so called “Bitter einders” who had fought the British to the bitter end. The journeys of the Boer settlers to East Africa, by ship from Lourenco Marques, to Tanga or Mombasa, from there by train and ox wagon into the interior, are rather sad stories of incredible tenacity, hardship and suffering. Both the British and the Germans found the Afrikaners stubborn, resenting and resisting assimilation, quarrelsome, and suspected them of disloyalty towards their colonial masters.
Du Toit talks about the grinding poverty of the Boer settlers, but at the same time he writes about them as chartering German ships to take them and their oxwagons to Tanga and Mombasa and of buying cattle from the natives, so there must have been some fairly wealthy men among them.
Boer settlement in German East Africa was a failure and by 1964 most Tanganyika Afrikaners had left.
Maintaining church and educational ties with the South the Boer settler never cut the umbilical cords with the fatherland. The enormous influence of Church leaders coming in from South Africa, according to Du Toit, reinforced the isolation of the Afrikaner in the larger community and, although they did much good they can also be largely blamed for the Afrikaner failure to assimilate into East Africa.
Boer -Black relations are briefly touched upon in the book, but I would have loved to see more about them. Du Toit’s statement that changes in attitude that occurred among most East African Afrikaners contrasted with their contemporaries who remained in South Africa, is not backed up with examples.
HEROES OF THE FAITH IN TANZANIA. Seven Witnesses from the Central African Mission 1880-1993. Dr Leader Dominic Sterling. Benedictine Publications, Ndanda, Peramiho. 1997. 33 pages. Copies available in UK @ £2.50 from Christine Lawrence, 26 Wordsworth Place, Southampton Road, London NW5 4HG (Tel: 0171 4822088).
Although only a very small book it is good to have this latest ‘story telling’ from Leader Stirling who, according to my calculations, has written it at age 90! His other books known to me: Bush Doctors (1947), Tanzanian Doctor (1977) and Africa My Surgery (1987) have all made compulsive and informative reading. The recent one is not autobiographical as the others are but written as a tribute to record details of the lives of certain UMCA/SPCK missionaries of whom he has some knowledge. He does point out that there were others equally zealous and dedicated but he has no personal knowledge of some and others have been written up elsewhere.
The important introduction is written with Stirling’s characteristic wry humour and I found it (perhaps being a Methodist) really delightful. I quote about the Central African Mission: ‘Born of the Oxford Movement in the Church of England, but brought to birth oddly enough by a dour Presbyterian, David Livingstone, it professed to be bringing the Catholic Faith to Africa, yet had definitely no connection with or submission to the Holy See of Rome. It just went its own unique way, with its own theology in which, admittedly, no major heresy could be demonstrated and in the end subsided rather lamely into the arms of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, where it quietly lost its identity and its own peculiar ecclesiastical position, but left an extensive African church based on the same’. Needless to say Stirling transferred to the Roman Catholic Church in 1949, after going to Tanganyika in 1935 under the CAM (UMCA).
The ‘Heroes’ he writes about are: William C Porter, Frederick W Stokes, Clara Munro, Edith Shelley, Donald Parsons, Robert Neil Russell and Robin Lamburn. All of them died and are buried in Tanzania. Two, at least, are ‘saints’; one a martyr and two pioneers in the treatment of leprosy. ‘Lived very simply and worked tirelessly’ can describe them all but their stories are individual and remarkable.
Stirling is known to us, of course, for his many, many achievements in the medical field in Tanzania from 1935 onwards. In 1958 he became an MP and from 1975-80 was Minister of Health. He was responsible for introducing Scouting to Southern Tanzania and became Chief Scout in 1962. All this can be read about in the books mentioned earlier. After retirement he continued with voluntary activities in the cause of health. But he says, at the end of his 1987 autobiography , You see I am still a missionary after all this’ and that, I guess, is why, ten years later, he has written the latest small valuable book.
CHINESE AID AND AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT. Deborah Brautigam. St. Martins Press, New York. 1998.256 pages. $69.95.
EAST AFRICAN DOCTORS, A HISTORY OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION. John Iliffe.
Cambridge University Press. 1998. 336 pages. £40. 00 (hardback).
This book was rather critically reviewed by Eldryd Parry of the Tropical Health and Education Trust in ‘African Affairs’ Vo!. 98. No. 391. April 1999. Extracts from his review:
‘It is a ….. pity that in this absorbing and remarkably researched review of the rise of the medical profession in East Africa, whose pioneers endured cold injustice and antagonistic attitudes, the author should not give reasonable credit to those who were totally committed to training their students and colleagues with disinterested service, as did many of the staff at Makerere …. Professor Iliffe chronicles much that was wrong in the past and describes breathtaking white racial arrogance, notably in Kenya, but his pursuit of his theme, to concentrate solely on indigenous doctors, sometimes presents an unbalanced picture ……… .
As the author contributed so much to Tanzania, it must have been difficult for him to write, as he has certainly succeeded in doing, fairly and objectively, about that country and the impact of ‘villagisation’ on health care. The stampede of its rural dispossessed was catastrophic, so that all indicators of health in Dar es Salaam got worse and there was a sad decline in the medical profession. This alarmed the Minister of Health; he blamed their poor working conditions and salaries, intellectual laziness and a lack of leadership from senior doctors. As a result he could only reverse the socialist health policy; ujamaa was impracticable. He began to reform the service but did not last and was replaced on account of the unfettered corruption in his Ministry, for which he was responsible but to which he was not party.’
THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN IN TANZANIA. Robert V Makarimba. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. 1998. Printed by AMREF Tanzania.
This book, written by a law lecturer at Dar es Salaam University, critically examines the legal and constitutional rights of children in Tanzania and the administration of juvenile justice. The author finds much room for improvement in the laws affecting children, the lack of specialised juvenile courts and the child labour regulations and condemns the importation of child pornography.
CULTURE, TRANSNATIONALISM AND CIVIL SOCIETY: Aga Khan Social Service Initiatives in Tanzania. CT: Praeger. 1997. 152 pages. £43.95. COASTAL RESOURCES OF BAGAMOYO DISTRICT. Ed: M Howell and AK Semesi. Faculty of Science. University ofDar es Salaam. 156 pages.
‘What ails Bagamoyo?’ asks Emmanuel Mwera in reviewing this book in the Dar es Salaam ‘Sunday Observer’ on May 9. He points out that 100 years ago Bagamoyo was politically and commercially far superior to Dar es Salaam. The book lists Bagamoyo’s natural resources; the authors are critical about sea weed being a largely untapped source and the mangrove forests not being properly managed; they are concerned about dynamite fishing, and the inability of traditional fishermen to exploit areas away from the shore. They recommend much greater monitoring of the crustacean resource; management of sea cucumber and mollusc shells on a sustainable basis and better facilities for tourists. The book contains a wealth of well researched and well presented data.
GENDER, FAMILY AND WORK IN TANZANIA. Editors: C Creighton, and C K Omari. 1999.310 pages. £42.50.
POLITICAL ECOLOGY AND URBANISATION: ZANZIBAR’S CONTRUCTION INDUSTRY. Garth Myers (University of Kansas). Journal of Modern African Studies. 37. 1. 1999.25 pages.
Any comment or discussion on Zanzibar usually focuses on the political conflicts or the constitutional set-up for the isles within the United Republic. However this article gives readers an insight into some of the things that have been happening on the ground there in recent years.
The author covers particularly the period since the Revolution of 1964 and has studied the effects of the development of Zanzibar town, with consequent building of housing, and other projects. He says ‘the current intersection of neo-liberal economic growthmanship, political change, environmental sustainability discourse and the marginalised area of the city, are examined’ (p.94). He sees how this development has led, in particular, to substantial demands for supplies of building materials. He surveys the political background, and the local ecology, especially of Zanzibar island (Unguja). He notes that many of the materials needed for construction work must be imported, but shows how large amounts of local stone, gravel, and sand are now being procured from local sources, often very near the town. The suppliers of the materials are typically small-scale operators of the informal sector, most being immigrants to Unguja from the mainland or Pemba. He comments on the conflict of interest between, on the one hand, the suppliers and their customers, and, on the other hand, the national and local government officials and leaders and other elites who are often the customers too.
The reviewer finds the author’s understanding of the political and environmental situation in Unguja to be generally accurate and perceptive. The subject may seem to be obscure and technical, but if a reader can plough through the heavy academic language, he or she can learn much of interest about what has been really happening in Zanzibar since the Revolution.
Canon Paul R Hardy
POWER, SOVEREIGNTY, AND INTERNATIONAL ELECTION OBSERVERS. THE CASE OF ZANZIBAR. Paul J Kaiser. Africa Today. Vol 46. No i. 1999. 17 pages. This concise account of the controversial 1995 elections in Zanzibar will not be news to readers of ‘Tanzanian Affairs’ but it does place the matter in the context of the whole international observer process. The author examines the degree to which host nations are dependent on donor countries and hence the freedom which they feel they have to give to observers (something usually welcomed by opposition parties) even though there might be some infringement on their sovereignty.
POPULAR VERSUS LIBERAL DEMOCRACY IN NICARAGUA AND TANZANIA. Robin Luckham. Democratization. Vol5 No. 3. Autumn 1998. 34 pages -An interesting two part analysis -the first part ‘contrasting the narratives of popular and of liberal democracy’ and the second, described as a ‘requiem for the apparent failure of the popular democratic experiments’ Nyerere’s African Socialism and the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.