IMPORTANT BIRD AREAS IN TANZANIA: A FIRST INVENTORY. Neil & Elizabeth Baker. Published by Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania, 2002. ISBN 9987-558-04-6. £30. Available from The RSPB, International Division, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG 19 2DL

Many years of desk and fieldwork have culminated in the publication of this monumental work -a milestone in the history of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania and for bird conservation in Tanzania. For many years, the spectacular mammal wealth of Tanzania has overshadowed the very rich bird fauna of 1000+ species including some notable ones found nowhere else in the world. Using a clear and concise set of internationally agreed criteria developed by World Conservation Union and BirdLife International, all the known information about birds in Tanzania has been analysed in a systematic way to come up with a set of 80 Important Bird Areas (IBAs). These sites are judged (on the basis of the information currently available) to be the most important places in Tanzania for globally threatened birds i.e. those species that are considered most at risk of extinction in the near future.

The book starts with some introductory sections summarising ornithology in Tanzania, the importance of the country for bird conservation, the IBA process, what conservation activities are currently take place; it describes different types of protected areas and lists the most important conservation issues.

The bulk of the book is of course, the IBA site accounts. A vast amount of information (up to 4 pages per site) is nicely presented. For each IBA, there is a sizeable map, a site description, bird information with key species highlighted in a table, a section on other threatened/endemic wildlife, conservation issues affecting the site, ideas for future action as well as a list references/further reading.

The authors have been helped in their work by many dozens of people both resident in Tanzania (these are acknowledged in the book) and from outside Tanzania who contributed a lot of information to the IBA project. Together, they represent a huge amount of knowledge about Tanzanian birds. This knowledge base is obvious to anyone reading many of the site accounts.

Many of the IBAs in Tanzania are already protected within the existing protected areas network but a few are totally unprotected. Amongst these, perhaps the most important are the Kitulo Plateau and Usangu Floodplain in Southern Tanzania and the Wembere Floodplain/Lake Kitangire/Lake Eyasi complex in the Eastern Rift Valley.

The book will have many uses. It will be used by local, national and international decision makers to guide planning and conservation work. It may be used by bird watching tourists to get information on some of the best sites for birds in Tanzania. It should be used by protected area managers to inform their management plans. It will form the basis of IBA site-protection groups as have already been started in neighbouring Kenya following publication of their own IBA book in 1999.

The authors have done an excellent job of bringing a mass of information together and presenting it to the world, but, as they say, this should be seen as a first step. Tanzania is a vast country and some areas are very poorly studied. The writing of the book (and the Tanzania Bird Atlas project, which the authors have been running for nearly 20 years), has highlighted the gaps. They are also at pains to highlight that if further conservation action does not follow from the publication of the book, their work will have been in vain. Much of the information given in the book is accessible via the BirdLife International website ( and following the links in the datazone tab.
Zul Bhatia

THE BATTLE OF TANGA 1914. Ross Anderson. Tempus Publishing ISBN 0752423495. Pp. 158. £16.99. p/b.

ARMIES IN EAST AFRICA 1914-18. Peter Abbott. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1 84176 4892. Pp 48. £8.99. Available from PO box 140, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, NN8 2FA, U.K.

The conflict in German East Africa in the First World War has become widely known from films like The Africa Queen and William Boyd’s novel The Ice Cream War. These two paperbacks will be of interest to those who would like to know the real facts behind the legends. Ross Anderson’s scholarly publication concentrates on the disastrous British expedition to capture Tanga in November 1914. The plan was not in itself unsound -a seaborne assault by an expeditionary force sent from India, while the King’s African Rifles (KAR) diverted the main German forces under the control of Col. Paul von Lettow Vorbeck. Unfortunately, the disembarkation of the inexperienced Indian Army troops at Tanga was a shambles, and morale was further lowered when they met unexpected resistance from a small force of Schutztruppe (the German equivalent of the KAR). Heavily outnumbered, the Germans withdrew from the town under cover of darkness, but the British Force Commander, General Arthur Aitken, failed to send out patrols and did not realise that the town was undefended. Von Lettow now acted swiftly and rushed the bulk of his forces from Moshi to Tanga by rail. The Royal North Lancashire Regiment suffered severe casualties and some of the Indian units panicked and fled to the rear. In the face of stiff German resistance and with unreliable troops, General Aitken decided that the situation was untenable and ordered the expedition’s withdrawal. Von Lettow could hardly believe his good fortune -his 1500 men had defeated an Anglo-Indian force of over 9000. Aitken left East Africa in disgrace and was given no further command.

Peter Abbot’s Armies in East Africa 1914-18 is primarily intended for those interested in regimental history, uniform and equipment. There are eight attractive full-page colour plates showing the British, Indian, South African, Belgian, Portuguese and German units involved in the fighting. The book has a useful potted history of the whole East Africa campaign, covering the allied offensives in 1915116 and the incredible trek by von Lettow through Tanganyika and Mozambique until his final surrender in Northern Rhodesia.
John Sankey


The author examines two different means of holding people to account, namely:
(1) The practice of ritual ‘breaking a pot’ which is a powerful form of curse in the Mount Meru area of northen Tanzania, and (2) Local government audit, a practice that is currently being reinforced as part of local government reform under foreign donor support of ‘good governance’, at both local and central government levels. Superficially, the two practices appear to have little similarity, but the author suggests that the two accounting systems have more in common than might be supposed. He asserts that both practices are forms of verification, aimed at disclosing truth and bringing retribution for misconduct in order to attain accountability on the part of those responsible.

The author attempts to compare the indigenous (pot breaking) and imported (rational) mechanisms for holding people to account, both of which are currently in use in Arumeru District, and concludes that the two systems neither fit neatly into an ‘irrational/rational’ scheme nor could they conceptually be seen to complement or substitute each other in local government audit. He has also cited several field cases based on interviews of informants’ testimonies of people who, after ritual breaking of pots, had suffered some calamity (usually death) as a result of being linked, by action or by kin, with some kind of social transgression. Further evidence is presented of people who had confessed to transgressions and paid compensation to plaintiffs for fear of the effects of the pot, which can be construed as empirical evidence that the procedure of breaking pots is successful in holding people to account for their actions. Whether it is successful solely because of its pyschological impact upon individuals who believe in its efficacy is difficult to say. However, the author has not been able to rationalise the mystical powers of the pot.

Before a pot is broken, a notice of intent must be posted some weeks prior to the actual ceremony. Clan elders will normally give their consent to break a pot only if they are satisfied that other channels of dispute resolution, e.g. normal clan fora, the police and the courts, have been exhausted. In other words, pot breaking is undertaken as a last resort. Given that the pot is believed to be so powerful, elders are reluctant to allow it to be used without good cause. To break a pot, it is also necessary to obtain a permit from ward or village government. When a threat is made to break a pot, there is an opportunity for reparations to be made. Fearing the pot’s lethal effects, which may affect an individual culprit or the culprit’s clan, many offenders either expose themselves or are exposed by kinsmen. Confession is followed by appropriate reparation as may be decided by the village authority, after which the dispute is resolved.

Then the author analyses the procedures of local government audit and suggests the idea behind audit is scientifically familiar in so far as it relies on sampling techniques to provide a picture of reality. However, accounting remains vulnerable to error, or subversion. At present, auditors are not highly trusted, not only because the methods they use are not understood by most Tanzanians but because it is rightly or wrongly assumed that auditors can be, and are frequently bribed. Arumeru people interviewed by the author showed more faith in the pot than they did in modem systems of financial accountability. They mistrusted accountants and auditors, just as they did the entire system of government. The second reason for mistrust relates to shortage of competent accountants. Until this situation changes, some audits are likely to lack thoroughness and credibility. Thirdly, more often than not, annual audit reports by the Government Comptroller and Auditor General in Tanzania point out serious irregularities which are the responsibility of others to investigate, e.g. police, anti-corruption bureau, and Parliament. Sadly no serious effort has been taken to find out the culprits and punish them. Observers of this indifference to deal with suspected cases of theft, embezzlement and corruption have cynically attributed such inaction to lack of will on the part of politicians, some of whom may be implicated in corruption. Some adverse audit reports resulted in court prosecutions (with few convictions), some transfers or retirements and some no action at all.

In view of this, the way in which modem audit technology, when combined with other institutions of government, leads to accountable outcomes is in some ways more mysterious than the ritual of pot breaking. Modern audit technology does not instil the same fear in suspected culprits, given that the consequent punishment is by far less severe than that associated with pot breaking. Whereas pot breaking is directed at specific individuals and their kin who believe in the mystical powers of the pot, modern audit technology is far less feared by culprits, given the relatively benign consequences of being found guilty. Besides, it is against Government of Tanzania Law to condone mystical powers/witchcraft as a means of extracting confession from suspected citizens. On the other hand, it is unlikely that many auditors and accountants outside of Arumeru District believe in the power of the pot even if they were subjected to it. In the final analysis modern accounting technology has to be adopted at all levels of government. Irrational folklore should have no place in accounting of public funds.
Augustine Macha

THE LANGUAGES OF TANZANIA: A BIBLIOGRAPHY (Orientalia et Africana Gothoburgenisa No.17). Jouni Filip Maho & Bonny Sands. Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, G6teborg, 2002. ix & 428pp (paperback). ISBN 91-7346-454-6. Swedish Krona 300 (approx. £23.20: information on ordering can be found at

Tanzania is blessed with an abundance and variety of languages. It is the only country in Africa which can claim to host all four of the continent’s major language families -Niger-Congo, Afroasiatic, Nilo-Saharan and Khoisan. The Niger-Congo phylum is represented by more than 100 Bantu languages (as commonly defined), including the national language and lingua franca Swahili. Afroasiatic and Nilo-Saharan are represented by a small number of Cushitic and Nilotic languages respectively: the most widely spoken of these is Eastern Nilotic Maa, the language of the Maasai. One click language, Sandawe, is generally thought to be related to the Khoisan languages of southern Africa. Tanzania’s other click language, Hadza, is a fascinating isolate whose genetic affiliation remains undetermined.

For many years the best guide to the literature on Tanzania’s indigenous languages was the second edition of W. H. Whiteley and A. E. Gutkind’s A
Linguistic Bibliography of East Africa, published in 1958. This practical volume was produced with screws holding the cover boards in place, a loose­leaf format intended to facilitate the insertion of supplementary material. If this didn’t get across the message that there was still linguistic work to be done, then the many pages in the Tanganyika section with little more than a language name printed on them should have done so. It wasn’t until the 1970s that researchers began to make significant progress in filling in some of the gaps. Edgar Polome’s overview of ‘The Languages of Tanzania’ (1980) provided a bibliographic update and record of obscure manuscripts and other items that Whiteley and Gutkind had missed. And there matters largely stood still, though researchers continued to gather and (less frequently) publish material on Tanzania’s languages and dialects.

Maho and Sands’ book, has finally provided us with the rich bibliographic resource that Tanzanian languages deserve. An explanatory ‘Introduction’ is followed by a section listing ‘General Reference Works’. This is followed by sections headed ‘Asian Languages’, ‘Bantu Languages (Excluding Swahili)’, ‘(South) Cushitic Languages’, ‘Khoesan Languages’ (= Khoisan, including both Sandawe and Hadza for convenience), ‘Nilotic Languages’ and finally ‘Other Languages’, a residual category which includes English and Tanzanian Sign Language. Each language heading includes some general information (a map showing its location, the estimated number of speakers, and alternative language or dialect names), followed by the references themselves, which are split into two categories, primary descriptive works and other, assorted, materials. There are two indexes at the end of the book: one listing language names and the other listing authors. The volume as a whole is well produced, though many libraries will want to bind their copies with hard covers.

The only major omission from the bibliography is Swahili: as the authors explain the literature on this language is so voluminous that it would require a volume of its own. No attempt has been made to include literature in local languages, for example vernacular religious and educational texts: to do this properly would require specialised research in libraries and institutions both within and outside of Tanzania. These omissions are well justified. To make up for them the bibliography provides a number of bonuses. As should be evident from the summary of its contents, The Languages of Tanzania includes both indigenous and introduced languages. It also includes many references which are non-linguistic, but provide general historical and ethnographic information.

This makes it an excellent resource for anyone interested in Tanzania’s different linguistic communities, as well as providing specialised linguists with the opportunity to gain a wider perspective on the peoples they are studying. And the references themselves are both thorough (including, for example, page counts where these are known) and in some cases helpfully annotated. The authors have also set up a web appendix to the bibliography, listing relevant web links (at

Specialists will find plenty to quibble about: language names misspelled, dialects omitted, references missing … But this is inevitable with an undertaking of this size and complexity, and the authors are to be congratulated on the work they have done. Research currently underway on Tanzanian languages -for example by SIL Tanzania teams in the field, and by the Goteborg-supported Languages of Tanzania (LOT) project in the University of Dar es Salaam ­means that the new bibliography will soon need updating anyway. Let’s hope then that this is only the first edition of many, and that Maho and Sands can be persuaded to periodically update and improve their bibliography. In 1958 Whiteley and Gutkind gave us loose leaves and detachable boards and plenty of blank spaces: now we have their electronic equivalents and better technology to process an admittedly greater volume of information. Meanwhile, the paper edition that is currently available can be highly recommended.
Martin Walsh

HIGHER EDUCATION IN TANZANIA: A Case Study. Daniel Mkude, Brian Cooksey & Lisbeth Levey. lames Currey: Oxford, Mkuki wa Nyota: Dar es Salaam 2003. 114pp. £9.95 (pb).

This book, part of a series on ‘The Partnership for Higher Education in Africa’, sponsored by four V.S. foundations, is designed to share information about higher education in Africa and promote supportive measures in research and collaboration. It offers historical background, extensive evidence about the goals and accomplishments of Institutional Transformation Programmes, the financial strategies, economic trends and legal policies that affect the system. In view of the broad generalizations -and minimal attention to the early influence of socialism and current political-economic realities –the goals it envisions seem quite ambitious.

Perhaps more realistic is a recent Oxfam report: Debt for Poverty Reduction: The case of education in Tanzania. which, among other things, explores the country’s Basic Education Master Plan (BEMP). An equally realistic account can be found in America, January 2003, vI88, Of Many Things, George M. Anderson’s interview with officials of the St. Augustine University near Mwanza. The clergy note the extent to which poverty and the H.I.V.-AIDS factor adversely affect access to education, and the minimal advantages produced by recent World Bank and IMF debt reduction policies.

Frances Katherine Vavrus, Desire and Decline: Schooling Amid Crisis in Tanzania. New York: P. Lang, 168 p., 2003. Claire Mercer, Performing Partnership: Civil Society and the Illusions of Good Governance in Tanzania, Political Geography, v. 22, no. 7 (September 2003), p. 741-63. Explores consequences of recent efforts by the IMF, World Bank, and international donors to promote “good governance” in the face of debt problems.

Jyotika Ramaprasad, The Private and Government Sides of Tanzanian Journalists. Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, v. 8., no. 1 Winter 2003. p 8-26.

Poverty Alleviation in Tanzania. Milton Makongoro Mahanga. Dar es Salaam University Press. ISBN 9976603436. P/b. £18.95. Distributed by African Books Collective, The Jam Factory, 27 Park End Street, Oxford OXl IHU. A study based on research in unplanned and planned areas of Yombo Vituka, Dar es Salaam. It argues that adequate housing for the urban poor is a source of income generation and therefore a means of improving livelihoods. It emphasises that the urban poor are able and willing to contribute to better social services and housing, but that the land allocation system and lack of access to credit are major constraints. The author is Member of Parliament for Ukonga Constituency, Dar es Salaam.

African Music for Schools. Mbati-Katana. Fountain Publishers. ISBN 9970022946. ppl90. £20.95. Available from African Book Collective, The Jam Factory, 27 Park End Street, Oxford OXl IHU.

This songbook for children brings together East African songs from many heritages. It includes children’s play songs, dance and story songs and some patriotic party songs, from the ethnic or language groups of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and related groups in neighbouring countries. The songs bear witness to centuries of African life, and their transcription aims to make music accessible to children from their own cultural traditions. The book includes the musical scores and song texts, translations of the texts, notes on the structure of the music, and suggestions for story telling, poetry, drama, art or dance which teachers or other adults may introduce to bring the songs alive and use them creatively, allowing the children to participate fully in their performance.

. Horniman Museum Day Conference, 24 October 2003

This first Colloquium in the UK about visual culture in eastern Africa provided a platform for a wide range of scholarly presentations by ten researchers from museum anthropology and other relevant fields. The scholars introduced and explored the actuality and to a lesser extent the theory of the region’s Visual ‘Traditions’. The purview was inclusive, both in terms of the region’s geography and its myriad visual practices. The wide scope of these small scale, ongoing traditions –such as the use of sticks for communication, many kinds of personal adornment and portable sculpture, several systems of drawing and ‘ready-mades’ ranging from debes to cattle –reinforced the notion that the big question is not what is art, but rather “when is art”. Aesthetic values make the connexion between ideas and things.

Larger than the conventional East Africa of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the eastern herein is flexible in order to engage aspects of the shared cultures and histories of the peoples of the Nile and Rift Valleys, the Great Lakes, Indian Ocean and to a lesser extent eastern Congo and Zambezia. Most of the presentations offered some evidence of regional interaction: for sculpture and masquerade (Kingdon, Israel), concerning pastoralist aesthetics and artifacts (Arero, Ostberg, Oteyo), concerning styles of drawing (Court, Marner, Neiderstadt) and about the kanga (Spring, Clarke). For example, the ‘frame’ and slogan format of the kanga has been consistent along the eastern Africa littoral for nearly one hundred years, while its use and imagery differ somewhat in time and by place. Research has been carried out about the kanga’s social uses and slogans, but as yet there is scant systematic study of its visual content of motifs and imagery. Perhaps, this will be stimulated by the upcoming, 2005 kanga exhibition at the Sainsbury African Galleries of the British Museum. Indeed, the curator is seeking evidence of hand-printed kanga, which were still for sale in Zanzibar town in the late 1960′ s; it seems only the printing blocks are available nowadays.

The Horniman Colloquium was an opportunity to view Tanzania’s visual practices in a larger context. In fact, no effort was made to extract what is specifically Tanzanian, although nationality was considered in the presentations based upon evidence from Kenya and Ethiopia. One reason is that systematic scholarship by Tanzanians about their visual art practices is slight to the point of underdevelopment, apart from the early 1960’s efforts of Prof S J Ntiro and current undertakings of archaeologist Prof Felix Chami and Waiter Bgoya of Mkuki na Nyota Publishers. Critical research has yet to catch up with the plurality of art practices, apparent in the renewal of the Dar-es-Salaam and Zanzibar Museums, innovations in ‘Tinga Tinga’ and other kinds of modern practice including fashion, local patronage [cut Chami] -all are part of the visual arts discourse in Tanzania and all have regional resonance. Please note the term ‘tribe’ was not employed to discuss this unit of ethnic, local, community practice; consider that kabila whether in Swahili or Arabic does not have the colonial, historical connotation of its English translation.

One theoretical ‘tradition’ that requires fresh unpacking is the assertion that there is no art in eastern Africa. Belief that there is/was ‘no art’ was due to a basic assumption, inscribed in western art historical scholarship and commerce in the late 1930’s that focused solely upon the traditions of figurative sculpture in west and central Africa. This construction was/is grossly inaccurate, even for its exclusions of west Africa’s traditions (C Steiner, J Picton). In the past two decades, western scholarship in African archaeology and contemporary art have interrogated and extended the canon to include eastern Africa and its array of art forms (Coote, S Hassan, Mack, Visona et al).

The sessions were attended by forty-five people including the presenters. The Colloquium, hosted graciously by the Horniman Museum, Forest Hill, London, was co-convened by Hassan Arero the Horniman’s Keeper of Anthropology and Zachary Kingdon, Curator of the Africa Collections, Liverpool Museum, who intend to publish the proceedings. We are thankful for this first cultural harvest. Uushukuru.
Elsbeth Court

‘BWANA SHAMBA’ by Peter Wilson. Following the demise of the Pentland Press, Peter Wilson has acquired the remaining copies of his illustrated autobiography. His book contains a forward by Vice-President and Prime Minister of Tanganyika Rashidi Kawawa. Autographed copies may be ordered @£15 plus £2.50 p&p (double p&p for overseas) from Peter Wilson, PO Box 304, Horley, RH6 7NE. (cheques payable to P M Wilson please).

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