Edited by John Cooper-Poole (UK) and Marion Doro (USA)
MIMI & TOUTOU GO FORTH. Giles Foden) – ISBN 0718145550 – Penguin – pp320. £16.99.
At the start of World War 1, German Warships controlled Lake Tanganyika in Central Africa which was of great strategic value. In June 1915 a force of twenty-eight men were dispatched from Britain on a vast journey. Their orders were to take control of the lake. To reach it they had to haul two motorboats with the unlikely names Mimi and Toutou through the wilds of the Congo. This is their story.
Giles Foden has unearthed new German and African records to retell this most unlikely of true life tales. The twenty-eight men were a very strange bunch. One was addicted to Worcester sauce and would drink it as an aperitif, another was a former racing driver, but the strangest of them all was their commander, Geoffrey Spicer-Simson, who liked to wear a skirt and had tattoos all over his body. He was also determined to cover himself with glory. This is a classic tale of amateurism triumphing over disciplined opponents, which Giles Foden tells almost as if it was a novel, having had access to eyewitness accounts, which adds to this incredible true story.
THE 1964 ARMY MUTINIES AND THE MAKING OF MODERN EAST AFRICA. Timothy H Parsons. Praeger, Westport Connecticut and London. 2003. ISBN 0-325-07068-7 Hardback £39.99
The setting for this book is post-colonial East Africa, where the three newly independent countries retained British officers to lead their armies, but those officers no longer had to be fluent in Kiswahili. The new African governments did not have the means “or the inclination” to maintain the primary role of the colonial armies – “to intimidate potential African opponents to the colonial state”. The askaris had been paid well, but just before independence both pay and benefits were reduced and “by 1960 the African rank and file had taken on quite a tattered appearance” (p 45) although their counterparts in civilian service were upgraded.
Not surprisingly, the racial segregation (only 6 of the 58 Tanganyikan army officers were African) and decreased benefits became sources of criticism by the Tanganyika Rifles askaris at Colito barracks near Dar es Salaam. They judged that they too could act effectively on their resentments, after seeing how the police sent by Nyerere brought order to Zanzibar on 12 January 1964 after the Afro-Sherazis overthrew the ruling dynasty. On 20 January they locked up their British (except Commander Douglas, who got away) and African officers and seized key government installations in Dar es Salaam. The next day the uprising spread to the barracks in Tabora, and soon trade unionists and some TANU members were promising support.
With great reluctance, Nyerere persuaded Vice President Kawawa to call for British military assistance, as Uganda and Kenya also did. Author Timothy H. Parsons describes the somewhat mysterious role of Oscar Kambona before and during the mutiny, such as his sending soldiers for training in Israel, his knowledge of arms shipments to Dar on an Algerian ship, and his announcement that the askaris had returned to their barracks, ending the mutiny. British officers, according to Parsons, concluded that the three national incidents were conspiratorially connected, and that soldiers were pawns of radical populist (read “communist”) politicians such as Kambona. African politicians in turn suspected British complicity. But the final judgment was that there was “no credible evidence that any African leader was involved”, as agreed among the British High Commissioners resident in the three countries.
Courts martial were held in each country. Tanganyika tried 15 “ring leaders” of whom 11 were found guilty, and disbanded both battalions of the Tanganyika Rifles. The new Tanzania Peoples Defence Force, a “peoples’ army” soon had 4,000 men under Tanzanian leadership (Sarakikya). Thus the TPDF became a political organization, a “virtual extension of TANU”. (p 80).
Wishing to diversify influences on his army, Nyerere received equipment from the Soviet Union and China, and accepted a British training team as well as cadet training at Sandhurst.
The author judges that Nyerere had “sacrificed military efficiency for political security”. In fact the new soldiers remained loyal to the President, and the Colito events “did not damage his standing as a leader”. When Kiswahili became the unifying national language, the President could concentrate on shaping economic and military policy.
The special feature of The 1964 Mutinies and the Making of Modern East Africa is its comparative approach. Author Parsons, after describing how the army revolts started in Tanzania then spread to Uganda and Kenya, analyses how the diverse actions taken by Nyerere, Kenyatta and Obote had profoundly different impacts on the nature of the military in each country. While Nyerere chose a political solution to the uprisings, Kenyatta stuck with solely British relationships, and Obote vacillated between the two. The latter created a “dangerously autonomous army” that would engineer his overthrow and foster years of unrest in Uganda.
The author concludes that “the stability of an African army depended on its degree of integration in post-colonial society”. The revolts, disorganized and poorly led, were far from conspiracies – they were “simple strikes or armed workers mutinies, or even nascent Pretorianism” (p 212). In Tanzania, the author states, Nyerere forged “lasting bonds between the armed forces and civil society”. (p 217)
In addition to secondary sources, the author interviewed 19 military persons – most of them members of the mutinous King’s African Rifles – about their involvement in and interpretation of the events. He also accessed previously unavailable records of the British and East African governments that were released for public usage by 2000.
Following the Introduction, Chapter 2 addresses the Nature of Colonial Military Service; Chapter 3 describes the Colonial Army and Independence, 1960-63. Chapter 4, Askaris Intervene, January 1964, is followed by a description of the Legacy of the Barracks Revolts, 1964-71. The Select Bibliography is useful, though the Index is too brief. A map of East Africa, tables and photos are presented. The book is more academically oriented, and less lively than the earlier Tanganyika Rifles Mutiny, January 1964, a publication of the TPDF (reviewed in Tanzanian Affairs No 61, 1998).
CONTENTIOUS POLITICS, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THE SELF – A TANZANIAN CASE STUDY. Tim Kelsall. Nordic Africa Institute. 2004. ISBN 91-7106-533-4. pp75. £7.95.
Over the last two or three years Tim Kelsall has done as much as anyone to illuminate how the twin processes of economic liberalisation and political democratisation have impacted upon contemporary Tanzanian society. This latest report touches on a good deal of his earlier research, drawing on his fieldwork experiences in Arumeru during the 1990s.
Central to the text is the theme of political accountability; in particular the seeming inability of the Arumeru population to hold their leaders to account, despite a relatively recent history of political volatility. What emerges from his working through the problem is essentially a sharp critique of the governance agenda, which, he argues, relies on a form of coherent, collective identity that simply does not exist in contemporary Tanzania. Instead we are shown a ‘moral economy’ of fluid, interconnected social identities, reflecting the increasingly diverse nature of work, community and kinship. This is reflected in fragmented patterns of political association at district level.
At only 72 pages the report is understandably limited in scope, and the author’s theoretical reflections perhaps deserve a more expansive format than is offered here. Such constraints notwithstanding, Kelsall deserves credit for approaching the governance agenda from its ‘subjects’ upwards; in doing so he shows that embedding multi-party democracy in Tanzania depends upon more than institutions, and that effective government must be accompanied by tangible commitment to political action at village and district levels. The fragmentary nature of neoliberal governance makes this harder than ever.
COMPOSING A NEW SONG: STORIES OF EMPOWERMENT FROM AFRICA. Hope Chigudu, Editor. The Commonwealth Foundation, London, 2004. ISBN 1779220154. £14.95.
In 1990 the issue of sexual harassment facing Tanzanian women came to a head when a first-year education student at the University of Dar es Salaam, Levina Mukasa, killed herself by taking an overdose of chloroquine tablets. Levina had been severely harassed over a long period by a group of male engineering students and a clandestine satire group called “Mzee Punch” which specialized in producing pornographic wall literature about selected female student victims. Their aim was to make female students give in to the sexual demands of Mzee Punch members, or to make the women students who did well in their studies perform badly. Their efforts, according to several ex-students, were highly successful.
– Chemi Che Mponda
Tanzania Media Women’s Association
The Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) was created in 1987 by a group of women journalists who sought “to sensitize society on gender issues and advocate and lobby for policy and legal changes which would promote the human rights of women and children”. They met at the Daily News boardroom, and soon began publishing Sauti ya Siti in both English and Swahili, using poems, illustrations, features and short stories to counteract the sexist literature of that time. After rather unsettled beginnings they joined the Feminist Action Coalition of NGOs and gained confidence as the nature and magnitude of gender-based violence became clear, captured in the story of the death of Levina Mukasa, told above.
Mzee Punch had begun on the university campus as a political instrument to ridicule government policy. Over its 20 year existence, it evolved into “a major instrument of sexual harassment and repression of women”, and was only banned after Levina killed herself. No one had listened when she pleaded for help and Mzee Punch threatened to “punch” any female students who walked with her. She was terrified by knocks on her door at night, and obscene messages and threats stuck on her door.
Incensed by Levina’s death, TAMWA conducted surveys and gathered statistics from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Six of every 10 women in Dar had undergone domestic violence; 90% of male respondents in Mara Region admitted having battered their wives or partners. Etcetera. And of course the fear of HIV/AIDS accompanied instances of rape. TAMWA established that the media played a major role in “undermining women’s images of themselves”.
Leila Sheikh, author of the Tanzania chapter in the book under review, entitled TAMWA: Levina’s Song – Supporting Women in Tanzania, states that “Levina died of a broken heart, not of cowardice, as some would believe. Suicide? Of course not. Society killed her. A judgmental society that always passes sentence on a woman who dares to speak up: ‘You are a slut’. ‘You must have asked for it’. ‘It’s the way you dress and those come hither eyes’. ‘What did you expect?’ Sentence proclaimed!”
Beginning in 1997, TAMWA took up advocacy, victim services and consciousness raising to reduce gender-based violence. Funded by HIVOS and NOVIB, the programme included lobbying for the repeal of discriminatory laws and creating a human rights culture in Tanzania through the media. Members organized a symposium for MPs, to emphasize charters such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Action was taken at the Crisis Centre in Dar, established in 1990 to provide services to women and children, victims of gender-based violence. Police officers and community based organisations were trained to deal with such cases. Interns from the university volunteered to help and to spread legal literacy. Victims were given legal aid and counselling services.
TAMWA has achieved a great deal over the years – their accomplishments would fill pages of TA. A sample of print media coverage of their issues during one calendar year (1999) adds up: 198 stories on rape; 237 stories on land issues; 355 HIV/AIDS stories; 576 stories on the killing of elderly people; and 640 domestic violence stories. Radio is also used. The Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act of Parliament in 1998 resulted from TAMWA’s focus on child sexual abuse, sexual harassment, rape and female genital mutilation. The Act has been described as revolutionary.
The author of the chapter addresses Levina: “Do you feel like a heroine? I ask Levina, ‘with your story having contributed to such historic events in Tanzanian society?” She has Levina reply: “..my story, my experience gave birth to the movement against gender-based violence in Tanzania. My story gave birth to the first crisis centre in the country. My story gave birth to the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act”.
All those achievements were because the women of TAMWA were listening, and were impatient with injustices. The TAMWA story is impressive.
It is but one of the chapters in this engrossing book. Others come from Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Nigeria. Composing a New Song is an inspiring read.
EMPOWERMENT THROUGH LANGUAGE. THE AFRICAN EXPERIENCE; TANZANIA AND BEYOND. Zaline Makini Roy-Campbell. Africa World Press. ISBN 0 86543 765 3. p/b £15.99.
The author draws parallels with educational language policy in other countries of East and Southern Africa, but the core of the argument rests upon an extended case-study of policy in Tanzania. Tanzania is chosen to illustrate not only the ‘problems’ but also – with its shared use of Swahili – the ‘potentialities’ of language use in Africa.
The author makes strong claims. The continued use of English as the medium of instruction in Tanzanian secondary schools has led to widespread ‘semi-literacy’, local talent is suppressed (Ngugi’s charges of psychological violence are invoked), and poverty is seen as a direct outcome. English may be poorly taught, by poorly qualified teachers, but – more radically – the framing of knowledge through use of Western languages has undermined the nature and status of local modes of thought.
The author provides useful background to Tanzanian language policy. Tantalisingly, the post-independence reversal of policy (to extend use of Swahili medium into the secondary schools) remains shrouded in mystery, but decision-making before and since is described in some detail. Use of a ‘high status’ foreign language and associated social stratification has become naturalised (theories from Bourdieu, Fanon and others underpin the argument). While few readers will be comfortable with the current status quo, some may not go all the way with the author’s deterministic analysis.
While acknowledging that appropriate pedagogies – and indeed resources – are still to be developed, the author offers the new South African ‘maintenance’ model of bilingualism as the way forward. But how justifiable is the author’s sidelining (as ‘mental prisoners’) of local stakeholders – with their well-attested reluctance to reposition the role of English, now perceived as an international rather than colonial language?
This is a provocative account, with questions begged. But so are these questions begged – intractably – in classrooms across the region. A stimulating and thought-provoking read.
‘A COLLOQUIAL SWAHILI: THE COMPLETE COURSE FOR BEGINNERS’ McGrath, D and Marten, L. 2003 pub Routledge 297 pp. ISBN 0 415 22161 7.
This is a welcoming learner-friendly course, attractively produced and supported with audiotapes. The fourteen Units are based on dialogues, each linked with the language points to be studied. The Units cover aspects of East African life, e.g. Safarini, Shambani, Hadithi na Magezeti. Vocabulary and grammar are clearly explained and each Unit includes imaginative and carefully graded exercises (answers provided). There is a wealth of information both about the language and about contemporary life. Excellent for class teaching or for individual study. Thoroughly recommended.
CHILDRENS’ BOOKS. A previous review of children’s books brought appreciative response from some of our readers, so here are a few more. They are all available from African Books Collective, The Jam Factory, 27 Park End Street, Oxford OX1 1HU. firstname.lastname@example.org. £7.95 each.
The reviews are by children of Holy Trinity C of E School, Richmond, Surrey, kindly organized by their teacher, Mrs P. Cox.
The Hero and the Dream. Leteipa Ole Sunkuli. ISBN 9966 25 161 8. 24 pp.
I liked this book because this book is a true story, which has happened in east Africa,
I liked Ole Surum because he was famous, by helping others. He became famous because he was kind to people in his country.
I liked the dream he had because he met an angel. I like the way the angel talked to Ole Surum to go round the world and making people happy.
I liked the part of the story when Ole Sarum saved the girl from hippos.
When he went to America he married Elenor.
Ole Sarum was telling stories to the children and sang songs to them.
I was so upset when Ole Surum died in a road accident.
Adelaid Subashi age 7.
How Porcupine Got His Spines. George N. Kamau. ISBN9966 25 168 5. 22pp
I enjoyed reading the book and found it a fun story. I think that it would be a good book for 6-7 year olds to read themselves, but any age child would enjoy having it read to them; however nursery children might not understand it all. I didn’t think that the book told me anything about Africa or the way of life in Africa.
Charlotte Clarke age 7.
Toko and the Lost Kittens. Stephen Alumenda. ISBN 9966 25 170 7. 19 pp.
I think the story is for 7 and 8 year olds and really enjoy it because I can understand the story. I like the story because I like the pictures. The story helped me to learn about the children.
Mohammed Rahman age 8.
Why Beetles Roll Cow Dung. George N. Kamau. ISBN 9966 25 167 7. 17 pp.
It was great. I really enjoyed reading about the wildlife in this book, and I really enjoyed looking at all the pictures. I think this book is aged for 4-7 years and with parents aged 3-5. I liked this book so much that I can’t find a favourite part, because it was all so good.
I liked learning about different animals in Africa.
Nathan Gane. Age 8
I really enjoyed the story because I liked the beetle competition. The insects and the spiders had to clean part of cow’s home and whoever had the tidiest area would win. Some of the insects did not want to do it because they thought they would get dirty. Cow asked the praying mantis to not enter the competition because he was dangerous to other insects. The beetle won the competition because he rolled the cow dung into a ball. Bee’s two sisters asked her not to do it. They said that the queen bee would not like it and would send her away. Spider needed some water because he was tired and cow did not let him have it. Then he got too thirsty and went to the stream to drink.
Children from the age of six would like to read the story. Younger children would like it read to them.
There are no children in the story. I asked how could a cow be rich? I did not know that a beetle could roll cow dung into a ball and lay their eggs in it to keep them warm. I did not know that an elephant can sweep nor that a praying mantis was dangerous. The writer of the story said that there was a secure fence around the field but an elephant, a hyena and giraffe came in to sweep the cow dung. The giraffe had a problem because he was too high. The hyena had a problem not eating the calf. The elephant had a problem because when he was sweeping the cow dung he was dropping his own dung.
The field seemed as though it had no fence around it.
I would like to go to Africa to see the cow dung.
Alexander Southcombe. Age 7.
Kandu and the Lake. Barrack Muluka. ISBN 9966 25 165 0. 40 pp.
I enjoyed Kandu and the Lake very much; it is a realistic fiction book about a little boy who was first quite horrible and hurt people’s feelings, but then changed dramatically into a kinder more considerate boy.
This story helped me understand more about what happens in Africa and the lives of the people who live there: there doesn’t seem to be a lot of work choices.
I was only surprised that in the story it is particularly easy to get out of school and bunk off.
I think that the story of Kandu and the Lake is suitable for ages 7-12, for any lower the children would not understand most of what the story means, and any higher it would be boring.
In my opinion the story is wonderfully written, it has a lot of characteristic and has a lot of good description. Out of 10 I would give it 9½.
Katie Clarke age 10.
OTHER BOOKS RECEIVED.
UMLEAVYO: THE DILEMMA OF PARENTING. Eds: Mary Ntukula and Rita Liljestrom. Nordiska Afrikainstitutet 2004. ISBN 91 7106 522 9. 152 pp. £15.95.
The third study based on the work of the Reproductive Health Study Group linked to the University of Dare s Salaam. It comprises studies on the generation gap and the way this has widened in the past century. The study is based on the narratives of the grandparents, parents, and youths in the villages of the Pare people, and of the initiation leaders in Songea, and a comparison of Nyakusa elders and youths on gender issues.
MAASAILAND ECOLOGY – Pastoralist development and wildlife conservation in Ngorongoro, Tanzania. K.M. Homewood and W.A. Rodgers. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0 521 60749 3. pp 298. £24.99. A paperback reissue of a book first published in 1991.
RAY MEAR’S BUSHCRAFT BBC Channel 2. 30th September.
In this broadcast Ray gladly renewed his friendship with the Hadza people whom he had last visited eight years ago. They are a small tribe who remarkably persist in living as hunter-gatherers in this modern world, near Lake Eyasi. They are semi nomadic.
Ray took with him as a present a bow and arrow made in England. One of them said “We survive here as God has given us the bow and arrow.” He showed examples of their way of life and use of natural resources, such as medicines from plants – one of them chewed up a leaf which could then be used as an antidote for snakebite. The Baobab tree is particularly useful.
Ray said of the Hadza: They are some of the most precious people on earth….more of their knowledge of plants should be recorded. Sadly, they rarely have control over their own destiny.”
This programme was a treat in its appreciation of simple human values balanced with sustainable resources in the environment.