Edited by John Cooper-Poole (UK) and Marion Doro (USA)
BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE, edited by Jim Igoe and Tim Kelsall. Durham NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2005 xvii + 309 pp. ISBN 1 59460 017 1
This book is a collection of essays on the changed political landscape in Africa, more specifically on the interactions between government, NGOs and the international aid community. NGOs have everywhere become significant political actors, albeit that they may deny political aspirations. There are two contributions on Tanzania, one being by Ben Rawlence who wrote a sensitive article on the Jamiani Development Committee (JDC). This was spawned from a Danida school maintenance/ rehabilitation program. Teachers had formed a School Extension Group that capitalised on using Danida’s services on a wider scale. When these teachers were transferred, it was renamed JDC. Rawlence shows well how novel this form of organization was and how it operated in the interstices of power.
The other contribution is by Jim Igoe on Barabaig NGO’s in conflict with the Canadian supported wheat complex in Hanang. From the very beginning, the Barabaig have protested against taking their land for those big farms. These protests take another form now that there is the new phenomenon NGO. A visit by the Canadian ambassador to the complex is central in the story. The NGO representatives aim to draw lots of money out of the Canadian presence and the Canadian ambassador wants to make an end to their long-term involvement in Hanang. The Barabaig would however continue to grow wheat if the land would ever be returned to them.
Jan Kees van Donge
THE PRACTICAL IMPERIALIST: LETTERS FROM A DANISH PLANTER IN GERMAN EAST AFRICA 1888-1906, Jane L. Parpart and Marianne Rostgaard, (eds.), Brill, Leiden, 2006. List price US$59.
A dusty corner of a provincial Danish museum might seem an unlikely place in which to seek out the history of German East Africa. Yet such was the origin of this edited collection of letters from a Danish plantation manager to his family which cover the period from 1888 until his death from blackwater fever in 1906.
The book begins with two introductory chapters from which we learn that the letter-writer, Christian Lautherborn, was born in ‘a rather sleepy provincial town’ in Denmark in 1859. In 1888 he accepted a job as a plantation manager for the German East Africa Company (DOAG) based in Pangani. His task was to use expertise in plantation agriculture he had acquired in Texas to grow cotton for the German textile industry.
And so might have begun a familiar story of the trials and tribulations of settler agriculture. Yet this is German East Africa in the late 1880s and as Jane Parpart’s chapter on the political context explains, all was not quite as peaceful as the DOAG wished. Lautherborn was directly caught up in the armed rebellion which broke out in Pangani in 1888 and his eye-witness accounts offer a fascinating complement to recent historical work on the rebellion by Jonathon Glassman. After his rescue from Pangani, Lautherborn left the relative safety of Zanzibar to return to the mainland. In Bagamoyo he took an active part in the fighting. In a letter to a father clearly unhappy with the soldiering role he had taken on, and aware of reports of German cruelty circulating in the press, Lautherborn explained that he saw his role as one of ‘helping to introduce civilization here’ and wrote of the sadness he felt seeing the country ‘at the mercy of heartless Arabs, whose only occupation is to capture Negroes and sell them’. His Danish identity and his defence of the German colonial enterprise in a universal language employing abolitionist rhetoric is particularly interesting.
There are also lighter moments, as in his description of Zulu soldiers using holes in their ears for storing first snuff and a toothbrush then, on becoming more accustomed to army life, a cigar and a bullet. He was a keen photographer and the book includes wonderful pictures of Bagamoyo town and of his plantations.
The translation of these letters into English offers anyone interested in Tanzanian history a fascinating source and we must hope that, as promised in the foreword, a translation into Swahili will soon follow.
SWAHILI MEDICAL DICTIONARY AND PHRASEBOOK by M. J. K. Cooper, 2006. Pb. 180 pages. Can be ordered from www.medicalswahili.org.uk . and the author at 2 Drax Avenue, Wareham, Dorset BH20 4DJ. £8.84+p&p
This English-Swahili glossary/phrasebook is aimed at doctors and clinicians working with Swahili-speaking patients and staff. A brief introduction to the language is followed by 60 sections covering general and medical topics such as presenting problems, anatomy, insects, death, equipment, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastro-intestinal, sexual health, obstetrics, contraception, ophthalmology, psychiatry, refugee healthcare and traditional treatments. The phrases are mostly questions addressed to the patient, though some are patient’s /carer’s responses. The author’s experience is evident, for example Muslim prayer times are listed as a guide for taking medicines. Some knowledge of Kiswahili is presumed, so it is unfortunate that the bibliography lists the 1951 edition of “Teach Yourself Swahili” by Perrott, instead of J. Russell’s 1996 edition. It has been well translated into Standard Swahili; some regional and colloquial alternatives are also helpfully provided. Compared with some recent Swahili dictionaries, misprints are few and minor; e.g. onaonaje for unaonaje, stakhbati for stakabadhi.
This pocket sized book is particularly welcome; there being no other up-to-date practical handbook currently available. It is recommended.
SHIPWRECKS AND SALVAGE ON THE EAST AFRICAN COAST, by Kevin Patience. 2006. Available from the author, at 257 Sandbanks Road, Poole, Dorset BH14 8EY. £18.50 including P&P to UK address.
Another masterpiece from this prolific formerly Kenya-based author! His career was partly spent in salvage diving, and he has used this to provide us with a wonderful catalogue of the wrecks of the East African coastline. Now, catalogues or lists can be dryly written, but this offering is far from that. Though the wrecks are presented in list format, they are mostly accompanied by photographs and are fully described, many indeed in unimaginable detail.
There is a splendid Foreword by Capt Michael Bowman, which sets the professional tone of the book’s 276 pages. The author’s Preface provides the background, followed by some 85 Kenyan and almost 80 Tanzanian Indian Ocean shipwrecks, strandings and salvage operations. There is a piece on the 1872 Zanzibar hurricane and the final major section covers some 25 wrecks, sinkings and strandings on the East African lakes; and the author concludes with several pages of tugs in use through the region over the years.
Many well known vessel names appear in the pages, such as the Konigsberg, about which the author has written much in the past, and which ended its days in the Rufiji Delta; those splendid First World War twins sent out from London, Mimi and Toutou; and the Goetzen, now the Liemba which continues to serve on Lake Tanganyika. Many German and some Portuguese vessels are faithfully catalogued, and wartime action is accurately and interestingly recalled.
Though the book’s subject may never achieve universal appeal, it is of significant interest to the East African readership. It not only catalogues and photographs the wrecks, the book places them in perspective as to why the vessels foundered, thus earning its place in the historical record.
THE EVANGELIZATION OF SLAVES AND CATHOLIC ORIGINS IN EASTERN AFRICA. Paul V. Kollman, ORBIS Books 2005. ISBN 13-978-1-57075-626-9 pbk. 356 pgs, $25
They arrived in Zanzibar from France intent on evangelizing, then moved to Bagamoyo and from there inland. About 85 priest members of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost – called Spiritans – evangelized some 4,000 ex-slaves between 1860 and 1890, starting with ransoming them or receiving once-captives from Europeans who had freed them from slave ships and caravans. (About 92 nuns also arrived but the author found a lack of sources about their work, since “the term missionary applied only to men”.)
The book examines in interesting detail how the former slaves, who worked in the fields and at the missions until they were sent upcountry, were not all easily evangelized. Far from it! They resisted (some escaped), and the Catholic communities – the Christians and the Church – that emerged “represented a collective African achievement” through productive opposition that sought to reform, not overthrow the missionary system with its “missionary preconceptions of what it meant to be Catholic” and what it meant to be African.
THE DAR MUTINY OF 1964. Tony Lawrence aided by Sir Chrisotopher MacRae. Book Guild Publishing. 19 New Road. BN1 1UF. 2007. £16.99
Little has been written about the dramatic events in Tanzania on 20th January and succeeding days in 1964 when the Tanganyikan army mutinied and a reluctant President Nyerere had to call in military assistance from Britain only three years after he had obtained his country’s independence. The other major book on the incident, Tanganyika Rifles Mutiny January 1964 (Dar Salaam University Press) was published in 1993 and gave a very detailed account of what happened as seen by the Tanganyikans involved. This book, described rightly by former British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington in a brief Forward, as a remarkable story and a very good read, describes the events more from the British point of view. Lord Carrington confesses that he has little personal recollection of the mutiny and its aftermath. This could not be said however of people living in Dar es Salaam at the time who are unlikely to forget their extreme anxiety as mutinous soldiers wandered around the city out-of-control and looters were allowed to attack property.
Tony Lawrence was serving at the time as Signal Communications Officer in the aircraft carrier HMS Centaur, from which the British intervention was launched. Christopher MacRae was a newly appointed member of the British High Commission’s staff in Dar es Salaam and was a specialist in African politics. They start by tracing the causes of the mutiny – low pay and lack of promotion opportunities – because little had been done until then to Africanise the army by appointing Tanganyikan officers to replace the British officers who still held all senior positions. The authors blame both Britain and Tanganyika for this. They then go on to analyse briefly the performance of the principal government ministers involved, the leaders of the mutiny and the Tanganyikan army officers who had no easy choice in deciding what to do. Of all these, Minister of Defence and External Affairs, Oscar Kambona, figures most prominently. He is criticised in the book for what is described as his erratic style of management before the mutiny and then praised for courageously taking on the angry soldiers and persuading them to return to barracks while President Nyerere had gone temporarily into hiding. They do not accept the conspiracy theory that Kambona might have been in collusion with the mutineers. After it was all over, Kambona fell out with Nyerere over socialism and spent most of the rest of his life in exile in Britain, working initially for London Transport.
It is not possible in a brief review to do justice to the many actions described. A few highlights:
The aircraft carrier Centaur was relatively small and it was suddenly called upon to take on board in Aden, army and Royal Marine Commando units, additional aircraft and helicopters, armoured cars, landrovers and vast quantities of stores before proceeding apace to Dar es Salaam. After finally setting off they were horrified to learn that they had left the ammunition for the marines back in Aden! Every inch of deck space seemed to be full of men and equipment and the officers had to draw up a plan for a lightning operation in a place many had hardly heard of.
The book covers the three days of planning on board and all the complications involved in launching such an operation. Marine commanders, Communications Staff engineers, intelligence staff, Air Traffic Control officers, gunnery experts and many others. The young commander of the accompanying destroyer was a very worried man when he received his orders. He had to aid the landing operation by providing lots of noise to disorientate the mutineers, using his main guns, at their maximum range, with no warning, in peacetime, into an independent foreign country, close to crowded barracks. He had to avoid casualties amongst the Tanganyikans at all costs!
The operation was a great success. The mutineers were disarmed and discharged. There were no British casualties and very few Tanganyikan and the new Tanzania then set about creating a new army.
In their conclusion the authors write: ‘Julius Nyerere’s admirers, of whom there were and remain many, would scarcely describe him as having been essentially a man of action……. his many qualities lay elsewhere. Yet in the days that followed his return to office he bore a load that might have crushed many a man without his strength of character and solid faith in his own vision….. Nyerere’s handling of the post-intervention situation proved highly effective. He secured his immediate aim of quickly shoring up his political position at home and, by actively involving the OAU, deflected possible criticism from other African leaders for having asked the former colonial power for help….. even the longer term problem of how to retrain the army was eventually settled, with initial help from Canada. The fact that the national and international ripples from this incident had virtually disappeared six months later is a testament to the good sense of both the Tanganyikans and the British.’
GEM SLAVES. IRIN (UN) Films
Tanzanite is marketed as a more ethical and unique alternative to diamonds. The startling blue stones are only found in Tanzania, and given the peace in Tanzania, it is claimed Tanzanite is innocent of the charges sometimes levelled at ‘blood’ diamonds from Sierra Leone or the Congo. This film by the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), demonstrates once again how few of the precious stones mined in Africa are ever brought to the surface without a human cost.
The short documentary interviews young boys who are sent down the artisanal mines of North-Eastern Tanzania to dig for Tanzanite. Some are motivated by the need to provide for their family, others are forced by gangmasters. All of them face the same risks of collapsing roofs, exploding gas and flooded tunnels. The artisanal mines around the industrial mining operations in Mererani are lawless places where holes are dug with no concern for safety or legality and where the spoils of the earth are quickly converted into cash, alcohol and prostitution. The children’s tales are harrowing, and all the more moving for being told with such eloquence by the children themselves. Without prospects elsewhere, they have little option but to journey underground every day in the hope of finding the unique blue stones which are becoming fashionable in Europe and the United States. The boys are paid a fraction of the market worth for the uncut stones, however. A finished stone in London can fetch up to £800 per carat. In Dar-es-Salaam, the same stone would probably carry a price tag of only $800. But the dealers in Arusha pay roughly a tenth of that for uncut rocks.
The situation in Mererani is dangerous. Not only do the youngsters face the natural hazards of mining in unregulated environments, but the desperation, greed and violence on the surface presents further threats. It is a place where the women must often chose between brewing beer or prostitution in order to feed their families; and a place where such women are often not accorded proper respect.
Despite the depressing picture painted by the film, there is hope. The film interviews the director of Good Hope, an NGO that aims to encourage some of the child miners away from mining and provide them with an education instead. The star of the film, David, ends up in a rehabilitation centre run by Good Hope. But he is no meek victim. Asked who is to blame for the widespread use of children in the mines he doesn’t blink: “the government,” he answers.
Child labour is forbidden in Tanzania but the government has so far done nothing to enforce the law in Mererani. There has been a long running dispute over rights to exploit the land at Mererani between artisanal miners who claim it is their land, and the government and the mining company, TanzaniteOne, formerly AFGEM, who uphold the right of the government to grant concessions. There have been numerous tragedies in the Mererani informal mines. 50 people died when mines flooded in 1998 and a further 30 were trapped when oxygen pumps failed in 2002. Added to that, there are regular reports of casualties caused by over zealous security guards of the mining company. Prime Minister Lowassa visited Mererani in April 2006 and promised that his government would work to resolve the dispute with TanzaniteOne and deliver much needed social services. He made no mention of child labour but asked for patience and trust. The people of Mererani are still waiting