Archive for Issue 125


Edited by Donovan McGrath

Siwema Selestine and her daughter in Tanzania – Photo Harry Freedland/Standing Voice

‘We are not ghosts’ – Tanzania’s people with albinism turn the lens on their lives
(Guardian online -UK) Used to fear, abandonment, even attack, a group of young people in a remote rural community are learning that photography can tell their stories and give them a place in society. Extract continues: Film-maker Harry Freedland, who took [a] portrait of Siwema Selestine and her daughter in Tanzania, set up Standing Voice in 2013 after making In the Shadow of the Sun, which follows two Tanzanian men with albinism and documents the discrimination and escalating violence against people with the condition. Albinism is a rare genetic condition that stops the body producing melanin. It is widely misunderstood in some countries where strikingly pale skin can trigger fear, stigmatisation and even attack. Some believe the body parts of people with albinism change fortunes when used in witchcraft. Ukerewe, an island on Lake Victoria, Tanzania, is home to 350,000 people. Discrimination against people with albinism has been strong there. Globally, albinism affects one in 18,000 people; in Tanzania, it is seven times more prevalent… Albinism affects the skin, hair and eyes, causing low vision and susceptibility to skin cancer. Poor eyesight can be misinterpreted as lack of ability: many with the condition leave school without qualifications and have to take on menial work outside. Africans with albinism often die painful deaths from skin cancer at a young age because of exposure to the sun… (29 September 2019)

Tanzanian court upholds a law banning child marriage
(CNN online – USA) Extract: … A high court ruling in 2016 had declared “unconstitutional” sections of Tanzania’s marriage act that allowed the practice. It also directed the government to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 years within a year. That judgement followed a legal challenge by children’s rights activists, who argued that the existing law had pushed many girls into underage marriages. But Tanzania’s attorney general launched an appeal – one of its claims was that child marriage could protect unmarried girls who get pregnant. The Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed the attorney general’s appeal … With two out of five girls being married off before their 18th birthday, Tanzania has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world … (23 October 2019)

US man drowns while proposing marriage to his girlfriend in Tanzania
(Guardian online – UK) Extract: A woman has paid a heart-breaking tribute to her boyfriend, who drowned while proposing marriage to her in Tanzania. Kenesha Antoine posted a video on Facebook of her boyfriend, Steven Weber, swimming up to the window of their underwater room at the Manta Resort on Pemba Island, off Tanzania. “I can’t hold my breath long enough to tell you everything I love about you. But everything I love about you I love more every day”! the note reads. In the video, the Louisiana man flips the page to show the message “Will you marry me?” before pulling out an engagement ring box. Antoine posted on Facebook that Weber “never emerged from those depths”. “You never got to hear my answer, ‘Yes! Yes! A million times, yes’. We never got to embrace and celebrate the beginning of the rest of our lives together, as the best day of our lives turned into the worst, in the cruellest twist of fate imaginable… “Wherever in the universe Steven’s spirit now resides … he’s probably entertaining someone with a story about how he royally screwed up that proposal and died while being extra.” The Manta Resort confirmed in a statement that a guest had died… (22 September 2019)

US says man can bring back ‘skin, skull, teeth and claws’ of hunted Tanzania lion
(Guardian online – UK) Extract: The Trump administration has authorised a Florida man to bring back the “skin, skull, teeth and claws” of a lion he hunted in Tanzania, granting the first permit to import a lion from that country since the species gained protection under the US Endangered Species Act. Environmental organizations say the move could open the floodgates for importing other endangered species such as lions and rhinos. A freedom of information request made public by the US Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) also revealed that the hunter, Carl Atkinson, was represented by lawyer John Jackson III, who is also a member of the Trump administration’s International Wildlife Conservation Council, a controversial advisory board that promotes trophy hunting… “It signals that the administration is ready to approve, trophy imports from Tanzania despite that country’s history of wildlife mismanagement,” [said Tanya Sanerib, the international legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity]. Under the Obama administration, the import of elephant trophies from Tanzania were banned … Under Trump, the FWS reversed course and decided to instead evaluate applications to import elephant and lion trophies from all countries on a case-by-case basis… In a statement, FWS simply reiterated that “legal, well-regulated hunting” can help fund and promote wildlife conservation… [T]he department indicated that it would issue a permit to a Michigan hunter to import the skin, skull and horns from a critically endangered black rhinoceros killed in Namibia. (15 September 2019)

Tanzania Is Pressing Burundi Refugees to Leave, Says Report
(New York Times online – USA) Extract: … Human Rights Watch says tens of thousands of Burundian refugees face mounting pressure to involuntarily leave Tanzania amid efforts by authorities there to reduce the number of Burundians in the country. The rights group in a statement… charged that the fear of violence, arrest and deportation from Tanzania is driving many of the 163,000 Burundians out of the country. Burundi fell into instability in 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a disputed third term. The election was marked by violence and allegations of rigging. Nearly 350,000 of Burundi’s 11 million people fled. Tanzanian authorities have expressed frustration over what they say is the U.N.’s slow pace in repatriating refugees back to Burundi… (12 December 2019)

U.N. Report Bolsters Theory That Hammarskjold Plane Was Downed
(New York Times online – USA) Extract: A prominent jurist investigating the mysterious 1961 plane crash that killed the United Nations secretary general, Dag Hammarskjold, in southern Africa has concluded that the aircraft may have been attacked, and that four nations – Britain, Russia, South Africa and the United States – may be withholding information that could solve the puzzle. The jurist, Mohamed Chande Othman, a former chief justice of Tanzania, issued the conclusions in a 95-page report … posted on the website of the United Nations … Mr. Hammarskjold, a 56-year-old Swedish diplomat considered one of the most successful leaders of the United Nations, was on a mission to help settle a secessionist war in newly independent Congo, a former Belgian colony. His chartered aircraft, a DC-6, went down after midnight on Sept. 18, 1961, moments before its scheduled landing in Ndola, a town in what was then the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia and is now Zambia. Fifteen people aboard, including Mr. Hammarskjold, members of his staff and crew, were killed in the crash. The sole survivor, an American security officer named Harold Julien, died of injuries six days later… Mr. Hammarskjold has been exalted as a model international statesman. He is the only person to have been posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize… Initial investigations by the colonial authorities attributed the crash to pilot error, but suspicions of foul play multiplied in later years. Some theories hold that colonial-era mining interests, perhaps backed by Western intelligence agencies, had plotted to assassinate Mr. Hammarskjold, who was an avid promoter of African independence from colonial powers during the pivotal period of the Cold War. Other provocative bits of information appear to corroborate a theory that South African or Belgian mercenaries may have forced Mr. Hammarskjold’s plane to crash. But the evidence is far from conclusive… (31 October 2019)

Tanzanian Idris Sultan ‘held’ for Magufuli face-swap
(BBC News online – UK) Extract: Popular Tanzanian comedian Idris Sultan is being held by police after sharing face-swap photos of himself and President John Magufuli, his lawyer says. Extract continues: His lawyer said he was being held under the controversial Cybercrimes Act, which forbids using a computer system to “impersonate” someone else. If charged and convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison… Sultan, the one-time winner of Big Brother Africa, shared two photos on his social media accounts which have more than five million followers. One of the pictures shows Sultan posing on a presidential chair with the national seal, while the other shows Mr Magufuli’s face on the comedian’s body. The caption was in Swahili and read: “We swapped roles for a day so that he could enjoy his birthday in peace.” Shortly after the photos were posted, an Instagram comment, thought to be from Paul Makonda, the Regional Commissioner for Dar es Salaam, told Sultan to report to any police station in the city for further instructions, adding that he “doesn’t know the boundaries of his work.” A relative told the BBC that Sultan had turned himself in … The 2015 Cybercrimes Act has been criticised by human rights activists, who say it infringes on freedom of expression. Sultan is the second high-profile celebrity to run into trouble with the government. Top African performer Diamond Platnumz was barred from performing in Tanzania last year for “behaving indecently.” … There is a “shrinking space for freedom of expression” in Tanzania, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International… (31 October 2019)

‘Tell us the right PIN or you’re dead’: Terrified couple are abducted by four men inside a fake taxi after touching down in Tanzania for a holiday
(Daily Mail online – UK) Extract: A couple has recalled the frightening ordeal of being abducted and robbed by four men in a ‘taxi’ moments after arriving in a large city in Tanzania. Chris Williams and partner Tiffany Zyp from New Zealand’s North Island [were] on the overseas adventure of a lifetime. The pair [were] driven around the city to various ATMs – withdrawing a total of $4200 at the demand of their kidnappers. They were also robbed of the $500 cash they had on them and their phones in the terrifying two-hour ordeal … The couple, both aged 31, had just arrived by bus in the eastern port city of Dar es Salaam and were looking for a taxi to drive them to Zambia for the next leg of their adventure, the New Zealand Herald reported. They decided to take a taxi after striking up a friendly conversation with a driver. They were joined by three other men once inside the taxi, who pinned the couple in the back seat and threatened them… The men eventually released the couple, handing back their passports and empty wallets, and told them to ‘act normal when you leave or our friends will get you.’ … One man has reportedly … been arrested and released on bail. (21 August 2019)

Duke’s hidden talent! Prince William leaves a Tanzanian boy ‘gobsmacked’ by speaking to him confidently in Swahili in a ‘truly special moment’ at the Princess Diana Legacy Awards
(Daily Mail online – UK) Extract: … The Duke of Cambridge, 37, was meeting 20 recipients of Princess Diana’s Legacy awards for tea at Kensington Palace when he shocked Erick Venant, 25, from Tanzania, by speaking to him in Swahili… [Tessy Ojo, Chief executive of the Diana Award charity] told People magazine: ‘One of the young people is from Tanzania, and he started talking to him in Swahili… It wasn’t just one sentence. This was not something he had just read out of a book.’ … Erick was among a group of Legacy Award recipients, from across the UK and Commonwealth countries including Canada, Nigeria, Tanzania and India, who have had a significant impact on society. He was awarded after leading a nationwide anti-microbial resistance campaign in 23 administrative regions of Tanzania, which educated over 49,000 students and teachers in 114 secondary schools… It’s not the first time the royal has revealed his talents as a linguist, after speaking Swahili to Tanzanian President John Magufuli while on a trip last year… While he is not believed to be fluent, Prince William taught himself Swahili during his time at university… The royal is believed to speak five languages in total, including French, Welsh, Gaelic and a little Spanish.
(28 November 2019)

Deeds and Misdeeds: Land Tilting and Women’s Rights in Tanzania
(New Left Review 118 – UK) Extract: Conflicts over land are on the rise in Tanzania. Almost daily, the news headlines announce five deaths here, two more there, on account of land-use struggles. Spokespeople for the ruling CCM party explain that this is just a temporary phenomenon, as their programme of land tilting unfolds; once boundaries have been demarcated and rights of occupancy formally registered, the conflicts will disappear… Though Tanzania has several big cities—in addition to Dar es Salaam, now a sprawling conurbation of almost 5 million, and Mwanza, the bustling port on Lake Victoria, the provincial hubs of Arusha, Mbeya, Morogoro and Tanga all have populations of over a quarter of a million—70 per cent of its citizens are rural, mostly poor subsistence farmers, living in some 12,000 villages across the vast country. Land issues, here as in many other parts of Africa, are a burning political-economic question… Tanzania is the largest country in its region. It has a population of 57 million … Since the liberalization of the economy, investment and growth – telecoms, tourism, construction— have been concentrated in the cities, in conservation areas (national parks, game reserves, etc.), and along the coast, creating disparities of growth. Nevertheless, tensions have so far largely been managed by CCM. The rise of land conflicts signals a worrying development, raising questions about the country’s approach to land formalization. This article draws on field research in different parts of Tanzania … our team … investigated tilting in some forty villages, assessing the certification data in the land registries of different districts… Tanzania is a slow adopter of land-formalization policies… In addition to kick-starting agrarian capitalism, a stated objective of the land-tilting programme … was to improve women’s rights… With Anna Tibaijuka’s tenure as CCM Minister for Lands from 2010, formalization found a female champion… [S]he promoted [the Peruvian econom ist Hernando] de Soto’s line: untitled land was ‘dead capital’… [T]itle deeds would reduce conflicts over land, as well as providing collateral for loans… [S]he reminded Tanzanians that tilting included the duty to pay land rents, fees and fines as dictated by the law … The donor-backed formalization programmes in Tanzania focus on issuing ‘certificates of customary rights of occupancy’ (ccros) for village land… The ccros have been explicitly designed for the mass of poorer farmers … Yet progress has been slow… Official estimates are that only 3 per cent of Tanzania’s rural land parcels have been conclusively titled to date. The outcomes—especially for women, the poor and other vulnerable groups such as pastoralists and hunter­gatherers—have been problematic… The process of mapping Western— or, more accurately, us-based—household models and ownership patterns onto the mosaic of Tanzanian kinship structures and local land-management systems has proven more than a little complicated…
(July/August 2019) Thanks to Jerry Jones for this item—Editor



by Ben Taylor

Ali Mufuruki (15 November 1958 to 7 December 2019) was one of the few businessmen of Tanzanian African origin to make it onto the Forbes Rich List, where, in 2011, his assets were estimated at $110m. The figure may have been exaggerated, and he did not appear on the list in subsequent years, but his achievements are not in doubt.

He was born in Bukoba to parents Abdul Hassan Mufuruki and Jalliya Rutaihwa. He was employed by Daimler-Benz and studied in Germany, where in 1986 he achieved a degree-level qualification in Mechanical Design Engineering from the Fachhochschule (or Technical High School) in Reutlingen. He returned to Tanzania to be head of mechanical engineering at the state-owned National Engineering Company. Two years later he created his own company, Infotec Computers Ltd, which installed and maintained computers across Tanzania, supplying both the hardware and software. The timing was perfect: computers were suddenly a key part of the business world. The business expanded rapidly and a few years later the South African based Woolworths Holdings Ltd licensed its interests in Tanzania to the Infotec Investment Group (his holding company). Its first store in Tanzania opened in December 1999, and the franchise was subsequently extended to Uganda. Mufuruki started many other companies; the long list included a franchise of Levi’s, the US-owned maker of jeans, and, with a Norwegian company, a business selling internet-based booking systems to tourist venues. It opened office buildings, locating its headquarters in one of them, a prestigious building in Mikocheni, Dar es Salaam.

But Mufuruki was not just interested in his own businesses. He served as a director or chair of a list of companies and committees far too long to list here (but including the Tanzanian arm of Coca Cola, Vodacom Tanzania, Air Tanzania, Mwananchi Communications Ltd and the Nation Media Group in Kenya). He became involved in the international circuit of business conferences where he spoke, very effectively, about the potential, but also the weaknesses, of businesses in Africa. In 2000, he was a co-founder – and from 2005 chair – of the Chief Executive Officers Roundtable of Tanzania, providing a voice representing business interests across the whole private sector (agriculture and services as well as manufacturing), not controlled or dominated by the government.

But his long-term legacy is likely to be the book which with three friends he published in 2017. [Ali Mufuruki, Rahim Mawji, Moremi Marwa, Gilman Kasiga. Tanzania’s Industrialization Journey, 2015-2056: From an Agrarian to an Industrialised State in 40 Years. Nairobi: Moran Publishers, 2017. Also on the internet at See also the review in Tanzanian Affairs Issue 120, May 2018]. It broke new ground in many ways. It was probably the first book about economic strategy in Tanzania written from within the business community, rather than by academic economists or consultants from overseas. It used the authors’ experiences of their business dealings in the Asian tiger economies, and the work of the Chinese economist Justin Lin and the Korean, Ha-Jung Chang, to demonstrate the benefits of government intervention to steer the process of industrialisation. It was far ahead of its time in much of what it advocated, e.g. that energy policy be based on solar power and not on gas and oil, with as much as possible of the solar hardware fabricated in Tanzania. It presented figures to show that Tanzanian wage rates are below those in China or Bangladesh, so Tanzania can undercut them in the production of labour-intensive products such as garments or the assembly of light electronic products, and export to the whole world, provided the infrastructure is in place and efficient. Its deeper purpose was to give Tanzanians confidence that they can take control of their destinies and make their nation a better place, socially as well as economically. Tanzania has lost another of its leading businessmen, but his ideas will live on in this book, and in his many speeches and presentations on the internet. [Andrew Coulson]

Professor Harold John Cooke, FRGS (1927-2019), was one of the last of the post-war geographers who pursued successful careers in both the Colonial Service and post-Independence African academia.

Born into a working class Manchester family, John entered Manchester University on a scholarship and graduated with a Geography degree in 1948. Following a year’s National Service in the Intelligence Corps in Egypt he was posted to Tanganyika as a District Officer (cadet) in the Colonial Service in 1951. There followed a series of postings, mostly in the districts surrounding Lake Victoria, and culminating in appointment as District Commissioner in the Bukoba District in 1960.

An accomplished mountaineer, he used his free time to climb the mountains of East Africa. He made three ascents of Mt Kilimanjaro, including, in 1957, the first recorded ascent of the Heim Glacier, and the first west-east transect across the entire massif.

In 1956 he married Sylvia Kaufmann, whose family fled from Germany to Tanganyika in 1936, in Tanga. She was to be his constant companion and partner until her death in 2018.

With Tanzanian Independence in 1961 John resigned as DC and moved to the coast where he taught secondary level geography at Tanga and then Karimjee secondary schools. In 1969 he completed a PhD on the Karst of the Tanga limestone, awarded by the University College of Dar-es-Salaam.
Later that same year, John and Sylvia moved back to the UK where John took up a job as a geography teacher, before taking the opportunity two years later to establish the Department of Environmental Science at the new Botswana campus of the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. In 1991 they moved to rural Wales for a quiet retirement. [Philippa John-Cooke]

Sultan Qaboos bin Said (1940-2020) of Oman was the world’s longest ruling King, and a much-loved friend of Tanzania. Though an absolute monarch, who served for almost 50 years, he was both relatively benevolent and popular, including in Tanzania, where historic bonds between Zanzibar and the Omani Kingdom remain powerful.

He came to power in a bloodless coup that overthrew his father, Sultan Said bin Taimur, in 1970, and went on to turn the country from a back­ward and isolated country into a prosperous, modern state, engaged in the wider Arab region. Less impressive was the lack of political change; Qaboos retained personal control of all the main government posts and refused to delegate any real power even to other members of the royal family that has ruled Oman continuously since 1749.

The sultans of Oman ruled over much of the East African coast from 1689 to 1856, maintaining extensive trade routes. In either 1832 or 1840, the sultans moved their capital from Muscat to Zanzibar.

In December 1963, Zanzibar had a brief moment of independence when the British, who had shared power with the sultans as a protectorate (1890-1963), left the islands as a constitutional monarchy back under Omani rule. On January 12, 1964, a violent revolution in Zanzibar overthrew the sultanate, ending over two centuries of power in the region.

Mwalimu Nyerere with Sultan Qaboos bin Said

And yet, the ousting of the Omanis from Zanzibar in 1964 left many Zanzibaris with have strong familial and historical ties to Oman. To this day, many East Africans share a special connection with Oman, and many Omanis speak fluent Swahili.

Sultan Qaboos made quiet but a concerted effort to maintain these ties of family and friendship, particularly after Tanzania began, in the 1980s, to open her doors to tourism and trade. This included various charitable and diplomatic initiatives, the establishment of direct flights between Oman and Zanzibar in 2011, funding the construction of a new Grand Mosque of Zanzibar and the restoration of the Beit el-Ajaib (House of Wonders), and a delegation that visited Zanzibar in 2017 to strengthen cooperation along the coast.

The Sultan’s death was mourned on Zanzibar and in wider Tanzania. Even before he died, residents of Stone Town gathered at Jaws Corner to pray for his health after news circulated that he was ill.

Sultan Qaboos never married and had no children. However, he left a letter nominating his chosen successor and a meeting of the royal family agreed to support his choice: his cousin, Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, the Minister of Culture.

James Mapalala, veteran politician and one of the leading pioneers of pluralism in Tanzania, died in Dar es Salaam in October, aged 83.

Mr Mapalala is probably best known for being the first prominent Tanzanian politician to publicly demand the reinstatement of the multiparty democracy. He did so in 1986, something that angered the government at the time. Accused of forming a political party contrary to the then constitution, he was jailed for two years in Lindi and later taken to detention in the Mafia Island before being released in 1989.

He officially formed the Chama cha Wananchi (CCW) in 1991, one of the two parties (along with Kamahuru, in Zanzibar) that merged in 1993 to form the Civic United Front (CUF). He was elected to be the first CUF national chairman, the position he served until 1994, when his tenure ended following a political wrangle that erupted in the party.

To many young Tanzanians, Ambassador Paul Ndobho (1938-2019) isn’t a familiar name. But to the older generation Ndobho is revered as a strong politician, who had guts to stand even against Father of the Nation Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

In 1968, Ndobho opposed a bill, which was orchestrated by Mwalimu Nyerere, which sought to provide gratuity allowances to MPs and ministers. His main argument was that Tanzania was still too poor to afford such kind of expenditure. Standing up to President Nyerere at that time was seen as political suicide, but Mr Ndobho’s motion sailed through with only one legislator opposing it.

Ndobho became a legislator at the young age of 27 after he won the Musoma North parliamentary seat in 1965 through Tanzania African National Unity (TANU). The constituency included the home village of Mwalimu Nyerere.

He was appointed to various positions under President Nyerere’s administration, including: Kigoma regional secretary (1975) and Tanzania ambassador to Russia (1976). After the reintroduction of multi-party politics in the early 1990s, Ndobho defected to the then main opposition NCCR-Mageuzi, winning both the endorsement of former President Nyerere and the Musoma Rural seat in parliament.



Edited by Martin Walsh

SOCIAL MEMORY, SILENCED VOICES, AND POLITICAL STRUGGLE: REMEMBERING THE REVOLUTION IN ZANZIBAR. William Cunningham Bissell and Marie-Aude Fouéré (eds.). Mkuki na Nyota, Dar es Salaam, 2018. xx + 385 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-9987-08-317-6. £28.00.

Political revolutions are, by their very nature, contested events, and liable to remain the subject of conflicting interpretations long after they have turned the existing order upside down and spun it around. This is especially so when they have been violent in their making and then evolved through further cycles of violence and repression, leaving large numbers of people dead and even more traumatised and intimidated into silence. The Zanzibar Revolution is a case in point, and this edited volume, published in association with the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA), grapples with collective and individual memories of the events of 12 January 1964 and their aftermath, and the continuing reverberations of these in the everyday life of Zanzibaris both home and abroad.

Social Memory, Silenced Voices, and Political Struggle begins and ends with reflections on the official commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the revolution in 2014, firstly in the editors’ thought-provoking introduction (‘Memory, media, and Mapinduzi: alternative voices of revolution, fifty years later’), latterly in a series of 15 black-and-white photographs by Ania Gruca (‘Capturing the commemoration: a documentary photo essay on the 50th anniversary of the revolution’). Anniversaries provide the islands’ government with a regular opportunity to reproduce its founding narrative, just in case its name (Serikali ya Mapinduzi ya Zanzibar, the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar) and longstanding slogan (Mapinduzi Daima!, Revolution Forever!) weren’t reminder enough.

As the introduction makes clear, people aren’t necessarily listening, but carry their own understandings of the revolution and the events surrounding it. An increasing number of these divergent narratives have been made public in recent years, and have been pored over and debated by scholars, including some of the contributors to this collection. Although it doesn’t set out to supply a definitive account of the revolution that reconciles different views, many of the essays in this book include information that adds significantly to the critical historiography of the Zanzibar revolution and related political and social developments in the years and decades which followed the overthrow of the fledgling regime that preceded it.

Following the editor’s introduction, Roman Loimeier’s chapter (‘Memories of the revolution, patterns of interpretation of the 1964 revolution in Zanzibar’) provides an excellent overview of historical events and their different interpretation by Zanzibaris and others, including academic historians. This is followed by two fascinating chapters that illuminate important biographies: Ann Lee Grimstad’s ‘The voice of the revolution: remembering and re-envisioning Field Marshal John Okello’, and G. Thomas Burgess’s ‘Memory, liberalism, and the reconstructed self: Wolfgang Dourado and the revolution in Zanzibar’). The next two chapters provide new insights into the impacts of the revolution on marginalised island communities: Nathalie Arnold Koenings’s ‘ “For us it is what came after:”: locating Pemba in revolutionary Zanzibar’, and Makame Ali Muhajir and Garth Andrew Myers’s ‘Uncommon misery, relegated to the margins: Tumbatu and fifty years of the Zanzibar revolution’.

Gavin Macarthur (‘“Glittering skin”: race, rectitude, and wrongdoing in Zanzibar’) and Kjersti Larsen (‘Silenced voices, recaptured memories: historical imprints within a Zanzibari life-world’) both use contemporary ethnography to examine how cultural memories of the revolution are expressed and embodied in private and public practices and performance. These chapters focus on the everyday experiences of Goans and others in Zanzibar whose world was overturned by the revolution. They are followed by Nathaniel Mathews’ discussion of the transmission and transformations of traumatic memories of the revolution among Zanzibaris who fled to Oman (‘Memory, history, and the nation among the grieving cosmopolitans: Omani-Zanzibaris remember the Zanzibar Revolution, 1964-present’).

In ‘Africa Addio, the revolution, and the ambiguities of remembrance in contemporary Zanzibar’, Marie-Aude Fouéré’s explores the dissemination and reception of the notoriously racist “shockumentary” that purports to show disturbing and bloody scenes from the first week of the revolution, including bodies on the beach and mass graves. This chapter was first published in an academic journal in 2016, but is well worth a second outing. It is followed by the book’s penultimate chapter, Ahmed Rajab’s refreshingly personal reflection on ‘Healing the past, reinventing the present: from the revolution to Maridhiano’, the latter being a reference to the political reconciliation which produced a Government of National Unity in 2010-15, before the next contested election and resumption of the usual partisan hostilities.

As this summary of its contents suggests, Social Memory, Silenced Voices, and Political Struggle covers a lot of ground, and is both compelling and informative. Unlike some collections, it is well conceived, and its contributions address a set of closely interlocking themes in interestingly different ways. Although it only scratches the surface of a vast topic (Interpretation Forever!), it will surely inspire future researchers to explore further. A degree of unevenness can be forgiven, though plain-speaking readers may be put off by some of the lapses into academic gobbledygook and Swahili speakers perplexed and dismayed by the unchecked claim (repeated from another source) that the literal meaning of kishuka (“little cloth”, i.e. loincloth) is “bird shit”. But these are minor stains on the overwhelming integrity and value of this book.

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Business Studies and Humanities, Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST), Arusha, Tanzania, and the Book Reviews Editor of Tanzanian Affairs.

Also noticed:
PEMBA: MUHANGA WA SIASA. Ahmed Omar. Zanzibar Daima Publishing,
Bonn, 2019. vii + 28 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-0-359-50463-3. £18.86.

As its title suggests (Pemba: Victim of Politics), this book is a critical political history of Pemba island. The author, a biology and geography teacher from Wete, draws on his experience as a supporter of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), interviews with other Pembans, and an eclectic variety of published sources to outline the history of the island from precolonial times to the present, with a focus on its political vicissitudes before, during and since the Zanzibar Revolution. Following a preface by the poet and publisher Mohammed Ghassani and a brief introduction, the main text is divided into 19 chapters, followed by more than four pages of references in a somewhat idiosyncratic order. The book is well produced and has a striking image of bicycles bearing sacks of charcoal on its cover. It is one of 15 works published on the enterprising Ghassani’s self-publishing platform ( and is available from different commercial sellers.

Martin Walsh

BUILDING A PEACEFUL NATION: JULIUS NYERERE AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF SOVEREIGNTY IN TANZANIA, 1960-1964. Paul Bjerk. University of Rochester Press, Rochester NY, 2018. xvii + 374 pp (paperback). ISBN 978-1-58046-935-7. £25.00.

This book, first published in 2015, has now been reissued as a paperback. The hardback was originally reviewed by Robert Macdonald in Tanzanian Affairs Issue 113 ( and his review is reproduced below:

The immediate tasks facing those African governments which took power of newly independent states during the 1960s were to establish political control and limit neo-colonial interference; in other words. to establish sovereignty. This was not easy. Economic and administrative capacity was limited, and creating a stable political consensus was difficult in the absence of unpopular colonial rule. To complicate matters, external threats were posed by instability in neighbouring countries and by increasingly interventionist superpower policy in the context of the Cold War. The way in which the TANU government under the leadership of Julius Nyerere was able to negotiate these challenges and create a foundational sovereignty during the period 1960-64 is the subject of this book by Paul Bjerk, an assistant professor of history at Texas Tech University.

One major limitation facing any researcher investigating post-independence Tanganyikan government policy is that many of the official records from this period remain confidential. In addition to interviewing dozens of key protagonists, Bjerk has attempted to bridge this gap by presenting the contents of a wide range of diplomatic correspondence in which key issues are often discussed frankly. Indeed, the fact that the references and bibliography in this book run to almost 100 pages is testament to his substantial archival research across several countries.

In the introduction, Bjerk states that his book is not intended to be a biography or evaluation of Nyerere. However, sections on Nyerere’s education and his development of Ujamaa ideology – and indeed the book’s subtitle – at times create a contrary impression. Although other figures such as Oscar Kambona and Rashidi Kawawa receive plenty of attention, Nyerere is firmly situated as the book’s key figure, perhaps inevitably given the central role he played in policy formation during this period.

Bjerk’s work is structured thematically, starting with a focus on domestic sovereignty. He evaluates, in turn, measures to limit the threat posed to Nyerere’s government by opposition parties and labour unions, the origins of Ujamaa ideology, early attempts at villagisation, the 1964 mutiny and, finally, the creation of the national youth service. Throughout this section, Bjerk skilfully shows that sovereignty is not simply imposed from above but rather it is the product of social mediation in which both elite and non-elite discourses play important roles.

Bjerk then turns attention to the projection of external sovereignty through foreign policy. He discusses the way in which the Tanganyikan government sought a balance between its principled positions, for example its support for independence movements in Southern Africa and its desire to maintain a non-aligned position in the Cold War. This section also contains a chapter on the Zanzibar Revolution which shows that an American intervention had been imminent before Union with Tanganyika was finally agreed.

Casual readers may find the more academically complex parts of this book off-putting, for example the theoretical sections contained in the introduction and conclusion. However, Bjerk’s work will provide an invaluable resource for those engaged in the academic study of the immediate post-independence period in both Tanzania (Tanganyika) and Africa more broadly.
Robert Macdonald

Robert Macdonald was awarded his University of Edinburgh PhD in 2018 for a dissertation on Voter Behaviour in Tanzania: A Qualitative Study of the 2015 Elections.