by Donovan McGrath

Twickenham veteran runs ultra-marathon across Tanzania
(BBC News online – UK) A British veteran is spending her 37th birthday running an ultra-marathon across Tanzania. Extract continues: Tricia Sinclair, from Twickenham, is raising money to help fellow veterans tackle the “petrifying” obstacle of reintegrating into civilian life… Ultra X Tanzania [is] a five-day race which traverses Mount Kilimanjaro … “I want to inspire others to really challenge their mental resilience,” she said. Ms Sinclair was in the army for 14 years between 2008 and 2022 and served five operational tours. She now works as the director of fitness for charity REORG, which helps rehabilitate veterans, military and emergency services personnel through functional fitness and jiu­jitsu. She hopes to raise £30,000 from the ultra-marathon to allow 100 people to go through the charity’s fitness programme. Ms Sinclair is to run 155 miles (250km) during the challenge including the 3,700m climb up Kilimanjaro… (12 June 2023)

Tanzania aims to connect 8 million citizens to broadband alongside mobile network operators
(Fintech Times online – UK) Extract: With an aim to achieve 80 per cent broadband penetration by 2025, the Tanzanian government, supported by the World Bank, has partnered with a number of mobile network operators to begin project ‘Digital Tanzania’. The government aims to see the extensions of broadband services to 1,407 villages – benefiting over eight million Tanzanians across the country. H.E. President Suluhu of Tanzania said: “This project will see all 26 regions across Tanzania’s mainland reached with quality and reliable telecommunication services compared to Zanzibar which was wholly covered in November 2022. “The presence of services is of great significance not only in rural areas but also in town areas as it accelerates development and inclusion politically, socially, and economically as well as for the safety and security of the nation. The implementation of this project is in line with the government’s commitment to improve telecommunication services and facilitate youth with opportunities in the ICT sector”… Suluhu has … commended the excellent implementation of the ‘m-mama’ program in partnership with the Vodacom Tanzania Foundation which has remarkably decreased the maternal mortality rate across Tanzania… (16 May 2023)

Interview: Gains of USAID Administrator Samantha Power’s visit to Tanzania
(Time Africa Magazine online – USA) Extract: On her first day in Tanzania, Administrator Samantha Power travelled to Arusha, where she visited a community farm. She met with cooperative farmers and representatives of the Tanzania Horticulture Association (TAHA) to learn how TAHA, supported by USAID, has successfully driven economic growth and generated jobs for thousands of women and men by partnering with farming communities, the private sector, and the Government of Tanzania. While at TAHA, the Administrator announced an additional $260 million in U.S. funding to address the global food crisis that has been exacerbated by Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the severe drought in the Horn of Africa region. This new funding includes support for programs in Tanzania, as well as other countries and regional initiatives. Administrator Power then met with a group of women conservation leaders who work in partnership with USAID in Tanzania. The conservation leaders shared how they are helping local communities benefit from conservation efforts, including sustainable fisheries, carbon credits for forest preservation, and wildlife tourism. The Administrator commended their leadership in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in conservation and development… [Tanzania] Vice President [Philip] Mpango and the Administrator then joined a celebration of the national expansion of the m-mama public-private partnership between USAID, Vodacom Foundation, and the Government of Tanzania. The m-mama program provides emergency referral and transportation to newborns and expectant mothers… (24 June 2023)

United States and Tanzania Announce a $24 Million Food Security Project
(African Business Magazine online – UK) Extract: During this year’s Nane Nane event in Mbeya, the United States government and the United Republic of Tanzania announced USAID’s new food security activity Tuhifadhi Chakula (“Let’s Save Food”), a five-year, $24 million initiative to be implemented by the Tanzania Horticulture Association in partnership with the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) Centre. By targeting and reducing food loss and waste, the USAID Tuhifadhi Chakula project will increase food security, improve livelihoods, increase employment, and generate export opportunities for Tanzania – especially among women and youth. In Tanzania, 40-50 percent of crops are lost between the field and the end market. USAID’s Tuhifadhi Chakula project will work with farmers, traders, processors, and other actors in the value chain to cut food loss and waste in half. The project was designed in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and aligns with its National Post-Harvest Management Strategy. The project will initially operate in the Arusha, Mbeya, Morogoro, Njombe, Pwani, Tanga, and Zanzibar regions of Tanzania… (9 August 2023)

A stunning gem, to honour a slain geologist, unveiled at Smithsonian
(Washington Post online – USA) Extract: The jewel rested on a cushion in a small black box covered with cloth in a vault at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Jeffrey Post, curator of the National Gem and Mineral Collection, put on a pair of white cotton gloves, pulled off the cloth and opened the box. “So, this is the stone,” he said, holding it under the fluorescent lights—a lustrous, green 116­carat gem called a tsavorite. With 177 facets, it glittered as he held it. “It’s truly a beautiful stone,” he said. “When you look at the colour of it, it just doesn’t look like anything else that we have.” Technically a garnet, it is named the Lion of Merelani. And, as with many a precious gem, it comes with a story. . . [N]amed in part for the Merelani region of Tanzania where it was found. it was put on display along with the Hope Diamond, the Carmen Lúcia ruby and other spectacular jewels in its hall of geology, gems and minerals. It is the largest precision-cut tsavorite in the world … The museum said the stone, which was found in 2017 and cut over three months by renowned gem cutter Victor Tuzlukov, was donated by Somewhere in the Rainbow, a private gem and jewellery collection, and by tsavorite mining executive Bruce Bridges, in honour of his late father… Bridges’s father, geologist Campbell Bridges, discovered tsavorite in East Africa in the 1960s—reportedly while fleeing from an angry buffalo—and brought it to prominence. He had lived most of his life in Africa, often in a treehouse near his mines, and was known as the old lion. But in 2009, he was murdered in Kenya by a gang of illegal prospectors who had been threatening him and trying to drive him away from his mines, his son said in an interview. On Aug. 11, they ambushed him, his son and four of their employees, and stabbed the elder Bridges to death. “Losing my father is the worst tragedy in the history of our family,” Bruce Bridges said. “And the driving forces in our lives have been to see justice … and then on top of that to ensure that my father’s dream and legacy for tsavorite lives on.” “What better way than to have all of this come full circle and have this particular, one-of-a-kind tsavorite in the National Gem Collection,” he said… (20 April 2023)

UK students pledge ‘career boycott’ of insurers over fossil fuels
(The Guardian online – UK) Extract: Hundreds of students and recent graduates of top UK universities are pledging a “career boycott” of major insurers, saying they will not work for firms including Lloyd’s of London if they support controversial fossil fuel projects. More than 500 current and recent students from the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University College London, University of Edinburgh and others have warned they will keep a close eye on firms that fail to shift to climate-friendly policies. “We refuse to put our professional careers at the service of climate wreckers that insure those responsible for the climate crisis,” the letter – sent to insurance market Lloyd’s of London, as well as individual firms including Beazley, Hiscox, Chaucer and Tokio Marine Kiln – said. “Insurers’ lack of action on climate change will cost them talented workers.” A Deloitte survey recently found that more than half of Gen Z recruits tended to research a brand’s environmental impact and policies before accepting a job, while one in six have already changed jobs or sectors over climate concerns. A further 25% say they plan to move roles because of their employers’ climate impact in the future… The students’ letter explained signatories would pay particular attention to insurers that decide to work with TotalEnergies and Equinor, which they said were currently seeking insurance for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) – scheduled to transport oil from Uganda to Tanzania – and the Rosebank oilfield – which is the largest undeveloped oilfield in the North Sea. The students noted that nearly two dozen insurers had already ruled out supporting the African pipeline, including several that worked within the Lloyd’s of London market. “Since 2017, at least 41 insurers have adopted restrictions on underwriting coal, 22 on tar sands and 13 on conventional oil and gas. But Lloyd’s of London and many Lloyd’s managing agents are lagging behind and putting our lives at risk by continuing to insure oil and gas,”
38 Tanzania in the International Media the letter said… (24 May 2023)

Scientists warn Africa is splitting in TWO: 2,000-mile crack that appeared along south-east of the continent is widening by one inch every year
(Daily Mail online – UK) Extract: A massive crack ripping through Africa is set to split the continent in two and form Earth’s sixth ocean, scientists have warned. Countries along the southeastern coast would become a giant island, creating an entirely new sea from Ethiopia to Mozambique. The so-called Eastern African Rift formed at least 22 million years ago but has shown activity over the last few decades – a crack appeared along the deserts of Ethiopia in 2005 and is widening at a rate of one inch per year. It is a result of two tectonic plates moving away from each other, but the exact mechanism was not fully understood at the time. Now, a study published in June found that a massive ejection of super-heated rock coming up from our planet’s core is driving the rift. While Africa is not expected to tear for at least another five million years, Somalia and half of Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania will form a new continent when it does… A 35-mile crack that appeared in 2005 already shows signs of a new sea near Ethiopia. And another tore through Kenya in 2018 following heavy rainfall, forcing people to leave their homes and shut down roadways… (6 July 2023)

‘Gut-churning’: anger as Hungarian president addresses major women’s rights conference
(The Guardian online – UK) Extract: Some leading delegates at a women’s rights conference in Rwanda have expressed shock at the appearance there of the Hungarian president, an anti-abortionist criticised for an anti-equality stance. Katalin Novák, an important player in the international “anti-gender movement”, was invited by the Rwandan government to speak at the Women Deliver conference in Kigali … where reproductive rights is one of the areas under discussion. “We were taken aback,” said conference attendee Bruna Martinez, an activist from Brazil and member of Young Feminist Europe. “We don’t understand why a woman like this would be invited.” Before becoming president in 2022, Novák served as family minister in Viktor Orbán’s government and was key in implementing the government’s pro-natalist policies. She has said Hungarian women “shouldn’t compete with men” or expect to earn the same amount of money… Novák, former leader of the Political Network for Values, an international organisation that works to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage, was on a state visit to Rwanda and Tanzania. To applause, she told the conference’s opening ceremony … “I’m the first woman president of my country.” She said that increasing the fertility rate is Hungary’s goal for gender equality and expressed hope that her teenage daughter will feel empowered to have “even 10 children if she chooses to”. Delphine O, a French special envoy for the global Generation Equality initiative, tweeted that Novák’s “so-called ‘pro-family’ values are at odds with what feminists in the room stand for”. . . Maliha Khan, the president and CEO of Women Deliver, said that she had agreed to platform Novák at the behest of the Rwandan government. “If we want to achieve what we want to achieve, we have to partner with and talk to people who we don’t agree with on many, many things,” she said… (19 July 2023)

‘Green colonialism’: Indigenous world leaders warn over west’s climate strategy
(The Guardian online – UK) UN summit in New York hears how resources needed for sustainable energy threaten Indigenous land and people. Extract continues: World Indigenous leaders meeting … at an annual UN summit have warned that the west’s climate strategy risks exploitation of Indigenous territories, resources and people. New and emerging threats about the transition to a greener economy, including mineral mining, were at the forefront of debate as hundreds of Indigenous chiefs, presidents, chairmen and delegates gathered at the 22nd United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. “It is common to hear the expression to ‘leave no one behind’. But perhaps those who are leading are not on the right path,” the forum’s chairman, Dario Mejía Montalvo, told delegates … as the 12-day summit opened in New York in the first convening since the pandemic outbreak. The longtime advocacy group, Cultural Survival, in partnership with other organizations, highlighted how mining for minerals such as nickel, lithium, cobalt and copper – the resources needed to support products like electric car batteries – are presenting conflicts in tribal communities in the United States and around the world. As countries scramble to uphold pledges to keep global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre­industrial levels by 2030, big business and government are latching on to environmentally driven projects such as mineral needs or wind power that are usurping the rights of Indigenous peoples – from the American south-west to the Arctic and the Serengeti in Africa… During a special panel discussion, Edward Parokwa, executive director of the Pastoralists Indigenous Non-Governmental Organization (Pingo’s Forum), said a mass migration has ensued of thousands of Maasai violently displaced from their Tanzania homelands to make way for a luxury game reserve … A UAE-based company is believed to be behind the big game hunting operation. “And it’s happening in the name of conservation,” Parokwa said… (23 April 2023)

Tanzanian killed in Ukraine: We told him not to go
(BBC News online – UK) Nemes Tarimo’s family in Tanzania warned him against agreeing to fight with Russian forces in Ukraine, but the 37-year-old had a big incentive to sign up. Extract continues: … [His] relatives learnt of the news that confirmed their worst fears. He had died in combat… One [relative] says they last heard from him in October when he had said he had agreed to sign up with the Russian mercenary group Wagner. “Nemes informed me and some other family members about joining Wagner, and we advised him not to,” the family member … tells the BBC. But for the young man, whose relatives describe as polite, God-fearing and supportive, there was an offer that was hard to resist. The family says that Tarimo, who had ambitions to be an MP with the opposition Chadema party, had been in Moscow as an ICT master’s student at the Russian Technological University. But he was then imprisoned some time after January 2021 for what was described as drugs-related offences. Last year, he was enticed with a deal: sign up and be pardoned or stay in prison. “He said he would join to free himself,” the relative says. This case echoes that of 23-year-old Zambian student Lemekhani Nyirenda, who has also been in prison in Russia and died last year fighting with Wagner. . . Last September, Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin was seen in leaked footage outlining the rules of fighting, such as no deserting or sexual contact with Ukrainian women, and then giving the prisoners five minutes to decide if they want to sign up. . . Russian state-owned domestic news agency, Ria Novosti, interviewed someone who said he had fought alongside Tarimo. He said the Tanzanian had died while trying to help a wounded soldier. The Federal News Agency says that Tarimo was awarded a posthumous medal “for courage” by the Wagner Group… (20 January 2023)


by Martin Walsh



LAITI NINGELIJUA: MAISHA NA USANII. Nicco ye Mbajo. TuwaKadabra Productions, Dar es Salaam, 2020. 141 pp. (paperback). ISBN: 9789987971091. TSh. 10,000 (available in Tanzania from Elite Bookstore at Mbezi Beach and Kona ya Riwaya Bookshop in Kinondoni, Dar es Salaam. It can also be obtained from the reviewer at uta.reuster@gmail.com.

Nicco ye Mbajo (1950-2021) was a popular Swahili writer and illustrator, cartoonist, editor, and co-founder of the Swahili magazine SANI (established in 1978). He was among the popular Swahili writers of the 1970s and 1980s such as Hammie Rajab, Kajubi Mukajanga, S.A.M. Kitogo, and Ben Mtobwa, who created an extensive body of work that combined entertainment with social criticism. Unbeknownst to many, Mbajo was also the father of the famous SANI cartoons, such as Lodi Lofa (the city loafer), Madenge (the cunning school-boy), Ndumilakuwili (the hypocrite) and Komredi Kipepe (the backward country-bumpkin). They represent certain personality types that the urban environment in Tanzania produced, contrasted with a set of rural characters, who stand for backwardness and simple-mindedness.

Mbajo, however, was also a gifted musician and choir director, who even founded a dance band up-country in the 1970s. His active career as an artist, cultural producer and entrepreneur spanned the period from the 1970s to the 2010s, from Ujamaa to Mageuzi, experiencing and navigating privatisation, liberalisation, and multiparty democracy.

In his autobiography he looks back on this career, which, as the title Laiti Ningelijua (“If I Had Known”) signals, ultimately fell short of what he would have thought possible, given his talents and artistic abilities. The text is a gripping account of Mbajo’s various attempts to make a living through art and culture in Tanzania, which led to some great successes, but always followed by drastic setbacks. In some cases, Mbajo blames his own misjudgements and bad decisions for his failures, which gives his autobiography the character of a confession. In other cases, however, he was affected by political and economic developments over which he had no control.

The first chapters follow chronological order, starting with Mbajo’s childhood in the village where he grew up as one of ten children of a Christian catechist, to whom he credits his artistic talents. At school, his talents were recognized and used for school festivities and political events of the newly independent country.

During his secondary education in Dar es Salaam (1966-1969), Mbajo became an enthusiastic supporter of President Nyerere’s political vision of Ujamaa socialism. He joined TANU’s youth league and composed political propaganda songs. At the same time, he became fascinated with urban music culture, especially the performances of orchestras such as Kilwa Jazz, Dar Jazz, and Safari Trippers. In all his works, he tried to entertain while promoting Ujamaa ideology.

Unfortunately, at that time there was no possibility of formal artistic training in the country. After O-level, Mbajo was selected for training as an agricultural officer and was posted to Tanga in 1972. Yet, he remained true to his artistic inclinations. During college, he played in a jazz band, composed choir songs, and wrote and directed propagandistic theatre plays. He continued his cultural activities in Tanga and became well known in the region. However, as he neglected his professional duties, he was one of the first to be affected by the redundancy of state employees due to budget restrictions in the mid-1970s.

Mbajo’s account of his various attempts to secure an income during the following two years is adventurous. He eventually ended up in Dar es Salaam, where after some time he was employed by the state-owned Printpak printing press as an illustrator and layout artist. Printpak was a hub for publishers of entertainment magazines, almost all of which focused on photo-novels. Seeing a market opportunity, Mbajo developed a magazine featuring comics and cartoons that was based on the Kenyan Joe magazine. Using their initials, together with his partner Saidi Bawji they registered SANI magazine. It became the longest living Swahili entertainment magazine, published until 2020. However, Mbajo was forced out of the company after a short time. This was a crushing blow for him, especially as he had given up his job at Printpak for SANI.

Subsequently, Mbajo founded a new, similar magazine, which he soon published de facto on behalf of Murtazar Alidina, a Tanzanian media entrepreneur of Asian descent, who financed the magazine and paid Mbajo royalties. In dire economic conditions in Tanzania, this businessman took on several authors and so became the engine of popular Swahili magazines and novels, which could be printed in numbers above 10,000 because he was able to distribute them widely. Mbajo published seven novels during that time, which he summarises and puts into context in the fifth chapter of his autobiography. However, the cooperation with Alidina came to an end in 1985, when the latter emigrated to Canada due to the political “anti-economic sabotage” campaign of Prime Minister Sokoine. The publication of popular literature in Tanzania dropped for a while as a result.

Lacking the capital to continue publishing, Mbajo switched to working as a choirmaster for a number of choirs, mainly from Lutheran congregations. He reports on this in the sixth chapter, which also includes songs he composed himself. In particular, he focuses on the choir competitions which are an integral part of the choir culture in Tanzania and in which his choirs had often been successful. In addition, they took him on trips to neighbouring countries and even to the United States. Eventually, he worked as editor of the church magazine Pwani na Bara (“Coast and Hinterland”) until he retired in 2005.

Mbajo’s autobiography is a unique testimony of an important producer of Tanzanian popular culture in the 20th century and a well written literary work that captivates with its self-critical attitude. It shows first-hand how difficult it was to earn a living as an independent artist in socialist Tanzania. As such, it is an important contribution to Tanzania’s cultural history that complements previous scholarly research.

Uta Reuster-Jahn
Uta Reuster-Jahn, PhD, has been a lecturer in Swahili language and literature at Hamburg University, Germany. Since working in Tanzania in the 1980s, she has been connected to the country. She has widely published on oral literature, popular literature, Bongo Flava music and Urban Youth Language (Lugha ya Mitaani) in Tanzania.

POLICE ADMINISTRATION AND LAW ENFORCEMENT IN TANZANIA: A STRATEGIC TRANSFORMATION PERSPECTIVE. Said Ally Mwema. Rhythm Publishers, Dar es Salaam, 2023. 264 pp. (paperback). ISBN 9789976535419. (Distributed for free to police forces and training institutions in Tanzania and Zanzibar, and to be made available online – details to be announced.)

Once you get this book by the former Inspector General of Police Said Ally Mwema in your hands, you won’t want to put it down. It offers useful suggestions for enhancing the efficiency and professionalism of the police and provides a road map for developing a more responsive, effective, and community-focused police force, covering new technologies, training programmes, and community policing involvement. Its chapters delve into these complexities, examining the effects of globalization on law enforcement and the need for new thinking and new strategies to keep pace with the evolving nature of crime that is at the forefront of policing.

We learn from Mwema’s book that Major S.T. Davies arrived with 31 officers in Lushoto, Tanga, to establish the first police headquarters, which was later shifted to Morogoro in 1921 and then again to Dar es Salaam along Kilwa Road in 1930. We also learn that the first police station in the country was inaugurated at Lupa Gold Mine in Chunya, Mbeya, in 1925. Policing in the country has come a long way since then, but, as this book makes clear, much more remains to be done.

The security of life and property is the bedrock of the social, economic, and political stability of any nation. Governments are saddled with the responsibility of ensuring internal security through established agencies empowered by law. This duty is distilled into standard policing to enforce law and order in the wake of a safe environment. The standard of policing available to a nation determines the level of development of that country. Unfortunately, Tanzania has not always been able to live up to these expectations, even though currently it is undertaking reforms to enhance policing performance.

Part of the problem is that the police must grapple with a myriad of challenges. The police force suffers a deficit of public legitimacy and support; the public does not trust the police because their performance is deemed inadequate. Also, the public regards the character and level of accountability of the police as grossly unsatisfactory. The policemen and women in the country are generally feared but not respected, and they are widely despised for being very brutal when suppressing people who rise to demand political and civic rights. They are notorious for demanding bribes but very casual when it comes to enforcing law and order. People in communities therefore often want to keep their distance from the police.

The writer proposes several strategies to foster effective policing in Tanzania and the modernization of the force. They are built on the assumption that public security and safety are fundamentally rooted in the communities as they are socio-economic and political concerns. Therefore, engaging the public in policing is logical and essential to build mutual trust and empower the citizenry to be informed and competent partners in support of national efforts to ensure public security and safety.

Community policing requires police leaders who are skilled in community engagement. They also need to be strong believers in the rule of law and collaboration with other security agencies. Currently, there is community disillusionment with the traditional, top-down approach in which community policing is implemented within the existing militaristic structure and where political interference, poor leadership, corruption, excessive use of force and torture, and lack of effective oversight and accountability are endemic. A real change in the regulatory and institutional structure is critical, including an improved enabling environment in which community policing and the criminal justice system are better aligned.

There is a need to assess the impact of strategies adopted so that closer alliances between the police and the community reduce citizen fear of crime, improve police-community relations, and facilitate a more effective response to community problems and sharing of information in a timely, accurate and effective manner between the community and the police. Much work is needed to improve the way community policing is currently done in Tanzania to achieve a high level of sustainable trust between the police and the community of stakeholders. A first step must be to transform the Tanzania Police Force into a Police Service.

Mwema discusses all this and more in this engaging and thought-provoking book. Having had the privilege of reading both the English and Swahili versions, I can confidently say that it will be an invaluable resource for all stakeholders, including law enforcement professionals, criminal justice students, and citizens who care about the safety and security of our country. Not least it offers a fresh perspective on the situation that faces policing today and constructive proposals for a much better future, one that matches our President’s own vision and expectations for a thoroughly modern and professional police service.

It will be challenging to fill Said Ally Mwema’s former role, but in writing this book he has proved himself our best guide. There is something in the book for everyone, which is a credit to the author, not only for sharing his experience and insights, but also for showing us how policing in Tanzania can meet the challenges facing it in the 21st century.
Hildebrand Shayo
Dr Hildebrand E. Shayo is a UK-educated scholar with BA (Hons.) MA and PhD in economics; currently employed at Tanzania’s TIB DFI Development Bank, a 100% state-owned development financial institution, as Principal Officer, Agency Funds Solicitation and Administration expert. Dr Shayo has authored three books, produced more than 300 articles, published widely in national and international publications, and contributed to book chapters. Dr Shayo is a board member of the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) and a columnist for the national English newspaper Daily News.

RELIGION, EUGENICS, SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS: AN ETERNAL KNOT. Karim F. Hirji. Daraja Press and Zand Graphics Ltd., Toronto, 2023. 378 pp. (paperback). ISBN: 9781990263224. US $37.00 (e-book US $7.99).

This is another spectacular book, written in Hirji’s small home in Upanga, Dar es Salaam, with the help and support of his wife Farida. It continues his previous book Religion, Politics and Society reviewed in Tanzanian Affairs 135.

The first main section, about eugenics, is particularly interesting, because the topic has almost dropped out of contemporary discourse. Eugenics is a belief that “human populations can be made more healthy, more intelligent and less prone to ‘vice’” by processes of selection. These can be positive, as when “gifted people” are encouraged to marry each other. But very dangerous are those who advocate that people who are not gifted, or have illness or disabilities, should be prevented from marrying, or, taking the argument to its logical conclusion, sterilised or put to death. Such beliefs, based on science which underplays the importance of nurture rather than nature, provided Hitler with arguments to justify the genocide of groups with physical or mental diseases or from the fringes of society. With support from eugenicists in the United States he quickly extended this to the killing of Jews, Communists, other political opponents and people from the Slav countries. More Soviet citizens died than Jews during the Second World War, and nearly 2 million non-Jewish Poles.

Eugenics was invented in England, and widely adopted in the United States. Hirji shows that a remarkably wide range of intellectuals signed up to it – Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, and Bertrand Russell, to take just some, and politicians including Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain. In America the ideas were promoted at Harvard University, and eugenics research was sponsored by the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations, and was reflected in the thinking of Supreme Court judges such as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and Presidents such as Warren G. Harding, William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt. This partly explains why so many Western leaders were slow to appreciate the dangers posed by Hitler and the Nazis in the 1930s.

In our own times, similar views of ethnic or racial superiority have lain behind the policies of authoritarian leaders such as Narendra Modi in India, Jair Bolsenaro in Brazil, and Viktor Orbán in Hungary. Given the inequalities in the present world, and the willingness of authoritarian regimes to demean and persecute minority groups, this is a story that needs to be retold, and Hirji’s 60 pages are as good a start as any.

The section on science is largely philosophical, examining such questions as “Does God exist?”, or what free will means in a world dominated by advertising and social media, and its relationships with morality, or what can be said about consciousness. Hirji is sympathetic to the view that science and religion are different, and often complementary, ways of looking at the world.

The third section, on mathematics, is largely historical. The first numbers were recorded 20,000 years ago. 5,000 years ago, the South American Inca codified their book-keeping into a formal written discipline with symbols and numbers. Pythagoras’ theorem for the sides of a right-angled triangle was discovered independently in tropical Africa, China, Mexico, Iraq, Egypt and India more than 2,500 years ago. The mysterious number called zero came relatively late. It was first used in India about 1,500 years ago, and the even more remarkable one which we call infinity (it is always bigger than anything you have previously thought of) was at first more a theological belief (in the infinite love of God) than a mathematical one.

Many of the pioneering mathematicians were persecuted, especially when they drew conclusions about the stars and the planets which their sponsors did not want to hear – hence Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. Newton was a mathematician, a person of the world, and also a devout though unconventional Christian, as were many other leading scientists and mathematicians. In today’s world, mathematics is often misused – not least by internet companies which collect data about their users in order to feed them advertising material, or national security agencies which collect information about those they do not like. Or pharmaceutical, tobacco and petrochemical companies which distort statistics to sell their products.

The book is full of interesting reflections. Religion features in all the chapters, but it plays a relatively subsidiary role in the arguments of this volume. Its treatment is always liberal-minded and sympathetic. The book was written before the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the rapid development of the climate crisis, and the unexpectedly fast development of artificial intelligence. But where it concentrates, it provides clear and well-written summaries – of the philosophy of science, and the discoveries of numbers from their earliest identification to the non-Euclidean geometries used by Einstein in his theory of relativity. And of the use of genetics and statistics to develop the pseudo-science of eugenics, and the links between US leaders and Hitler that resulted. Anyone who reads this book can expect to make new discoveries.

Andrew Coulson
Andrew Coulson worked in the Planning Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture in Dar es Salaam 1967-1971 and taught agricultural economics at the University of Dar es Salaam 1972-76. His edited book African Socialism in Practice: The Tanzanian Experience was published in 1979. Tanzania: A Political Economy followed in 1982, with a second edition in 2013. His most recent book, with Antony Ellman and Emmanuel Mbiha, is Increasing Production from the Land: A Sourcebook on Agriculture for Teachers and Students in Africa (Muki na Nyota, 2018). He was Chair of the Britain Tanzania Society 2015-18.


by Ben Taylor

Bernard Membe

Bernard Membe, the former Foreign Affairs Minister and later opposition party presidential candidate, died in Dar es Salaam in May 2023 at the age of 69, after suffering a pulmonary embolism.

Membe was born in Rondo, Lindi Region on November 9, 1953. He began his career as a security analyst at the Office of the President between 1978 and 1989 before proceeding to study International Relations at John Hopkins University, Washington DC, from 1990 to 1992. He then served at the Tanzanian High Commission in Ottawa, Canada for eight years.

He successfully ran to become the MP for the Mtama constituency in 2000 and represented the constituency for CCM for 15 years. He swiftly rose to prominence and was appointed as a minister shortly after the 2005 elections. The high point of his political career was nine years (2007-2015) as Minister for Foreign Affairs under President Jakaya Kikwete, during which time he became known as a polished communicator – particularly when dealing with the international diplomatic community – and also as someone who was highly adept at navigating party politics.

“I knew him for many years,” said President Kikwete in a tribute. “We came a long way and helped each other in many areas. I knew him as a good diplomat, serious activist, scholar, God-fearing patriot, and hard worker,” he said. “I believed and trusted him in all positions he served in my cabinet.”

Freeman Mbowe, national chair of the opposition party, Chadema, said that although they belonged to different political parties, he still appreciated Membe as a keen leader and that he will always be remembered for his service to the country. “In the history of multiparty democracy in our country, Membe remained one of the senior leaders at the ministerial level who did not have the habit of denigrating the opposition,” said Mbowe.

Membe served also at high levels within the CCM party hierarchy, most notably as a member of the National Executive Committee of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party from 2007.

In January 2013, Membe informed his constituents that he would not be vying for a seat in the next parliamentary elections in 2015 thus giving rise to speculation that he may be considering a run for the presidency. Indeed, the battle to become the CCM presidential candidate in 2015 became a heated struggle between himself and the controversial former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa.

It was a contest that threatened to divide the party into the Membe and Lowassa factions. To avoid this danger, party elders intervened to remove both candidates from the process, which ultimately delivered the relatively unknown John Pombe Magufuli to the nomination as something of a compromise candidate. Magufuli went on to become President of Tanzania.

The relationship between Membe and President Magufuli was never a close one, with Membe widely perceived to be organising resistance within CCM to President Magufuli’s anti-democratic tendencies. In 2020, in February 2020, the CCM central committee expelled Membe from the party after accusing him of “indiscipline and violating the party’s ethics and constitution”. He denied any wrongdoing.

In July 2020 he handed back his CCM membership card, shortly after which he joined the opposition party Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT- Wazalendo) and said he was willing to stand as its candidate in the 2020 General Election. He did indeed run for President, coming third with 0.5% of the vote, in an election that was marred by irregularities.

In 2022, Membe rejoined CCM after writing a letter asking for readmission. By this time, President Magufuli had sadly died and President Samia Suluhu Hassan had taken office.

“I have received with sadness the news of the death of Bernard Membe,” said President Samia in a statement posted on Twitter. “For more than 40 years, Membe was a brilliant public servant, diplomat, Member of Parliament and Minister who served our country professionally,” she wrote.

ACT Wazalendo leader Zitto Kabwe said on his Twitter account: “There are no words that can describe my shock following reports of his death other than thanking God for the life of our elder Bernard Membe. A brilliant politician and a representative of citizens.”

The UK High Commissioner to Tanzania, David Concar, also used his Twitter account to pay tribute to Membe. “Condolences to the government and people of Tanzania over the sad news of the passing of former Foreign Minister Bernard Membe. He was a top diplomat, a voice for international peace, and a supporter of African democracy. We will remember him with respect and fondness. Apumzike kwa amani.”

Prominent business leader and founder of Precision Air, Michael Shirima, has died at the age of 80.

Mr. Shirima’s rise to the top started after he left Air Tanzania in 1979, after becoming disillusioned both with the airline and with the failure of those in office to address the issues he raised with them.
He gave up his dependably salary and had to move his family out of his government-owned house. He survived by running a barbeque business. Later on, he secured a loan and started selling cotton oil, then timber, then exporting coffee.

He decided to invest in the aviation sector, founding Precision Air in 1991. It operated at first as a private charter air transport company, but in November 1993, it began to offer scheduled services to serve the growing tourist market. Based in Arusha, the airline proved successful and grew rapidly, triggering the acquisition of more equipment and the expansion of routes. In 2003, Kenya Airways purchased a 49% stake in the company for $2 million. In 2006, Precision Air became the first Tanzanian airline to pass the IATA Operational Safety Audit.

British diplomat, David Le Breton, has died at the age of 91. Amid a distinguished career in the colonial era Overseas Civil Service and then the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, he spent time in both Zanzibar – a brief spell that coincided with the 1964 revolution – and earlier as an administrator in southern Tanganyika. Around the time of independence, he was based in Dar es Salaam, as private secretary to the governor.

He met his future wife, Patricia Byrne, in 1958, when she had recently arrived in Dar to teach English at a secondary school.

Born and brought up in colonial Kenya, David was a fluent speaker of Swahili and felt a strong affinity for Africa. Through a long career of postings, mostly around Africa, he rose to the position of British High Commissioner in 1981 before retiring in 1987. In 1978 he was appointed CBE for his commitment to service amid difficult circumstances in Anguilla.