by Martin Walsh
THE CITY ELECTRIC: INFRASTRUCTURE AND INGENUITY IN POSTSOCIALIST TANZANIA. Michael Degani. Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina, 2022. xii + 254 pp. ISBN: 9781478023777 (ebook free to download from ; also available for purchase as a hardback and paperback).

The City Electric

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of electricity and its presence and absence in a developing economy like Tanzania’s. Stories about its generation and supply and the controversies surrounding them feature regularly in the national and international media, including the ‘Energy and Minerals’ pages of Tanzanian Affairs. Whether or not they are aware of all the shenanigans that are alleged, ordinary citizens experience their consequences viscerally, not least where electricity is yet to be supplied by TANESCO (the Tanzania Electricity Supply Company), or when that supply is cut. Many readers of this review will not need to be reminded what it is like sweating in the humidity of a fan-less night or pretending to ignore the throbbing of the generator that is keeping their lights on and food refrigerated. Some will be all too familiar with the hustling and haggling required to secure or restore a connection; others will have suffered the anxiety that comes from having to complain again and again about inflated bills, a recurring nightmare for householders without prepaid meters and often for tenants sharing one.

And yet, somehow or other, everything kind of works, notwithstanding the pace of economic and demographic growth and the constant demand for more electricity. Mike Degani’s well-crafted anthropological study, The City Electric, goes a long way towards explaining why and how all things TANESCO don’t completely fall apart, both at national level and from the perspective of the parastatal provider and its everyday consumers in Dar es Salaam. As its subtitle suggests, it also takes its place alongside other recent studies that tell us what has happened more generally in the often-troubled transition of Tanzania from state socialism to its present condition, however that might be characterised. It’s not the neat development trajectory that modernisers and then neoliberal reformers envisaged, but an at times messy bricolage that has incorporated some of those old Nyererean values and come out of the mixer looking more like an unbaked BRIC country. Among the many concepts that Degani deploys in his analysis is that of a dynamic equilibrium: at national scale it is perhaps easier to see that the dynamism has produced some forward motion, though its direction may not always be to everyone’s taste.

Sandwiched between an introduction that sets the scene and a conclusion that provides an update and pulls its main themes together, The City Electric comprises four main chapters, each focusing on a different locus on the infrastructural circuit of current and currency: generation, transmission, consumption, and maintenance/extension. The first chapter, “Emergency Power: A Brief History of the Tanzanian Energy Sector”, outlines the political and economic context and “upstream conditions” that led to the high costs and periodic shortages of electricity in Dar during the presidencies of Benjamin Mkapa (1995-2005) and Jakaya Kikwete (2005-15). Recurrent droughts and other failures of the hydropower network have, in Degani’s words, “prompted dubious government tenders to well-connected private companies for emergency infusions of oil-generated electricity. These public bailouts are quickly converted to private rents that in turn feed the patronage network and fund electoral campaigns.” Much of the chapter focuses on two notorious examples of this: the 1996 contract with the Malaysian-Tanzanian company Independent Power Tanzania Ltd (IPTL), and the 2006 contract with Richmond Development, “an ostensibly American company with direct ties to the prime minister at the time, Edward Lowassa.” While these arrangements severely damaged TANESCO’s operations, further privatisation of the sector and unbridled rent-seeking by the political elite were held in check by a lingering attachment to socialist values and periodic anticorruption sweeps, producing a hybrid practice and one of the dynamic equilibria that Degani describes.

Chapter 2, “The Flickering Torch: Power and Loss after Socialism”, turns the spotlight on the supply of electricity in Dar and the history of public responses to its rationing. It is based on a wide reading of documentary sources, including newspaper reports, blog posts and social media, as well as observations of the “annus horribilis” of shortages that Degani experienced himself in 2011. The resulting “ethnography of power loss” describes the narratives that circulate around the city, highlighting the explanatory voids that frustrated consumers are only too ready to fill with their own conspiratorial texts. Again, Degani skilfully weaves this account into an understanding of its political and historical context. Here he is, for example, describing what happened after 2011: “From 2012 onwards, irregular or unexplained cuts frazzled the public, giving rise to rumors and suspicions about covert and illegitimate rationing, and resonating with a wider “communication breakdown” marked by the forceful silencing of political opposition. Enduring these shifting patterns of power outages and their effects on the public nervous system, residents articulated an important and key postsocialist distinction: if it is one thing to endure absence, it is another to endure it in the absence of explanation.” While perhaps more Kafkaesque than postsocialist, the general point is well made.

In the next chapter, “Of Meters and Modals: Patrolling the Grid”, Degani and his research assistant come into their own as ethnographers of institutional practice, working in TANESCO offices and joining its patrol teams as they tramp the streets and alleyways in search of customers who haven’t paid their debts or otherwise conspired to tamper with the flows of current and currency that are the legitimate purpose of the grid. Here we learn about the compromises forged between TANESCO employees and customers in both the poorer “Swahili” neighbourhoods of Dar and their wealthier counterparts: “Faced with the evasions, protests, and obstructions of those who do not wish to be disconnected for debt or theft, some inspectors rail against customers who want it “easy” with stolen power or unpaid bills, echoing a socialist discourse of discipline and hard work. However, patrols are also well aware that the same liberalizing forces that created this indiscipline press upon them as well, in the form of diminishing pay, equipment, and job security. Some inspectors incorporate extortionist or protectionist arrangements with customers, while others maintain an ethical outlook steeped in the “socially thick” Fordist labor regime that Tanesco could still resemble even in the 1980s and 1990s”. The outcome is another of those dynamic equilibria: “Somewhere between rejecting and exploiting the putatively “Swahili” mentality of easy money, Tanesco patrol teams and customers collaboratively exercised a kind of modal reasoning about what kinds of diversions of payment are tolerable and which ones are insensible.”

In the fourth chapter, “Becoming Infrastructure: Vishoka and Self-Realization”, we find ourselves looking at all this from the perspective of the vishoka or “fixers” who work as intermediaries and mediators between TANESCO and its customers, becoming essential parts of the system and the daily struggle to maintain and extend supply. Working as unlicensed agents, they “facilitate access, expedite customer applications, provide emergency repairs, tamper with meters, or divert materials and supplies to residents in parallel markets, often by collaborating with Tanesco employees “inside” […] the institution.” As they build up the trust required to make themselves indispensable, Degani concludes that as “[b]oth parasite and channel, they are the densest expression of Tanzania’s postsocialist condition as a living circuit, a give and take of mutual adjustment and responsiveness that threatens to fall out of form; but, at least in the first decades of the twenty-first century, managed to keep spinning.” Readers will recognise the script by now, and while some might take issue with this characterisation of Tanzania’s “condition”, based as it is on selected insights into the workings of just one sector in its largest city, the challenge is to provide alternative accounts.

This summary, based largely on Degani’s own, barely does justice to the wealth of reference and conceptual sophistication that make this book such a rewarding and sometimes difficult read. With its many asides and theoretical digressions, it betrays obvious signs of its origin in the author’s doctoral dissertation (2015), though this is not directly referenced. I spotted several typos and other mistakes in the text, especially in Swahili words and phrases that will have been missed by English proofing tools (note also the mistranslation of vibatari as “matches” rather than small oil lamps). These, however, are mere quibbles. My personal recommendation would have been to streamline the argument of the thesis and provide richer ethnographic documentation, with less reliance on the relatively few anecdotes that bear its theoretical load, providing instead more case material on relationships and interactions in particular places, for example in sample neighbourhoods and the roadsides where “fixers” and others congregate. But urban anthropology and the ethnography of complex institutions are easier said than done, and Mike Degani deserves praise for his own ingenuity and the way in which he has negotiated this difficult terrain and produced such an illuminating study. General readers as well as fellow academics and anthropologists will find much in his first book to stimulate reflection and debate and, like me, will no doubt look forward to reading more.

Martin Walsh Martin Walsh is the Book Reviews Editor of Tanzanian Affairs.

ZAMANI: A HAUNTED MEMOIR OF TANZANIA. Jane Bryce. Cinnamon Press, Birmingham, 2023. 226 pp. ISBN: 9781788649865 (paperback). £13.99.
Zamani starts with a quick introduction to Jane Bryce’s childhood involvement in Tanzania as she flies over Kilimanjaro into the country for the first time since she left in 1968 at the age of 17. She briefly sketches the lives of her parents, their meeting and their subsequent marriage, and then she continues by describing how her father joined the Colonial Office and was posted to the Forest Department in Tanganyika, to the Rondo Plateau in the Southern Province (present Lindi Region), with a view to introducing sound forest management. His first job was to map the 32,000 acres of the forest, on foot. Jane’s mother was not one to sit at home waiting for her husband to return, but accompanied him on these journeys through the forest, perhaps covering 80 miles in six days, carrying on with this until late in her pregnancy with Jane. Referring to her mother’s diaries, she describes the life at this time, the isolation, the hardships, the lack of food, the wild animals.

Jane then jumps to the present and gives an account of her travels to Lindi, to explore the place of her birth, which she hadn’t visited since she left at the age of three. She meets people who knew her father, all old men by now, but delighted to encounter her and to spend time telling tales of the past. This becomes a theme which threads through the book since there are many more old colleagues in Moshi – meeting old-school government forest officers, now in their 70s, who remember her father. There are photographs of kindly faces, seamed with experience, throughout the text. One cries out, “The daughter of Bwana Bryce!” and she immediately feels part of the story of Tanzania, not merely an outsider wandering the country like a tourist. This fits in with another of her themes, that of identity and belonging.

At the end of their time on Rondo, the family moved first to Morogoro and then north to Moshi. Their time in Moshi is the central part of the book, since this is the place Jane remembers as a child, and where she grew up. She compares the Moshi of today with the one she remembers and is pleased to find much is similar – “I could walk with confidence in any direction and know without asking where I was going”, she tells us. She recounts her daily life as a child, her friends, the social gatherings with other colonials, their holidays on the coast via the old steam trains, the primary school she went to. Once she turned 13, she then left her comfortable home and made the long and difficult journey to the boarding school in Lushoto, filled with the usual horrors of boarding schools – matrons, food, inflexible rules – during that period. After that, she was sent to England, to study at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, a foreign country in many ways for her, which she hated as much as the Lushoto school. In 1968 her father is suddenly told he must leave Tanzania. The sisters are informed by letter, their mother telling them, “We have been so lucky with our happy life in dear old Moshi all these years it has been home to us. Sorry to have to send you news which will distress you so much.” It throws Jane’s life out of kilter, and it takes another 36 years for her to return to Tanzania.

The title, Zamani, meaning ‘long ago’, is contrasted with sasa, meaning ‘now’, and Jane explores how on her return, the two seem to co-exist for her, as she sees the present as a sort of overlay of the past. She weaves her narrative almost seamlessly, jumping from the past to the present, with brief digressions into history, politics, mythology. The history snippets are not long enough to slow down the narrative but are painted in as a necessary and helpful backdrop to what she is discussing, and this was one of the aspects of the book which I liked the most. She explains the history of the area she lived in, looks into the origins of the peoples who originally lived here and their languages and local leaders, describes the forest policies and their effects, the colonial times and then the transition to independence in the 1960s, as well as the country under the Germans before the British took over.

I was concerned through the first chapters of the book that Jane would sustain the colonial attitudes inherited from her parents, imbued as a child, but she uses her later trips to Tanzania to question her assumptions at the time, the rigid, rule­bound ways of her parents’ generation. She discusses the house staff in their Moshi home, whom she accepted were always there, always ready to help, and realises she knows little about them, even their surnames, apart from their daily lives with the family. The colonial set-up comes in for critiques too, and the fact that they never knew any African people, apart from their house staff, and perhaps once a year took tea with a well-to-do Indian family but never invited them back. However, her father clearly got on with his African colleagues, and in meeting some of them almost 40 years later, Jane experiences a different view of the country she loved so much.
Kate Forrester
Kate lived in Tanzania for 15 years, working as a freelance consultant chiefly in social development, and carrying out research assignments throughout the country. She now lives in Dorchester, where she is active in community and environmental work.

MUSLIM CULTURES OF THE INDIAN OCEAN: DIVERSITY AND PLURALISM, PAST AND PRESENT. Stéphane Pradines and Farouk Topan (eds.). Edinburgh University Press in association with The Aga Khan University, Edinburgh, 2023. 356 pp. ISBN: 9781474486514. (ebook free to download from; also available for purchase as a hardback).

There has been a boom in Indian Ocean studies in recent years, with a plethora of edited collections now on the market. This book is the latest addition to a series on “Exploring Muslim Contexts” overseen by the distinguished scholar of Swahili literature and culture Farouk Topan, who has edited this volume in collaboration with the archaeologist Stéphane Pradines. As their blurb declares, it “examines the role of Muslim communities in the emergence of connections and mobilities across the Indian Ocean World from a longue durée perspective. Spanning the 7th century through the medieval period until the present day, this book aims to move beyond the usual focus on geographical sub-regions to highlight different aspects of interconnectivity in relation to Islam. Analysing textual and material evidence, contributors examine identities and diasporas, manuscripts and literature, as well as vernacular and religious architecture. It aims to explore networks and circulations of peoples, ideas and ideologies, as well as art, culture, religion and heritage. It focuses on global interactions as well as local agencies in context.”

Students of the history and practice of Islam around the Indian Ocean will find much of interest here, beginning with the editors’ handy introduction to the historiography of the region and its Muslim cultures and heritage. The main text is split into two parts, “Muslim Identities, Literature and Diasporas” and “Monuments and Heritage in Muslim Contexts”, with eight chapters under the first heading and seven under the second. Three consecutive chapters in Part I are of direct relevance to the history of Zanzibar and its wider sphere of influence: Beatrice Nicolini’s analysis of Omani rule (“Muslim Identities of the Indian Ocean: The Ibadi Al Bu Sa’id of Oman during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries”), Valerie Hoffman’s deep dive into social and cultural relationships as revealed in contemporary manuscripts (“Religion, Ethnicity and Identity in the Zanzibar Sultanate”), and Farouk Toupan’s study of the changing roles of Swahili women (“Transcending Boundaries: Sayyida Salme/ Emily Ruete and Siti binti Saad”), which homes in on the lives of two of the archipelago’s most famous daughters, both of whom challenged the status quo, albeit in very different ways.

Part II opens with Eric Falt’s discussion of “The Indian Ocean as a Maritime Cultural Landscape and Heritage Route”, which makes a case for its study and promotion in just such terms. This short presentation is followed by two longer chapters about the history and archaeology of the Swahili coast and islands: Stephen Battle and Pierre Blanchard’s introduction to heritage and conservation (“Indian Ocean Heritage and Sustainable Conservation, from Zanzibar to Kilwa”), and Stéphane Pradines’ illustrated account of the role of trade in the spread of Islam and associated mosque architecture (“Early Swahili Mosques: The Role of Ibadi and Ismaili Communities, Ninth to Twelfth Centuries”). As he has done elsewhere, Pradines highlights the part played in the early development of Islam by what are now considered to be religious minorities within the faith, before the widespread adoption of Sunni Islam in Africa and this region. He concludes by referring to “the permeability between Sufism and Shi.a spirituality”, and it would be interesting to know more about this and how it is reflected in modern language and practice.

Readers will find topics worth exploring in other chapters too. Fortunately, this informative and well-produced volume, which is the first publication of the Indian Ocean programme in the Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, has been made open access and can be downloaded for free by those of us who can’t spare £85 for the hardback.
Martin Walsh


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

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 Martin Walsh
Karim F. Hirji. Daraja Press and Zand Graphics Ltd., Toronto, 2022. 572 pp. (paperback). ISBN: 9781990263125. USD $45.00 (e-book ISBN: 9781990263217. USD $6.99).

Hirji cover

Karim Hirji is an outstanding mathematician and statistician. He is also a prolific writer about Tanzania.

He was born in Newala in southern Tanzania in 1949, came to Dar es Salaam to go to secondary school, and then studied maths and education at the University of Dar es Salaam – where, in his spare time, he edited the radical magazine Cheche. He then worked in Sumbawanga and Dar es Salaam, obtained Masters degrees at both LSE and Harvard, and enjoyed a successful academic career in the USA, which included identifying a number of false or misleading claims by drug companies. He returned to Dar as Professor of Medical Statistics at Muhimbili University.

He is also a medical miracle. All but a few centimetres of his intestine were removed in an operation in the US, and he survives on a diet of predigested foods and mineral supplements. At times he has been so weak that the only way he could write was by dictating to his wife Farida.
Yet since retiring he has written eight books. Three are the stories of different parts of his life, one is a collection of his writings on education, another is a guide for journalists on how they should use statistics. Another (reviewed in TA 118 in 2017) summarises the work of his mentor Walter Rodney, and especially his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Yet another is a novel about two girls who are very good at maths, one from a poor background, the other better off, who get involved with the Banana Liberation Front (!), and end up in Ukonga Prison where they gain the approval of the governor by teaching other prisoners maths.

His latest book, 468 pages of main text and many more of sources and references, is a presentation and explanation of religions in the world. There are substantial sections on the four religions with the greatest numbers of followers – Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, plus secularism and neoliberalism. He draws on his background as an Ismaili to write about Hinduism and Islam in Africa and other continents. The section on Christianity shows the heavy involvement of the Roman Catholic Church with the CIA and State Department in the USA and their disastrous interventions in Vietnam, Indonesia, Syria, Afghanistan and many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and the close relationship that Trump and his supporters have with evangelical churches, especially Adventists. A section on liberation theology brings out the contribution of theology to leftist individuals such as Paulo Freire, Franz Fanon, and others. The sections on secularism and neoliberalism are, broadly, presented without comment.

The book is a form of political economy. Much of it is put together in blocks of text, making good use the internet – many of these can stand alone outside the main argument of the book, for example nearly twenty pages on the story of Indonesia, and a section on the life of Eleanor Marx.

It is a prodigious achievement to have written something so wide-ranging – a book for the general reader who is asking questions about the world and the way religious thinkers deal with them. It should be on every religious education teacher’s bookshelf and shared with anyone who is overconfident about a particular religion, or looking for a third world perspective. It should be held by libraries in universities which study comparative religion or world history. It is non-judgemental – recognising that there is good in all religions, especially in their early years, but also showing how power corrupts religions once they get into the hands of wealthy capitalists or governments.

There are limitations. An index would make it easier to use the book, and more on Judaism would have enlightened the sections of Islam and Christianity, and the discussion of the situation in Palestine. More credit might have been given to Pope Francis and his reforms of the Roman Catholic Church, and to other reformers in the Dominican and Jesuit orders. It was written before the COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine and there is little on the climate emergency – these will no doubt be addressed in the promised second volume that will focus on science and scientists and their relations with religious ideas.

It is hard to improve on the following from the promotional material for the book:
“Its foundational premise is that while their spiritual beliefs differ, all humans are equal in dignity and have equal rights. No belief system is more exalted than the rest. There are no chosen people; there is no chosen religion. We all are a part of the global human family. Our religious and cultural diversity is a cause for celebration, not conflict.” If anything, it is more critical of most religions, but Hirji’s underlying sympathy for those who are searching for meaning in the world is not in doubt.
Andrew Coulson.
Andrew 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.

Social Protection and Informal Workers in Sub-Saharan Africa: Lived Realities and Associational Experiences from Kenya and Tanzania.
Lone Riisgaard, Winnie V. Mitullah, and Nina Torm (editors). Routledge, Abingdon and New York, 2022. 274 pp. (e-book). ISBN: 9781003173694 (free to download from; print versions can also be purchased).

There has been little research into informal social protection mechanisms in Sub-Saharan Africa and not much is documented about their extent or form, nor, until now, has there been a systematic analysis of how informal workers access any type of social protection.

This book starts with a thorough literature review of how social protection is organised in informal economies, highlighting gaps in the literature, and then provides an overview of the methodology used by the authors of this book. The book continues with chapters written by different authors, exploring how informal workers in different sectors access formal and informal social protection (if at all), examining in detail what people “actually do on the ground” (p. 19). They have taken a comparative approach, examining two countries (Tanzania and Kenya) and three urban sectors prone to informality in those countries. There is a chapter each on transport, micro-trade and construction workers in Tanzania and in Kenya, each following a similar pattern of presenting the findings of the research, and the book finishes with two chapters comparing the sectors and countries and drawing together the threads of the study.

The authors have three specific research questions:
1. Do informal workers or associations offer any kind of informal social protection, what characterises the format of these services, who benefits from them and how do they compare to formal social protection measures?

2. What extent do formal social protection schemes cater for informal workers, and how do informal associations provide access to formal protection schemes?

3. How far are the viewpoints and realities of informal workers represented in institutions?

In both Tanzania and Kenya, the provision of any form of social protection by government or others, including international donors, has been fragmented and inadequate, hampered by the absence of a policy framework with clear institutional roles and responsibilities, and an overall plan. At the same time, there has been a lack of capacity and financial resources at government and civil society level to implement the necessary measures. There are also challenges which make it difficult to put into place a system of social protection for informal workers – workers must make contributions from their extremely limited income, and due to a lack of understanding and information, but also experiences of previous schemes and a suspicion that any subsequent initiative will turn out the same, many will not choose to take part in such schemes. The limitations of social protection for informal construction workers are summed up by a Kenyan contractor: “we pray to God so that a bad incident does not occur” (p. 216). Several of the papers analyse the reasons for poor uptake of various forms of social protection.

However, the authors find that in recent years there has been a move towards more coherent social protection, and this includes the extension of coverage to informal workers. Indeed, many see that social protection is a potential solution to issues of poverty.

There is much discussion about associations, including the relationship between membership of associations and access to more formal social protection. It is concluded that social dynamics among members make associations a much stronger means of social protection than programmes which come from government. Many of these associations are savings and credit societies, where trust around financial matters has been built up. In addition, associational power is able to advance the interests and conditions of informal workers. One association member in Dar es Salaam said: “We have one hope only, and that is our associations. That is why we call our group ‘Our Hope’” (p. 184). But the associations themselves may be weak, with poor leadership, and inadequate training, so many challenges remain.

The book provides a comprehensive study of the subject, with plenty of data from both countries, and the authors have clearly spoken to a wide range of informants. In my experiences with people working on the margins of the economy in Tanzania, those mostly without a voice, I have found people to be coherent in their analysis of their own situations and I was glad to find in several of the papers quite extensive quotes of the actual words of some of the interviewees, vividly explaining how difficult their situation is, or why the attempts of various bodies to increase social protection has failed. In presenting this information, this book has gone some way to giving these informal workers a voice.
Kate Forrester.
Kate lived in Tanzania for 15 years, working as a freelance consultant chiefly in social development, and carrying out research assignments throughout the country. She now lives in Dorchester, where she is active in community and environmental work.

Also noticed:
THE EASTAFRICA CAMPAIGN 1914-18: VON LETTOW-VORBECK’S MASTERPIECE. David Smith (illustrated by Graham Turner). Osprey Publishing, Oxford, 2022. 96 pp. (paperback). ISBN: 9781472848918. £15.99 (e-book £12.79).

The publisher describes this book as a “beautifully illustrated study of the daring war in East Africa waged by German colonial forces under Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck against the wide array of colonial and expeditionary forces of the Allied Powers.” The blurb continues:

“The East African Campaign in World War I comprised a series of battles and guerrilla actions which began in German East Africa in 1914 and spread to portions of Portuguese Mozambique, northern Rhodesia, British East Africa, the Uganda Protectorate, and the Belgian Congo. German colonial forces under Lieutenant-Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck attempt to divert Allied forces from the Western Front. Despite the efforts of the Allied forces, Lettow­Vorbeck’s troops remained undefeated at the end of the war.

In this fascinating work, David Smith documents how a wide array of British, Indian, South African, Belgian, Portuguese and local native forces invaded German East Africa and slowly ousted the German forces, a process made tortuous by Lettow-Vorbeck’s masterful management of the campaign. Among the events covered in this work are the Battle of Tanga, the scuttling of the Königsberg, the German railway campaign, and the battles at Salaita Hill, Kondoa-Irangi, Mahenge, Mahiwa and Namacurra. Colourful period and specially commissioned illustrations bring to life a wide-ranging and eventful campaign in which a high price was extracted for every inch of ground given up.”

The period photographs are of course in black and white, but there is plenty of colour in the maps, plans and drawings provided by Graham Turner. While this is not presented as a work of academic scholarship, David Smith is an experienced military historian, and his well-informed account will be of interest to a wide audience, not least admirers of von Lettow-Vorbeck’s extraordinary guerrilla campaign.

IMPERIAL POWERS AND HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTIONS: THE ZANZIBAR SULTANATE, BRITAIN, AND FRANCE IN THE INDIAN OCEAN, 1862-1905. Raphaël Cheriau. Routledge, Abingdon and New York, 2021. 270 pp. (e-book). ISBN: 9780429323232. £29.59 (also available in print formats).

This book will likely be of interest mainly to specialists in Indian Ocean and imperial history, and indeed Routledge have included it in their ‘Empires in Perspective’ series. Their short description (reproduced below) is short and not particularly illuminating. Readers wanting more information may like to consult the list of contents provided by the publisher, or seek out Edward Alpers’ review on the website of the Australian Institute of International Affairs (

“In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Zanzibar Sultanate became the focal point of European imperial and humanitarian policies, most notably Britain, France, and Germany. In fact, the Sultanate was one of the few places in the world where humanitarianism and imperialism met in the most obvious fashion. This crucial encounter was perfectly embodied by the iconic meeting of Dr. Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley in 1871. This book challenges the common presumption that those humanitarian concerns only served to conceal vile colonial interests. It brings the repression of the East African slave trade at sea and the expansion of empires into a new light in comparing French and British archives for the first time.”
Martin Walsh


by Martin Walsh
PROSPERITY IN RURAL AFRICA? INSIGHTS INTO WEALTH, ASSETS, AND POVERTY FROM LONGITUDINAL STUDIES IN TANZANIA. Dan Brockington and Christine Noe (editors). Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2021. xxiv + 436 pp. (hardback). ISBN 9780198865872. £90.00 (pdf free to download from


This book challenges views of rural development that are conventional in Tanzania, as well as in many institutions in Africa and elsewhere, that poverty in the rural areas is increasing while productivity is static or declining. It does so by taking a view of income and expenditure which, unlike the country’s Household Budget Surveys, takes into consideration improvements in the assets controlled by small farmers, and challenges the ways in which their incomes and contributions to growth are included in GDP and growth statistics. One way of doing this is through ‘panel studies’ which track the experiences of a group of people from birth onwards; but it is only recently that such panels have been created in Tanzania. Instead, Dan Brockington and Christine Noe found 16 researchers who had worked in Tanzanian villages 20 to 25 years ago, and who had kept the data from their interviews. The researchers reinterviewed those they had interviewed years before, or their direct successors, in 37 villages and let them explain how their households, and their villages, had changed. They tested and refined the resulting conclusions through focus groups and elite interviews. These ‘longitudinal studies’ approximate to panel studies – one researcher, Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, has been back to the same village every other year since 1995, so that her work can almost be seen as a panel study.

The enthusiasm of the researchers shines through what they have written, especially in an epilogue where they explain how their original research took place. For most, the experiences were life-changing. Several were shocked when, as part of this research, they went back to villages which 20 years ago had been sleepy, inaccessible and very poor, and were now connected with the wider world by better roads, minibuses, mobile phones, and TV, and able to sell crops that were not previously grown for good prices in a range of markets.

At one level, the results are not a surprise. Improvements in the standards of rural housing, rural roads, transport along those roads by minibuses and away from them by bodabodas (motorbike taxis), a wide range of local businesses and shops, new schools, and activities related to the coming of mobile phones are apparent even from casual visits. Some of the changes were forced by shortages, such as the increased use of iron sheets for roofing and burnt brick walls in villages in the Uporoto Highlands – caused by decline in production of the bamboo poles traditionally used.

An agricultural revolution had been reported much earlier in parts of the Southern Highlands by Torben Rasmussen (1986). The researchers in this collection report similar innovations in many different places – new crops, more tractors and ox-ploughs, small-scale irrigation using plastic pipes, use of chemical fertilisers, leading to higher yields. Not everywhere: one village, 16 km east of Moshi, has not moved forward; but this too provides interesting insights related to declines in agriculture on and near Mount Kilimanjaro, with less rain and lower fertility.

These changes have not been reflected in official reports and plans because two main sources of data ignore or underplay the importance of assets. Thus, if a family reduces its living standards in order to build a better house, or pay school fees, or even to purchase cattle, then in the Household Budget Surveys this family is recorded as getting poorer. It is only if the assets lead to higher production in subsequent years that they are reflected in GDP figures – but these are often little more than informed guesses, and do not take account of the higher values of crops stored till shortly before the next harvest, or sold unofficially (or, conversely, of crops that are successfully grown but not sold at all because markets are over-supplied), or short-term fluctuations such as the very high prices achieved for sesame in one village, until the crop was destroyed by diseases. The use of administrative data, such as the costs of civil service salaries, as proxies for the contributions of health facilities or schools to growth, has always been a limitation of GDP (and hence growth) statistics.

The book’s contributors are anthropologists or geographers with an interest in rural development – none are agricultural economists (readers of this book are spared regression equations!) and few are political scientists. But their work needs to be taken seriously, as the starting point for an informed debate about change in rural Tanzania.

The book is not without problems. The coverage of Tanzania is uneven – none of the villages are in the coastal cashew-growing areas, or the cotton-growing lands near Lake Victoria, and none appear to have lost banana plantations, and the associated culture, to diseases, as in many parts of western Tanzania and further north in Uganda. Pastoralism is only considered in passing, and only one of the villages has been subject to a land grab (to extend a national park), and there are no indications of disputes with central government or other villages, for example about access to water for small-scale irrigation. It was not possible to standardise the approaches to the different villages, so the studies cannot be directly compared.

It remains to be seen if the innovations are sustainable. Rainfall in Tanzania has been remarkably kind in the last 20 years or so, with only minor famines, and no signs of the cycles, first identified in the colonial period, where maize production increased for about 10 years till there was a famine, after which the importance of more drought-resistant crops was recognised. Who would have guessed that the areas around Kongwa, notorious as the main site of the failed Groundnut Scheme of 1946-47, should become one of Tanzania’s main producing areas for maize and sunflower? But it is also possible that it could all be lost very quickly through severe soil erosion, as happened in the Ismani area east of Iringa in the 1970s. And from a methodological perspective, it is just conceivable that the villages in these studies prospered more than other villages precisely because of the insights and ideas of the researchers who lived there more than 20 years ago.

But as a whole, this is a path-breaking book – an effective counter to the conventional wisdom that small-scale agriculture has no long-term future, and that inequality is only reducing slowly if at all, and a challenge to all future researchers in Tanzania.

[This is an edited and abridged version of a review article, ‘Improvement and change in rural Tanzania’, that was originally published in 2022 in the Review of African Political Economy Vol. 49, No. 172, pp. 361-364.]
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.

DIWANI YA TUZO YA USHAIRI YA EBRAHIM HUSSEIN – 2014-2020 – ANTHOLOGY OF THE EBRAHIM HUSSEIN POETRY PRIZE. JUZUU LA TATU / VOLUME 3. M.M. Mulokozi (editor). Tanzania Growth Trust (TGT), Dar es Salaam, 2022. 262 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-9912-40-180-8.
(Price and availability to be confirmed.)

This is the third volume of the poetry prize in honour of the acclaimed Tanzanian writer Ebrahim Hussein, a dramatist and academic whose research focused on the development of theatre in East Africa. The award was established by the family of the late Gerald Belkin (1940-2020), a pioneering video filmmaker of culture and community. Hussein worked with Belkin to record life in various Tanzanian villages, and they became good friends as Belkin learnt Swahili and fell in love with its poetry.

Hussein, who was one of Belkin’s Swahili teachers, told him about the long tradition of Swahili poetry. Belkin recognised that Tanzania had many creative poets whose artistic skills needed to be shared with a wider audience, and so he created a fund for that purpose. Gerald Belkin wanted to honour Ebrahim Hussein as an intellectual, a playwright and a poet, and proposed that the fund should be named after him.

This volume is divided into the years of the competition (2014-15, 2016, 2017, etc.) rather than specific themes as with many similar anthologies. It is also bilingual, which gives it a much wider readership, and can be an asset to those interested in learning Swahili and those interested in Swahili literature.

Competitors are allowed to submit poems in a variety of forms, such as traditional metre (16 syllables in a line), free verse (mtiririko or blank verse), or in kemo (bongofleva, hip hop) verses. The best poems from the competition have been selected for the anthology. The competition is open to Tanzanian nationals residing in Tanzania. A cash prize and certificates are awarded.

Each poem is preceded by the name of the poet and the translator and a brief background of the poet. The poems have a wide range of content around the issues love, marriage and family, politics, economics, culture, gender oppression, poverty, superstition, the persecution of albinos, pandemics such as HIV-AIDS and Covid-19, and even ICT (information and communications technology) and social media.

Here are the first three verses of a poem by Richard Menard, from the 2016 competition, entitled: Vilio vya Maua / Flowers’ Plea (what category would you place this poem in terms of its content?):

Maisha huwa matamu, mazuri tukifanyiwa Life becomes sweet when good things are done to us
Palizi kwetu muhimu, na mbolea kutiliwa Weeding and manuring is important for us
Hatutishiwi na hamu, maji tukimwagiliwa, Watering wets our appetite for more
Tukiwa bustanini, maua tuthaminini. Please do value us when we are in this garden

Tuna maadui sugu, wengi sana kuhesabu, We do have stubborn enemies, too many to count
Maarufu ni magugu, twaishi hapa karibu, Most famous are the weeds, we live near them
Hayaishiwi na gubu, kutujazia taabu, They never tire of vexing us to compound our misery
Tukiwa bustanini, maua tuthaminini. Please do value us when we are in this garden

Waganga wa kienyeji, sisi nao haziivi, The traditional healers are our avowed enemies
Hujifanya ni majaji, hasa wawapo na mvi, They pretend to be our judges, especially when they are grey haired
Huchochea mauaji, kwa kuizidisha chumvi, They incite our slaughter by their exaggerated tales about us
Tukiwa bustanini, maua tuthaminini. Please do value us when we are in this garden

The Chair of Judges, Professor Mugyabuso M. Mulokozi, informs us that the 2020 competition had only 15 participants, and that there were no winners because all the poems were only of average quality. This information shows that entries to the competition must reach an acceptable standard in terms of style and content.
Donovan McGrath
Donovan McGrath studied Swahili poetry, the Swahili novel, and Advanced Swahili Usage at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, as part of his African Language and Culture degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the University of London. He is co-author of Colloquial Swahili published by Routledge in 2003 and 2015 (second edition). He currently teaches Swahili at the SOAS Language Centre.

Also noticed: AFRICAN ISLANDS: A COMPARATIVE ARCHAEOLOGY. Peter Mitchell. Routledge, 2022. 338 pp., 195 colour illustrations (different formats). ISBN 9781032156910. £96.00 (hardback), £27.99 (paperback and e-book).

According to its publisher, “African Islands provides the first geographically and chronologically comprehensive overview of the archaeology of African islands.” As such Peter Mitchell’s book may be of particular interest to readers interested in the history of Tanzania’s islands – the Zanzibar and Mafia archipelagos included – and their role in the wider Indian Ocean region.

The publisher’s description continues: “This book draws archaeologically informed histories of African islands into a single synthesis, focused on multiple issues of common interest, among them human impacts on previously uninhabited ecologies, the role of islands in the growth of long-distance maritime trade networks, and the functioning of plantation economies based on the exploitation of unfree labour. Addressing and repairing the longstanding neglect of Africa in general studies of island colonization, settlement, and connectivity, it makes a distinctively African contribution to studies of island archaeology. The availability of this much-needed synthesis also opens up a better understanding of the significance of African islands in the continent’s past as a whole. After contextualizing chapters on island archaeology as a field and an introduction to the variety of Africa’s islands and the archaeological research undertaken on them, the book focuses on four themes: arriving, altering, being, and colonising and resisting. An interdisciplinary approach is taken to these themes, drawing on a broad range of evidence that goes beyond material remains to include genetics, comparative studies of the languages, textual evidence and oral histories, island ecologies, and more.” MW


by Martin Walsh

EVENTUFUL YEARS IN EAST AFRICA: 1981-1986. Roger M. Nellist. Privately printed (Book Printing UK, Peterborough), 2021. ix + 338 pp. (No ISBN no.) (paperback). Copies available from the author rogermnellist@

Avid readers of Tanzanian Affairs will know Roger Nellist as a regular contributor who covered the Energy & Minerals brief for many years until he stepped aside in 2021 to spend more time on his own projects. The first fruits of this have now been published in the form a memoir of his five years in Tanzania working as an economic adviser to the Ministry of Water, Energy and Minerals (as it was called for a time) in Dar es Salaam. He arrived in July 1981 as a keen 29-year-old with seven years’ experience in Whitehall, and left in July 1986 to take up a London-based job with his employer, the Commonwealth Secretariat.

With the economy in dire straits, this was an extraordinarily challenging time for the country and its citizens. The prosperity promised by independence and then state socialism had clearly failed to materialise for the majority of people, who often struggled to obtain basic goods and services without mobilising personal networks, resorting to the black market, or engaging in other forms of corruption. This was the Tanzania I encountered myself when I flew into Dar for the first time (I had to bribe my way in), and the grim backdrop to Roger Nellist’s memoir, evident in many of the anecdotes that he tells.

Tanzania’s parlous economic state and the government’s pressing need to turn this around was also the reason for his presence. The core of his book describes his close work with the minister, Al Noor (‘Nick’) Kassum, and other colleagues to ensure that Tanzania gained as much benefit as it could from agreements with international companies to exploit its natural gas and other resources. This laid the groundwork for the development of the energy sector in the years of economic liberalisation to come, and is work that the author is rightly proud of and was subsequently honoured for.

As an autobiographical account written primarily for family and friends, this is far from being an academic text, and there is a lot more in it than an outline of the work that its author evidently excelled at. We learn a lot about his friendships and activities outside the office and about expatriate life in general, as well as his travels and the later development of his career. The five thematic parts and similarly thematic chapters make it easy to follow different topics (I began with the chapters about Zanzibar in Part Two), as does a detailed index (which is not included in the page count given above).

This is one of the most interesting memoirs of its kind that I’ve read, full of striking detail drawn from the diaries and other records that the author diligently kept, and illustrated by numerous colour photographs that bring the text to life. For me it provided insights into a social and cultural world that I only caught passing glimpses of when living in a village more than a day’s journey from Dar. It also reminded me of my own subsequent experiences as an expat, including the sights and sounds and smells of the city that I got to know in later decades, when those bare shelves, oddly empty streets and furtive transactions were becoming a distant memory.

Eventful Years in East Africa is a very welcome contribution to its genre and to our understanding of a little-studied period and developments in Tanzania’s modern history. When future monographs and papers are written about expatriate advisers and their impacts in postcolonial Tanzania, this book will surely be prominent among their sources. It deserves to be more widely read and I hope that plans to make it more readily available to a larger audience come to pass.

Martin Walsh Martin Walsh is the Book Reviews Editor of Tanzanian Affairs. He first went to live in Tanzania in 1980, when he was 22.

LETTERS FROM THE NEW AFRICA 1961-1966: SIXTY YEARS ON. Tim Brooke. Privately printed (Buy My Print, Coventry), 2021. 150 pp. (paperback). (No ISBN no.). Copies available from the author timb968@gmail. com and pdf free to download at

Twenty-three-year-old Tim Brooke arrived in Tanganyika in December 1961 to teach at St Joseph’s College, Chidya, a secondary boarding school run by the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) in Masasi Diocese. He stayed there for four years, leaving Tanzania (as it had become) in March 1966. This memoir is based on his letters home from Chidya and elsewhere (though not the New Africa Hotel in Dar, which was my first reading of the title!). Here is the author’s summary:

“In this book I have chosen extracts from my letters particularly to illustrate what it was like to be part of that wave of young people in the 1960s going to Africa from Britain and North America to volunteer. We found ourselves mainly in the rapidly expanding secondary school systems because insufficient local people had been trained to fill all the roles required by a post-colonial society. These young people – with a mixture of idealism, a sense of adventure and a desire that independence should really work – were responding to this time-limited need. There was a sense of Wordsworth’s ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive’.

“The selection aims to give a feel of everyday life at that moment in an African boarding school. They record too attitudes to the growing power of China, my involvement in the East African army mutinies, the legacy of Britain’s Groundnut Scheme and two extraordinary phenomena seen in the night sky. They also bring to life two internationally known Europeans living in the south of the country – Bishop Trevor Huddleston, who by his book ‘Naught for your Comfort’ (Collins 1956) had drawn the world’s attention to the injustices of apartheid, and C.J.P. Ionides, the snake collector. They look above all at what it was like to be living as a European in Tanganyika at the crossover point between colonial status and independence, an amazing time of political and social transition as Tanganyika began to establish itself as a sovereign country in the eyes of both its own people and the rest of the world.”

Decolonisation and its challenges loom large in Tim Brooke’s letters: the stuttering progress towards Africanisation in the school and church(es); the powerful example of Trevor Huddleston and his influence on the author and others around him; and the political and other events at national and international level that were happening at the same time. It is fascinating to read of the different ways in which all this impacts on the young letter-writer and his family (he had a younger brother in Southern Rhodesia). It becomes intensely personal when he is wrongly arrested for embezzlement – thanks to an erratic headmaster who is later found to have been opening his teachers’ mail before hiding it in a bedroom cupboard. The tension in this episode is palpable, until a swarm of angry bees provides Tim with a get-out-of-gaol-free card, following which the Bishop and others come to his rescue.

In addition to ‘Bishop Trevor’ and ‘Iodine’, whose snake-catching operation is described in detail, the letters introduce us to a large cast of colourful characters in the school, diocese, and further afield. Many went on to have long and distinguished careers, as we learn from thumbnail sketches at the end of the book. Readers may be familiar with some of them, includes the likes of Tim Yeo, the future Conservative MP, reclining on the grass in a group photograph, and the still-active Cambridge historians John Iliffe and John Lonsdale, helping to shake up the study of history at the University of Dar es Salaam, where the author was attending a course run by Terence Ranger – who also appears in a photograph with Louis Leakey.

Teaching at Chidya and all it entailed was evidently a formative experience for the author, and we can see his worldview evolving as the correspondence progresses. The letters have been skilfully selected and edited, with just the right amount of explanation added. Researchers interested in the full collection of unedited missives can find them in the USPG archive (‘Papers of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel’) in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. If this readily accessible volume of extracts is anything to go by, they’ll be well worth the read.

Martin Walsh

James French. Privately printed (Tellwell Talent, Victoria, British Columbia), 2017. 212 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-1-77370-251-3. £15.21 (pbk); £5.30 (e-book).
Jim French and his then-wife Marlyn pitched up at St Joseph’s College in Chidya in September 1967, one and a half years after Tim Brooke (see the previous review) had left this UMCA-supported secondary boarding school in Masasi Diocese. They were relatively experienced Canadian volunteers, having already trained as teachers and taught in Canada, while Jim had just completed an M.A. in English at the University of Sussex. Their contract with the Canadian Voluntary Service Overseas (CUSO) was for a two-year stint: Marlyn left a little early for family reasons, Jim in July 1969, when the national programme of Africanisation finally saw all the remaining non-Tanzanian staff replaced.

A Stone in the Road is a well-crafted memoir of their time in Chidya and occasional travels away from the school. It is nicely illustrated with photographs and maps and informed by letters written at the time, in particular regular aerogrammes sent by Marlyn to her parents in Canada. Jim French has woven a fine narrative out of these materials and his and others’ recollections, moving seamlessly back and forth in time as its major themes unfold. The result is a compelling account of their experiences and especially life at Chidya, with all of its ups and downs. The stone of the book’s title is a buried rock that frequently catches vehicles negotiating the 18-mile track between Masasi and Chidya. The school is quite literally at the end of the road, sometimes cut-off altogether by heavy seasonal rains.

The relative isolation of Chidya pervades this memoir and the mood of its writer. It seems to magnify the minutiae of life on the school compound, not least the medical and other hazards that horrify the author and the social frictions that trouble him at work. At least they can afford to get away from time to time. Even so, on their road trips they encounter obstacles of the kind that many budget travellers will be all too familiar with, especially those who can recall the less well-connected world of the past. It’s a testimony to the author’s skill in evoking their travails that I was swept along and struggled to contain the anxiety that his writing induced, amply supplemented by memories of my own bad trips.

Back in Chidya, things appear to get worse as the end of the two years approaches. One of their next-door neighbours, a teacher from India, stops communicating with Jim and Marlyn because they had forgotten to invite him to a lively party. Jim suspects that some students resent him because he’s the only teacher who confiscates the forbidden open-flame tin lamps that they smuggle in to read by (and cram for exams) when they’re supposed to be asleep. One of these students misinterprets something he says in class and spreads the word that he’s a racist, later calling him “Mzungu” (“Whitey”) as he walks past. Jim is shocked and mortified. Marlyn has to rush back to Canada because her father is ill. Left alone for the last few months, Jim eventually takes to the bottle. I might have the order of these events wrong, or be exaggerating, but you get the picture.

Of course, the author knows what he’s doing. Referring to his hangovers, he confesses “I was enacting my own version of Somerset Maugham’s story, “An Outpost of Progress,” in which the two colonials in an isolated post end up in a hopeless fist fight. I was fighting with Jim French.” As well as references to Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene, we are also treated to a reconstructed dialogue with students about Macbeth, and are told that their “enthusiasm for Shakespeare was challenged only by their admiration of Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart, adopted as the novel for study in January 1969.” Things aren’t always falling apart in this book; there are many moments of happiness and hope, including the removal of that symbolic stone in the road. I very much enjoyed Jim French’s memoir, especially when it drew me into his sometime uneasy world.

Also noticed:
CHINA AND EAST AFRICA: ANCIENT TIES, CONTEMPORARY FLOWS. Chapurukha M. Kusimba, Tiequan Zhu, and Purity Wakabari Kiura (editors). Lexington Books, Lanham, Maryland, 2020. xx + 277 pp. (hardback). ISBN 978-1-4985-7614-7. £81.00.
From the publishers’ website: “China and East Africa: Ancient Ties and Contemporary Flows marks the culmination of a new round of archaeological and historical research on the relations between China and Africa, from the origins to the present. Africa and Asia have always been in constant contact, through land and seas. The contributors to this volume debate and present the results of their research on the very complex and intricate networks of connections that crisscrossed the Indian Ocean and surrounding lands linking Africa to East Asia. A growing number of speakers of Austronesian languages returned to Africa, reaching Madagascar in the early centuries of the Common Era. The diffusion of domesticated plants, like bananas, from New Guinea to South Asia and Africa where phytoliths are dated to the mid-fourth millennium in Uganda and mid-first millennium BCE in southern Cameroon, provide additional evidence on early interactions between Africa and Asia. Africa and Asia have always been in constant contact, through land and seas. Edited by Chapurukha Kusimba, Tiequan Zhu, and Purity Wakabari Kiura, this collection explores different facets of the interaction between China and Africa, from their earliest manifestations to the present and with an eye to the future.”

The focus of this book is on Kenya, but there’s much that will interest students of Tanzanian history, including a chapter by Elgidius Ichumbaki, ‘Unraveling the links between Tanzania’s coast and ancient China’.


by Martin Walsh

DOCUMENTING DEATH: MATERNAL MORTALITY AND THE ETHICS OF CARE IN TANZANIA. Adrienne E. Strong. University of California Press, Oakland, California, 2020. xx + 247 pp. ISBN 978-0-520-31070-4 (paperback). £27.00. eBook free to download in different formats at
FACTORS INFLUENCING CHILD SURVIVAL IN TANZANIA: COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF DIVERSE DEPRIVED RURAL VILLAGES. Kumiko Sakamoto. Springer Nature Singapore, Singapore, 2020. xiii + 201 pp. ISBN 978-981-13-7638-2 (hardback). £89.99. ISBN 978-981-13-7639-9 (eBook). £71.50.

The first of these books starts with an engaging story about Paulina, the ideal, healthy, well-prepared mother-to-be. At this point, I remembered the title of the book and began to feel a sense of foreboding for Paulina, who of course did not survive the birth of her child. Her experience, and that of several others, forms a thread which runs through the book, and is referred to on several more occasions when highlighting reasons why mothers (and babies) might die in childbirth.

It all vividly brings to mind Hilda, the woman who helped in my house when I lived in Tanzania. She was a practical, intelligent woman, efficient and lovely with my kids, and she already had two of her own children. When she became pregnant, we made sure she went to all her appointments and ate good food, and we looked forward to meeting the new baby. Imagine our shock when we received the news that she had died in childbirth, along with her child. No-one seemed to be able to answer our questions about what had happened, but Documenting Death certainly sheds much light on the complexity of issues which may have contributed to her death.

Documenting Death is a fascinating and often horrifying account of the maternity ward in Mawingu Regional Hospital in Rukwa Region, a remote rural area in the far south-west of Tanzania, famed for its association with witchcraft. Adrienne E. Strong is an anthropologist from the University of Florida who spent twenty months studying the practices and dynamics of the maternity ward, in the process building strong relationships with the main players in the health sector and, due to chronic understaffing, also working on the ward, even delivering babies in the end (“But I don’t know how to deliver a baby!”, she protests. “Well, I’m going to teach you and then you will know!”, replies the nurse firmly.)

The book begins with an overview of maternal mortality and laments the lack of progress in reducing the death rate after numerous interventions. Strong points out that maternal death is a particularly sensitive indicator – most women are not ill when they come to the hospital – which clearly reveals deficiencies in the health system. She describes the hospital, the staff and the way it functions. This leads on to a detailed examination of scarcity – money, medicines and other supplies, and staff, especially nurses, – the impossible demands made on too few nurses with too few supplies which leads to low morale and motivation. She worked with the nurses for a year before starting to interview them, so that they were already familiar with her and this led to rich and frank discussions later. A whole chapter is devoted to stillbirths, a much more common occurrence than maternal mortality, but occurring as a result of many of the same factors.

There is a deep analysis of the documentation, often imposed on maternity wards from the government or the WHO. In theory, the form (partograph) to be filled in for the women should document the entire journey of each woman through the hospital, ensuring that every nurse instantly understands the progress of the birth, particularly at handover times between shifts, and any special medical issues. However, myriad deviations may occur – the nurse is in a hurry and doesn’t fill in the form, or vital information is missing, the form is misplaced, the right person does not receive the form, the form is altered perhaps in order to cover a mistake, the form disappears without trace, all meaning that the power of this simple tool is repeatedly undermined. There are many complex reasons examined as to why any of these situations may happen, but the end result can often be tragedy.

Poor communication is another factor which repeatedly comes up – for example, audit meetings were held to discuss any problems, particularly deaths, but they were infrequent, the details had often already been forgotten, the documents were unavailable, and so conclusions were often not drawn. In addition, the nurses, at the forefront of the action were not invited to the audit meetings and therefore were neither given the opportunity to contribute their ideas, nor provided with feedback which might improve their work, and by being excluded, they were denied both a voice and the personal affirmation that their opinions, knowledge and experience were of any value, leading in turn to low morale.

Later in the book, Strong steps out of the hospital into the surrounding villages – the chapter is entitled ‘Pregnancy is Poison’ – and tracks the road to maternal death, following the example of another woman, Pieta, and laying bare the complexities of local logic where reproduction is concerned. A range of social and practical issues is described, including women’s experiences of local dispensary service, bridewealth, marriage and decision making, the lack of transport and the dismal quality of village roads.

On the surface, it might appear that nurses are largely to blame for poor health care in Tanzanian hospitals, but this book provides a deep and detailed analysis of the multitude of complex reasons – social, educational, financial, professional, cultural – why things turn out as they do, and the blame must be apportioned to many. “Mawingu itself was a flawed institution, struggling with competing demands and the proliferation of government-imposed bureaucratic guidelines, but it found itself in a much more broadly dysfunctional system, the country’s health care sector as a whole” (p.192), explains Strong. At best, she comments, the care is “good enough to keep most women alive”.

At the end of the book, Strong cries out with grief and frustration for the injustice of those maternal deaths and for the overworked staff: “Sending ever-increasing numbers of women to facilities will do nothing to reduce the numbers of women dying when those facilities are poorly stocked, suffer from supply chain problems originating at the national level, have inadequate funding mechanisms due to the unequal effects of decentralization, and systematically perpetrate violence against the staff members by keeping them living in poverty, subject to abuse by superiors, denigrated on the basis of their gender, and shut out from crucial information because of poor communication, lack of transparency, and lack of respect. After all, without the supplies and skills, a hospital is just a guesthouse—full of beds and nothing else; as an environment for giving birth, it is, essentially, no better than home” (p. 202). This book is an eye-opener for anyone interested in the most basic of human experiences, childbirth, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who wonders why development assistance often stalls, or does not produce the desired results. It is open source, freely available on the internet.

Strong’s book about maternal mortality contrasts in style with the second book, Factors Influencing Child Survival in Tanzania. Kumiko Sakamoto explains that there is much information about direct causes of child mortality, but she is interested in examining more indirect causes, for example, stemming from social structures and mutual assistance. She took a questionnaire to three different and contrasting villages in Tanzania, in Dodoma and Lindi regions and on Zanzibar, all considered to be areas with high child mortality rates. She presents an analysis of factors influencing child mortality in general and in terms of the different regions, and then turns to the individual villages. The statistical work is documented in detail, and cross-tabulation, correlation analysis, and logistic regression models are used to understand the influencing factors in child survival.

Unfortunately, the findings are not conclusive, and the author struggles to draw meaningful results from the study. Quantitative research is only as good as its questionnaire, and Sakamoto admits there were some deficiencies, for example, several Swahili words were misunderstood, therefore not eliciting the response she was hoping for, and she felt that one of the interviewers may have been biased, producing unreliable results. The questionnaire also didn’t take into account regional differences – it was one size fits all, and the research suffered as a result, for example, I was surprised that under the questions about nutrition, there were none about fish in coastal Lindi nor milk in the pastoralist village. However, the volume includes useful summaries of previous research into child survival and an overview of factors influencing child mortality in Tanzania.
Kate Forrester

Kate Forrester lived in Tanzania for 15 years, working as a freelance consultant chiefly in social development. She carried out research assignments throughout the country, several focusing on the health sector. She now lives in Dorchester, where she is active in community and environmental work.

PORINI – IN THE WILDERNESS. Bill Harvey (edited by Rolf D. Baldus). Privately published in a limited edition signed by the editor, 2022. 270 pp., 53 photos and paintings, 6 maps (hardback). Available from rolfbaldus’@’ £30.00 + £7.00 postage to the UK.

My former colleague Rolf Baldus has edited and self-published this book, which was written by Bill Harvey, the first warden of the Selous Game Reserve. Porini means ‘in the bush’, and the wild place of the book’s title is the Selous, the oldest and until recently largest protected area in Africa.

In 2005, while he was working for the Tanzanian Wildlife Division, Rolf Baldus was contacted by Bill Harvey’s son in Australia. Perry Harvey gave him a manuscript that had been written by his late father, who had worked in southern Tanganyika and the Selous in the 1920s and ’30s. Bill had written down his memories of that time while later being held captive as a Japanese prisoner of war. Perry had edited his father’s notes and records with the help of his wife and daughters, but unfortunately the family had not been successful in getting the manuscript published as a book. Instead, they had themselves produced a dozen copies.

Rolf Baldus was involved with the management of the Selous Game Reserve for many years. He has written a good number of articles about the Selous ecosystem, and edited the book Wild Heart of Africa (2009), a compilation of historical anecdotes and the natural history of the Selous, to which I also contributed. The Harvey family asked him if he could make the manuscript available to the interested public. All he could do at the time to honour their request was to upload it to his website,

The Selous Game Reserve was established by the German colonial administration in 1896, making it the first modern protected area in Africa that still exists today. The British colonial government retained it after the First World War and gazetted it officially in 1928. They called it ‘Selous’ in memory of the great hunter and naturalist Frederick Courteney Selous (1851-1917) who was killed in combat at Beho Beho in January 1917. Bill Harvey was the first warden of the Selous Game Reserve and surrounding ecosystem from 1928 until he handed it over to Constantine Ionides in 1938, who was succeeded in turn by Brian Nicholson in 1954. Ionides narrated his life’s adventures in A Hunter’s Story (1965) and Nicholson did the same in his book The Last of Old Africa (2001).

Harvey’s book is not only an important document on the history of Africa’s oldest game reserve, but it is also very entertaining. It is full of adventure and deserves to be preserved in printed form, to keep alive the memory of this naturalist, who describes an otherwise forgotten period in the early history of the reserve.

Baldus has edited the text where necessary but thought it important to retain Harvey’s style and the spirit in which it was written. Harvey worked in colonial times, and this is reflected, for example, in his use of the word ‘native’ in a way which would now be considered politically incorrect. However, it has been left in the text to preserve its authenticity.

Harvey tells us hair-raising stories about his adventures in problem animal control, especially with elephants. He also writes also about the management challenges he and his colleagues were facing. During the Depression in 1931, “staff had been reduced to a mere skeleton”, and he had to devise means to manage the huge area under his charge with meagre resources. Like all wardens he complains about senseless office work and bureaucracy. Only when porini, on anti-poaching and animal control safaris does he find himself truly of use. He names ‘cultivation protection’ as the most difficult part of his job: elephants and hippos being the main problem. In addition, carnivores like crocodiles and lions preyed on the local population. His stories also include tales of witchcraft and the role it played in hunting down maneaters.

Since Harvey’s days, the Selous has undergone many changes, both positive and negative. Ionides and Nicholson expanded it and turned it into one of Africa’s elephant havens and a jewel of conservation. But during the 1970s and most of the 1980s it was run down by bad management and corruption.

Under the German co-funded Selous Conservation Programme, we were able to stop the elephant massacre, secure the cooperation and participation of communities around the Selous, and get the reserve going again with sustainable finance from controlled hunting and tourism under full Tanzanian management. Our colleagues Gerald Bigurube and Benson Kibonde should be mentioned here as worthy successors of Harvey, Ionides and Nicholson. If one takes the number of elephants as a measurable indicator, these pachyderms recovered during our working years from around 30,000 in the mid-1980s to well over 70,000 when Baldus left at the end of 2005.

Unfortunately, at that time the self-financing system of the reserve was done away with by the wildlife authorities and poaching was once again facilitated. In the years that followed elephant numbers dropped to 13,000 by 2013.

In 2014 UNESCO’s World Heritage Commission listed the Selous as a “World Heritage Site in danger” due to excessive poaching and planned large-scale projects such as mining and dam construction. Despite this, the government of the late President Magufuli commissioned a large hydroelectric dam at Stiegler’s Gorge in the heart of the Selous. Experts fear that this will turn out to be another ‘white elephant’, and that the heart of the Selous along the Rufiji River, with its lakes, wetlands and once abundant wildlife is being destroyed forever. A move by the World Heritage Committee to strike the Selous from the World Heritage Site List was defeated, because Tanzania was able to convince enough like-minded countries to vote against it. This happened despite clear violations of the World Heritage Site principles that the country has committed to, thus setting a bad precedent for the future.

Other infrastructural projects and surveys for minerals are ongoing, and it is apparent that the economic exploitation and fragmentation of the Selous is being officially sanctioned, with little respect for wildlife. Moreover, the Selous has been split into a reserve and a national park – an action that was taken without proper planning or following the usual legal procedures. Most of the new Nyerere National Park is unsuitable for photographic tourism, and it will likely become an additional financial burden for the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA), while depriving the Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA) of essential income from sustainable hunting tourism.

Bill Harvey’s account of the early days is a good match for all those great publications in which game wardens of the past tell their exciting stories, such as Miles Turner on his Serengeti years, Bruce Kinloch on his time in Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika, Michael Bromwich about the National Parks and wildlife management in Rhodesia and Zimbabwe, Iain Ross on Uganda’s Kidepo, and – perhaps the most entertaining of them all – Ian Parker and Stan Bleazard’s An Impossible Dream (2001), about Kenya’s last colonial wardens.

These books open up windows onto a bygone era and the lives of the custodians of game who not only achieved much for conservation under the most difficult conditions, but also enjoyed the freedom of the bush and the joy of nearly unlimited hunting as part of their job description. As Ian Parker wrote, “Our Game Department days were great fun, we led lives that, with good reason, were widely envied and, for a while at least, we were indeed the Heaven-born”.
Ludwig Siege

Dr Ludwig Siege is an economist who joined the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) in 1980 and worked there in various capacities until his retirement in 2016. His first assignment in Tanzania was in 1983-85. After working in Zambia and Eschborn in Germany, he returned to Tanzania at the end of 1993 to take over the Selous support programme from Rolf Baldus. He left when the programme came to its end in December 2003, and subsequently worked as head of conservation programmes in Madagascar and Ethiopia.

Also noticed:
I REMEMBER AFRICA: A FIELD BIOLOGIST’S HALF-CENTURY PERSPECTIVE. Thomas Struhsaker. BookBaby, Pennsauken, New Jersey, 2021. 604 pp., 110 photos (paperback). ISBN 9781667805955. US$32.99.
Readers familiar with research on Tanzania’s wildlife are most likely to have come across Tom Struhsaker’s work on different species of red colobus, especially the Udzungwa red colobus (Piliocolobus gordonorum) and the Zanzibar red colobus (Piliocolobus kirkii). Now he’s written a full-length account of his half century in Africa. Here’s the publisher’s overview (from, with thanks to Guy Norton):

I Remember Africa is a memoir based on the author’s wildlife research and conservation efforts in Africa spanning 56 years (1962-2018). It describes some of the challenges scientists and conservationists faced in the early days of field research on primates and other wildlife in Africa. The stories range from the savannas of East Africa to the rain forests of Central and West Africa. The Kibale Forest in Uganda was the author’s home for 18 years (1970-1988) during the reign of vicious dictatorships, genocides, civil wars, and economic collapse. The author describes how he, his colleagues, and students managed to continue with their research and conservation efforts in Uganda, despite these adversities. Their efforts, along with many others, eventually led to the creation of The Makerere University Biological Field Station and The Kibale National Park. The stories relate humorous and uplifting experiences, set in the context of very dark times. The author also describes the behavior of the primates and other creatures he shared the forest with. This memoir tracks some of the many changes that have transpired in Africa over the past half-century.”
Martin Walsh


by Martin Walsh

SWAHILI SOCIAL LANDSCAPES: MATERIAL EXPRESSIONS OF IDENTITY, AGENCY, AND LABOUR IN ZANZIBAR, 1000-1400 CE (STUDIES IN GLOBAL ARCHAEOLOGY 26). Henriette Rødland. Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, Sweden, 2021. xii + 321 pp. (paperback and e-book). ISBN 978-91-506-2896-8 (print). Print copies available from online booksellers: free to download at

I am delighted to review Rødland’s work. Swahili Social Landscapes makes an important and thoughtful contribution to our study of Zanzibar’s rich history. Based on her doctoral dissertation, it focuses on the “social and productive landscapes” of Tumbatu and Mkokotoni. Tumbatu is an island off the northwestern coast of Unguja (Zanzibar) Island, while Mkokotoni lies on Unguja itself, across the channel from Tumbatu. Both sites were occupied between the 11th and 15th centuries CE.

This study questions traditional narratives of the Swahili that are based exclusively on Indian Ocean trade networks, Islam, stone towns, and hierarchically organised societies. Instead, Rødland explores how Swahili social identity and status were expressed through labour, foodways, gender, and material culture. In short, she seeks to decentre much of the focus of Swahili archaeology until now, looking instead at how social identities were created and maintained by other means. Thus, rather than focusing on how elites gained status through a display of imported ceramics, Rødland examines how space, craft production, and its attendant knowledge were all used to create and maintain identities. As Rødland points out, even though Tumbatu and Mkokotoni were part of ‘the Swahili World’, both sites revealed scant evidence for status distinction. Rødland interprets this to mean that imported material culture was not monopolised by an elite, but rather was available to most of the population.

Rødland’s assertion that the two sites were “neighbourhoods” of the same settlement, with Tumbatu being devoted to trade and Mkokotoni devoted to production, is backed up by strong evidence. It is difficult to disagree with her conclusion that space and its use played a powerful role in the creation of social identities.

My hope is that Rødland’s work will serve as a model for future conversations about the Swahili and the creation of identity. As Rødland notes, the term “Swahili” itself has been in use only for 200 years, and it is a term originally used by Omani Arabs to refer to some of the local population. Rødland’s wry observation that no one consulted the Swahili about their preferred identity hits home, especially in archaeological studies, where “Swahili” is used to describe peoples on the East African coast for at least the last millennium.

All in all, Rødland’s work shows us the importance of breaking from traditional narratives about the Swahili, and in exploring new ways in which precolonial African populations conceived of themselves and generated social identities. Hopefully, Rødland’s work heralds a new phase in the archaeology of the East African coast, where more nuance and sensitivity is employed to understand the past.

Akshay Sarathi
Akshay Sarathi is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Florida Atlantic University. His research concerns the movement of meat across landscapes. His current work is focused on the site of Unguja Ukuu, Zanzibar.

THE SLOPE OF KONGWA HILL: A BOY’S TALE OFAFRICA. Anthony R. Edwards. Agio Publishing House, Victoria BC, Canada, 2011. 420 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-1-897435-65-6. £22.89. Also available as an e-book: a pdf sampler can be downloaded from the publisher’s website here: http://www.

Kongwa town, 60 miles east of Dodoma, will be known to readers, first, for the cattle ranch of the National Ranching Company (NARCO), and secondly, for the British government’s notorious and ill-fated Groundnut Scheme of 1949-52 (reviewed in Tanzanian Affairs 129). But the Scheme left a legacy which is less well-known – first, the good health of the local people, nourished on a plentiful supply of groundnuts, and secondly, the establishment of Kongwa School for European children.

This book is the story of that school, seen through the eyes of a boy whose father served as Mayor of Lindi. Hundreds of children from many parts of East Africa attended the school from 1949 to 1958, when it moved to Iringa, until it was liquidated with the approach of independence. True to the English public school tradition, it featured fagging, bullying and corporal punishment – a life of misery for young children snatched from their mothers’ arms sometimes at far too young an age, but exciting for older teenagers who were asked to bring their rifles to school so that in times of meat scarcity they could go out and hunt their own. The beginnings of romantic experiences in this mixed school are described, also the hospitality and kindness received from local villagers on the rare occasions when a group of children broke bounds to go exploring. Even incursions from the Mau Mau of Kenya were thought to be a threat, but the incident when they set up camp near the school, communicating with one another by Morse code, was found to be a fictional tale invented by one boy’s over-fertile imagination.

Remnants of those far-off days are still visible – the English style village church on the hillside, the swimming pool, the hospital, the teachers’ houses called ‘Millionaires’ Row’, the railway station – all inherited from the Groundnut Scheme. Perhaps the most significant legacy is the local Mnyakongo Primary School, with 800 pupils using the same old buildings. In 2008 a group of now quite ancient alumni paid a nostalgic visit to their old School and were so warmly welcomed by the teachers and children of Mnyakongo that they have set up an ongoing partnership, with gifts of books and equipment, described in an appendix with a collection of photographs of those far off days both in Kongwa and in Lindi.

This book is a snapshot from the ‘bad old days’ of colonialism, but the school left in the minds of those boys and girls a love of Africa and a respect for Africans which makes old sentiments of racial superiority or segregation quite meaningless, and is bearing fruit 70 years later. The book is an easy read, interspersed with Swahili and Cigogo and full of personal touches.

Roger Bowen
Roger Bowen taught at St Philip’s Theological College, Kongwa, in the 1970s and chaired the Swahili Theology Textbooks programme of East Africa.

PROTECTED AREAS IN NORTHERN TANZANIA: LOCAL COMMUNITIES, LAND USE CHANGE, AND MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES (GEOTECHNOLOGIES AND THE ENVIRONMENT 22). Jeffrey O. Durrant, Emanuel H. Martin, Kokel Melubo, Ryan R. Jensen, Leslie A. Hadfield, Perry J. Hardin, and Laurie Weisler (editors). Springer, Cham, Switzerland, 2020. viii + 179 pp. (paperback). ISBN: 978-3-030-43304-8. £69.99. Also available in hardback and as an e-book.

This edited collection of papers on Protected Areas in Northern Tanzania is the outcome of a collaboration between the College of African Wildlife Management at Mweka and researchers – mostly geographers – at Brigham Young University in the United States. Following a foreword by the Rector of Mweka, Professor Jafari R. Kideghesho, the volume is introduced with a brief overview of Tanzania’s protected area system and its history by Jeffrey O. Durrant and Rebecca Formica. This introductory chapter is followed by eleven more on different aspects of protected area and natural resource management in northern Tanzania.

In order to give potential readers a fair idea of this book’s varied contents, the following paragraphs are taken from the summary that is tacked onto the end of the opening chapter:

“Chapter 2 illustrates some of the real costs of population growth and modern society’s move toward mass production of agriculture, such as at coffee plantations. While cavity-nesting birds have done well in protected areas, [Hamadi] Dulle et al. found the birds are facing some irreversible forces through population growth and changes in land use outside of protected areas. Dulle et al. found that heavy losses of deadwood near coffee plantations are negatively impacting cavity-nesting birds. Dulle et al. examined the effects of providing artificial nesting boxes and suggest them as one option to address losses of these nesting birds that is seen as irreversible.

[Leslie] Hadfield takes a historic look at how Africa’s colonial past is impacting current tourist interaction with the porters and guides on Mount Kilimanjaro (Chap. 3). Hadfield examines how some attitudes from the use of porters in colonial expeditions have evolved to modern-day tourism. Even with current porter organization efforts to prevent colonial-type practices that require constant service to outsiders with little regard for the health and well-being of the local porters and guides, challenges such as heavy loads, poor equipment, and inadequate food and safety remain.

Looking at Arusha National Park, [Obeid] Mahenya [and Naomi Chacha] (Chap. 4) study how the individualized impacts to those living nearby affected their attitudes toward the Park. Mahenya et al.’s [sic] study found that the attitudes of locals were more positive toward Arusha National Park in relation to giraffes, since giraffes present few problems to the residents and are associated with the positive benefits of tourists. However, more negative attitudes resulted from interactions with more destructive animals such as baboons or when people had been fined for domestic livestock grazing in the Park.

Similarly, [Kokel] Melubo et al. (Chap. 5) found that having personal experiences in protected areas contributed to better attitudes and ability to manage protected areas. Melubo et al. studied students at CAWM who had been involved in a wilderness training program that involved at least a short overnight experience in a protected area. Students who participated in these programs were found to be better equipped to operate and manage protected areas in their future careers.

Extending the theme of effective protected area management, [Rehema Abeli] Shoo evaluates the impact of having an effective management structure in place on the success of ecotourism (Chap. 6). Shoo found that a sound management plan can help managers avoid obstacles that often prevent successful ecotourism, such as environmental deterioration and inequitable development among the local communities. Shoo studied Lake Natron, which has a high potential for ecotourism development However, Shoo found that without a sound general management plan, Lake Natron suffered from inadequate funding at the operational level, lack of mechanisms to secure a fair distribution of ecotourism benefits, and poorly developed tourism infrastructure and facilities that reduced the potential for successful ecotourism at the park.

[Alfan] Rjia and [Jafari] Kideghesho examined nine poacher’s strategies used in the Serengeti ecosystem (Chap. 7). They argue that increased enforcement of wildlife crimes has influenced adaptability in poacher’s strategies. Field rangers and wildlife managers can use the nine strategies they described to more effectively combat wildlife crimes, and the authors provide three recommendations to help inform field patrols and other mitigation efforts.

In Chap. 8, [Alex] Kisingo and [Professor] Kidegheso present findings from previous community governance studies using a V3 model. They found some changes in community governance with regard to conservation, livelihood improvement, and social benefits. They also note some setbacks in community governance that need to be addressed. Several chapters examine biophysical characteristics of protected areas in northern Tanzania.

[Emmanuel] Martin et al. (Chap. 9) used temporal remote sensing data to study land use and land cover change near the Kwakuchinja Wildlife Corridor in northern Tanzania. They found that while a paved road provided better connections between two towns, it also impacted animal movement between two national parks by providing a physical obstacle and bringing in more settlement. Satellite remote sensing data showed that over time, the most significant changes were from bare ground to “savanna with some agriculture” and “agriculture with some grassland.”

[Gideon] Mseja et al. used transect lines in Mkomazi National Park to count wild animals as ground reference information for the population density (Chap. 10). A total of 22 species were estimated, and African Buffalo (Syncerus caffer) was the most common species, while Gerenuk (Litocranius walleri) was the least. Mseja et al. suggest other methods be used to count more elusive species. For example, camera traps could be used to estimate carnivores and dung counts for elephants. The combination of these methods can give a benchmark for future population estimates.

In Chap. 11, [Emmanuel] Martin et al. used MODIS land cover data and scripts in Google Earth to examine vegetation change within Mkomazi National Park in northeastern Tanzania both before and after it became a national park in 2008. The data showed relatively subtle changes and most likely reflect that only subtle changes in land management policy have occurred since its conversion from two separate game reserves.

Finally, in Chap. 12, [Professor] Kideghesho et al. review the challenging dynamics between wildlife conservation and human population growth and urbanization. The authors provide recommendations on the best manner to minimize the negative impacts of human population growth on large mammals.”

As this summary indicates, this is very much a mixed bag of papers, and there isn’t a very strong or even coherent theme to the volume. The nature of the collaboration between the two institutions involved is not explained, and the book appears to have been assembled hastily and without proper proofreading. A paragraph introducing the above summary of chapters is repeated word for word, except that the first time round (on p. 11) it states that the book has eight further chapters, and the next time (on p. 12) it says ten, when there are actually eleven more chapters.

This is not good enough for a publisher of Springer Nature’s status and such a costly volume. No doubt many researchers will find something of interest in this collection, but I suspect that most would rather consult it in a library than dig into their purses and wallets.
Martin Walsh
Martin Walsh is the Book Reviews Editor of Tanzanian Affairs.

Also noticed:
BIRDS OF EAST AFRICA: KENYA, TANZANIA, UGANDA, RWANDA, BURUNDI. SECOND EDITION (HELM FIELD GUIDES). Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe. Illustrated by John Gale and Brian Small. Helm, London, 2020. 640 pp., 287 colour plates (paperback). ISBN: PB: 978-1-4081-5736-7. £31.50. Also available in hardback and as an e-book.

This new edition of Birds of East Africa substantially updates the first, which appeared in 2002 and is described by the publisher as “the best-selling Helm field guide of all time” – a reflection, in part, of its comprehensiveness and the popularity of birding in East Africa. The authors describe the changes they have made to the species accounts as follows:

“This second edition covers 1,448 species, which represents around 70% of the birds that have been recorded in sub-Saharan Africa. […] Recent taxonomic changes include the creation of three new families: Modulatricidae, Nicatoridae, Hyliotidae.

Although our knowledge is steadily increasing, there is still an enormous amount to learn about East Africa’s birds. New species and races are still being described: Udzungwa Forest-partridge, not only a new bird but also a new genus to science, was found in the montane forests of south-central Tanzania in 1991. New species in this edition include range extensions, taxa now considered specifically distinct, and additional scarce and vagrant species.

In our first edition, the taxonomy and nomenclature were largely based on the East African list that was published in 1980 (Britton, P. L. 1980, Birds of East Africa, East Africa Natural History Society). Since then, the growth in birding and citizen science worldwide has seen the emergence of four major global lists: the IOC World Bird List, the Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, the eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World (in collaboration with Cornell University), and the HBW (Handbook of the Birds of the World) and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist. All of these lists are compared online by the comprehensive and regularly updated resource, Avibase.

While taking close account of the first edition and the three other global lists, we have chosen to base the majority of this revised Birds of East Africa on the HBW/BirdLife taxonomy and nomenclature. Throughout, we have provided alternative common names, as well as explaining any scientific name changes in notes. Although this means that a number of changes in common names have occurred, we hope that it actually represents a move towards wider stability in names, both in East Africa and worldwide. If hyphens and capitalisation are excluded, there is agreement on 85% of the common names in the HBW/ BirdLife, IOC and eBird/Clements lists. For the birding community, working together to agree and stabilise taxonomy is crucial for citizen science and conservation.”

As this implies, birders will always find something to quibble about. But whichever way you look at it, this is a superb resource. My main wish, as with the first edition, is that arrows had been used on the distribution maps to indicate the presence of species on the region’s larger islands. Those tiny splotches of colour can be hard to see without a magnifying glass.

Martin Walsh


by Martin Walsh

SEA LEVEL: A PORTRAIT OF ZANZIBAR. Sarah Markes. Mkuki na Nyota, Dar es Salaam, 2020. 144 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-9987-084-19-7. £27.00.

Sea Level book cover

I was very happy to be asked to review Sea Level: A Portrait of Zanzibar, as I had already seen wonderful glimpses of Sarah Markes’s work on Instagram, including the cover with its illustration of the iconic Old Dispensary on the seafront in Stone Town, Zanzibar. I lived and worked in Stone Town in the 1990s and saw the Old Dispensary being painstakingly brought back to life and splendour during its restoration by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture after years of neglect. The Old Dispensary is an example of how a building can be saved but it also illustrates the richness and multi-cultural nature of Zanzibari architecture. It seems a very fitting choice for the cover of a book which has the message of conservation at its very heart.

Sea Level follows on from Street Level, an illustrated book on the cultural and architectural heritage of Dar es Salaam, where Sarah Markes recorded the vanishing city centre with snapshots of daily life there. Both an artist and designer, the author has worked widely in East and Southern Africa on awareness campaigns, educational and environmental issues. She documents the cultural and natural heritage of places through her art and in doing so, hopes not only to raise awareness of their value but also to promote the need for their conservation. She says:

“My main aim in creating this book was to celebrate and record glimpses of this unique and beautiful place, and thus help inspire interest in its preservation.”

The illustrations in Sea Level are structured around the eight wards of Stone Town. The featured buildings are numbered so that a visitor can explore the streets visiting the various points of interest, which are linked to a GPS position. I immediately wanted to set off on a walk following the routes through the different areas. From the iconic waterfront view of old palaces and mansions at Mizingani, the Art Deco cinemas to the bustling markets and caravanserai – all the buildings have a story to tell. There are beautiful detailed line drawings but the author also uses shadow layering of photographs offering hints and echoes. The streets are alive with people too, going about their business in the town, shopping, a kofia seller scrolling on his phone, the hubbub of the dhow harbour, men playing bao. There is movement and vibrancy here – nothing is static. Small photographs are also used to zoom in on particular details, cleverly highlighting a point or focusing on a particular theme – the latticework on a balcony or detail on a carved door.

We hear about the history of Stone Town from its original settlement of mud and wattle houses to the stone buildings that followed Seyyid Said’s establishment of his capital there. The five main architectural traditions are highlighted with the layers of history and settlement of different people. There are cultural details too with the kangas and textiles, the feral cats, the spices and street seats. The details are incredibly rich and layered and I loved the illustrations of the various street light covers from saucepans to bucket lids and hub-caps. There is also a section on the natural heritage of the island, the importance of the forests and the reefs and the threats they face.

This all gives us a feeling of the mood, the vibrancy and the colour of life in Zanzibar. The smells and sounds of the place leap off each page. We are aware of the history, the monsoon winds, the people and trade and different religions that all combined to make the island so unique. Sea Level transports you there with the smell of the cloves and the taste of the freshly squeezed sugarcane juice. It also gives hope for the future with a list of organisations and NGOs who are working to help communities through education, heritage conservation and sustainable development.

In her preface, Sarah Markes explains how she was inspired by the work of the late John da Silva, a historian and watercolour artist who was also a passionate advocate of the need to protect and preserve Stone Town. I knew John well and feel sure that he would be happy to see how well Sarah is continuing his work. Sea Level captures the vibrancy, cultural diversity and uniqueness of Zanzibar. Sarah Markes writes of her hope of fostering interest in the preservation of Stone Town and initiating a gathering and sharing of stories which will be an important record of life there. Every rainy season more and more of Zanzibar’s unique old buildings are lost after years without maintenance or concern for their preservation. The partial collapse of the House of Wonders on 25 December 2020 shows that even the most iconic of buildings is under threat. Sea Level is an important reminder of what can be lost and what needs to be done.

Bethan Rees Walton
Bethan Rees Walton lived in Zanzibar from 1990-1996 and is the author of Images of Zanzibar (1996) with Javed Jafferji. After returning to the UK to study an MA in Social Anthropology at SOAS, University of London, she now lives in Pembrokeshire and teaches yoga by the sea. She is currently writing a novel which is set in Zanzibar.

THE HISTORY OF KIZIBA AND ITS KINGS: A TRANSLATION OF AMAKURU GA KIZIBA NA ABAKAMA BAMU. F.X. Lwamgira (trans­lated by G.B. Kamanzi and edited by P.R. Schmidt). Mkuki na Nyota, Dar es Salaam, 2020. xxxviii + 414 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-9987-083-68-8. £35.00.

The History of Kiziba and its Kings is a very welcome addition to the literature on the Haya people, their culture, and their history. A translation of Amakuru ga Kiziba na Abakama Bamu, a book by the Haya scholar and chief Franciscus X. Lwamgira published in 1949, this volume gives readers a fascinating account of the history of Kiziba, one of several kingdoms established by the Haya people in what is now the Kagera Region of Tanzania. A collection of painstakingly researched and assembled oral records, it tells the history of Kiziba primarily through stories of the reigns of its kings, from the foundation of the kingdom until the period shortly after the First World War.

The importance of a history told through Haya voices cannot be overstated. Those interested in the Haya people and their culture have often relied on texts produced by European or North American observers. Some of these, such as Bengt Sundkler’s Bara Bukoba (1980), are invaluable sources produced by individuals with an intimate knowledge of the Haya people, but they nevertheless represent a body of literature written by outsiders looking in. This book, by contrast, provides a platform for indigenous voices, and allows for a better sense of Haya understandings of their own history. Whilst these sorts of local histories are more common in other parts of East Africa, particularly in Uganda, this book represents a novel and exciting development in the English-language historiography of the Haya.

The History of Kiziba and its Kings provides readers with a picture of a complex society in which a dynamic, competitive political arena was tempered by a culture in which ritual and tradition played central roles. Whilst it is unavoidably a history concerned primarily with Haya elites, it nevertheless allows for an understanding of society and the region more generally. The importance of the kings’ mothers, of ritualistic drums, and of the Haya clan system, as well as the names of places and things, are just some of the many things these stories shed light on. Importantly, they also provide an account of the challenges faced by Haya society as a result of the introduction of Christianity and German colonial rule.

There is much to commend in Galasius B. Kamanzi’s translation of Lwamgira’s work. Firstly, and most obviously, he has done an impressive job of translating into English a sizeable and complex piece of scholarship from a now largely forgotten form of the Haya language. Haya dialects have changed significantly since Lwamgira first wrote his book, so those of us with an interest in Haya history are very lucky to have individuals like Kamanzi to make accessible sources of knowledge which would otherwise be closed to us.

However, perhaps more significantly, Kamanzi has also been careful not to lose the centrality of orality in Lwamgira’s history. The subtleties of oral narrative are well preserved in the English translation, with the rhythms, refrains and constructions of the epic poetry which has historically played an important role in Haya culture coming across very effectively. That these are narratives to be remembered, recited and performed is evident, and the effect is both captivating and engaging. To capture effectively oral history in a written medium is an achievement in itself; to manage it even in translation is particularly impressive. Indeed, readers of this book cannot help but reflect on the different ways of knowing and remembering that oral cultures can teach those of us who are more familiar with written forms of knowledge.

Finally, Peter R. Schmidt, the editor of this translation, deserves credit for his very informative introduction to this edition. The history of the Haya people and their kingdoms is complex and often difficult to trace with many of the sources available. A few spelling and grammatical errors aside, Schmidt does an admirable job of contextualising both this particular work and its author, and of introducing those who may be unfamiliar with the history of this region to the oral traditions which characterise it. Overall, The History of Kiziba and its Kings is a fascinating, important book which should be added to the reading list of anybody with an interest in Haya history and culture.

Nico Brice-Bennett
Nico Brice-Bennett is a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, researching the history of religion and socio-political thought in Tanzania, particularly among the Chagga and Haya peoples. Nico grew up in the Kilimanjaro Region of Tanzania before moving to the UK in 2012 to study for a BA in Ancient, Medieval and Modern History at the University of Durham. Following this, he undertook an MPhil in African Studies at the University of Cambridge, before moving to Edinburgh in 2017. His research places a particular focus on oral history, as well as on the history of regionally produced Swahili-language newspapers.

THE AMPHIBIANS OF THE TANZANIAN FORESTS. Michele Menegon, John Lyakurwa and Simon Loader. A freely downloadable visual guide, Version 1.0, December 2020. 202 pp. Available online at

This sumptuously illustrated photographic guide to the frogs and caecilians of Tanzania’s forests is a very welcome addition to the literature on the country’s amphibians and their wonderful variety. The authors’ introduction underlines just how incomplete our knowledge of this diversity is: they estimate that around half of Tanzania’s amphibians remain unknown. As for those associated with its forests,

“The book includes a total of 152 species, for 117 of them, description and name have been published in a scientific publication. Of these species 111 are Tanzanian endemics. For about 20 of these formally described species, ongoing studies suggests that more than one cryptic taxa are included under that one name. In addition, we include in this book a further 35 species which have no formal name or published scientific account but which published studies or ‘grey literature’ have demonstrated to be distinct from already known taxa.”

At the same time, many of these species, both described and undescribed, are severely threatened by deforestation and other impacts of human activity, not least of which is climate change. The authors rightly emphasise that amphibians should be treasured and protected for more than their immediate usefulness to people, however their social and economic value might be calculated. Amphibians are integral to the tangled web of life, every thread and connection of which demands our care and attention, including best efforts at conservation.

This book represents an important contribution to that undertaking, and I look forward to updated versions of the current pdf. Otherwise, it’s worth downloading for its glorious photographs alone. It’s pleasing to see that the introductory sections have also been translated into Swahili, an increasing trend in guidebooks of this kind. It’s a pity, though, that so many newly described amphibians are still being named after a privileged minority, just when calls for the decolonisation of nomenclature are beginning to be heard.

Martin Walsh
Martin Walsh is the Book Reviews Editor of Tanzanian Affairs and recently became a member of the Editorial Committee of the Journal of East African Natural History.

Also noticed:
HISTORIA YA KIZIBA NA WAFALME WAKE: Tafsiri ya Amakuru Ga Kiziba na Abakama Bamu. F.X. Lwamgira (translated by G.B. Kamanzi and edited by P.R. Schmidt). Mkuki na Nyota, Dar es Salaam, 2020. 476 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-9987-083-69-5. £35.00.

A Swahili translation of F.X. Lwamgira’s Amakuru ga Kiziba na Abakama Bamu (1949), the English translation of which (The History of Kiziba and its Kings) is reviewed by Nico Brice-Bennett above.

Both translations are available from the African Books Collective (ABC) at, as is Sarah Markes’ Sea Level: A Portrait of Zanzibar (reviewed here by Bethan Rees Walton) and the author’s earlier Street Level: A Collection of Drawings and Creative Writing Inspired by the Cultural and Architectural Heritage of Dar es Salaam (2011).

Readers may also like to peruse ABC’s current catalogue of books published in Swahili, which includes both fiction and non-fiction titles: see and Recent offerings include Ali Hassan Mwinyi’s autobiography, Mzee Rukhsa: Safari ya Maisha Yangu (2020), which we hope to review in a forth­coming issue.
Martin Walsh


by Martin Walsh

MHOLA – THE UTOPIA OF PEACE: AN ETHNOGRAPHIC EXPLORATION OF THE SUNGUSUNGU MOVEMENT IN TANZANIA. Per Brandström. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Uppsala Studies in Cultural Anthropology 59, Uppsala University, Uppsala, 2021. 264 pp. (print and e-book). ISBN: 978-91-513-1114-2. Free download (and print purchase) via

The Nyamwezi, and their closely related northern neighbours the Sukuma, occupy a large area of rural Tanzania lying to the south of Lake Victoria. Although only approximate population figures are available, they clearly con­stitute the largest cultural and linguistic group in the country, and the present study suggests that together they may number over 10 million.

The group has attracted a great deal of interest from anthropologists (including myself) and others which has been largely focussed on a remarkable vigilante movement which emerged in the area in the early 1980s. Since then, the village vigilante groups in question – known locally as Sungusungu and as Basalama (‘the people of peace’) – have had a complex history stretching over several decades.

The present study by Dr Per Brandström of Uppsala University attempts to pro­vide a detailed review of the history of Sungusungu and an account of some of the key values in Nyamwezi/Sukuma culture which have lain at the heart of the movement. It is difficult to imagine anyone more fitted to this task. In addition to his fieldwork and his formal academic training as an anthropologist, he has had the further advantage of having lived in the area as the child of Swedish missionaries, and he has deservedly acquired a well-established network of trusting and trustworthy villagers with whom he has been able to engage in full and frank discussion of the main features of the movement.

As his title suggests, Dr Brandström persuasively portrays the fundamental con­cern of the groups as the maintenance and restoration of mhola, ‘peace’ (within the community and ultimately within oneself and with the world). After a series of disturbances to social order around the beginning of the 1980s, a small group of elders came together on the borders of Kahama and Shinyanga Districts to try to develop a strategy to cope with the threats to local well-being posed by cattle rustlers and bandits and also witches. These last were mainly local older women. The outlines of the story of how the movement subsequently grew and spread like wildfire throughout the area and beyond is by now well known.

As Dr Brandström makes clear, Sungusungu has been a complex and changing phenomenon in the decades since those first beginnings, and as such many different approaches may be and have been legitimately adopted towards understanding it. Also, anthropology itself has multiple agendas, which do not always sit easily with each other, perhaps the most obvious being ethnographic documentation, generalisation and comparative study. Yet, each of these tasks constitutes a fundamental element of the discipline.

With the partial exception of Sufian Bukurura’s PhD dissertation, which is treated in some detail in the text, nobody has previously put together such a rich body of fieldwork material on Sungusungu as is presented here. Dr Brandström’s analysis brings out particularly well the need to recognise the multifaceted character of the material including the significance of communal feasting and sacrificial ritual, in the search for ‘peace’. One is tempted to refer to Max Gluckman’s work on ‘multiplex’ roles and relationships within commu­nities in this context, but this at once risks over-specifying and concretising the different political, economic and religious strands combined in these relations, and an approach through Talcott Parsons’ broad contrast between ‘specificity and diffuseness’ may be preferable. However this may be, we arguably need to be especially careful to avoid what I have elsewhere referred to as an inappro­priate sharpening of our analytic chisels when we might do better searching for the unifying glue provided by key cultural values, as Dr Brandström does here!

Overall, it is clear that despite one or two ‘blips’ – for instance on p. 24 he unfortunately misquotes my own discussion of the use of ideal types as refer­ence points in comparative analysis – Dr Brandström has produced a timely and impressive piece of interpretative ethnography which adds substantially to our understanding of Sungusungu and comparable vigilante movements. As such it constitutes a very welcome contribution to the existing literature on these topics.
Ray Abrahams
Ray Abrahams is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, and a former staff member of the Cambridge Department of Social Anthropology (1963-1998). He carried out field research in the Nyamwezi and Sukuma area of Tanzania in 1957-1960, 1974-75, and 1986. He published an account of Sungusungu in 1987, followed by several papers and a book on vigilantism in compara­tive perspective (Vigilant Citizens: Vigilantism and the State. Polity Press, Cambridge, 1998).

IMPERIALISM AND DEVELOPMENT: THE EAST AFRICAN GROUNDNUT SCHEME AND ITS LEGACY. Nicholas Westcott. James Currey, Woodbridge, 2020. xvi + 243 pp. (hardback). ISBN: 978-1-84701-259­3. £60 (e-book £19.99). Tanzanian Affairs readers can purchase the hardback at the discounted rate of £39 by visiting and entering the code “BB135” at checkout.

The history of the Groundnut Scheme is so overwhelming farcical that the entire episode could easily be fabricated satire. If only it were so. Sadly, this comedy of errors did occur and makes for a deeply tragic tale. Nicholas Westcott expertly unravels the fall and fall of this extraordinarily ambitious project in Tanganyika on its road to becoming the largest, most expensive, and most disastrous development scheme the British Government had ever undertaken. Readers will be quick to draw comparisons to various large scale, government-run megaprojects in the present and recent past that could easily rival this title. This contemporary resonance is well expressed – particularly in the closing chapter, ‘Legacy and Lessons’ – and many governments would do well to learn the lessons still to be taught from the fields of Kongwa, Nachingwea, and Urambo.

In response to a global fats and oils shortage after World War II the scheme set out to convert three million acres of bush into the largest mechanized groundnut farm in the world. The scheme swallowed up the equivalent of £1 billion in four years (1946-50) and was not only a catastrophic failure but a political scandal. That’s the story in a nutshell, at least. But this was a complex chapter in Britain and Tanganyika’s shared history, and the intricacies of the saga are exposed in ‘Imperialism and Development’ through an impressive balance of engaging narrative and serious research. Westcott draws from a variety of sources to detail with precision how Britain set out to utilise the soil of its eroding empire to curb a potential margarine famine.

Westcott asks and answers several key questions. What happened? Why did things go so terribly wrong despite the inspiration and effort poured into it? How did this reflect the imperial project in the mid-twentieth century? What does it tell us about agricultural development and its transformation in Africa? And are there lessons we can learn of relevance today?

This was a remarkable failure that has received little scholarly attention despite its infamy. The expense (then £36 million) was written off after the project went from bad to worse, ultimately producing nothing. The most worrying realisa­tion from reading the book is how little has changed. Although it is hoped that at the very least, the lesson of ‘do not plant seeds where it doesn’t rain’ has been largely learned.

Westcott’s likening of this development disaster to a Greek tragedy is apt, and this is a ripping good read. It conjures up the atmosphere of the time and anyone who had friends or relations who were ‘Groundnutters’ will get a very clear impression of the scheme.

Nicholas Westcott is well qualified to spin this particular yarn with wit and academic aplomb. He first encountered files on the scheme at the National Archives (UK) in the late 1970s while a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge, then writing a thesis on The Impact of the Second World War on Tanganyika, 1939–1951. This book has therefore enjoyed a particularly long gestation which accounts for its richness. Westcott will be well known to read­ers as the incumbent Director of the Royal African Society (since 2017) and draws insights from over three decades of diplomatic service, many of which were spent in Africa (including as High Commissioner to Ghana, 2008-11).
Jonathan M. Jackson
Jonathan M. Jackson is a doctoral student at the University of Cologne and is part of the German Research Foundation-funded Collaborative Research Centre 228: ‘Future Rural Africa’ ( His thesis – Past Futures: Histories of Development in the Kilombero Valley, Tanzania – will be submitted this year. He holds degrees from the University of Oxford (MSc, African Studies) and SOAS (BA, History and Swahili).

THE BOY FROM BOSKOVICE: A FATHER’S SECRET LIFE. Vicky Unwin. Unbound, London, 2021. xiii + 324 pp. (hardback). ISBN: 978­1783529063. £25.
To many colonial officials who worked in Tanzania during the last days of British rule, the name of Tom Unwin was very familiar. So too to many UN officials working in development during the 1960s and ‘70s. He was a gregari­ous character, great company, full of tales, and to all intents and purposes a quintessential Englishman.

But appearances can deceive. Drawing on a wealth of family papers and let­ters left to her when her mother died, his daughter, Vicky Unwin, has pieced together an extraordinary story of a man who completely reinvented himself. Arriving with his mother as a Jewish refugee in England at the outbreak of war, the lost ‘boy from Boskovice’ swiftly buried his past, adopted his new country and a new personality, and after impressive war service, became first a ‘Groundnutter’ and then colonial official in Tanganyika (as it then was), before working as a senior and influential UN official in South-east Asia for many years before his retirement in 1997. Like a chameleon, he had the capacity to adapt and blend effortlessly into his environment, with scarcely a backward glance at a past that became increasingly complicated as he slipped not only from one country to another but from one relationship to another.

Vicky Unwin’s account is fascinating as she uncovers secret after secret about her own father, able at last to challenge him with some of the secrets while he was still alive. It is worth the read for this story alone, which keeps you gripped to the end.

But for readers of Tanzanian Affairs it is the four chapters covering his time in Tanzania, from 1947 to 1964, that will hold most interest. He and his wife Sheila (Vicky’s mother) were among the first recruits to the infamous Groundnut Scheme and some of the very few who stayed with it until almost the end. The account here therefore has a real value in illuminating the work­ings of this hopelessly over-ambitious development scheme that promised to transform the country’s agriculture but which failed so spectacularly, it helped bring down Attlee’s government in 1951.

As the fate of the scheme became clear, Tom Unwin skipped lightly from farming to colonial administration, and became a District Officer successively in Mikindani, Mwanza, Tukuyu and finally District Commissioner in Kilwa – where they were visited, amongst many others, by the novelist Evelyn Waugh and became friendly (in Sheila’s case, very friendly) with the charming doyen of East African archaeologists, Neville Chittick.

From there he was transferred to Dar es Salaam and, as a member of the Secretariat, was given a job in the office of the new Prime Minister, Julius Nyerere, who later appointed him as the first Permanent Secretary of the Tanzanian Foreign Ministry. It is clear that his working relationship with Nyerere was both friendly and fruitful, and it would have been interesting to hear more about how he became such a trusted member of the PM’s senior team in so short a time – a testament to his charisma, competence and impeccable Swahili. But the account is understandably more from Vicky’s perspective as a young expat child in Dar at the dawn of independence.

Sadly, after the attempted coup and the union with Zanzibar in 1964, the last white officials were withdrawn. Tom Unwin returned to Britain and his career, and family life, followed other paths to other places.

In some ways the story of Tom Unwin is characteristic of Britain’s whole relationship with Africa: deeply committed, even affectionate, while there, not entirely understanding why it all came to an end, but then moving on to other places and other challenges, while a new generation of young Britons engaged with Africa in a very different way. This book provides one perspective on Britain’s past, well-written and fascinating in its own way. A recommended read.
Nick Westcott
Nick Westcott is Director of the Royal African Society and a Research Associate at SOAS. He first visited Tanzania in the 1970s, spending a year at the University of Dar es Salaam while studying for his PhD, then returned as the British Deputy High Commissioner in the 1990s, before being appointed Britain’s High Commissioner to Ghana in 2008-11. His history of the Groundnut Scheme is reviewed elsewhere in this issue.


by Martin Walsh

DEVELOPMENT AS REBELLION: A BIOGRAPHY OF JULIUS NYERERE. Issa Shivji, Saida Yahya-Othman, and Ng’wanza Kamata. Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, Dar es Salaam, 2020. xxiv + 1,101 pp. (hardback, three-volume box set). ISBN: 9789987084111. £90.

This amazing trilogy of books, long in the making, will add to the necessity for the study of Julius Nyerere as one of the most important philosophers, revolutionaries, writers, development theorists, politicians, leaders and human beings of the 20th century. The roster of endorsements for this three-volume set points to how extraordinary and important its publication is. Thabo Mbeki and Ngugi wa Thiong’o lead a list that includes some of the most significant figures in Tanzanian, African and radical scholarship and political life over the past half-century. That roster is also fitting given the prominence of the three authors, all of whom are associated with the University of Dar es Salaam. Each author took the lead with one volume (Yahya-Othman with volume 1, Kamata with volume 2, and Shivji with volume 3). The books fall (roughly) in chronological order. Volume 1, The Making of a Philosopher Ruler, builds from Yahya­Othman’s expertise in literature and linguistics (and Nyerere’s significance as a scholar and writer) to tell the story of his early life, family and friendships, and engagements with the scholarly world. Volume 2, Becoming Nationalist, covers the years from the birth of the Tanganyika African National Union (1954) to the death of Abeid Amani Karume (1972), centring on the emergence of Nyerere’s life as a national political leader. Volume 3, Rebellion without Rebels, the thickest of the three books, overlaps somewhat chronologically with the first two volumes but takes us through to the end – Nyerere’s death in 1999 – and into Mwalimu’s posthumous legacy.

Many people have written about Nyerere, and several biographies are well known, but this is the only one with an all-Tanzanian team of authors. All the authors knew Nyerere personally to varying degrees, and all three were steeped in the intellectual and political life of the Tanzania Nyerere created.

There is no way to comprehensively review the massive and complex content in such a brief review essay. Furthermore, I have little to criticise, given the awesome work in which the authors engaged – from interviews with a wealth of global figures and Tanzanians, including virtually all its leaders and Nyerere’s surviving boyhood friends and neighbours, to archival research that often included something more like archival hunting – and the thorough and nuanced writing. Rather than full summaries of the three volumes, I offer glimpses into key points of emphasis within each.

Volume 1 has few surprises for those familiar with Nyerere’s life story, but the emphasis toward his relationships with women and his (uneven) awareness of women’s issues and perspectives makes this volume stand out. Right from the first chapter, the reader sees this in a concentration on his relationship to his mother and eventual responsibility for her well-being in Butiama. Chapter 2, on “Family and Friends” begins with a long, deep segment on the “Mother of the Nation”, Nyerere’s wife, Maria. The attention to his long relationship with the Mary Knoll sisters as part of his sparring with his own Catholicism continues the emphasis on relations with women, alongside coverage of his romantic entanglements outside of marriage. The most fascinating relationship of all was with Joan Wicken, his long-term personal assistant and the “lady behind the throne”, author of most of his speeches and a deep influence for 34 years. Yahya-Othman brings a focus on another form of love – Nyerere’s love of books and of literature – to chapter 3, with analysis of his translations and his own books of essays. That flows seamlessly into chapter 4’s study of his “Scholarly encounters”. which is especially oriented around his relationship to “The Hill” (the University of Dar es Salaam, for which he served as an interventionist Chancellor during his Presidency), and its student leaders and faculty. What emerges in volume 1 is a well-rounded appreciation for Nyerere as a complex and flawed human being who loved and was loved by those whom he was closest to in life.

Volume 2 is the shortest and tightest of the three books. Consisting of only two chapters (which are admittedly 118 and 88 pages long, respectively), it is a page-turner, a breathless run through the heart of Nyerere’s political career. It begins before that career began, with a history of the African Association in Tanganyika and Zanzibar. We then see Nyerere’s emergence, first as TAA President and then as the leader transforming it into TANU. Tanganyika’s path to independence is often taken as a straightforward, non-violent one, certainly in comparison to that of its neighbours. Kamata’s volume should dispel such misreadings, as his journey through the search for the “political kingdom” (chapter 5) highlights the tensions both within and without TANU. He effectively explores the complexity behind the general understanding of Nyerere as a “moderate” voice taking apart the sense of any inevitability in the progress toward both independence and Ujamaa socialism. The intensity of the internal struggles within and opposition to the government between 1961 and 1964 in chapter 5 builds in chapter 6’s discussion of the union with Zanzibar. The best illustration of Kamata’s nuanced analysis comes in his succinct note on the events from January through April 1964 (Zanzibar’s Revolution, the Tanganyika Army’s mutiny, and the union): “events were moving so fast that it appeared they might all be part of a grand scheme. It wasn’t. In retrospect, they were all historical outcomes of a long period of grievances and injustices which now found expression in unpredictable places and forms” (pp. 119-120). Here and throughout the sweep of this narrative, Nyerere appears, as Kamata puts it, as “both a victim and an actor” (p. 120). Far from the mastermind of everything (the revolution and the union) and conniver with (fill-in-the-blank – British colonialists, American imperialists, Soviet communists), Nyerere – part victim, part actor – seemed to continually find himself stuck in a political morass for which he only bore or accepted partial responsibility, and out of which he seemed to navigate in the most expedient means at hand. This interpretation is particularly helpful for recasting Nyerere’s relationship with Zanzibar, from his presence at the creation of the Afro-Shirazi Party in 1957 to his intervention in the disputed 1995 multi-party elections there. Zanzibar and the union remained the largest “headaches” that Nyerere had in his political career. His culpability in the deaths of Kassim Hanga and Othman Sheriff (and others) are among the darkest stains on his legacy.

Volume 3 will likely be the portion of the trilogy to garner the most attention, in part because it is as long as the other two combined. At the same time, its narrative flows comfortably from the first two, and especially from where Kamata leaves us. Shivji returns the reader again and again to the disconnect between Nyerere as a man with unquestioned “personal integrity and moral probity” and Nyerere as a politician operating in morasses like those discussed above. It is fascinating to see, in volume 3’s first post-preface footnote, that former Zanzibar President Salmin Amour, claimed in an interview with the authors that Nyerere “learnt his politics from Gandhi and Machiavelli” (p. 1). Shivji’s first chapter (the trilogy’s chapter 7) places Nyerere in the global canon of political philosophy more broadly than that, but the image from that footnote lingered through my reading of Rebellion without Rebels. Here, we revisit several of the key events on volume 2’s timeline and key texts and boyhood moments analysed in volume 1 from that broader canvas. The contradictions of Nyerere’s life are not resolved, as they should not be. Shivji is perhaps uniquely positioned to analyse Nyerere’s place in relation to Marxism and radical political philosophy, and, unsurprisingly, there is a depth to this volume that is profound, yet subtle.

Chapter 8 deals with the Arusha Declaration, Chapter 9 with Ujamaa in practice, Chapter 10 with the Kagera War, and Chapter 11 with what Shivji calls the “Class War.” In each case, the contradiction appears, the flip-switch between Gandhi and Machiavelli. Chapter 9 reveals the reasoning behind the title for the trilogy, and the borrowing from Nyerere’s concept of “development as rebellion”: what Tanzania got, Shivji contends, was a rebellion without rebels, and where the workers “wanted to build socialism themselves, [but] Nyerere wanted to build it for them” (p. 231). To me, the most intriguing of these four big chapters is Chapter 11, which focuses on Nyerere’s last years as President, the struggles with the IMF, the merger of the parties, and the resurgence of Zanzibar’s autonomist and anti-union forces.

Nyerere, Shivji concludes, “left behind a legacy that has since haunted his successors and […] standards of political behaviour that have been hard to beat” (p. 405). The Swahili saying, ‘mtu ni watu’, a person is people, comes to mind at the end of the trilogy, for its conventional meaning and for a perhaps unconventional one. Nyerere is not Nyerere, by the conventional interpretation of the phrase, without all the people with whom his life was threaded, and this is easily read in this 1,100-page tome. But the trilogy brings home to me a different interpretation: Nyerere was many different people during his life. He was a brilliant thinker and charismatic orator, a pragmatic politician and a failed idealist, a humble moderate and a cut-throat rebel, a Christian and a socialist. And, as the final chapter declares, he was, of course, the founder and father of a nation, whose people he loved more than their political parties. As one of the countless westerners inspired to African studies and African philosophy through his example in my own life, I am grateful to these three authors for illuminating all these Nyereres in this trilogy.

I would be remiss in reviewing this triple-decker biography if I did not note that the books are beautifully designed and produced. Mkuki na Nyota has been a mainstay of African publishing for several decades, but this trilogy may just be its best achievement in artistic and production qualities. The authors plan a 4th volume focused on Nyerere’s global role as a ‘statesman of the South’, and it is awaited with great anticipation.

Garth Myers

Garth Myers is the P.E. Raether Distinguished Professor of Urban International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT USA, where he also directs the Center for Urban and Global Studies. He is the author of five books and over 80 book chapters and articles, as well as co-editor of two volumes of scholarship, the vast majority of which concerns African urban development, with a special emphasis on Tanzania.

Given widespread interest in the Nyerere trilogy, and its importance for Tanzanian Studies, here are some further thoughts from our editor:

In this three-volume work, Issa Shivji, Saida Yahya-Othman and Ng’wanza Kamata have compiled a remarkable biography of a remarkable man. Their meticulous research – drawing on a wide range of previous scholarship, documentary sources and an impressive list of interviewees – shines through from beginning to end.

Without doubt, the three writers greatly admire their subject, most of all for his personal integrity and egalitarian political philosophy. But they are not blind to his flaws.

They engage at length with the most obvious contradiction in Nyerere’s life and work: the sometimes-glaring gap between the liberalism he espoused and the highly illiberal actions he took himself as leader (or allowed to happen). Preventive detention of political opponents and the use of paramilitary force to relocate millions of citizens into villages are a long way from the ideals Nyerere expressed when he said “I believe in freedom because I cannot think and develop without freedoms. This must be true of every human being.” On this, Nyerere’s own justifications are presented – which essentially boil down to pragmatic appeals to the greater good – but challenged. Nyerere’s arguments in favour of constitutional provisions giving himself what were essentially dictatorial powers are described as “defending the indefensible”, and Nyerere’s lack of respect for freedom of association as “blatant” and “disingenuous”. Without ever spelling them out, the authors clearly have views on the relevance of this history to present-day Tanzania.

The authors, however, may well take issue with my describing this as the most obvious contradiction, as their primary interest lies elsewhere. In the third volume, Shivji argues that “the central contradiction of Nyerere’s ideology” was the assumption “that socialist transformation will be achieved through class collaboration rather than class struggle.” There is no doubt that this biography’s critique of Nyerere’s economic policies – Ujamaa in particular – comes firmly from fellow travellers on the left. There is a lot of value in this: criticism of a particular form of socialism in practice by critical friends allows for a lot more subtlety and nuance in the analysis than the broad-brush dismissals of those on the right.

Nevertheless, at times, this leads the authors into some odd assumptions about their readers’ prior knowledge. It is assumed, for example, that readers will understand fine distinctions between variations in socialism, such as what is meant by a party of cadres and a vanguard party. Marxist scholars surely would, but many others will not. In contrast, they explain the term neoliberal economics in very basic terms.

More seriously, the authors’ perspective also means that they ignore some of the most widely heard critiques of Ujamaa. Tanzania’s economic difficulties of the 1970s and 1980s are not blamed on a lack of competition or incentives – as many (particularly international) analysts have argued – but on a combination of mismanagement and corruption on the part of parastatal leaders, interference from neo-colonial powers and other international economic pressures. These factors surely played a major role, but at the very least, serious engagement with the right-of-centre critiques would have been useful. This perspective is, after all, hardly immune to criticism.

Away from economics, one further contradiction is arguably not given sufficient attention: Nyerere’s attitude to women. His progressive (for the time) writing on the subject is discussed, but there is little on his actions – either as a reputedly inattentive husband and father or in the public sphere. It is not mentioned, for example, that the first post-independent cabinet was all-male. It included neither Bibi Titi Mohammed nor Lucy Lameck, who were respectively more experienced and better educated than some of the appointees. Similarly, Nyerere’s later treatment of Bibi Titi passes largely without comment. Having previously been at the forefront of the independence campaign, she lost her seat in parliament in 1965, concluding that this was at least in part because those at the top did not want her to win. In 1967, she was hit hard by the Arusha Declaration’s leadership code that blocked party leaders from renting out property. She spoke up against the code and resigned her positions, then three years later found herself convicted of treason, on the basis of evidence that other observers consider far from watertight. In short, it looks a lot like Bibi Titi was brought into the fold when it was useful to do so, then unceremoniously dumped when she became a potential rival.

There are other matters, too, where more detail would have been welcome. The high-level politics of the independence campaign are covered in depth, but there is much less on the grassroots movement. There is little on Nyerere’s (highly successful) efforts to build a nation out of many different tribes, or on his use and promotion of Swahili as a means to this end. And while his post­retirement influence on specific political decisions is discussed, there is almost nothing on his ongoing, posthumous place in the public imagination.

Nevertheless, this is nit-picking. And asking for more from a work this length is a sign of how well-researched and well-written it is – this reader did not want it to end. This is a hugely impressive work, one that adds greatly to scholarship on Nyerere and the modern history of Tanzania. It is fascinating when engaged in the details: on forced villagisation, the deaths of Kleruu and Sokoine, the 1964 mutiny, the Ruvuma Development Association, the war with Uganda, and the tensions with CCM’s Zanzibar contingent. But it is equally so when exploring matters of philosophy and ideology. No glib conclusions are offered, but the evidence has been gathered in meticulous detail and is presented and discussed with immense respect and admiration for their subject.

It has clearly been a labour of love to produce. In my case at least, it was a labour of love to read as well – hugely enjoyable, thought-provoking, and consistently fascinating.
(Reproduced and adapted from­development-as-rebellion-some-thoughts/).
Ben Taylor
Ben Taylor is the Editor of Tanzanian Affairs.

UNDER-EDUCATION IN AFRICA: FROM COLONIALISM TO NEOLIBERALISM. Karim F. Hirji. Daraja Press, Ottawa, 2019. xxii + 294 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-1-988832-35-7. CAD $26.00.

Following his 2018 book on The Travails of a Tanzanian Teacher, Karim Hirji has published a collection of critical essays on Under-Education in Africa. This is not a direct sequel to the previous one volume, though both are unified by their concern with what he regards as a decayed educational inheritance. Professor Hirji’s experience as a teacher-cum activist makes him a vigorous exposer of instances of under-education, and he doggedly pursues evidence of the perpetuation of colonial and neocolonial thinking in Tanzania.

Hirji is saddened by the current state of affairs, and complains that “the youth of today have little hope for a good future”, as they succumb to a disorientated and unresponsive educational milieu, marred by rote memorisation and dominated by the effects of the profit-making that was introduced by the policies of economic liberalisation and privatisation. Against the prevailing passivity, Hirji recommends mending the flawed educational system by revitalising critical thought, creativity and freedom of expression. He cites progressive intellectuals of the 1970s and 1980s such as Walter Rodney, Abdulrahman Babu, Haroub Othman, Ali Mazrui, Dan Nabudere, Justinian Rweyemamu, Lionel Cliffe, John Saul, Issa Shivji and others as commendable examples.

At the start of the book, Hirji asks “How can education serve the interest of the common people and contribute to the development of a just human society?” He argues that high quality education should not be measured in terms of the number of schools and colleges alone, but must “foster the growth of creative, intellectually mature and astute individuals”. Under-education in his terms is fostered when a nation poorly regulates the expansion of the education system, relying heavily on external funding, and allowing low-quality education linked to a negative attitude to locally-produced knowledge. The result is a fertile ground for corruption, nepotism and unemployment, major features of injustice in an educational context. At the same time, he sees current higher learning systems in Tanzania and Africa at large as merely bookish endeavours that only produce docile minds.

By articulating and critiquing under-education in this way, Hirji joins others like Professors Noam Chomsky and Patrick Loch Otieno (PLO) Lumumba who have similarly advocated for change in education systems that inherently stifle creativity and independent critical thinking in leaners. All these progressive theorists vehemently abhor mindless and meaningless forms of teaching and learning, and Hirji adds an important historical dimension to the analysis of under-education, writing in his characteristically lucid narrative style and weaving in his own experience and memories.

This book will be of interest to readers in search of critical perspectives on education in Tanzania and Africa more widely. It invites the policymakers, teachers and students of today to erase their ‘ideological blinders’. For fellow citizens and observers of Tanzania, it elucidates the ideology of ‘education for self-reliance’ in practice. And, as an authoritative text on under-education, it makes an important contribution to the debates on transformative education and knowledge production in Africa as a whole.

Ahmad Kipacha
Ahmad Kipacha is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Business Studies and Humanities at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Arusha. Together with Mwanaaisha Jambo, he has recently published a collection of critical Swahili poems, Mkiya wa Mbuzi (Lulu Press, 2019).