IN the human drama we call life, each one of us has an active role to play as an individual
and as a member of society. To paraphrase what Shakespeare once said, all the world is a stage, and we are all actors. As
he put it in his own words in As You Like It:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
one man in his time plays many parts....
And we all have something to say about the events we have observed and in which we have participated in our lives.
That's what autobiographies, and biographies, are all about.
We all have different stories to tell, and we all have lived differently.
Our individual experiences and perspectives are important chapters in the history of mankind. And they collectively
constitute a pool of knowledge we all draw upon for guidance and sustenance as we make our journey through life.
And probably most of us hope to leave this world a better place than we found it. We all, in varying degrees, have
tried to shape or reshape it.
This work is a compilation of some autobiographical material about me as an African who was born and brought up in
Tanganyika. I also grew up in Tanzania. Tanganyika united with Zanzibar in April 1964 and the new country was named Tanzania.
Also included are some material which provide the context in which the autobiographical notes were originally written.
But this is not a complete picture of who and what I am.
Readers may be able to understand my position or perspectives on different subjects and why I write the way I do primarily
as an African when they read my works which cover a wide range of subjects focusing on Africa more than on anything else.
But there may be other reasons why I articulate my position on a variety of subjects. And one can not get a comprehensive
picture of that without reading my works.
This profile may shed some light on the perspectives from which I have written and from which I continue to write on
a number of subjects mostly about Africa.
It also helps to understand why I write the way I do, not just as a Tanzanian, but mainly
as an African. As I stated in an interview with an American journalist, there's no Tanzania without Africa because Tanzania
is an integral part of Africa, and not the other way around. The interview was published in its entirety in one of my books,
Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, and it's reprinted in this work.
Most of the material compiled in this work was written by me. It comes mostly from my published works and is therefore
of an autobiographical nature.
But there are a few exceptions including a long essay in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia about my career as a writer.
The article in Wikipedia which is reprinted in this book was last edited in July 2009. As many people
already know, articles in Wikipedia are edited by readers online, with the edited material and entire articles themselves being subject to approval
by Wikipedia administrators.
While this book focuses on my life as an individual, it also serves another purpose: shedding some light on my identity
as an integral part of a larger entity, Africa. And my African identity is clearly central to all my works as I have stated
in my writings.
Therefore this work is also a study of African identity. Most of what I say is probably shared by the majority of my
I have also published a number of titles under pen names. Some of the pen names are really my names. One of the first
names I have used is my pre-baptismal name. Most of my relatives know the name.
The other name I have used is my middle name. It's one of my baptismal names together with my first and last I always
use. All three names are on my birth certificate.
Although the writings which constitute this work were written at different times, they're united by one central theme:
the autobiographical nature of the writings, my perspectives, beliefs, ideological convictions and predispositions.
All works by mere mortals have their shortcomings. This one is no exception. But that's for the readers to decide.
They're the best judges of its strengths and weaknesses.
Saturday, 01 August 2009
From Godfrey Mwakikagile, Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties,
Second Edition, Continental Press, 2007.
I WISH to express my profound gratitude to all the ex-Tanganyikans who have contributed to this
It would not have taken the shape and form it did without their participation and support. I am
also indebted to others for their material which I have included in the book.
Also special thanks to Jackie and Karl Wigh in Australia for sending me a package of some material
from Tanganyika in the fifties, including a special booklet on Princess Margaret's visit to Tanganyika in October 1956 and
As an ex-Tanganyikan myself, although still a Tanzanian, I feel that there are some things which
these ex-Tanganyikans and I have in common in spite of our different backgrounds.
We lived in Tanganyika during the same period; we are around the same age, at least most of us;
we share perspectives on how life was in Tanganyika when we lived there around the same time; and many of us have not lived
in what is now Tanzania for many years. In fact I have lived in the United States longer than I did in Tanzania and I have
never gone back in all those years. But I intend to, one day, and spend the rest of my life in my native country.
This book focuses on life in Tanganyika in the fifties, the decade before independence. It was
a period of transition from colonial rule to sovereign status for Tanganyika and most of us witnessed this fundamental change
and historic event even if it meant very little to many of us in terms of political significance because we were too young
to understand what was going on during that time.
I remember the celebrations and fireworks on independence day in December 1961
in the town of Tukuyu in Rungwe District in the Southern Highlands. But to me it was no more than a festive occasion. I was
only 12 years old and politics meant nothing or very little to me and other youngsters of all races.
Many of those youngsters are now parents and grandparents and some of them have contributed to
this work which is one of the most important projects in my life.
I found them in different parts of the world: in Britain, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand;
in the United States, Russia, Canada, Dubai, Tahiti, Italy, Turkey and other countries. And most of them were as enthusiastic
as I was about the project. It brought back old memories, and even tears to at least one or two of them.
It may also have inspired and encouraged some of them to start writing their memoirs about those
days. And they were good ol' days in many respects.
Not everything was good, but they were the good ol' days for many people. And they are still fresh
in the memories of many ex-Tanganyikans living in different parts of the world including Africa itself.
In fact, some of them told me they had already started writing their memoirs and about the years
they spent in Tanganyika long before I got in touch with them. One of them said she had already written a book and was just
waiting for it to be published.
And quite a few of them know about Tanzania today more than I do because they have been there in
recent times and through the years. Many of them visit Tanzania on regular basis for obvious reasons; I remember one in Britain
who was on her way to Tanzania around the same time I got in touch with her.
Others told me they go to Tanzania quite often, some every year. They have solid ties to Tanzania;
they were born and brought up there and they are involved in different projects including charitable work.
And they all remember those days with fondness and some with nostalgia, when life was simpler and
safer, and the people friendlier.
One ex-Tanganyikan who spent more than 40 years in Tanganyika, later Tanzania, told me that he
even remembers when he could sleep in the back of his truck, wide open, without fear of being attacked by anybody. And he
did that many times when he was travelling as a missionary.
But not anymore! Those days are gone. And they are gone forever! However, the memories are still
there to be savoured and cherished.
One ex-Tanganyikan remembered, with nostalgia, a song in Kiswahili and asked me if I also still
remembered the song. I said I did.
She was talking about Tanganyika,
Tanganyika, nakupenda kwa moyo wote, which means,
"Tanganyika, Tanganyika, I love you with all my heart"!
Many ex-Tanganyikans who left Tanganyika, and Africa, left their hearts in Africa, and in Tanganyika
in particular. Their great enthusiasm for this project is proof of that.
And to all of you, I say, Asante
sana – Thank
you very much.
Mungu ibariki Afrika – God bless Africa
Mungu ibariki Tanganyika – God bless Tanganyika
Mungu ibariki Tanzania – God bless Tanzania.
DURING a period when many people in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania - as well as in Rwanda and Burundi
- are talking about forming an East African federation under one government, with Arusha as the capital, it may sound anachronistic
when some of us in Tanzania are nostalgic about the good old days as life was in Tanganyika before the union with Zanzibar
which led to the creation of the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964.
But that is indeed the case. And in many fundamental respects, they were the good ol' days! And
we remember those days with nostalgia. And that is where we now turn to.
This work focuses on Tanganyika in the fifties. My focus was partly dictated by my interest in
the autobiographical aspect of this enquiry because the fifties were some of the most important years of my life.
They were my formative years, as were the early sixties, and had a great impact on the development
of my personality. What I am today has a lot to do with what happened, and what I learnt, during those years.
The fifties were also a turning point in another respect. The years signalled the end of an era
and the beginning of a new one.
It was the decade in which colonial rule was finally coming to an end. It was also the decade in which
direct European influence reached its peak after decades of colonial rule since the 1890s when the Germans acquired the territory
which came to be known as German East Africa or Deutsch
Ostafrika as the Germans called it.
The years before the fifties also witnessed a transformation in the lives of Africans because of
the political, social and economic impact colonial rule and European influence had on them.
Roughly speaking, it was a transition from the traditional to the modern way of life. The people
basically lived the same way as they did before the coming of Europeans but there were some changes in their lives which had
never been witnessed before.
Therefore the years before the fifties provide an important background which helps us better understand
what happened during that very important decade which is remembered, probably more than anything else, as the last years of
colonial rule in Tanganyika.
The social transformation of Tanganyika had been a gradual process through the years. Although
it began in most parts of the country with the advent of colonial rule when the country was first colonized by Germany, there
is no question that most of the changes which took place occurred during the British colonial period.
The British ruled Tanganyika longer than the Germans did, and they had an impact on the country
which last longer. Even today British influence is clearly evident in many parts of what is now Tanzania.
Probably the only exception in terms of early penetration by foreigners was along the coast where
Africans had been in contact with the Arabs and other foreigners mainly from Asia for centuries long before colonization by
The Portuguese also had early contacts with the coastal people in the 1500s but their impact was
minimal compared to that of the Arabs whose culture became dominant especially after the introduction of Islam.
But my focus is on the fifties not only because of the significance of the decade as an integral
part of my life but also as a very important period in the history of Tanganyika which witnessed the beginning of the end
of colonial rule in the largest country in East Africa.
It is a bygone era, yet relevant to my life today as it was back then.
The perspectives I have on things and how I look at the world and other people all have their beginning
in the fifties more than in any other period in my life.
It is a crucible in which my personality began to develop and in which it was shaped; it is also
a decade, especially the late fifties, which was the beginning of my political awakening even though I did not have any firm
political beliefs because of my young age.
But I began to see things, although from the perspective of a child, in a way I did not before
because I listened to the news on the radio and read some newspapers published in Kiswahili. The kind of awakening or awareness
I had was mainly about important historical events and current affairs we were taught in primary school and which my father
also taught me and told me about at home.
It was not the kind of awareness which entailed analysis of those events and the news. That is
why, for example, when independence came on 9 December 1961, it was just another day of celebration for me, as much as it
was for other children, since I did not understand and did not have the political maturity to comprehend the significance
of this momentous event in the history of our country.
All I heard was that we were now free. We were going to rule ourselves. The British were no longer
our colonial rulers. Fine words indeed! But what next? I had no answer to that. Nor did many others including adults.
Apart from the autobiographical aspect, the fifties were also very important in another respect.
It was a landmark on the road towards independence for most African countries. It was in the fifties that political agitation
was most intense, and sustained, across the continent in the quest for freedom from colonial rule. And Tanganyika was no exception.
The fifties were also critical in yet another fundamental respect. As the struggle for independence
gained momentum not only in Tanganyika but in other African countries as well, race relations came into sharp focus because
it was a period of reflection and introspection. It was also a period of transition involving whites who monopolized power
as the colonial masters and non-whites, especially black Africans, who were determined to end such monopoly.
Thus, the struggle for independence had unintended consequences and sometimes conveyed the wrong message
as if it was a conflict between whites and blacks or between whites and non-whites; which was not the case. It was
simply a struggle for equality transcending race.
Yet, important as this struggle was for all those involved regardless of race, I decided not to
focus on that in this study but instead chose to highlight stories of human interest from the fifties if for no other reason
than that as human beings we have a lot of things in common, far more than we want to admit, and which we sometimes ignore
or overlook when we focus on our differences or when we have arguments.
We share the same emotions, we feel the same pain, we all cry and laugh and know how to love and
hate. No race has a monopoly on that. It is a common denominator which unites and defines us as human beings and as mere mortals
While politics and ideologies, religions and cultures can and do divide us, human emotions and
common feelings unites us. And while man has an almost infinite capacity for evil, the opposite is equally true that he has
an enormous capacity to do good. That is one of the most significant things about Tanganyika in the fifties.
Even if only in a limited way, there is no question that Tanganyika in the fifties demonstrated
the brighter side of human nature, for, with all the differences we had as Tanganyikans during colonial rule in a society
that was defined and structured on the basis of race by the colonial authorities, we were still able to find common ground
on which we recognized each other as fellow human beings even if some people felt that they were better than others.
But the mere fact that the people usually - although not always - got along fine shows that there
was a recognition on the part of all the races that there was something inherently good in every human being and it could
bring us together provided there was a will to do so.
I remember Mandela saying that even some of the most racist whites in South Africa - or anywhere else
for that matter - had some good in them; a point he underscores in his autobiographical work Long Walk to Freedom.
I would also hate to believe that all the bigots we had in Tanganyika among all the races were pure evil like Hitler!
Although Tanganyika was a colonial society, it was definitely not apartheid South Africa. There were
no laws prohibiting racial intermingling, although this was rare by choice and because the colonial authorities - which does
not mean all whites - did not encourage it. Racial separation was also sanctioned by custom, not by legal strictures,
and many people of all races in Tanganyika were more comfortable living with their own kind, although there is really only
one kind, and that is mankind.
And because Tanganyika was a UN Trusteeship territory, the British colonial rulers knew that they
were obligated to guide the country towards independence even if they dragged their feet for various reasons including the
desire to maintain the privileged status of the white settlers as long as they could.
But even under the worst of circumstances in terms of race relations as was the case in apartheid
South Africa before that abominable institution was abolished, there were people of all races who worked together to create
a better world in which all human beings would be treated as equals.
It happened in South Africa; it happened in Kenya where in spite of Mau Mau there were whites and
blacks who worked together; and it happened in my own home country, Tanganyika, where we did not even have racial tensions
and animosities which could have driven the races even further apart and plunged the country into chaos.
Paradoxically, we were so close yet so far apart.
All that was needed was to break down racial barriers, accept each other as fellow human beings
on equal basis, and end colonial rule which had instituted a hierarchical society based on race to the detriment of race relations;
although, I must concede, there were people who were not interested in improving race relations even under the best of circumstances
because they were bigots, and so blinded by prejudice that they couldn't even see that the different races united us, more
than they divided us, as fellow human beings.
Tanganyika in the fifties demonstrated this simple truth in both ways but, ultimately, justice
The bigots even among whites were outnumbered by people of goodwill in the white settler community.
Many of them saw the coming of independence not as a triumph of black supremacy over white supremacy - both of which are equally
evil - but as a victory for equality and justice for all. In fact, the majority of whites stayed in Tanganyika after the country
Many of them left in the following years but usually for reasons other than race, although the
policy of Africanization was interpreted, or misinterpreted, as a racial assault on whites. Still among all the East African
countries, Africanization was slowest in Tanganyika, and deliberately so, under the leadership of Julius Nyerere. And his
definition of Africanization included people of all races who were citizens of Tanganyika, therefore African, just like the
rest of us with a black skin.
The biggest disincentive to staying in Tanganyika among most whites and other people - including
many black Tanganyikans - was economics when the country started implementing socialist policies and enforcing stringent measures
to achieve nationalization.
But it is also true that there were bigots among Africans who made their position very clear during
the struggle for independence, especially after they broke away from the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) in 1958
to form the African National Congress (ANC) which, in spite of sharing the same name with the ANC of South Africa, was radically
different from its counterpart.
The South African ANC embraced people of races like TANU did under Nyerere in Tanganyika; while
the ANC in Tanganyika did not. And there was a battle between these two competing visions for the future of Tanganyika.
But the bigots who wanted Tanganyika to be the exclusive domain of blacks, like their counterparts
among the white settlers who wanted to perpetuate white domination, also lost under sustained assault by true multiracialist
leaders such as Julius Nyerere and other stalwarts in TANU, the party which led the campaign for independence on the basis
of racial equality and which was open to members of all races even in the leadership positions of the party at the national
All this happened in the late fifties, years which became a defining moment in the history of Tanganyika,
charting out a new course and pointing where the country was headed in the future after winning independence.
It was also an important lesson in human relations, not just in race relations, since there were
differences among whites themselves, bigots versus non-bigots, as much as there were among blacks who also had their own share
of bigots. And from all this emerged a vision focusing on humanity transcending race.
And it is a vision that sustains us today wherever we are as human beings.
For whether we like it or not, we are all bound by our humanity regardless of the differences we may have in terms of background,
outlook and beliefs which have caused so much misery and suffering throughout history when people choose to focus on their
differences instead of focusing on what they have in common. As Dr. Martin Luther King said: “We must all learn to live
together as brothers (and sisters) or we will all perish together as fools.”
Born in Tanganyika
THE period during which I was born witnessed some of the most important events and changes in the
history Tanganyika, the land of my birth, and indeed of the entire African continent. It was the dawn of a new era.
It was only a few years after the end of the Second World War in which many Africans, including
two of my uncles, fought and in which many of them died; fortunately, both of my uncles survived and returned safely to Tanganyika.
It was also a period of political ferment in which the campaign for independence started in earnest
in Tanganyika, the largest British possession in East Africa, and in other colonies on the continent.
I was born at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, 4 October 1949, in Kigoma, a port on Lake Tanganyika in what was
then the Western Province in western Tanganyika. It was during British colonial rule and Tanganyika in those days had seven
provinces: Western, Central, Lake, Northern, Coast, Southern and the Southern Highlands. The capital of the Western Province
My parents came from Rungwe District in the Southern Highlands. Rungwe District is in the Great
Rift Valley and is ringed by misty blue mountains and is home to the Nyakyusa, my ethnic group, who today are one of the largest
in Tanzania with more than one million people.
My father worked as a medical assistant during British colonial rule and that is how he and my
mother ended up in Kigoma. Before I was born, my parents also lived in other parts of Tanganyika where my father worked. They
lived in Handeni, Amani, Muheza, and Kilosa. They were also in Tanga for some time.
I am the first-born in my family. I was born in a hospital in Kigoma.
I don't know if my father worked at that hospital and I don't even remember whether or not my parents
told me where he worked when I was born. But I do know that it was he who filled out my birth certificate. And it was he who
always reminded me of my birthday every morning when I was growing up that October 4th was my birthday. My
mother also reminded me of that, but not as much as my father did and was not as punctual. As soon as I woke up, my father
would remind me if it was my birthday.
He was one of the few Africans in Tanganyika in those days who had secondary
school education. He went to Malangali Secondary School in Iringa where he completed standard ten and excelled in school.
And he would have gone to Tabora Secondary School where he would have completed standard 12 but couldn't go any further because
of family obligations. Instead, he went to Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam in the mid-1940s for medical training
and qualified as a medical assistant.
The hospital was then known as Sewa Haji and was later renamed Princess Margaret
Hospital. It has always been the country's only national hospital and was renamed Muhimbili National Hospital after independence.
My father's assignment to Kigoma after working elsewhere in Tanganyika turned out to be one of
the most important events in my life because that is where I was born. And it will always remain an important part of my life
as my birth place more than anything else.
Unfortunately, in all the years I lived in Tanganyika, later Tanzania, I never got the chance to
visit Kigoma as a youngster or as an adult. And I still haven't unto this day.
My parents never went back to Kigoma and I did not get the chance to go there even when I worked
as a news reporter in Tanzania.
But I have two very important items with me which always remind me of Kigoma as my birth place.
One is my photograph taken when I was one year and three months old. It also has my father's handwriting
on it in black ink, still legible 57 years later which was my age when I was working on the second edition of this book in
2007. He wrote in English: "Fifteen months old."
In this photograph, I'm standing looking at the camera, chubby and wide-eyed, and he's holding
my right hand in front of the house in which we lived. It was a wooden house with a grass-thatched roof.
When I look at that picture, I can see how much I have changed through the years. I look chubby
when I was a baby less than two years old, yet when I was growing up, I never gained much weight and was always slim. Many
people said I was skinny. I thought my weight was in proportion to my frame. And I have always been that way, slim.
Another item I cherish so much is my birth certificate which my father gave me when I became a
teenager and was attending Mpuguso Middle School in Rungwe District in the Southern Highlands from 1961 to 1964.
Also on my birth certificate are reminders of two other important historical events in my life:
when I was baptised, by whom, and in what church.
I was baptised by Reverend Frank McGorlick on 25 December 1949, on Christmas day, two months and
three weeks after I was born. My birth certificate also bears his name in his own handwriting. It was issued by CMS, the Church
Missionary Society, which did a lot of missionary work spreading Christianity in Tanganyika and in many other parts of Africa.
Reverend McGorlick came from Victoria, Australia. Decades later, I was able to get in touch with
his wife Barbara in Australia who told me that they lived in Tanganyika, later Tanzania, until the early 1990s and that her
husband died in 1993. I got in touch with her in 2005, as I did with their son Richard who also lived in Victoria, Australia.
He grew up in Tanganyika, later Tanzania, as did the other children.
I remember when I was growing up that my parents used to tell me I was baptised as a CMS member.
That was also the church my parents attended when they lived in Kigoma even before I was born until they returned to Rungwe
District years later as members of the Moravian Church which was well-established in that district. They were members of the
same church before they left Rungwe District.
The Moravian Church in Rungwe District was established in the late 1880s by the Germans who were
also the first colonial rulers of Tanganyika, while CMS was British in origin.
The Church Missionary Society (CMS) was founded in 1799 by a group of activist evangelical Christians.
One of the founders was William Wilberforce, a prominent leader of the movement which was launched to abolish slavery. He
was asked to be the first president of this missionary organisation but declined to take the offer and instead became its
vice president. CMS was also supported by another prominent abolitionist, Dr. David Livingstone of the London Missionary Society,
who was Scottish himself like Reverend McGorlick who baptised me.
Years later, when I became familiar with some Scottish names, I came to the conclusion that the
minister who baptized me, Reverend McGorlick, was probably Scottish. And I was right. Before I found out about him, I don't
know if he spent the rest of his life in Tanganyika, later Tanzania, or “returned to Britain” since I assumed
that's where he came from. I was wrong. But there is no question that he left an indelible mark on me as the one who baptised
The Church Missionary Society of Australia effectively dates from 1916 when the
individual CMS associations in the Australian states were amalgamated into a national organisation. CMS had sent missionaries
to many countries by this time, including China, India, Palestine and Iran, but by 1927 they had particular interest in North
Australia and Tanganyika.
After I was born in Kigoma, my parents moved to Ujiji which is only a few miles away. It was there,
in that very small yet famous place, where my sister Maria was born a year-and-half after I was. She was born in April 1951.
It was also in Ujiji where Henry Morton Stanley uttered those famous words on 10 November 1871
when he found the famous Scottish missionary doctor and explorer: "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"
Dr. Livingstone had been missing for three years and the Royal Geographical
Society sponsored an expedition to look for him in Africa.
Although I never got the chance to visit Kigoma and see the place of my birth,
my sister Maria ended up living in Kigoma years later with her husband who was sent by his church to work there as a Seventh-Day
Adventist pastor while she worked as a nurse. And I have always been interested in learning as much as I can about Kigoma
- as well as other parts of the country - not only because it is my birth place but also because it is an integral part of
my home country Tanzania. But because it is my birth place, there is no question that I have special interest in Kigoma in
a way I don't in other parts of the country.
And it has an interesting history. For example, not many people in Tanzania know that Kigoma was
once a part of the Belgian colony of Ruanda-Urundi. Had it remained under Belgian control, my history would probably have
been different. My father would never have been sent by the British colonial government to work in Kigoma, since it would
not have been a part of their territory of Tanganyika. I would not have been born in Kigoma, or I may not even have been born
But obviously, that was not my destiny. And Kigoma always brings back memories of my childhood
in the fifties because that is where it all began, this short journey of mine into this world where we are mere mortals and
which reminds me of one song by Jim Reeves, also sung by others, I used to listen to when I was a teenager in Tanzania in
the sixties: "This world is not my home, I'm just passing through, my treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue..."
But short as our presence is, in this world, we have to make the best of it. And in my case, my
early life in Tanganyika played a critical role in determining what type of person I came to be years later. It is this land
which I love from the very depth of my being, heart and soul. And it is this land that I will always love for the rest of
It was in Tanganyika where I was born, and it was in Tanganyika where I was brought up. And it reminds
me of another song we sang in Kiswahili in school and sometimes during national celebrations: Tanganyika, Tanganyika, nakupenda kwa moyo wote. In English it means: "Tanganyika, Tanganyika, I love you with all my heart."
It was also in Tanganyika where I spent one of the most important decades in my life and in the
history of the country: the fifties. The fifties were my formative years. They were also the years when Tanganyika began its
peaceful transition from colonial status to independence.
I witnessed some of those events during the transitional period especially in the late fifties.
But I was still too young to understand exactly what they meant. I looked at things from a child's perspective, and simply
having fun - chasing grasshoppers and butterflies - was more important to me than politics. And that is what I remember the
Even if they told me, I don't know if I would have been able to fully understand what was meant by
siasa, which is a Swahili word meaning politics. And when I saw white people as child in the mid- and late-fifties,
I saw them just as people. Yes, they looked different in terms of skin colour, but I still saw them as people nonetheless;
and not as rulers or anything else.
Difference in skin colour meant absolutely nothing to me and other children in terms of an individual's
worth as a human being, although even at that young age we noticed that white people had material things we didn't have. But
we did not associate that with power or skin colour.
If someone tried to explain to me and other children the connection between skin colour and wealth
or social status, we would have been confused. We just didn't understand why white people had things we didn't have, or why
they lived in better houses than we did. Colonialism meant nothing to us at that age when we were under 10 years old.
And I had no reason to ask why white people were there, in Tanganyika, or where they came from,
or why they had a different complexion. After all, there were Arabs and Indians in Tanganyika who also had a light complexion
and even some Africans who had a light brown complexion.
Even my own mother had a light brown complexion. So did my brothers, some of my sisters, cousins,
uncles and aunts; not white-looking or light-complexioned like the Indians and the Arabs we saw around when we were growing
up but not dark-skinned either. Still, all that meant nothing to me.
I even remember my mother telling me when I was a young teenager in the early sixties that when we
lived in Mbeya around 1953 and 1954, a British couple used to give me some cake and sweets and other things
now and then whenever we passed by their house. And that only reinforced - even if not consciously - whatever notions I had,
as a child, of a colour-blind society; which was, of course, not entirely the case as older people of all races knew very
well. As a colony, Tanganyika was a colour-conscious society. Yet to a child, such colour-consciousness meant something different,
if anything at all, even though it was a fact of life for all of us since our status was defined by racial identity.
Still, in spite of all that, there were people of all races
who got along very well. They got along very well at work; many white families and their African servants were on very good
terms and even their children played together, especially when house maids took their children with them to work or if they
lived on the same premises although under separate roofs. A house maid is called yaya in Kiswahili.
Sometimes good relations between Africans and whites went beyond accepted norms.
There were those who even ate and drank together, although usually in private, and whites who did that would normally avoid
doing so in front of other whites. They did not want to be seen getting too friendly with Africans who were by colonial definition
no more than servants of whites. And they did not want to be alienated from the white settler community of which they were
an integral part simply because they wanted to be friends with Africans and people of other races.
Yet, there were those who defied convention. They were not the majority but they did exist, although
no one cannot be sure how many in terms of numbers or percentage. For example, I remember my mother telling me in the late
fifties and early sixties that there was a British couple who wanted to take me with them to Britain as a child to provide
me with education and told my father that they would bring me back to Tanganyika every year on holidays but I would have the
benefit of excellent education in the UK beginning at a very early age. She said my father seriously considered doing that,
but she was strenuously opposed to the idea saying I was too young to go so far away.
They knew my father very well. They also knew my mother but they dealt with my father more than
they did with my mother. Language was also a barrier on my mother's part. She did not know English like my father did. He
spoke English fluently and even taught me the language at home when I first started learning English in 1961 at the age of
11. And that gave me an advantage over other pupils.
I don't remember exactly where or when this took place. But I know it was in the early fifties,
either in Morogoro in the Coast Province or in Mbeya in the Southern Highlands when my parents and the British couple discussed
the possibility of my going to school in Britain at a very early age under their guardianship.
And there was something about this British couple which stayed in my mind through the years, especially
when I was growing up in Kyimbila in Rungwe District in the Southern Highlands about four miles from Tukuyu.
Their interest in my education showed that there were ordinary whites in Tanganyika, who were not
colonial administrators but simply ordinary people who lived and worked there, who were concerned about the well-being of
Africans yet couldn't do anything to improve the situation because they did not have the power or the means to do so. It was
probably only a minority of them but there were such people.
In fact, some of them never left Africa. They stayed in Tanganyika even after independence because
it was their home even if they were not born there, although some of them were, or they moved to other parts of Africa, mainly
South Africa. Some also moved to what was then Southern Rhodesia and a few to Kenya. Their heart was, and still is, in Africa.
And when I was writing this book while living in the United States, I got in touch with some ex-Tanganyikan
Britons and other whites living in different parts of the world including Britain, Australia and the United States who still
had relatives or friends living in Tanzania and involved in various activities, including philanthropic work, together with
black Africans. They told me that their relatives and friends never left Tanganyika after the country won independence.
Even some of those who left Tanganyika after independence still maintained strong
ties with the country and were involved in various activities helping the people in different parts of what is now Tanzania
today. As Marion Gough stated in her email to me from England on 17 January 2006:
Tanganyika was my home and
is still very much in my blood. I try to get back as much as I can and am in the process of fund raising to help the building
of an Orphanage.
I have sent two shipments of text books, papers and pens to two different schools, together with
several computers (used). I had such a happy, if not, lonely, childhood that I feel I must return the privilege.
And as she stated in another email on 21 January 2006:
I am raising funds for the building of an Orphanage in Mufindi and going to get all the info ready
to contact big companies to see if they would be willing to help, after a little research of course. If you know of any that
are sympathetic to Africa please give me a nod. The Charity in USA is called Mufindi Orphans.
It is going to be built by the Foxes. Geoff Fox (father) lives in Mufindi and has done so for 40
years. He has four sons and each helps run the company and safari camps in Ruaha, Mikumi and Katavi ,also a Highland lodge
in Mufindi. They look after several villages by employing a lot of staff and they grow their own food for the camps, use local
craftsmen and materials for the camps.
Bruce lives in Gloucester which is 1/2 hour away from me and we keep in close touch. Great family
so enthusiastic for Africa. Bruce has stopped a lot of poaching and is also fighting to keep the Ruaha River flowing as a
lot of water has been taken off for the rice fields! Therefore a lot of the wetlands has been destroyed which makes the land
flood instead of sinking into the water table.
Sorry could go on for ever, will close here before I get carried away.
Hope the pics don't come out too big.
I, of course, almost left Tanganyika myself even before independence when I was still a child.
Had I left with the British couple and gone to school in Britain at so early an age when I was
under 10 years old, my life would probably have taken a different turn and I don't know where I would have ended up eventually.
But it was not meant to be. Instead, I remained and grew up in Tanganyika although I did not stay there. As fate would have
it, I ended up in the United States after spending my first 23 years of my life in Tanganyika, later Tanzania. But that is
Yet when I look back at all those years since my childhood in Kigoma and Ujiji in western Tanganyika,
I know - and I am glad - that I was exposed to other people and other cultures when I was growing up and in such a way that
I ended up being what I am today as an open-minded person tolerant of other people's views and values as well as beliefs as
long as they don't interfere with my well-being. As the saying goes, the right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins.
But it was with the innocence of a child that I looked at the world, and it was with this kind
of innocence that I left Kigoma with my parents when my father was transferred to Morogoro in the Coast Province in the early
Although I hardly remember Kigoma to enable me to compare the life there with the life in Morogoro,
I know that Morogoro was different. It was in the Coast Province with a strong influence of Islamic culture and only about
120 miles from Dar es Salaam, the capital, from where almost everything new started before spreading to other parts of the
By remarkable contrast, Kigoma was far in the hinterland - it's still there, of course, just as
Morogoro is where it was back then - and being a port on Lake Tanganyika, it was linked to what was then the Belgian Congo
just across the lake and played a major role as a hub of activity in the cross-cultural interaction between Congo and Tanganyika
as much as it still does today.
It was also in Kigoma where Che Guevara had a supply base during his mission to the Congo in the
mid-sixties and to where he sought sanctuary after his mission failed.
Although it was far from the coast, Kigoma was linked to Dar es Salaam by a
railway which ran - and still runs - across the country from east to west forming the main artery of the railway network in
what was then Tanganyika and which is now Tanzania. Although sparsely populated, Tanzania is a large country, bigger than
Nigeria in terms of area, and Kigoma is more than 700 miles from Dar es Salaam.
While my memories of Kigoma are virtually none since I was only a baby under
three years old when I was there, my recollections of some of the events in Morogoro are vivid mainly because of the "traumatic"
experiences I had as a child in that "coastal" town.
It was also in Morogoro where my brother Lawrence was born in September 1952. He was the third-born
but, tragically, he died in August 2005 in Mbeya. Coincidentally, it was also in Mbeya where my sister Gwangu was born in
1954 when we lived there after leaving Morogoro. She was the fourth-born. But her life also ended in tragedy. She died in
Rungwe District in July 2004. And my mother died at home in our village of Mpumbuli, Kyimbila, in November 2006 about one
month before her 77th birthday.
All these tragedies were compounded by the fact that they occurred when I was far away in the United
And whenever I think about my siblings who passed away, I also remember them in terms of the fifties.
We all had our beginning in the early fifties, although I was born two months before the beginning of the decade in which
both of them were born.
But it was in the early fifties that I really became aware of my existence in this world and when
my personality started to be formed.
And it was in Morogoro where my memories of the fifties started to crystallize
and reflect some of the most vivid images of my life which I clearly remember even today.
My Early Years: Growing Up
in Colonial Tanganyika
LIFE in Tanganyika in the fifties meant different things to different people - African, European,
Arab, and Asian (mostly Indian and Pakistani), the four main racial categories in the country. But it had one thing in common.
Life was simpler, and the people, friendlier. There was less crime in those days, far less than what you see today.
But it was also colonial life, although sometimes barely perceptible. To children like me under
10 years old, it meant very little in terms of racial domination. Life went on as usual as if all the people got along just
fine. And they did on many occasions but not all.
Even for those who got along just fine, it was still colonial rule. We all lived in a tiered society,
racially stratified, with whites on top, Asians and Arabs in the middle constituting some kind of buffer zone, and blacks
at the bottom.
It was a heap of vast black masses at the bottom. And they are the ones who propped up this lopsided
structure with their cheap labour made even more abundant because of their numerical preponderance in a country that was overwhelmingly
Yet, in spite of all the interdependence, with Europeans and Asians - and sometimes Arabs - providing
goods and services needed by a significant number of Africans especially those living in towns, and the cheap labour and raw
materials provided by Africans to sustain the colonial system, there was little interaction among or between the races. The
most that you could see was between Africans and Asians. And that was only during business transactions when Africans went
to Indian shops in towns to buy the items they needed.
In the case of Tanganyika, the distance between the races, especially between Africans and Europeans,
seemed to be even greater than in neighbouring Kenya because of the smaller number of the white settlers in the country. The
distance was magnified even in terms of perception.
Whites were not only fewer in Tanganyika than in Kenya but were also less visible because of their
smaller number, yet no less dominant as colonial rulers. But, the fewer they were, the farther they also were from Africans
in terms of interaction, although that was not true in all cases. Still, it was extremely rare for Europeans and Asians to
socialize with Africans. The races were in most cases far apart and preferred things to be that way.
However, there was one fundamental difference. The difference in this relationship was between
the Europeans on the one hand and the Africans as well as the Asians and the Arabs on the other. And it had to do with power.
It was the Europeans who instituted the social hierarchy based on race and who sanctioned the asymmetrical
relationship between the races to their advantage as the rulers of Tanganyika in order justify colonial rule. In that sense,
the Asians and the Arabs were equally victims of racial domination by whites even if some of them did not think that they
were being victimized like blacks.
But although there is no question that the Europeans were the rulers of a country that was overwhelmingly
black African (there are also white Africans and Africans of Asian and Arab origin as well as others on the African continent),
for many blacks, life went on as it did before the coming of the white man.
That was especially the case in the rural areas, including villages near towns and not only those
far away from the urban centres, where the most visible alien intrusion in traditional life since the advent of colonial rule
was the tax collector and sometimes, although rarely, a black policeman in khaki uniform and black boots coming on foot to
make an arrest.
However, there was fundamental change in institutions of authority in the sense that an alien power
had been imposed on us. All of us including traditional rulers became colonial subjects. African chiefs and other traditional
rulers lost their power. They no longer had the same power they had before as the ultimate authority in their traditional
Therefore the biggest change which took place when colonial rule was introduced was political.
Africans lost power and independence. Attitudes towards life in general, and even towards traditional authority, also changed,
although gradually, because of the dominant role European rulers played in the political arena. So it was a dramatic change
when power shifted from Africans to Europeans.
Less perceptible were the changes which took place in other areas of life. One was the cultural
Most of the people in the rural areas did not see themselves as victims of cultural imperialism
in the same way the few educated Africans did. Their traditional way of life and values remained virtually intact unlike that
of their brethren who lived in towns or those who acquired some education especially at the secondary school level and beyond.
The more education one had, the more acutely aware one became, of the racial disparities and introduction
and sometimes imposition of alien values by Europeans.
But in many cases it was also far less of an imposition than a willingness by many Africans who
had some education to accept European ways of life as some kind of achievement in life. In fact, a significant number of them
saw it as a badge of honour to be Europeanized, live and act like Europeans.
It showed that they were now "civilized," or more "civilized" than their brethren - those who continued
to live the traditional way of life in the villages and even in towns and also those who had less education.
Yet nationalist sentiments were strong especially among some politically conscious members of the
African elite, although even they were not dismissive of all aspects of alien cultures including British in spite of their
uncompromising stand in defence of the African traditional way of life. As Julius Nyerere said:
A country which lacks its own
culture is no more than a collection of people without the spirit which makes them a nation. Of all the crimes of colonialism
there is none worse than the attempt to make us believe we had no indigenous culture of our own; or that what we did have
A nation which refuses to learn from foreign cultures is nothing but a nation of idiots and lunatics...
But to learn from other cultures does not mean we should abandon our own.
Nyerere was quoted by Dr. Graham L. Mytton, former head of the BBC's International Broadcasting Audience
Research (IBAR), in his book Mass Communications
in Africa, and by Don Moore in
his article, "Reaching the Villages: Radio in Tanzania," published in The Journal of the North American Shortwave Association.
And as one British official in Tanganyika admitted in 1955: "We ignore their tribal dances and try
to give them cricket. I'ts awful." He was quoted by American journalist John Gunther in his book Inside Africa.
Gunther visited Tanganyika in 1954. Among the places he visited was the newly established radio
station in Dar es Salaam.
The station was founded in 1951 in response to a proposal by a BBC official who felt that there
was a need for such a station which should produce programmes for a native audience in Kiswahili. It was named the Dar es
Salaam Broadcasting Station (DBS) and was later renamed the Tanganyika Broadcasting Service (TBS) and then the Tanganyika
Broadcasting Corporation (TBC).
And as Sala Elise Patterson stated in a dissertation for a master's degree submitted to the School
for Oriental and African Studies at the University of London entitled, "State Control, Broadcasting and National Development,"
focusing on Tanzania as a case study :
Radio broadcasting began in
Tanganyika in July 1951 in an unused attic of a house in Dar es Salaam. Aimed at city residents, the unit was called the Dar
es Salaam Broadcasting Station (DBS).
One year later the colonial government invested 10,000 GBP to upgrade the radio service realizing
the importance of broadcasting in the territory to further the colonial process. Another 55,000 GBP was invested from the
colonial fund in 1954.
Then on May 8, 1956, the colonial authorities inaugurated the new and improved Tanganyika Broadcasting
Service (TBS) with a 20-kilowatt transmitter that increased broadcasting capability to reach as far as Johannesburg.
In July of the same year, the government consolidated their national broadcasting and established
the Tanganyika Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) officially as an independent broadcasting body that took over the functions
of the TBS.
The colonial government closely monitored programming and the Governor had absolute power to prohibit
the broadcast of any programme deemed inappropriate.
When Gunther visited the station in 1954, he was highly impressed by the staff's performance. It
was a professional operation totally staffed by native Africans, in spite of the fact that the station had started, as Gunther
wrote, "with little more equipment than a microphone and a blanket hung over a wall." It became so successful that it served
as a model for broadcasting services in many other British colonies in Africa and elsewhere.
I remember listening to TBC when I was growing up in Rungwe District in the Southern Highlands
in the 1950s and early sixties. And I still remember the names of some of the radio announcers, mainly David Wakati and Eli
Mboto. Although the reception was poor most of the time, we still were able to listen to the news and to a variety of music,
mostly Swahili and Congolese, broadcast from Dar es Salaam more than 300 miles away.
At first, there was not much interest in establishing a radio station because
of the relatively small European population in Tanganyika, unlike in neighbouring Kenya where there was a significant number
of white settlers. The British government did not encourage its citizens to emigrate and settle in Tanganyika mainly because
the territory was not a typical British colony like Kenya but a UN trusteeship territory under British tutelage only for a
limited, though not specified, period of time after which the country would become independent.
There were, however, some parts of Tanganyika which attracted a significant
number of white settlers. For example, even before the British took over Tanganyika from the Germans after World War I, Lushoto
in the Usambara mountains in the northeastern part of the country was a kind of "winter capital" for the Germans.
But, in spite of the relatively small number of whites in Tanganyika, there was an obvious need
for a radio station for the indigenous population, although the broadcasts had a short radius and were initially limited to
Dar es Salaam, the capital, which itself had Africans in the majority.
Even in the capital Dar es Salaam, European influence on the lives of most Africans was limited
when compared to what happened in Nairobi, Kenya's capital, and elsewhere in Kenya especially in the "White Highlands" in
the Central Province which had the largest number of white settlers in the country including Boers from South Africa. In fact,
it was Boers who founded one of Kenya's most well-known towns, Eldoret.
In the case of Tanganyika, British cultural influence was very limited in terms of everyday life
and only had significant impact on the elite. The most visible change in the African way of life was in the towns which were
the administrative centres for the colonial rulers. That is where the District Commissioner, whom we simply called DC, and
his white staff worked and lived if the town was the district headquarters. If the town was the capital of a province, you
had the provincial commissioner, known as PC, as the head.
That is where you would see the colonial rulers and other whites, working and living there, although
in some parts of the rural areas, there were also whites who owned farms and hired black labourers to work on coffee and tea
plantations and other large farms.
In Tanganyika, white settlers could be found in places such as Lushoto in the Usambara mountains
in the northeastern part of the country where they owned coffee farms and also a school exclusively for white children known
as Lushoto Prep School; in Arusha in northern Tanganyika where they also had large farms and a school for white children called
Arusha School; in Moshi near the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro of majestic splendour where they also had a primary school exclusively
for white children; and in the Southern Highlands Province where they also built the most prestigious school for white students
in the whole country called St. Michael's and St. George's School in Iringa District near the town of Iringa, and another
one in the town of Mbeya known as Mbeya School in the same province.
Mbeya School, which is in my home region, was established in 1942 in buildings which were once
a German School. It was closed in 1963 as an exclusively European school and became a secondary school for students of all
races after Tanganyika won independence. But it became almost exclusively black after students of other races sought education
Besides the German School which became Mbeya School, another European school which was founded
in Tanganyika to educate pupils of the same national origin was the Greek School in Moshi where there was a number of Greek
farmers and other Greeks engaged in different pursuits.
The school also served Greek children from Arusha which also had a significant number of Greek
settlers. As Gregory Emmanuel whose family settled in Tanganyika stated in his article "Grandfather Gregory Emmanuel 'Nisiotis'
(1875 - 1977)":
A large number of Greeks, many
from Tenedos, came to Tanganyika, where Greeks became the second largest expatriate European community (Germans being the
In both Moshi and Arusha there were thriving Greek communities and the need arose for a Greek school.
As the house at Lambo was vacant, Grandfather leased it to the Greek community and it became the
first Greek school in East Africa. It was a boarding school and was the first school attended by my father, Costas. (He told
me that a student who sleepwalked was taken during the night by a leopard.)
Coincidentally, another school, Kongwa School, which was open to white children of all nationalities
started as a primary school on 4 October 1948, exactly one year before I was born on 4 October 1949.
It evolved from the abortive groundnut scheme funded by the British Overseas Food Corporation at
After the groundnut scheme failed and was abandoned in 1954, its buildings were converted into
a secondary school, upgraded from a primary school. Then in 1958, the students at Kongwa School were transferred to a new
school in Iringa, St. Michael's and St. George's.
All the European schools in Tanganyika were co-educational, attended by white children and students
of all ages depending on the kind of school they went to. For example, St. Michael's and St. George's was a secondary school.
And it was highly competitive with a reputation for academic excellence.
Many of its former students became very successful in life in different parts of the world, including
Tanganyika itself, which became Tanzania, and have been holding reunions now and then to renew ties and reminisce on life
in Tanganyika in those days.
In many ways, they were the good old days. Life was also much safer and simpler, and the people
a lot friendlier than they are nowadays when everybody is busy fending for himself, with a large number of individuals preying
on others in different ways besides robbery.
Although I did not attend St. Michael's and St. George's School after independence,
there are many things which the former students and I agree on in terms of how life was in school and in Tanganyika in general
in those days.
And we have another thing in common. They went to school in the same province
where I come from: the Southern Highlands.
Even after independence, St. Michael's and St. George's stood out among all the schools in Tanzania.
It had students up to Form VI (standard 14) and was renamed Mkwawa High School and admitted students of all races, which was
not the case before Tanganyika became independent in 1961.
It was in the area of education where the colonial authorities instituted some of the most rigid
structures of racial separation in the country.
They sanctioned inequality in the allocation of funds and provision of facilities including teachers
which ensured that the children of the white settlers would get the best education and enjoy a privileged life style at the
expense of Africans and, to a smaller degree, Asians whose status was no better than that of the Africans as colonial subjects;
although they were treated better than Africans in many cases.
Arabs had their own Koranic schools and were not really an integral part of the mainstream in terms
of formal education in the Western intellectual tradition.
But the bottom line was that even if the Asians - as well as the Arabs - were treated better than
the Africans, they were still colonial subjects, therefore not equal to whites. And provision of separate educational facilities
and funds affected their lives as well; although even in this case they were favoured by the colonial government when compared
with Africans. As David Nettelbeck states in "Educational Separatism and the 1950s" in his book, A History of Arusha School:
Because of the Government's lack of resources and unwillingness to take a strong initiative in
educational provision, and in pursuance of the G.I.A. policy, there grew up three racially distinct systems of African, Asian
and European education with each of the three subdivided into state controlled, state aided, and wholly private schools.
In the African sector for example in 1937, there were 9,500 pupils in Government schools, 19,500
in aided schools and 100,000 in private schools. These latter were often sub-standard bush schools, and catechetical centres
or Koranic schools along the coast. It was not until 1955 that the Government required these kinds of schools to be registered.
In the same year, there were 985 places in Government schools for Indian children and another 3,318
in grant aided schools. The Indian community were quick to take advantage of the G.I.A. system and fulfil the requirements
thus only 320 of their children were that year in private schools.
For the European community in the 1930s, the Government made direct provision in three ways. Arusha
School, primarily for boarders, opened in 1934; a correspondence course was based in Dar es Salaam; and there was also a junior
primary school in Dar es Salaam. The enrolment figures in 1937 show 59 children in the latter two, and 60 pupils at Arusha
There were in addition 704 grant-aided places for European children, a significant proportion of
these being in national community schools for the Dutch, German and Greek children. Another 15 places were in a private school.
The above figures are taken from the enrolment statistics 1931 - 1948 in Appendix G.
There is another way of looking at these statistics and that is to see the percentage of children
being educated from each community. Listowell states that in 1933, 51% of the European children, 49% of the Asian and 2% of
the African were at school.
By 1945 7.5%, of the African children attended school though few got beyond the fourth primary
grade and none could attempt the entrance exam for tertiary study at Makerere in Uganda. By 1959, 40% of African children
attended at least the first four years of primary education, and in 1961, 55% of the age group entered the first primary grade.
The present Government of Nyerere aims at universal primary education by 1980. (The comparative
cost per head of population has been referred to above and is detailed in Appendix J.)
In 1930 an Education Tax was introduced with the primary object of affording security to the Government
for the repayment of loans made to non-African communities. In 1932 the Indian and European communities were taxed for their
education on a poll Tax basis and, in addition, fees were charged at their schools. Nevertheless the Government was making
a far more generous per capita provision for European and Indian children than it was for African children.
The table in Appendix J shows the total expenditure for each community and the per capita cost
from 1931 - 1937. Also the table in Appendix K shows that in 1955/56, 33.7% of the money spent by the Government on European
education was collected in fees, 15.4% came from the European Education Tax and 49.1% from Central Revenue. In 1959 the central
revenue provided for European Education an amount equivalent to 1% of the total territorial expenditure.
In 1956, £3,618,555 held by the Custodian of Enemy Property from funds collected from confiscated
properties during the Second World War was distributed equally between the Tanganyika Higher Education Trust Fund for establishing
tertiary education facilities, St Michael's and St George's School, a lavish secondary school for European children at Iringa,
Indian education, and African education.
This 4 way split seem superficially fair but as President Nyerere has pointed out, the allocation
on a per capita basis was equivalent to shs- 720/- to each European, shs. 200/- to each Asian and shs. 2/- to each African.
In 1948 and 1949, the three existing education systems described above were formalized by two ordinances,
the Non-Native Education Ordinance and the Non-Native Education Tax Ordinance. This legislation brought into being an Indian
Education Authority and a European Education Authority, each composed of representatives of the communities they were to serve.
They were responsible for the development and general over-sight of the systems, and for managing
the education funds according to the budget approved by the Legislative Council.
There was also an Advisory Committee for Other (non-native) Education, which included Goan, Mauritian,
Seychellois, Anglo-Indian, and Ceylonese children.
What began in 1948 as a very minor offshoot of basic Government responsibility for the development
of the country with only 8,000 Asian and 300 European children, had become by 1961 a major concern catering for 28,000 Asian
and 2,500 European children.
The three educational systems established along racial lines for Europeans, Indians and Africans
- in descending order in terms of quality - were formalized in the 1940s and 1950s. And they mirrored the racial hierarchy
in colonial Tanganyika instituted by the British colonial rulers. They were abolished in January 1962, soon after the country
won independence on 9 December 1961, and all schools in Tanganyika were opened to students of all races.
Although the British constituted the largest group of whites during colonial rule, the white settler
community in Tanganyika was a constellation of nationalities. It included many other whites such as Greeks, Germans, Italians,
Afrikaners, Jews, Poles, Swedes, Danes, Russians, and Lithuanians. And that is not an exhaustive list. The white settler community
was in some ways a microcosm of Europe.
There were even a few Americans in Tanganyika; for example, the first owner of the New Arusha Hotel,
Kenyon Painter, a millionaire banker from Ohio. He went to Tanganyika for the first time in 1907 and started building the
New Arusha Hotel in 1927. It was completed in the same year.
The hotel was formally opened in January 1928 and the opening ball - in December 1927 - was attended
by the Prince of Wales, Edward VIII.
Painter continued to live in the United States but he made several hunting trips to Tanganyika,
especially Arusha. He died in 1940.
Before he arrived, there was only one tiny hotel in Arusha owned by a Jewish couple, Jane and Goodall
Bloom, and they named the hotel, Bloom's, and it was the first Arusha Hotel. That's why when Kenyon Painter built his hotel,
he called it the New Arusha Hotel.
Kenyon Painter bought 11,000 acres of land near the town of Arusha and he played
a major role in establishing coffee farms in the region. He also built the first post office in Arusha, a church, a hospital,
and a coffee research centre at Tengeru, 16 miles from Arusha.
The New Arusha Hotel became a historic landmark and a centre of social activity
for many people including Hollywood stars such as John Wayne whose famous movie, "Hatari," which means danger in Kiswahili,
was filmed in Arusha in 1962. There was also a sign in front of the New Arusha Hotel which said:
THIS SPOT IS EXACTLY HALF WAY BETWEEN THE CAPE AND CAIRO AND THE EXACT CENTRE OF KENYA, UGANDA,
Arusha also was, and still is, one of the famous towns on what is known as The Great North Road
from C to C, that is, from Cape Town to Cairo. And as someone described the two main hotels in the town of Arusha and the
town itself in 1957:
Also in the main street were
Arusha's two famous hotels.
The New Arusha displayed a board announcing that it was exactly midway between Cape Town and Cairo,
and the Safari Hotel boasted an unusual copper topped bar to which a baby elephant had been led in for a drink in a recent
Hollywood film Hatari (Danger).
Mount Meru overlooked the pretty garden town beyond the golf course and the main road to Nairobi
to the north.
The streets in the residential areas were lined with purple jacarandas and the well kept gardens
displayed a profusion of tropical zinnias, petunias and marigolds mixed with the roses, hollyhocks, ferns and carnations of
At 5000 feet above sea level, the climate was perfect after the sultry heat of the coast and the
early mornings were a delight with dew-dappled lawns, mists and a nip in the air, mingled with the fragrant scent of cedar
It was the kind of climate which attracted many whites to the region. Today Arusha is the headquarters
of the East African Community (EAC) comprising Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi and is virtually the capital of
East Africa and of the proposed East African Federation to be formed by 2013, if at all.
Other whites who lived in Arusha included Germans, Greeks, South Africans, Italians, and the British.
They had farms around Arusha and some of them had small businesses in town.
Some of the crops grown in this fertile region included cereals, cherries, apples, citrus, coffee,
cocoa, vanilla, and rubber. They were grown mostly by the Germans but other Europeans participated as well.
At the beginning of World War II, there were about 3,000 Germans and Italians living in Tanganyika.
That was out of a total population of about 8,000 whites in the country. During the war itself, there were about 3,000 Italians
including those who were held as prisoners of war in camps in Tanganyika; 9,000 Poles, 500 Greeks, and 180 Cypriot Jews, among
According to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the total number of Italians who were
interned in Tanganyika, mainly in Arusha and Tabora, and in Uganda and Southern Rhodesia during World War II was almost 15,000.
The number given in May 1945 was 14,900.
Many whites came to live in Tanganyika after the Second World War. Also after Germany was defeated
in World War I, she lost her colony of German East Africa which became Tanganyika, taken over by the British, and Ruanda-Urundi,
by the Belgians. After the British took over the colony, they also used it for detaining prisoners of war (POWs) who included
Germans and their allies.
Many of them ended up staying in Tanganyika. The Italians, for example, did not have any historical
connection to Tanganyika like the Germans who were the first colonial rulers did, but they settled in the country in significant
numbers. Most of them had been preceded earlier by a group of Italian missionaries as far back as the 1920s.
The Italians who were interned in Tanganyika during World War II were sent back to Italy after
the war ended but many of them returned because they liked living there. They also felt that Tanganyika had better prospects
for them than Italy did.
Many of them were craftsmen and worked in technical fields and in construction and knew that their
skills were in great in demand in an underdeveloped colonial territory like Tanganyika. In fact, some of them had done the
same kind of work when they in internment camps in Tanganyika.
The situation got even much better for them and the other prisoners of war or detainees in Tanganyika
after 1947 when the property which had been confiscated from foreigners including some Italians by the "Custodian of the Enemy
Properties," in essence the British colonial government itself, was returned to them.
Therefore the 1950s was a period when Tanganyika witnessed the arrival of a significant number
of Italians who came to settle in the country in addition to the ones who were already there.
Some of them were employed on farms, for example on sisal plantations in Morogoro in the Coast
Province, on tobacco farms in Iringa in the Southern Highlands, and in the cultivation of coffee and pyrethrum in Arusha and
Moshi in the Nothern Province.
Other Italians went to work in the mines, mostly gold. They went to Geita in the Lake Province
where they worked for the Gold Mining Company, in Musoma where they were employed by Tangold Company, and in the diamond mines
of Mwadui in Shinyanga where they worked for the Williamson Diamonds Ltd. of Mwadui. There were, of course, people of other
nationalities as well working in these mines, including the British and Afrikaners.
It was also during the same period that another development took place which improved prospects
for a number of Italians seeking employment in Tanganyika in the 1950s.
Two projects were launched under the direction of the M. Gonella Company based in Nairobi. These
were the construction of some oil depots at Kurasini in Dar es Salaam and of the first sewerage system also in Dar es Salaam,
the country's capital in the Coast Province.
An average of about 200 Italians came to Tanganyika every year in the fifties to live or seek employment.
The number may have been small but when looked at in the larger context of all the immigrants who came to Tanganyika in those
years, we see that the figure was not really that small and Italy was one of the main countries of origin of the immigrants
who settled in Tanganyika in the 1950s.
In 1952, a census was done and it showed that there were 17,885 Europeans living in Tanganyika.
A total of 12,395, or 69.3 percent of the white population in the country, were British. Greeks were the second largest group
with 1,292 people, followed by the Italians with 1,071; the Dutch, with 515; the Germans, 499; the Swiss, 496; and the Americans,
Other sources arrive at pretty much the same figure showing that the population of white settlers
in Tanganyika in the fifties was much closer to 20,000. That was about a third of those in Kenya.
Some cited a higher figure. For example, Time magazine, in one of its 1965
editions stated: "Tanzania, which as Tanganyika once had 22,700 whites, now has 17,000."
But all these settlers had one thing in common. They were white and therefore members of the white
settler community. Although they settled in significant numbers in only a few parts of Tanganyika, the areas where they settled
were mostly in the fertile and cooler regions at high altitudes with temperatures most whites were comfortable with. There
were, however, also significant numbers of whites in Dar es Salaam in the Coast Province because it was the capital and commercial
centre of colonial Tanganyika.
Other whites were spread throughout the country living in different places such as Lindi, Nachingwea,
Masasi and Mtwara in the Southern Province and other parts of the region; Kilosa in the Coast Province; Dodoma in the Central
Province; Tabora in the Western Province; Mwanza and Bukoba in the Lake Province and other parts of Tanganyika.
Yet, even in areas with significant numbers of whites such as the Southern
Highlands which were "extensively" occupied by the British, there was little interaction with Africans besides servants, farm
labourers and house boys and maids, whose relationship with whites was defined by their subordinate status. There was also
some interaction of the master-servant type in towns as well where whites lived and worked.
And the relationship couldn't be anything but that in a colony and racially
stratified society dominated by Europeans even if most Africans in Tanganyika rarely saw a white person in their lives or
at least during the period of colonial rule. Most of them lived in villages and spent their entire lives without going into
towns where whites were.
And even when they went into towns to buy and sell things, they did not always see white people,
although many of them did on a number of occasions now and then in their lives.
I remember when I was growing up in Rungwe District in Mpumbuli Village, Kyimbila, about four miles
from the town of Tukuyu which was the district headquarters, I rarely saw whites when I went into town. That was in the late
fifties when I was under 10 years old and quite often ventured into town, walking or sometimes catching the bus.
The only time we saw quite a few whites was when they played golf and tennis in the town of Tukuyu.
I remember when we passed by as children, they now and then gave us tennis balls which we used to play with as soccer, popularly
known as football. And it was the right size of "football", or "soccer ball," for us as little boys between 6 and 9 years
To us the whites, who were mostly British, were friendly and we saw them simply as white people
who were in town playing golf and tennis. Politics was the last thing on our minds. We did not have the slightest idea of
what was going on. We didn't even know why they came to Tanganyika all the way from Europe.
Even our knowledge of geography was very limited at that age. To us, our home district was the
entire world. We couldn't envision anything beyond the misty blue mountains which form a ring around Rungwe District in the
Great Rift Valley. Next to that, as our world, after we grew a little older and learnt more about geography, was our province,
the Southern Highlands Province; and then Tanganyika, our country.
We hardly knew about the rest of East Africa when we were six and seven years old and did not even
know much about the neighbouring countries of Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia which border our region.
We did not learn that in standard one and standard two until later when we were in standard three
and standard four. And why whites were in Tanganyika, and when they came to Tanganyika and to Africa in general, was in the
realm of history and politics far beyond our knowledge at that age.
The whites who came to Tukuyu to play golf came from Mbeya, about 45 miles away. Some even came
from Northern Rhodesia, which is Zambia today. And there were, of course, those who lived in Tukuyu, although not many. From
what I remember, it was only a few of them who lived in the town of Tukuyu.
The town was first built by the Germans, the first colonial rulers, and was named Neu Langenburg.
They are the ones who first made it the headquarters of Rungwe District. The town was destroyed twice by earthquakes, first
in 1910, and again in 1919, but was rebuilt by the British after they took control of Tanganyika after the end of the First
World War. And it is still the headquarters of Rungwe District today.
Among the whites whom I remember when I was growing up in Rungwe District in the late fifties were
the District Commissioner (DC), the most powerful man in the town of Tukuyu and in the whole district of no fewer than 300,000
people during that period; the manager of Shell BP petrol station, a British like the DC, also in the town of Tukuyu where
my father once worked under him as an assistant manager in the late fifties, and about whom I have more to say elsewhere in
the book; and the manager of Kyimbila Tea Estate and his wife, both British, about a mile-and-a- half from our house whom
I also address in another chapter in this book.
He and his wife lived on the premises at Kyimbila next to Kyimbila Moravian Church of which my
family and I were members and whose pastor, Asegelile Mwankemwa, was my mother's uncle. He is also the one who helped raise
my mother and her brothers after their parents died. My grandmother, my mother's mother, was his sister.
I don't remember any of the names of the whites I just mentioned except one, although when we were
in primary school - I went to Kyimbila Primary School from 1956 to 1959 about two miles from Tukuyu and two miles from our
home - we knew the name of the district commissioner (DC) of Rungwe District.
But I do remember the name of one provincial commissioner, Mr. J.T.A. Pearce. He was PC in the
late 1950s and lived in Mbeya which was then the capital of the Southern Highlands Province. The former capital was Iringa
but it was moved to Mbeya, although I don't remember exactly when; it was sometime in the late fifties, I believe.
The most visible symbol of colonial authority I remember when I was eight and nine years old in
the late fifties was a wooden sign on the outskirts of the town of Tukuyu which said, "Native Authority." I remember it very
well, almost 50 years later, and even exactly where it was. It was a white sign with black capital letters.
It was on the right-hand side of the road right at the foot of a small hill when on the way to
Tukuyu, and on the left on my way home; on the same road that went all the way to Kyela, a town near the border with Nyasaland.
It was very close to a junction where there was an Anglican Church. The other road led to a place called Makandana which was
only about a mile from the town of Tukuyu.
I did not know what kind of sign it was - for direction, warning, or what - and it meant absolutely
nothing to me. I had not even started learning English during that time, until later when I went to Mpuguso Middle School.
It was a boarding school. I first went there in 1961, the same year I started learning English. I was 11 years and three months
old when I started learning the language in January.
I was a day student from 1961 to 1962 before I was enrolled as a boarder in 1963. It was an all-boys
school with a reputation for rigorous intellectual discipline and was one of the best middle schools in the Southern Highlands
Province and in the whole country. It was also one of the oldest.
Among its alumni was Jeremiah Kasambala, son of a chief from the area who later became one of the
first cabinet members under Nyerere when Tanganyika won independence. Another cabinet member, David Mwakyusa who once was
a professor of medicine and President Nyerere's personal physician, was also a product of Mpuguso Middle School. He served
as minister of health under President Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania's fourth president since independence.
Other alumni through the years included doctors, lawyers and academics; and a general in the Tanzania
People's Defence Forces (TPDF), my first cousin Rhodfrey Owen Mwambapa, who also became head of the Tanzania Military Academy,
an officers' training school in Monduli, northern Tanzania, whose students came from other parts of Africa as well.
Another cousin of mine, Oscar Mwamwaja, who became one of Tanzania's first airline pilots, was
also a product of Mpuguso Middle School.
And it was not until a few years later after I was at Mpuguso Middle School that I understood what
that (Native Authority) sign meant after I learnt some English, and even much later before I understood its political significance
as a demarcation line between the colonizer and colonized.
It symbolised colonial power enforced by indirect rule, a system of administration first introduced
by Lord Lugard in Northern Nigeria under which the colonial government ruled vast expanses of territory through native rulers
including chiefs in my home district of Rungwe.
The town of Tukuyu was under direct rule by the district commissioner (DC), and the rest of the
district under indirect rule through native authority; hence the sign, "Native Authority," showing where direct rule ended
and where indirect rule began. Africans and Indian shopkeepers who lived in the town of Tukuyu were under direct rule of the
white colonial administrators who also lived there.
But if the colonial authorities felt that direct intervention was warranted, they did not hesitate
to exercise their power.
I remember one tragic incident in the late fifties when two Nyakyusa chiefs and their people in
Kyela were involved in a bloody conflict, the exact nature of which I never understood; some said the conflict was over land,
which seemed to be a plausible explanation, given the scarcity of land in Rungwe District of which Kyela was then an integral
part; today Kyela is a separate district and has been one for years.
When the conflict erupted, an urgent message was sent to Mbeya, the provincial capital, and within
the same day, the colonial authorities dispatched a contingent of Field Force Units (FFU) to stop the fighting. The FFUs,
which still exist in Tanzania today, specialize in riot control and in stopping other violent conflicts and have a reputation
for being tough and using weapons when necessary.
It was one of those instances during my life time when the British invoked Pax Britannica in the quest for peace under the Union Jack in their colony of Tanganyika. The FFU riot policemen were black but
their officers white.
There were other whites I remember in Rungwe District including missionaries; for example, Catholic
priests at Kisa Catholic Mission about five miles from our home. They used to walk most of the time all the way from Kisa
to Tukuyu and back. I remember they were dressed in black robes.
There was also another white man whom I remember very well. He used to drive
down the road near our house on his way to Ilima coal mine and back to Tukuyu and Mbeya. They said he was the owner of the
coal mine which was about 15 miles from our home and the Nyakyusa called him Tojilwe, obviously a corruption of his name,
whatever it was; today, it sounds like Trujillo or Torrijos to me.
He could have been Spanish, I don't know, if his name was indeed Trujillo or Torrijos, what my
fellow Nyakyusas called Tojilwe.
The mine was almost mid-way between Tukuyu and Kyela, a town near the Tanzania-Malawi border, and
the road goes all the way to Malawi, which was then Nyasaland in those days.
Although Tojiliwe was in charge of the Ilima coal mine which was about 15 miles from our home in
Mpumbuli village in the area of Kyimbila, and the people who did all the hard work were Africans, to him they were just that,
His relationship with the coal miners was basically no different from the relationship other whites
had with Africans in general. Few whites interacted with Africans on personal basis. Africans were no more than colonial subjects
under the imperial flag fluttering under the tropical sun.
The interaction was minimal for racial and cultural reasons, as well as for reasons of personal
taste probably on both sides. Africans who may have wanted to associate with whites - usually for social status more than
anything else as members of "civilized" society which by colonial definition meant white - were inhibited in their desire
by their well-founded fear and suspicion that they would not be accepted, let alone as equals, by a people who were their
masters as colonial rulers and many of whom probably considered them to be inferior; while some whites, on the other hand,
did not want to mingle with blacks because they did not consider them to be their equal in any conceivable way including mental
Africans dealt mostly with Indians who owned shops where African customers bought a variety of
items such as clothes, soap, cooking oil, salt and sugar. And they communicated very well. I remember many Indians in Tukuyu
who spoke Kinyakyusa, our "tribal" language, with their customers. And some of them knew the language very well.
Although many Africans probably did not notice or feel the colonial presence and white domination
did not have a direct impact on their lives everyday, there were those who were acutely aware of the disparities in life among
the races purely along racial lines. They knew the disparities or inequities were not merely accidental but a product of deliberate
decisions by the colonial rulers who instituted a system of racial hierarchy to maintain colonial rule.
What set them apart from the other Africans besides their political consciousness was education.
They were mostly educated, with secondary school education or higher and sometimes even less, and they worked directly under
the supervision of whites especially in towns. And they are the ones who led the struggle for independence, not only in Tanganyika
but in other African countries as well.
There was another politically conscious class of Africans who constituted a critical mass during
the struggle for independence. These were the workers in towns. They formed trade unions demanding better wages and conditions
at work which eventually led to demands for political equality and representation at the local and national levels.
Most of them were not educated in the traditional sense. They never got the chance to go to school,
although a significant number of them did and had at least primary school education enabling them to read and write as well
as count. But because they worked directly under whites, they became very much aware of the difference in living conditions
among the races and they were among some of the most politically conscious people in Tanganyika and in all the other colonies
across the continent.
Their consciousness was best demonstrated on a number of occasions when they went on strike to
force the colonial authorities to meet their demands, a strategy which helped galvanize the independence movement.
In fact, the labour union leaders became some of the most prominent leaders in the independence
struggle. For example, Rashid Mfaume Kawawa, a prominent labour union leader in Tanganyika, became prime minister and later
vice president of Tanganyika and later of Tanzania. And in Kenya, Tom Mboya, another highly influential labour union leader,
became the most prominent national leader after President Jomo Kenyatta and his heir apparent. He also held senior cabinet
posts including the ministry of economic planning and development until his assassination in July 1969 at the age of 39.
I remember there were even songs by Kenyan musicians played on the radio, the Tanganyika Broadcasting
Corporation, which in those days we simply called TBC, in the late fifties about Tom Mboya when he was one of the brightest
stars on the Kenyan political scene even before independence.
In the case of Tanganyika, the late fifties were a turning point in the independence struggle,
as much as they were for neighbouring Kenya, and witnessed among other things the departure of one of the last two governors
of this vast country, the largest among the East African British colonies.
I witnessed some of those events, although I was only 8 and 9 years old.
I remember when Sir Edward Francis Twining, one of the last two governors of Tanganyika, came to
Tukuyu in 1958. It was a farewell visit.
He was the governor from 18 June 1949 (about four months before I was born) to June 1958. He was
succeeded by Sir Richard Gordon Turnbull who was the last governor of Tanganyika from 15 July 1958 until independence day
on 9 December 1961. Twining died in June 1967, and Turnbull in December 1998.
I remember the day Governor Twining came to Tukuyu in 1958 to say good-bye. I was about eight-and-a-half
years old. It was a bright, sunny day, in the afternoon. I was then a pupil in standard three at Kyimbila Primary School about
two miles from Tukuyu and our head teacher made arrangements for us to go and see the governor. So we were in school only
half of the day and we walked the two miles to the town of Tukuyu to see the governor for the last time; it was also the first
time most of us saw him on that day.
I even remember his attire. He was dressed in white. He also
had on a white hat and white gloves. And Nyakyusa dancers performed the traditional dance called mang'oma in farewell to him.
There were also many whites on the scene. Some had accompanied him from Dar es Salaam and Mbeya
and others simply came to see him. Also on the scene was the Provincial Commissioner (PC) of the Southern Highlands Province
from Mbeya, the provincial capital, and the District Commissioner (DC) of Rungwe District who lived right there in Tukuyu,
the district headquarters.
I remember it was a festive occasion. People were in jovial mood. Politics seemed to be the last thing
on their minds, as the dancers swayed and swivelled to the rhythm and drum-beat of mang'oma, the most popular
Nyakyusa traditional dance.
And the others who were there joyously clapped their hands for the governor when he climbed up
the steps of the Barclays Bank building from where he waved to the crowd, smiling.
I remember the area well. The Clock Tower and the golf course were only a few yards away on the
right hand-side when you faced the Barclays Bank Building.
Although I was too young to know what was going on in the country in terms of politics and the
campaign for independence under the leadership of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) whose charismatic leader, Julius
Nyerere, electrified his audiences by his mere presence even before he spoke whenever he campaigned in different parts of
Tanganyika, I was still able to tell that there was no hostility of any kind towards the governor and other whites on the
part of the Africans who were there on that day.
And that seemed to be the case even during the campaign for independence itself.
There were no attacks on the British and other whites, and the people of all races seemed to get along just fine even if they
did not mingle. The campaign for independence was peaceful and was waged along constitutional lines.
When reflecting on the transition from colonial rule to independence,
Nyerere himself said that Tanganyika won independence by peaceful means, and there was no hostility towards whites even after
the country won independence. As he stated in parliament during a debate on the citizenship bill when a few members wanted
only black Africans to be citizens after Tanganyika became independent, as reported in the Tanganyika National Assembly Debates (Hansard), in October 1961 less than two
months before the country won independence from Britain:
If we in Tanganyika are going
to divorce citizenship from loyalty and marry it to colour, it won't stop there...until you break up the country....They are
preaching discrimination as a religion to us. And they stand like Hitlers and begin to glorify race. We glorify human beings,
Nyerere was furious when he heard a few members of the National
Assembly speaking against citizenship for whites, Indians, Arabs and others. He was known to be very calm, tolerant and kind
lost his temper during the course of the debate and accused them of racism and talking rubbish and behaving like Nazis.
Earlier as a little boy, before Nyerere gave that speech in
the National Assembly in October 1961, I witnessed an event which embodied his vision of a multiracial society.
The reception the governor, Sir Edward Twining, was given by Africans and other people on that
day in Tukuyu in 1958 during his last visit there was in many ways highly indicative of how things were going to be after
Tanganyika won independence: people of different races and ethnic groups living and working together in harmony without hate
and fear of each other or one another in the best interest of the country and for the sake of peace and stability enjoyed
Governor Edward Twining's farewell visit marked the beginning of the end of British colonial rule
But, at that tender age, little did I or any of the other children - including
many adults - know that independence was only three-and-a-half years away after 42 years of British colonial rule.
Tanganyika before Independence
WHAT IS TANZANIA TODAY did not come into existence until Tanganyika united with Zanzibar in 1964
to form one country.
I was born and brought up in Tanganyika. And it is Tanganyika that I focus
on as the land of my birth where my personality and identity was shaped during British colonial rule in the fifties and in
the first decade of independence in the sixties.
Tanganyika itself did not exist as a territorial entity until 1885 when it
was annexed by Germany. It was created as a colony by the Germans whose claim to the territory was given formal recognition
at the Berlin conference during the partition of Africa.
The German Colonization Society led by Dr. Karl Peters claimed the territory in 1884. He was supported
by his home government under Bismarck and went on to establish the German East Africa Company to rule the territory.
In 1886 and 1890, the British and the Germans signed agreements which defined their spheres of
influence in the interior of East Africa and along the coast previously claimed by the sultan of Oman who had moved his capital
from Muscat, Oman, to Zanzibar.
In 1891, the German government took over direct administration of the territory from the German
East Africa Company and appointed a governor with headquarters in Dar es Salaam, a port city founded by the Arabs and whose
name means Haven of Peace in Arabic.
European powers drew territorial boundaries to define their spheres of influence, creating the
countries we have in Africa today.
In East Africa, the British had Kenya, Uganda, and Zanzibar; and the Germans, Tanganyika, and Ruanda-Urundi
- what is now Rwanda and Burundi - which together formed one colony called German East Africa which existed from 1885 to 1919.
After that, the British took over what became Tanganyika following Germany's defeat in World War
I. The Belgians acquired Ruanda-Urundi which became two separate colonies but administered together with Belgian Congo.
British formal presence on Tanganyikan soil began in 1914 at the beginning of World War I when
the Royal Navy occupied Mafia island in the Indian ocean a few miles southeast of Dar es Salaam, the capital.
During World War I, German East Africa was occupied by the Allied forces including troops from
South Africa led by General Smuts. It was - minus Ruanda-Urundi - renamed Tanganyika Territory in 1920 (named after Lake Tanganyika)
and placed under the League of Nations mandate administered by Britain after American President Woodrow Wilson refused to
assume responsibility for the former German colony as proposed by British Prime Minister Lloyd George of the Liberal Party.
In 1921, the Belgians transferred Kigoma district in western Tanganyika to British administration,
making it part of Tanganyika. They had administered the district - together with Ruanda-Urundi - since the Allied occupation
of the former German colony in 1916.
And in 1924, Britain and Belgium signed an agreement defining the border between Tanganyika and
Until 1925, Tanganyika was administered in an improvised way and followed German administrative
practices, after which the system of Indirect Rule was introduced.
Indirect Rule was first practised by Lord Lugard in northern Nigeria where he used traditional
rulers including emirs to administer a vast expanse of territory.
In 1946, Tanganyika became a UN trusteeship territory; coincidentally in the same year the Nigerian
federation was formed out of three massive regions created by the British: Northern Nigeria dominated by the Hausa-Fulani,
Eastern Nigeria by the Igbo, and Western Nigeria by the Yoruba. Nigeria itself was created in 1914 with the amalgamation of
the North and the South which had been administered separately as if they were two distinct colonies but under the same colonial
When Europeans came to Africa and established colonies, they thought they could transform at least
some of those colonies into a permanent home for white settlers as the British did in Australia and New Zealand, as well as
in South Africa, Southern Rhodesia - what is Zimbabwe today - and Kenya. In fact, Kenya was declared a "White Man's Country"
from the beginning of formal British occupation of the territory under Lord Delamere.
Neighbouring Tanganyika would have met the same fate had the British colonialists succeeded in
establishing a giant federation stretching from Kenya all the way down to South Africa.
In fact, the governors of all the colonies in the region - Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Nyasaland
(now Malawi), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia today), and Southern Rhodesia met in Tukuyu, southern Tanganyika, in 1925 to work
on a plan to form such a federation.
But, years later as political awakening among Africans began to take place, the proposed federation
was strongly opposed by African nationalists who feared that the establishment of such a giant political entity would consolidate
and perpetuate white domination over Africans who constituted the vast majority of the population throughout the region as
much as they did in the rest of the continent.
Yet, in spite of such opposition, it is interesting to note that years later Ugandan leader Milton
Obote took a firm stand against the dissolution of one federation, the Central African Federation (of Northern Rhodesia, Southern
Rhodesia and Nyasaland), an imperial creation, arguing that it would not be in the best interests of Africa if the federation
He argued that it would be beneficial to Africa if the federation remained intact and became a
supra-nation upon attainment of independence.
He was virtually alone among African leaders in his support of the continued existence of the Central
African Federation - also known as the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland - which was created in 1953. It was dissolved
10 years later in 1963.
And there were always whites in all these territories who supported Africans in their quest for
justice and racial equality across the spectrum, including the former governor of Northern Rhodesia, Sir Roy Welensky, who
also once served as federal prime minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, although his espousal of the doctrine
of racial equality did not go far enough.
But he at least acknowledged the genuine aspirations of Africans even if he may not have believed
that black Africans really deserved the same rights as whites.
Another example, of genuine commitment to racial equality, was Derek Bryceson, a British, who emigrated
from Kenya to Tanganyika in 1952 and who became a cabinet member soon after the country won independence.
Then there was Dr. Leader Sterling, also British, who first came to Tanganyika in the 1930s. He
also became a nominated member of parliament and a cabinet member appointed by President Julius Nyerere.
Bryceson was also an elected member of parliament representing a predominantly black district,
Kilosa, and never lost an election against black political candidates contesting for the same seat; nor did Amir Jamal, of
Indian origin, representing Morogoro, who was also, like Bryceson, a cabinet member under Nyerere for more than two decades
And there were other whites - not only in Tanganyika but in other colonies as well, across the
continent - who felt the same way, including those who privately expressed their interest in building multiracial societies
on the basis of equality but did not express their feelings publicly for fear of offending and alienating other whites who
were not as liberal or open-minded as they were. As Harry Hodson states in his autobiography:
A new constitution for Southern
Rhodesia, which would have kept the white majority in parliament but extended the black franchise, and which had the nucleus
of a common electoral roll, had been proposed from London and was being hotly debated. (It was to avert this far from radical
constitution that Mr Ian Smith declared UDI two years later.)
Over his customary tankard
of beer Sir Edgar Whitehead, the colony’s Prime Minister, a taciturn, introspective character, gave me his opinion that
if all went according to plan the reforms would give rise to a genuine multiracial government with a multiracial parliament.
Sir Roy Welensky, Prime Minister of the moribund Central African Federation, amid a great deal
of bluster, agreed with Whitehead at least on the point that time and opportunity had to be used to break down race barriers.
Sir Robert Tredgold, who later became fainéant head of state under UDI, deplored the lack of communication
between Africans and the great majority of Europeans: “the trouble with most of our people here is that they live in
a deaf world.”
Lord Malvern, who as Sir Godfrey Huggins had been Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia for 10 years,
and at 77 was as amusing, vigorous and earthy as ever, gave a luncheon party for me.
I reminded him that several years earlier, dining with the Round Table Moot, he had likened the
mass of Africans in Rhodesia to the London East-Enders among whom he had worked as a young doctor -poor and ignorant, and
like children, but as capable as they of education and advance. Did he hold to that? “Yes - and they will grow up just
Yet these white Rhodesian leaders were not the most liberal kind. They were racist. For example,
Godfrey Huggins, who was acclaimed as a great British liberal, said at a press conference in London in 1952:
There will be no Africans in
a federal government (of Rhodesia - Northern and Southern - and Nyasaland formed in 1953).
They are quite incapable of playing a full part....They may have a university degree, but their
background is all wrong.
It is time for the people in England to realize that the white man in Africa is not prepared, and
never will be prepared, to accept the African as an equal either socially or politically.
His racist remarks were published in British papers and elsewhere. He was also quoted by Colin M.
Turnbull in his book The Loney African, p. 90. I have also quoted him in my book, Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa and the West, p. xiv.
But the mere fact that even such racist liberals at one time or another acknowledged the imperative
need for change and knew that such change was inevitable; and the more enlightened amongst them articulated genuinely liberal
sentiments - that Africans were entitled to racial equality - shows that there were whites who were interested in achieving
racial harmony and equality; and a number of them were far more committed to achieving this goal than most of their leaders
They could be found in all African countries, including apartheid South Africa. And Tanganyika
was no exception.
Therefore the struggle in all these African countries was essentially democratic
and not racial - black versus white - best exemplified by the new dispensation in post-apartheid South Africa where common
aspirations shared by blacks, whites, Indians, Coloureds and others led to the adoption of one of the most liberal constitutions
in the world guaranteeing equality for all South Africans. As one black South African cabinet member said in his emphatic
declaration that non-blacks in South Africa were also Africans just like black Africans: "Indians are in India, and Europeans
And it's very interesting to know how the European settlers felt about their
new life in the colonies they had established under the tropical sun far away from Europe.
In spite of the difficulties they faced living in underdeveloped regions of the world, they were
still very much satisfied with their new life. That is why they did not want to leave or return to Europe except in some cases
after independence when conditions became intolerable even for many black Africans who were born in those countries.
Political repression and worsening economic conditions became a way of life in many African countries
after the end of colonial rule. And through the years, tens of thousands of Africans have left the continent in search of
greener pastures especially in the West.
By the end of 2005, there were more than 5 million Africans living outside Africa, tens of thousands
of them highly educated and trained professionals. And tens of thousands of African students who go to school in Europe, North
America and other parts of the world every year don't return to their home countries or to any other part of Africa after
they finish their studies.
At this writing, there were more than 30,000 Nigerian doctors living and working in the United
States alone. In New York City, there were more than 600 Ghanaian doctors. In Chicago, there were more doctors from Sierra
Leone than there are in Sierra Leone.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
About 50,000 Kenyan professionals live and work in the United States as I write now. That's without
even counting those in the United Kingdom where, for historical reasons because of former colonial ties, they have gone to
in the past in larger numbers than they have anywhere else.
Add Nigerians, Ghanaians, Tanzanians, Zimbabweans, Zambians, Sierra Leoneans and others who live
in Britain, North America and other parts of the world including Australia. Also think about how many Africans from Senegal,
the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali and other former French African colonies live and work in France alone. And why.
Then you can see why our continent is in such a mess. It is a continental crisis, a massive brain
drain, and it is killing Africa because of rotten leadership - more than anything else - in most parts of the continent since
the end of colonial rule.
And we have to be brutally frank about it. Glossing over the problem is not going to solve it.
Those are grim statistics. They tell a sad story about the conditions in our countries which force
tens of thousands of highly educated people including professionals such as doctors, engineers, scientists and many others
in different critical fields to flee the continent every year in search of better life in Western countries and elsewhere
in the industrialized world. They constitute the critical mass without which Africa cannot develop. They keep on fleeing the
continent. And it has been that way since independence.
In fact many Africans, especially the older ones, remember with nostalgia how
life was in "the good ol' days" before independence when there was law and order and no shortages of essential items. They
also remember that they could get jobs, even if the jobs weren't paying much; and that in spite of difficulties, roads and
railways were well-maintained, and the people could travel to different parts of the country without fear of being robbed
And they did not have to pay bribes in those days to get a job, buy a bus ticket or even a simple
bar of soap or some toothpaste as happened in many countries across the continent after independence.
Those are some of the reasons why many people remember the fifties with nostalgia; a nostalgic
feeling which may seem to justify or defend colonial rule although that is not the case. It is simply a desire by many people
to live better, even if simpler, lives. And the deplorable condition in which tens of millions of Africans live more than
40 years after independence is a searing indictment against Africa's post-colonial leadership.
It is no wonder that millions of Africans who are old enough to have lived under colonial rule
remember those days with nostalgia.
For whites, life was even better for them when compared with the way Africans lived. In fact, life
couldn't have been better for some of them since many colonial administrators would not have been able to get in their own
countries - in Britain and elsewhere in Europe - the kind of jobs they had in colonial Africa.
Since I focus on Tanganyika in this chapter, the examples I cite come from East Africa to illustrate
my point. As Erika Johnson, writing about the 1950s in colonial Tanganyika, stated in The Other Side of Kilimanjaro:
Robin [Robin Johnson was a District Commissioner, simply known as D.C. throughout British colonial
Africa] maintains that there was no better life for a man in those days than that of a District Commissioner. It was a marvellous
combination of an active open air life, coupled with a wide, varied and interesting amount of office work.
You did long walking safaris through your area and slept under canvas, and in this way you got
to know your parishioners and their problems.
Responsible for a vast area, you were father, mentor and disciplinarian to everyone, sorting out
family and tribal disputes. You had to do anything and everything: build roads, dams and bridges, dig wells and be a magistrate
and administrator of law and order.
Your problems could vary from shooting a rogue elephant despoiling villagers' crops to trying a
stock thief in court.
In later years, [Julius] Nyerere once said to a silent Robin that the D.C's had made little contribution
other than collecting taxes!
Many of those projects provided employment for a number of Africans. And they played a major role
in building roads, dams and bridges, making bricks, digging wells and doing many other things, providing cheap labour.
In fact, I personally remember seeing African men doing hard work, building roads, in the town
and on the outskirts of Mbeya and also working on the road from Mbeya to Chunya, a district north of Mbeya; and in Rungwe
district working on the road from Tukuyu to Kyela, 30 miles south of Tukuyu close to the Tanganyika-Nyasaland (now Malawi)
border, when I was a little boy under 10 in the 1950s.
They worked for the colonial Public Works Department, what was simply known as PWD, and rode in
the back of Bedford lorries; they were British lorries imported from Britain. The lorries also were simply called PWD. I even
remember their colour. They were painted green on the sides and white on top.
The African labourers worked hard, all day long, often in scorching sun.
The buses which used those roads, besides other vehicles, were the East African Railways &
Harbours Corporation (EAR&H) buses. I remember they were Leyland buses.
The wages for Africans working on those roads and elsewhere were low but better than nothing if
you needed some money to buy a few things now and then.
Many other Africans earned some money by selling agricultural products, and sometimes handicrafts,
at open markets in villages and sometimes in town. In our case it was in the town of Tukuyu, built on small hills with a majestic
view below and all the way down to Lake Nyasa clearly visible about 34 miles away on the Malawi-Tanzania border.
Some of the people at the market whom I remember vividly were Kikuyu women. They were originally
from Kenya and had, like many other Kenyans, come to Tanganyika to take advantage of the opportunities available to make money
in a country where the indigenous people, including my fellow Nyakyusa in Rungwe District, were supposedly not as aggressive
as the Kenyans were.
The Kenyans were seen as "more enterprising," "more adventurous," and "more
of risk-takers" than Tanganyikans; although all those are relative terms.
Even today, many Tanzanians are apprehensive about their future in the proposed
East African Federation which is supposed to be consummated by 2013 or even later, if at all. They say the federation will
be dominated by Kenyans and Ugandans who are more "aggressive" and better educated.
They also say problems of tribalism and racism, so common in Kenya, Uganda and in Rwanda and Burundi
unlike in Tanzania, will spread to Tanzania and the country will lose the peace and stability it has enjoyed since independence.
When I recall the fifties and early sixties, I can understand why many of my fellow countrymen
feel the way they do in terms of competition between Tanzanians and Kenyans as well as Ugandans in the economic arena, besides
their fear of tribalism and racism becoming major problems in Tanzania - which will be no more - if the countries do indeed
unite to form a supra-nation.
I remember what my mother said more than once in the late fifties and early sixties after she saw
Kikuyu women at the market in Tukuyu when she now and then went into town to but a variety of items. She described them as
very aggressive and determined to make money. They were the first to arrive at the market early in the morning before dawn
to make sure that they had the best spots where they could attract the largest number of customers.
I went to the market myself a few times and I remember seeing them selling beans, rice and other
And what was so good about all this is that there was no hostility towards the Kikuyu on the part
of the Nyakyusa. I don't remember hearing anyone saying these Kikuyus have come all the way from Kenya to Rungwe District,
down here, near the border with Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia to take over our market and steal our customers! It was business
as usual, although many Nyakyusas were outmaneuvred on their own turf, at their own market, in their own town and home district,
by these "strangers" from Kenya.
But some of them may have learnt a thing or two from these Kikuyu women who had mastered the art
of salesmanship and tricks of the trade. However, most of the Nyakyusa women at the market were equally competent and were
a perfect match for the Kikuyu and may even have welcomed the challenge from them to demonstrate their own marketing skills.
The challenge itself was a source of inspiration to others to excel and was therefore a positive thing.
Besides the women and some men selling food and other items at the market in
Tukuyu, there were other Africans - although not many - who worked in that town. My father was one of them. He was assistant
manager at a Shell BP petrol station under a British manager. I remember the manager had a son who was around my age. Whenever
I went to see my father now and then when I was in town for a walk or to buy a few things, I would see the boy there with
It has been more than 40 years since I last bought some items from the Indian
shops in the town of Tukuyu - they were the only ones, except one Somali shop owned by Rajab who knew my father well - but
I still remember some of the owners and the names of those shops, Hirji, Merali, and Makanji which were also said to be the
biggest in town. There were no African shops in Tukuyu in those days.
I remember that some Indian shop owners even spoke Kinyakyusa, the native language of the Nyakyusa
in Rungwe District, and they had good relations with their customers. I also remember seeing and listening to many Nyakyusa
women negotiating with the shop owners over price when they were buying clothes, sugar, cooking oil, kerosene for their lamps
in the villages and other items.
One of the popular items bought by some women was a cotton cloth called mwasungo in
Kinyakyusa. It was black and cheap and the people who bought that were usually very poor. If you bought mwasungo,
people would assume you had nothin'. Some people even made fun of the material. It's sad but it happened.
Hardly any African women worked in the town of Tukuyu except may be a yaya (house maid) here
There were, however, a few men who worked as watchmen staying awake all night long outside Indian
shops with their pangas, in spite of the fact that we never heard of anybody trying to break into the
shops - which were also Indian family residences - even when there were no night watchmen at all at some of the shops.
My father was one of the few men who had a regular job in Tukuyu when he worked as an assistant
manager at the Shell BP petrol station.
I also remember one very small African restaurant near the football field in the town of Tukuyu.
The soccer field was also used by politicians to address mass rallies.
I remember my father took me to that restaurant quite often when we were in town and he knew the
But it was Africans working on road projects, building or repairing roads, who were probably the
most visible people in the labour market of the formal sector besides teachers and other employees.
I saw them working on roads many times in the fifties. And I remember many of them liked to sing
or shout a lot when they worked, repairing or building roads. They worked hard until late in the evening, sometimes until
I also once got into trouble with some of them when we lived in Mbeya. That was between 1954 and
1955 when I was around four and five years old.
I was not yet in school then, although that was not an excuse for what I did. And I remember I
used to play a lot near the road going from Mbeya to Chunya. Our house was very close to the road just on the outskirts of
Mbeya. The town was within walking distance from our house.
Almost everyday I would collect small stones, big enough for my size, and pile them up under a
shrub near the road as I waited for the Bedford PWD lorries to come by. Because I was small, it was easy for me to hide. The
lorries always carried African workers on their way to and from work. As soon as the lorries were getting ready to pass by,
I would throw stones at them, targeting the labourers riding in the back of those lorries. And quite often I scored direct
As soon as I did that, I would duck under the bush. They sometimes saw me but
I would dash back home and the driver never stopped. But one day he did! I remember that very well. The PWD lorry was headed
towards Chunya, without necessarily going that far. It was simply the direction the lorry went.
About two or three of the labourers jumped out of the lorry and came after
me. I couldn't outrun them and they caught me. One of them grabbed my hand. I was so terrified that I thought they were going
to do something bad to me. But my age and size saved me.
I was crying when they grabbed me and they ordered me to take them to my parents. I did, crying
all the way. My mother was there and she gave me a severe tongue lashing in front of them and they let me go.
I expected the worst and would probably have been rewarded with that had my father been there during
that time. He was a strict disciplinarian who regularly administered corporal punishment when we were growing up, especially
in my case and my younger brother Lawrence. But he was at work in town and didn't come back home until in the evening everyday.
I remember he worked for Brooke Bond in those days.
And that was the end of my adventure. I never tossed stones at PWD lorries again for a long time,
although the thrill was not gone.
I think I did it again a couple of times or so much later after that incident. But basically, I
stopped doing it.
That is one of my most memorable experiences when we lived in Mbeya in the fifties besides the
circus I attended in Mbeya town and which I have described elsewhere in the book.
It was also when we lived in Mbeya that I saw a tortoise for the first time. There was a chap who
used to go around showing the tortoise to earn some money. He would somehow coax the tortoise to stick his head out of his
shell and the people would give him a few coins for performing the "trick". He actually did nothing; the tortoise did, and
I believe only when it was ready to do so.
One day he came to our house. It was in the afternoon, on a sunny day, and I was
playing outside. He showed the tortoise to my mother and to my sister Maria and we all, together with my brother Lawrence,
looked at it.
I remember thinking how slow it moved when he put it on the ground. And to me, it looked sad because
of the way it moved. I was simply too young to know that was simply its nature and that's the way it looked.
It was quite an experience and I learnt something from that, especially since that was the first
time that I saw that kind of animal. I had never seen anything like it before. And I remember the day well, in fact very well.
But my favourite pastime even after I started school in Rungwe District was catching grasshoppers
and butterflies. That was after my parents returned to their home district - hence ours as well - and I went there with them
for the first time together with my brother and my two sisters.
None of us was born in Rungwe District, and none of us had been there before. But the rest of my
sisters and my only other brother David were all born in Rungwe District after my parents returned there in the mid-fifties.
I used to play outside a lot and loved catching and feeding grasshoppers, giving them blades of
grass. I treated them as if they were my "cows," and in fact I called them that.
After living in urban areas during the first five years of my life, it was quite a dramatic change
when we finally went to live in the rural areas. And twice, I came perilously close to getting killed because of my adventures.
Before we settled in Kyimbila which is in the highlands of Rungwe District, we lived in Kyela in
the southern part of the district. That was in 1955. Kyela is now a separate district but it was then a part of Rungwe District.
It is mostly lowland, hot and humid and borders Malawi, what was then Nyasaland.
I had not started school when we lived in Kyela and did not enroll in primary school, Kyimbila Primary
School, until we moved to the highlands in the northern part of Rungwe District, what the Nyakyusa in Kyela call Mwamba; the
Nyakyusa in the highlands are also sometimes called Bamwamba by those in Kyela.
Bamwamba in Nyakyusa means those of the highlands or highlanders. And Nyakyusa highlanders call the
Kyela area Ntebela, or lowland, and the people who live down there Bantebela, meaning, of the lowlands or lowlanders.
And it was when we lived in Kyela that I almost got killed when I was playing
outside. We lived in a rural area, a few miles north of the town of Kyela.
I remember there was a mango tree on our land only a few yards from our house. I used to go to
that tree almost everyday to play. And that is where I came face to face with two cobras. I think they were king cobras.
I was 5 years old and did not really know what they were. But I do know and remember very well
that I did not take them seriously.
I also remember that I saw the snakes more than once around that tree, on the ground, and whenever
I saw one or both, I used to throw stones and sticks at them, playing, and they would slither away fast.
One day, I remember one of the snakes stuck its head out of the grass facing me after I threw stones
and sticks at it. That's when I ran back to the house and told my mother what happened; my father was not there during that
And that is when I realized how I came perilously close to getting killed by one of those snakes.
My mother told me I was playing with snakes, extremely dangerous snakes, and would have been killed
had I confronted the one which stuck its head out, no longer afraid of me, if it ever was. It had its head puffed out while
facing me, yet I did not have the slightest idea of what that meant because whenever I threw stones and sticks at the snakes
around that mango tree, they ran away.
From then on, I was forbidden from going to that tree, although I think I went there again just
out of curiosity. But I was more "cautious" than before. Obviously the word caution meant something different to me at that
But, thank God, I managed to get out of there alive and my parents and I, together with my brother
Lawrence and my two sisters Maria and Gwangu, moved to Kyimbila in the northern part of Rungwe District in the highlands where
my parents originally came from.
We settled in Mpumbuli village surrounded by relatives including my grandmother on my father's
side, my aunts, uncles and cousins and felt really at home. All these relatives lived in the area of Kyimbila not far from
Some of them lived right there in Mpumbuli. And it was when we lived there that I started going
to school. I was six years old when I enrolled in standard one at Kyimbila Primary School in 1956, not long after we moved
from Kyela the previous year.
It was also when we lived in Mpumbuli village that I once again came close to losing my life. Our
house was only a few yards - not more than 20 or 30 yards - away from a small river called Lubalisi.
The river goes around our property of a few acres of land, probably not more than five acres since
land is so scarce in densely populated Rungwe District, and serves as a demarcation line separating our land from the property
I used to go to the river everyday, bathing and playing with crabs. It was also an area which was
known to have pythons and other snakes. I never saw a python but I saw many small green snakes on tree branches and guava
trees which grow in abundance in our area.
The guava trees were just wild plants and people in the area cut them down if they had to clear
the land for farming. We ate guavas now and then but we never valued them as food or as a staple item of our diet. They were
simply wild fruits and we plucked them from trees now and then just for fun.
Birds and monkeys valued them more than we did since we had plenty of food including bananas, maize,
sweet potatoes, beans, cabbage and other vegetables in this highly fertile district where we also grow coffee and tea. I helped
harvest coffee on our farm when I was growing up and I remember seeing small green snakes on coffee tree branches as well.
But they were harmless and not aggressive.
I did, however, have a close encounter with one river snake when I was washing my legs in River
Lubalisi one evening. I was standing on a big stone where I stood all the time whenever I went to the river, and was washing
my legs when something just told me instinctively to look in the water behind the stone. And sure enough, there was something
there, a snake, its head straight up moving slowly towards my heel trying to sneak up on me.
As soon as the snake saw me looking at it, it ducked back into the water and disappeared under
the stone. I did not even finish washing my legs and ran back to the house where I did the rest. We had plenty of water stored
in buckets for bathing, after heating it up, using firewood, but it was still a thrill for us, especially boys, to go to the
river and bathe even if we could avoid that and bathe at home.
I don't know what would have happened had I been bitten by that snake. I don't know what kind of
snake it was and whether or not it was poisonous. I just remember that it was a small black snake. If it was highly poisonous,
I would have been in trouble.
Tukuyu Government Hospital was about four miles away. And we had no car. It was not until about
five years later that my father bought a used Land Rover from an African businessman known as Mr. Katule. And even if we had
a car back then, there is no guarantee that the hospital would have been able to save my life had I been bitten by a highly
poisonous snake. I'm not sure it was well-equipped for that with the necessary staff and medicine.
But the worst never happened and so I lived to tell the story. Yet that was not the end of it.
I had another encounter, right on our property, and close to the same river during which I was
severely tested and forced to "mature overnight." I was still under 10 years old.
There was a small shrub on our land right on the bank of the river we passed
by whenever we went to draw some water for various activities around the house. We never drank the water from River Lubalisi
and never used it for cooking. It was not clean. And since we were downstream, the people upstream polluted it even more for
Fortunately, we had fresh, spring water coming straight out of a small high
bank of a small stream - which was itself spring water - only about 50 yards away from our house and next to River Lubalisi
on the other side of the river bank. Also our grandmother on my father's side did not live far from there; may be about 150
yards or so.
My sister Maria (second-born), my brother Lawrence and my sister Gwangu (third- and fourth-born,
respectively, now both dead), and I used to go there almost every day to get some drinking water in different containers.
Although the water was supposed to be clean, our father did not want to take chances and bought
a water filter to make sure that we all drank clean water in the house.
We even went there at night, sometimes, taking chances with creatures of the night we could run
into anytime. But nothing ever happened to us.
But something happened to me at that shrub on the river bank close to our house.
One day when I was playing there, I noticed that there was a big hole under the shrub and was fully
convinced right away that there was a big snake in there; my belief reinforced by what we had heard before that there were
pythons in the area; in fact only a few yards from our house – not more than 50 yards since we lived very close to the
river. Or it could have been some other creature. I was not sure but was still convinced that if anything lived in there,
it had to be a snake.
It was during daytime under the tropical sun. And I had plenty of time to investigate or do whatever
I wanted to do. I came up with an idea that if there was indeed a big snake or some other creature in there, I would be able
to flush it out and see what it was, and fire would do the trick.
So, I collected some dry grass and banana leaves, and a few dry sticks, and piled them up on the
hole. I struck a match and up went the flames. But within seconds, whatever was in that hole put out the fire. I heard some
noise, like loud hissing or a small wind, and saw the ashes and sparks scattered around the shrub as the fire went out.
Until this day, I don't know what it was or how the fire was put out so quickly within seconds
right in front of me. I assumed it was a python in that hole and it put out the fire with a jet of saliva. But I could be
wrong. It could have been a different creature, although I doubt that seriously. I leave that to experts to determine or conclude
whether or not the fire was, most likely, extinguished by saliva from a python or some other kind of large snake.
But that was not the end of my close encounter with nature in Mpumbuli village in the fifties when
I was growing up.
On another day, my father and I were going back home from my grandmother's - his mother's - house
on the other side of River Lubalisi about 150 yards away from our house. It was night time and as we got to the bank of the
river getting ready to cross, I saw an animal sitting on the left hand side very close to where we got our spring water.
My father also glanced at the animal but didn't say anything. I didn't either. After we crossed
the river and had climbed up a small hill leading to our house and were only only a few yards away, may be 50 yards or so
before we reached home, my father said the animal we just saw was a leopard!
And he made the right decision not to tell me that when we were crossing the river. I probably
would have panicked. I don't know if the leopard would have attacked us or not had I screamed or made some other kind of noise.
But it's possible any commotion could have been misinterpreted by the leopard as an attack on it, triggering an attack on
It was also at the same crossing on another night when I was going back home that I heard some
noise in the bushes on the opposite bank. It was loud as if something big was slithering towards the river. And it was indeed.
I was sure it was a python! Nothing slithers like that unless it is a snake. And if it's snake, it's a big one. And if it's
a big one, it's a python, especially in that area. The conclusion was obvious to me, since there were pythons in the area.
As I was getting to cross the river, I heard some loud splashing and as if something big was wiggling
in the water like as huge snake. And I was right. After it crossed the river, I heard it slithering and going into the bushes
on the same side of the bank where I was when I was getting ready to cross. And I still remember the noise. The creature slithered
like a huge snake. It could not have been but that. And I believe it was a python.
Miraculously, in all the years I lived in Mpumbuli village, eight years altogether
before I went to boarding school at the age of 13, I never heard of anyone or any animal being eaten by a python. We had two
cows and I took them grazing a few times but nothing happened.
And one of my uncles, Chonde Mwambapa who was one of my mother's elder brothers
(she's the youngest), once gave me a small pig as gift when I was about seven or eight years old.
It was in the evening when he gave me the pig at his house and I had to take it home with me about
a mile-and-a-half away, going down a hill, crossing a stream, climbing up another hill, crossing the Tukuyu-Kyela road, then
going down another and finally crossing River Lubalisi and climbing yet another hill to get to our house.
I also had to go through some bushes on the way home from my uncle's house. Yet nothing happened,
although the pig made a lot of noise almost all the way.
That's in an area where there were supposed to be some pythons. None of them may have been hungry
but if there were any in that area during that time, they would have heard the pig squealing. And pythons are known to have
a keen sense of hearing. Some experts say they can detect the slightest movement a hundred yards away.
The worst incident I knew of involved our dog, Jack, a German shepherd, who was almost killed near
the bank of the same river at the south-end of our property.
Our father went looking for the dog along the river bank on our land and when he found him he noticed
that the dog couldn't walk well.
We never found out what happened to Jack but our father suspected that a python might have tried
to kill the dog. But that was only speculation and it probably wasn't the case since it takes only a few seconds for a python
to wrap around its prey and squeeze it to death once it gets hold of it.
Those are some of the most memorable events in my life when I was growing up in Mpumbuli village
in Kyimbila and which were in sharp contrast with what I experienced during the first five years of my life in Kigoma, Ujiji,
Morogoro, and Mbeya where we lived in urban areas.
I had other experiences, of course, in the mid- and late fifties; for example, when our headmaster
at Kyimbila Primary School who was also married to my mother's first cousin sent all the boys in the school down the valley
near our school to hunt.
The Nyakyusa don't do that to boys - working hard on the farm is manly enough - but in his own
peculiar way, what he did to us was probably a form of initiation into manhood he felt, rightly or wrongly, that we needed!
But he opened another window for us into the world since he was the one who taught us geography
at Kyimbila Primary School.
I remember well that it was when I was in standard four at Kyimbila Primary School in 1959 that
our headmaster taught us about African countries, including the names of some leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Nnamdi Azikiwe
and Jomo Kenyatta besides Julius Nyerere. And I still remember the map he used in class, although I don't have vivid memory
of everything he taught us in geography.
But I remember that the map he used, and obviously the one that was most current in those days,
had a only few huge patches, some red, some green and I think others beige, orange or yellow.
I remember two distinctly. One was green and covered most of West Africa and was labelled French
West Africa. The other one was red and was labelled British, although I'm not sure it said British East Africa.
But I remember that all the colonial territories had names - Kenya Colony, Uganda Protectorate,
Tanganyika Trust or Trusteeship Territory or simply Tanganyika Territory, Zanzibar Protectorate in our East African region
- and some of them were identified by their colonial rulers; for example, British and French Somaliland, Portuguese Guinea,
and so forth.
So, while I lived in a village, my school attendance at Kyimbila Primary School and later at Mpuguso
Middle School which was a boarding school about three miles south from our house - and which was almost perfect attendance
- opened my eyes to the rest of the world I had never known before. But it was formal education complemented by my firsthand
knowledge of rural life in Rungwe District after we left Mbeya in 1955. It was a dramatic change in my life starting with
a transition from urban to rural life in those days in the fifties and it left an indelible mark on my mind.
All this dramatic transformation in my life took place in what was then the
Southern Highlands Province when I finally went to live a typical African way of life in a village where I also learnt Kinyakyusa,
my "tribal" language, for the first time. I had learnt some earlier, listening to my parents and other relatives we had in
Mbeya including my aunt, my mother's eldest sister (she died in 1993 at the age of 102), and her children but not enough.
Up until then, I spoke Kiswahili. And my playmates in Morogoro, who were not
Nyakyusa, also spoke Kiswahili. But all that changed when we moved from Morogoro to Mbeya in the Southern Hilghlands Province.
And it is a province that I will always remember, and always cherish, the way it was back then.
The province was under a British provincial commissioner, called PC. The town of Mbeya was the
provincial capital, where my parents and I together with my siblings lived on the outskirts in the early and mid-fifties before
we moved to Rungwe district, about four miles south of the town of Tukuyu, which is 45 miles south of Mbeya.
During those days of colonial rule, Tanganyika was divided into seven provinces: The Southern Highlands
Province, the Southern Province, the Central Province, the Western Province, the Lake Province, the Coast Province, and the
Northern Province. After independence, the Southern Highlands was divided into Mbeya Region and Iringa Region; so were the
rest, also broken down into smaller regional administrative units called Regions.
I also remember that the fifties were a period when many people from Tanganyika went to work in
the mines in South Africa. Some of them came from my area of Kyimbila which has several villages including Mpumbuli, my home
village, about four miles from the town of Tukuyu. One of the people who went to work in the mines in South Africa was my
cousin Daudi who lived in a different part of Rungwe District several miles away from Kyimbila.
Coincidentally, Daudi's father William, my father's elder brother, migrated
to South Africa in the mid- or late forties never to be heard from again, except once or twice when he wrote my father back
then not long after he settled in South Africa. Until this day, we don't know what happened to him or if he got married again
and had another family in South Africa. If he did, we will probably never know about that.
Although I was under 10 years old in the fifties, I remember that the people
who went to work in the mines were flown from Mbeya to South Africa. I remember talking to some of those who came back, including
my cousin Daudi, and asking them about South Africa.
They had plenty of stories to tell about the City of Gold and how big it was. They also told us
stories about the fights they had in the mines with people of other ethnic groups. The Nyakyusa, the people of my ethnic group,
had a reputation on the mine compounds as fierce fighters. I heard the same story about twenty years later in the seventies
when I came to the United States.
One of the people who stayed with me and other African students in Detroit, Michigan, in the United
States in the seventies was Ndiko, a South African; I don't know if he spelt his name as Ndiko or Ndhiko.
He was with us for only a few weeks and I remember that when I told him that I was a Nyakyusa,
he got excited and started telling me how tough the Nyakyusa were as fighters in South Africa; a spirit which, I believe,
can partly be attributed to ethnocentric tendencies common among many groups whose members think, wrongly, that they are better
than others as fighters and probably in many other ways, although not everybody believes that. I am one of those who don't.
Anyway, Ndiko (or Ndhiko), also had a relative, Lindiwe Pettiford, who taught at Ohio University
in Athens, Ohio, and when he and I went to visit her in 1974, she said the same thing about the reputation of the Nyakyusa
as fierce fighters on the mine compounds in South Africa. I also remember she tried to help me get a scholarship from Ohio
University but I returned to Detroit where I graduated from Wayne State University.
I was then relatively new in the United States and moved from New York to Detroit towards the end
of December 1972. I stayed in New York for about two months with a relative-in-law, Weidi Mwasakafyuka, who was with the Tanzania
Mission to the UN. He later served as Tanzania's ambassador to France in the 1980s.
He was the only person I knew when I first landed on American
soil. I left Dar es Salaam on November 3rd and arrived in New York the next day. I went straight to Greensboro, North Carolina, before
going back to New York. I stayed in Greensboro for only a few days.
Coincidentally, Weidi also came from Mpumbuli village, my home village in Kyimbila
in Rungwe District, and was the second person from our village to go to school in the United States. He graduated from the
University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) and from Carleton University in Canada in the sixties. He did his postgraduate
studies at Carleton.
I was the third from our village to go to school in the United States. The
first one was Henry Mwakyoma, a cousin on my mother's side, who graduated from the University of Virginia where he first went
in the late fifties.
I remember when he came back to Tanganyika, he used to come to our house and tell us stories about
life in the United States. He was one of the first people who inspired me to go to school in America. And he remains one of
the people whom I remember the most from the fifties.
Unfortunately, Henry died many years ago in the 1970s, a victim of a brutal attack by thugs in
Mbeya who literally beat him to death, according to reports I got from relatives when I was in the United States. He happened
to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in that town. Times had really changed through the years. Those kind of attacks
and crimes were unheard of in Tanganyika in the fifties.
The fifties were without question some of the most important years of my life. They were my formative
years as much as the sixties were. And I remember listening to many inspiring stories which helped to enlarge my mental horizon
at such an early age. And they have remained a source of inspiration throughout my life. My father was one of the people who
liked to tell stories about hard work and success in life and played a critical role in shaping my personality when I was
I also remember hearing stories of valour about the Nyakyusa during my time and
in the past including their successful campaigns against the Ngoni in the 1830s, '40s and '50s when the Ngoni tried to invade
and penetrate Nyakyusaland. The Nyakyusa also successfully repelled the Sangu who invaded our district in the 1870s and 1880s
from neighbouring Usangu in Mbeya District. Like the Nyakyusa, the Sangu had a quite a reputation as fierce fighters. But
they were no match for the Nyakyusa who stopped their incursions into Nyakyusaland.
The few white missionaries who settled in Rungwe District also tried to intervene and act as mediators
in the conflicts not only between the Nyakyusa and the Sangu but also between the Nyakyusa and the Safwa, then the largest
ethnic group in Mbeya District until they were later outnumbered by the Nyakyusa. They also played a mediating role in other
conflicts including intra-tribal (or intra-ethnic) disputes but not always successfully.
But, besides the Nyakyusa, it was the Ngoni whom I remember the most for their reputation as fighters
mainly because I interacted with them in the sixties. Their legendary reputation as fighters sent a chill down the spine and
many of their neighbours were afraid of them, except a few like the Nyakyusa, and the Hehe who, under their leader Chief Mkwawa,
once defeated the Germans.
Originally from Natal Province in South Africa, the Ngoni settled in Songea District in southern Tanganyika,
as well as in Sumbawanga in the western part of the country where they came to be known as the Fipa, which is their ethnic
name and identity even today. They had a reputation as fierce fighters even in South Africa itself before they left during
the imfecane in the 1820s and '30s headed north, finally settling in what is now Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.
Some of them even went to Congo after going through Tanganyika.
I went to Songea Secondary School which was a boarding school in Songea District, the home district
of the Ngoni, in southern Tanzania and talked to many Ngonis including some who were old enough to be my parents when I was
in my teens back then in the sixties. Almost without exception, they all recalled the stories they were told by their elders
when they were growing up on how the Nyakyusa and the Ngoni fought when the Ngoni tried to invade and conquer Nyakyusaland,
to no avail.
They told me that the Nyakyusa ni watani wetu, a Swahili expression meaning they are our friends and we
tell jokes about each other. Many of those "jokes" have to do with how hard the Nyakyusa fought to repel the Ngoni invaders
after the Ngoni failed to steal Nyakyusa cows and women!
Some of the Ngoni also went to work in the mines in South Africa - where they
originally came from - but not in significant numbers as the Nyakyusa and other people from the Southern Highlands did, especially
from Rungwe and Mbeya Districts in a region bordering what was then Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia.
Northern Rhodesia itself attracted many mine workers from my region and many of them settled in
that country. Even today, you will find many Nyakyusas who settled in Kitwe and other parts of the Copperbelt many years ago
after they went to work there in the mines. For example, in 1954 the Nyakyusa in Kitwe formed an organisation to preserve,
protect and promote their interests as a collective entity.
The Lozi, members of another ethnic group from Baraotseland or Barotse Province and one of the
largest in Zambia, also formed their own organisation around the same time, as did others and some even before then including
the Ngoni. And they were all cited as examples of ethnic solidarity among the mine workers in Kitwe and other parts of the
Copperbelt in Northern Rhodesia. The Nyakyusa presence in what is now Zambia is still strong even today.
In fact, one of my mother's first cousins who was older than my mother emigrated from Tanganyika
to Northern Rhodesia as a young man in the early 1940s. He was the son of my mother's uncle Asegelile Mwankemwa who was the
pastor of our church, Kyimbila Moravian Church at Kyimbila in Rungwe District. He also lived in South Africa for a number
of years before returning to Northern Rhodesia where he eventually became a high government official after the country won
independence as Zambia.
He returned to Tanzania in the 1990s to spend his last days in the land of his birth. Tragically,
he had forgotten Kinyakyusa and did not know Kiswahili after so many years of absence from Tanganyika, later Tanzania, and
could communicate only in English and Bemba, one of the major languages in Zambia. All his children were also born and brought
up in Northern Rhodesia.
And he was just one of the many people from my district who migrated to Northern Rhodesia and even
some of them to South Africa. Jobs in the mines in both countries was the biggest attraction, encouraging many Tanganyikans
to go there in those days.
The town of Mbeya was their main departure point heading south and was the largest town in the
region. It was also the capital of the Southern Highlands Province when I was growing up.
The people who had been recruited to work in the mines in South Africa boarded planes called WENELA.
I remember that name very well because I heard it all the time when I was growing up in the fifties. The people would say
so-and-so has gone to Wenela, meaning to work in the mines in South Africa. The term became an integral part of our vocabulary
in the 1950s, probably as much as it was even before then among the Nyakyusa and others.
The name WENELA was an acronym for the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association which was responsible
for the recruitment of cheap labour among Africans in neighbouring countries including Tanganyika to work in the mines in
South Africa. They were sometimes recruited to work in other sectors of the economy but primarily in the mines.
Many of the people who were recruited in Tanganyika were flown down there unlike, for example,
those from Basutoland (now Lesotho) or Bechuanaland (now Botswana) who, because of their proximity to South Africa, were transported
But many people from Tanganyika were also transported by road from Mbeya in
the Southern Highlands to Broken Hill in Northern Rhodesia. And from there they were taken to Mungu in Barotseland, the western
province of Northern Rhodesia, and then flown to Francistown in Bechuanaland; and finally transported by railway to Johannesburg.
Working in the mines was hard labour, with little pay. But it was still something
for people who virtually had nothing in terms of money. That's why they were drawn down there.
I remember my cousin Daudi worked for three years in the mines in Johannesburg. But when he came
back to Tanganyika, he hardly had anything besides a wooden box he used as a "suitcase" - and which was the only popular and
common "suitcase" among many Africans in those days - and may be a couple of shirts, two pairs of trousers, and a simple pair
of shoes he wore when he returned home. In fact, he came straight to our village, from Johannesburg, to live with us.
My father was also his father, and the only one had, since his own biological father migrated to
South Africa. His father left behind two children, Daudi himself, and his only sister, Esther, who was also younger than Daudi.
Tragically, she died only a few years after Daudi returned from South Africa.
He went to South Africa to earn some money, yet returned hardly with any. It was hard life not
only for him but for most Africans who went to work in the mines and even for those who remained in the villages.
In general the people were not starving in Tanganyika in the fifties. There was plenty of food
especially in fertile regions such as the Southern Highlands where I come from. And my home district of Rungwe is one of the
most fertile in the entire East Africa and on the whole continent. Almost anything, any kind of food, grows there: from bananas
to sweet potatoes, groundnuts to beans, and all kinds of fruits and vegetables, besides cash crops such as coffee and tea,
and much more.
But the people were poor in terms of financial resources. They had very little money. And that
is why some of them went all the way to South Africa and to neighbouring Northern Rhodesia to work in the mines.
Some of them also ended up in Katanga Province, in the Congo, which is about 300 miles west from
my home region of Mbeya. With all its minerals as the treasure trove of Congo, Katanga Province was another prime destination
for job seekers from neighbouring countries who were looking for jobs in the mines.
The Nyakyusa from my home district were some of the people who ended up there. For example, I vividly
remember a photograph of a Nyakyusa family published in the Daily
News, Dar es Salaam, when I worked there as a news
reporter in the early seventies.
They had lived in Congo for about 40 years but were expelled from the country and forced to return
to Tanzania in what seemed to be a xenophobic campaign fuelled by anti-foreign sentiments in spite of the fact that members
of this family, as well as many others, had lived in Congo for decades and their children were born and brought up there.
Therefore there was quite a contrast in terms of living standards between Africans and Europeans
as well as between Africans and Asians; also between Africans and Arabs. Africans were the poorest. But there was no hostility,
at least not overt, on the part of Africans towards whites and others in spite of such disparity in living standards; not
to the extent that the social order was threatened in a way that could have led to chaos in the country.
For me as a child growing up, life was good as much as it was for many other youngsters. Our parents
took care of us. I was never hungry. I always had clothes, although not shoes all the time. My father even gave me pocket
money to buy sweets, soft drinks such as Fanta, Sprite and Coca Cola; cake and other delicacies as well as other things I
wanted to buy including marbles we boys used to play a game called goroli in Kiswahili. It was one of
my favourite games.
And for the colonial rulers as well as other whites, life was much better than ours in many respects.
They usually had a lot more money than we did; and they had many things we didn't have.
There are also some things I remember about the kind of relationship some of us had with them as
There is one thing in particular which always comes to mind when I recall those
days as a young boy in Rungwe District in the 1950s and how I saw whites.
I remember British men and women playing golf and tennis in Tukuyu, the administrative
capital of Rungwe district, four miles from our home village and about 30 miles from the Tanzania-Malawi border. Many of them
were friendly and they used to give us tennis balls now and then when we passed through the golf course. Quite a few of them
came from as far away as Mbeya, the provincial capital, 45 miles north of Tukuyu, and some even from neighboring Northern
Rhodesia, now Zambia.
I was, of course, too young then to know what was going on in terms of colonial domination, or
what it meant to be ruled by the British or Europeans in general. But I do remember that whenever we saw them, they seemed
to be very happy and satisfied with their lives, which were made much easier by African servants in almost every European
household. It was unthinkable not to have one, since they all could afford it. African servants provided cheap labour.
But Africans also needed the money and they were glad to have jobs as house maids and as house
boys or as farm workers working for Europeans. They also, the men especially, had to have a way to earn some money in order
to pay taxes. Otherwise they would be in serious trouble with the colonial authorities. And like in every other country, there
were those who simply did not want to pay taxes even if you told them, and could prove to them, that the money would be used
to help them as well.
Europeans were in full control and the colonial authorities had no interest in
sharing power with Africans, Asians or Arabs on equal basis as equal citizens of the same country. Yet there were whites who
worked with Africans and other non-whites for the benefit of all. Therefore it would be a mistake to say that there were no
whites in Tanganyika or in other parts of Africa who were interested in the well-being of Africans.
In fact, many of them were Africans themselves as citizens of African countries. Or they considered
themselves to be Africans because they were born and brought up in Africa even if they retained British citizenship or that
of any other European country. And when some of them had to leave for different reasons, they were sad they had to go, leaving
a country or countries they knew as their home.
In spite of all that, there are still millions of white Africans in Africa, mostly in South Africa,
about five million of them. And there are tens of thousands of others elsewhere in different countries on the continent. Their
identity as Africans and allegiance to Africa inspired coinage of the term "white tribes" of Africa.
But there were some who were die-hard colonialists and had no intention of sharing power or identifying
with non-whites - black Africans, Asians and Arabs - as fellow Africans. They were the ones who were opposed to independence
in spite of the fact that there were whites who supported the nationalist aspirations of the Africans in their quest for independence
or simply acknowledged the fact that independence would come some day whether they liked it or not.
As we saw earlier, in Tanganyika, some British settlers formed the United Tanganyika Party, known
as UTP, to stem the nationalist tide that started to sweep across the country. But in spite of the differences they had with
those who felt that Tanganyika should be a truly multiracial society ruled on democratic basis, there was no bitterness or
hostility between the two sides which characterized race relations in some parts of Africa.
Leaders such as Julius Nyerere, Derek Bryceson, Amir Jamal who was of Indian descent, Dr. Leader
Sterling and their colleagues argued that the future of Tanganyika as a nation and as a united country could not be guaranteed
without racial equality.
And when some African members of TANU argued that people of other races should
not be allowed to join the party or become citizens of Tanganyika after the country won independence, Nyerere made it clear
that he would resign as a leader; a threat which brought others back in line to conform to the wishes of the majority of the
TANU members who were committed to the creation of a truly non-racial society in which no one would be denied equal rights
as explained by Nyerere and others during the campaign for independence.
Unlike West Africa, East Africa attracted a large number of white settlers
for different reasons. One of the main reasons was climate. Another one was the fact that the largest number of British colonies
in Africa were in East, Central and southern Africa; which partly explains why a significant number of British settlers ended
up in that part of the continent.
The largest number of the white settlers in Tanganyika and other parts of East Africa were not
colonial administrators or rulers but ordinary citizens who simply wanted to live in Africa. Others went there because they
had been offered jobs. Yet others felt that there was great potential for employment and economic development in different
fields in those countries.
One of the areas in which British settlers in East Africa became deeply involved was commercial
farming. East Africa is endowed with an abundance of fertile land, much of it at high altitude with a cooler climate, although
still tropical. But it somewhat reminded the Europeans of the temperate climate back home in Europe, at temperatures they
were comfortable with, and many of them came to settle in this region.
Much of East Africa is, of course, also hot, in fact very hot; for example along the coast, in
the lowlands and in other parts of the region. But it also has more arable land, at higher altitudes, than West Africa does.
For example, in an area where I come from called Kyimbila, there is a large tea estate called Kyimbila Tea Estate stretching
for miles; we also grow a lot of coffee in our district.
The area of Kyimbila, including my home village of Mpumbuli, also has many pine trees. We even
have some on our family property. These are the kind of trees which grow in temperate zones or in a cool climate.
Kyimbila Tea Estate is one of the largest tea estates in Tanzania, indeed in the whole of East Africa,
and was originally established by the Germans. In fact, there was a German settlement at Kyimbila, about a mile and a half
from our house, when the Germans ruled Tanganyika as Deutsch
Ostafrika (German East Africa), and built a large
church there, called Kyimbila Moravian Church.
There is also a large grave yard at Kyimbila where Germans are buried; I remember
reading the headstones showing the deceased were born in the 1800s; they were born in Germany. After the Germans lost World
War I, the British took over the tea estate.
When the British ran the tea estate when I was growing up, they always had
a British manager who lived on the premises. I also vividly remember one tragic incident that happened in 1956 when I was
in standard one, what Americans call the first grade.
I was six years old then, and my schoolmates and I used to take a short-cut, walking past the manager's
residence, going to Kyimbila Primary School about two miles from our house. I was the youngest in the group.
Everyday we went by, his dogs, a German shepherd and a Dalmatian, used to bark at us. They were
not always tied, so quite often they used to chase us before being called back by their master or by his African servant who
washed clothes and cooked for the British couple and cleaned up the house.
One morning on our way to school, both dogs were loose and they started chasing us. Although I
was a fast runner, in fact a sprinter even at my tender age, my friends outran me that day. One of them was James Mwakisyala
the closest neighbour I had in Mpumbuli village. His parents' house was only about 40 or 50 yards away from our house.
He was, and still is, a relative by marriage. His uncle, Brown Ngwilulupi who was also the elder
brother of Weidi Mwasakafyuka whom I mentioned earlier, was married to my mother's first cousin, the daughter of the pastor
of Kyimbila Moravian Church, Asegelile Mwankemwa. Both Brown and Weidi are now dead. So is my great uncle Asegelile Mwankemwa.
James and I were very close when we were growing up. Years later in the seventies, he went to Carleton
University in Ottawa, Canada, around the same time I went to Wayne State University in Detroit in the United States and we
used to talk on the telephone quite often. He later became bureau chief of The East African in
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The East African, a weekly paper, is based in Nairobi, Kenya, and is a sister publication of the
And among all the pupils from Mpumbuli village and elsewhere who went to Kyimbila Primary School,
he was also closest to me in age; he's only two years older than I am. We were also the same size in terms of physical stature.
And both of us were small and slim. But he also outran me on that day which I vividly remember as if it was only yesterday
because of what happened to me.
As the dogs kept on chasing us, I turned and looked back and knew I was not going to make it. So
I dove under the tea shrubs, to my right, to take cover. The German shepherd went past me and kept on chasing the other children.
But the Dalmatian saw me where I was hiding and came right under the bush and bit me on my right knee. I still bear a large
scar on my knee more than 50 years later.
I almost lost my leg, and my life, on that day and came perilously closing to meeting the same
fate on other occasions when we were being chased by the dogs. But something good came out of that. We all learnt to run faster,
and longer. And quite often we took a detour on our way to school and back home to avoid the dogs.
Another incident I vividly remember had to do with my father when he worked as an assistant manager
at a Shell BP station in the town of Tukuyu about four miles from our home in Mpumbuli village. He sometimes used to take
lunch to work and one day he was told by the British manager of the petrol station that he could not put his lunch on the
table used by the manager; it was chapati my mother had cooked for him on that day. I remember that very well.
My father was very bitter about the incident and told us what happened when he came back home that
evening. That was around 1958 or 1959. My father, having secondary school education, was one of the few people in the area
who knew English. And that was one of the reasons why he was hired as the assistant manager at the petrol station. He went
to Malangali Secondary School in Iringa district in the Southern Highlands Province, one of the best schools in colonial Tanganyika
and even after independence.
Before going back to Tukuyu, he worked as a medical assistant in many parts of Tanganyika - in
Muheza, Tanga, Handeni, Amani, Kilosa, Morogoro - including the town of Kigoma, in western Tanganyika, where I was born.
He was trained as a medical assistant in the mid-1940s at Muhimbili National Hospital (then known
as Sewa Haji and later Princess Margaret Hospital) in Dar es Salaam during British colonial rule.
He excelled in school and was supposed to go to Tabora Secondary School for further education in
standard 11 and standard 12 after completing standard 10 at Malangali Secondary School but couldn't go further because of
family obligations, forcing him to seek employment early.
One of his classmates at Muhimbili National Hospital was Austin Shaba who,
after completing his studies, went to Tukuyu to work as a medical assistant, and later became minister of local government
in the first independence cabinet under President Nyerere. I remember my father saying Austin - they knew each other well
- encouraged him to go into politics but he refused to do so.
Another classmate of my father at Malangali Secondary School who also went
into politics was Jeremiah Kasambala. The son of a chief, he also became a cabinet member under President Nyerere and served
as minister of agriculture and cooperatives in the first independence cabinet.
He came from the area of Mpuguso where I attended middle school in Rungwe District. He and my father
had known each other for years and he equally encouraged him to pursue a career in politics. But, again, my father refused
to do so although he was interested in politics and kept up with what was going on in Tanganyika and elsewhere.
Considering my father's experience
with the British colonial rulers and the indignities he was subjected to, including the incident at the Shell BP petrol station
in Tukuyu in the late fifties, it was a miracle he didn't go into politics right away. But that was not his calling.
Still, those are the kind of incidents, and insults, which turn people into militants and revolutionaries
as would have the dog incident in my case had I been an adult when I was bitten by that Dalmatian back in 1956. Had there
been a Mau Mau in Tanganyika, I definitely would have supported it, fully, at the very least.
My father listened to the BBC in English and Kiswahili everyday. And he had profound influence
I also started listening to the BBC at a very young age in the fifties when I was under ten years
old. I did not know English then, so I listened to the Swahili Service on the BBC and on TBC (Tanganyika Broadcasting Corporation)
broadcast from Dar es Salaam more than 300 miles away.
And to make sure that I was paying attention, my father would sometimes walk away from the radio
and then ask me later to give him a summary of the news. I already had a good memory and this exercise only helped improve
I also remember the kind of shortwave radio we had. It was Philips, with an external antennae stretched
out and attached to a pole, sometimes a dry bamboo tree, outside the house. All this reminds of the simpler life many people
had in Tanganyika in the fifties. It had its inconveniences, and quite a few of them for Africans because of poverty, but
It was also during the fifties that the campaign for independence in Tanganyika began in earnest.
Like in most parts of Africa, it was a non-violent campaign unlike in neighbouring Kenya where it became violent during Mau
Mau. Although I was very young when Mau Mau was going on, I remember seeing pictures of Mau Mau fighters in some newspapers
published in Kiswahili. The most vivid image I still have of these fighters was their hair style, what they call dreadlocks
The main Kiswahili papers during those days were Mambo Leo and Mwafrika. And I remember others: Ngurumo, Mwangaza and Baragumu. Although Baragumu
published in Kiswahili, it was not sympathetic to the nationalist cause articulated by TANU during the struggle for independence.
It was, instead, used by the United Tanganyika Party (UTP) to promote its agenda among Africans by telling them that the country
was not ready for independence and that supporting TANU would not serve their interests.
UTP was founded in February 1956 with the encouragement of Governor Sir Edward
Twining as a counterweight to TANU in order to maintain the privileged status of the white minority settlers and was one of
the three main political parties in Tanganyika before independence. It supported a multi-racial constitution but rejected
universal suffrage without which genuine democratic representation is impossible.
The other party was the radical African National Congress (ANC) formed by Zuberi Mtemvu in 1958.
Mtemvu and his supporters broke away from TANU because they were highly critical of Nyerere's moderate policies advocating
equality for all Tanganyikans regardless of race.
The ANC argued that the interests of Africans were paramount even if it meant sacrificing the interests
and well-being of whites, Asians and Arabs. Nyerere was resolutely opposed to that and won overwhelming support from the vast
majority of the people in Tanganyika for his policies of racial tolerance and equality.
One of the organs he used to articulate his views was a Kiswahili newspaper, Sauti Ya TANU (Voice of TANU) founded in 1957. He edited the paper himself.
The main English newspaper was the Tanganyika Standard, the oldest English newspaper
in the country founded in 1930. And it had a lot to do with my life only a few years later.
The future was never meant for us to see, and had someone told me back then in the late 1950s that
my life would somehow be influenced by that English newspaper, I would not have believed it even at such a tender age.
But that is exactly what happened. About 10 years later, I joined the editorial staff of the Standard
in Dar es Salaam. I was first hired as a new reporter in June 1969 when I was still a student at Tambaza High School, formerly
H.H. The Aga Khan, in Dar es Salaam. I was 19 years old and the youngest reporter on the staff. I was hired by David Martin,
the news editor, and Brendon Grimshaw, the managing editor.
After completing Form VI, I joined the National Service which was mandatory for all those who finished
secondary school and high school. After National Service, I worked briefly at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
in Dar es Salaam as an information officer before returning to the Standard which was renamed the Daily News after it was nationalized in 1970.
And in November 1972, my editor Benjamin Mkapa, whom we simply called Ben Mkapa, helped me to go
to school in the United States for further education. My trip was financed by the newspaper. They bought me a plane ticket
and gave me a travelling allowance.
Years later, Mkapa was elected president of Tanzania and served two five-year terms.
Had I not joined the Standard as a news reporter, I may not have gone to school in the United States. And you
probably would not be reading this book or any of the others I have written.
Although the Standard was a colonial newspaper in the fifties and articulated the sentiments of the
white settler community and defended colonial policies, it provided ample coverage of political events during the struggle
for independence even if such coverage was not always balanced and quite often reflected official thinking of the colonial
I remember when I was a news reporter at the Standard before it was nationalized in 1970, our rivals at the militant newspaper,
The Nationalist which was the official organ of the ruling
party TANU, used to publish stories, editorials and feature articles in which they said we worked for "an imperialist newspaper"
and sometimes even called us "imperialist agents"!
We simply ignored them, and even laughed at them, whenever we came face-to-face
covering the same events. There was no hostility between us. They were simply articulating the ideological position of the
ruling party which owned the paper they worked for.
And although the Standard defended white minority interests during colonial rule, it did not ignore what
was going on in those days, even if it wanted to, and the leading African nationalist during that time, Julius Nyerere, had
his views published in the paper many times, although not always the way he had articulated them. There was usually a slant
in favour of the colonial government, since the paper was its organ even if not officially so.
And as a moderate who was also committed to building a multiracial society,
Nyerere was seen as a responsible leader who was not a threat to the interests of racial minorities in the country. He also
sought to achieve his goals by constitutional means. Therefore ignoring him, or refusing to report what he said at public
rallies and in interviews would have been counterproductive and not in the best interests of the white settlers.
Although Nyerere was committed to non-violence to achieve independence,
he could not guarantee that some of the people in Tanganyika would not resort to violence as some, especially the Kikuyu,
did in neighbouring Kenya. As Robert A. Senser, an American journalist and editor of Human Rights for Workers, recalled what Nyerere told him when they met in the United
States in 1957 in his article, "Remembering A Visitor from Tanganyika," published in Human Rights for Workers: Bulletin No. IV-22, December 1, 1999, not long after Nyerere
The other day Ed Marciniak,
once a Chicago colleague of mine in editing a monthly called Work, mailed me the obituary of Julius Nyerere, president of Tanzania from 1964 to
Stapled to the clipping was a note from Ed saying: "I still remember your interview with him in Work."
After all these years, I also remember that interview one evening 42 years ago, when Nyerere had
dinner with my wife and me in our small apartment on Chicago's South Side.
Nyerere, 35, then president of a political party in a British colony in East Africa called Tanganyika,
had just come from London, where the British colonial secretary had rejected his case for Britain loosening its hold on the
"It's a tragic state of affairs," Nyerere told me, "because the British government has an attitude
that in effect says, 'There's no trouble in Tanganyika--no Mau Mau there or anything of that sort. So why bother with it?"
That quotation is from a yellowed clipping in an old scrapbook of mine--a page one article in the
January 1957 issue of Work.
Its headline, based on Nyerere's prediction, was: "Africa: Free in 30 Years."
As I wrote my article, Nyerere quickly added that the prediction "sounds absurd to many, especially
to the white settlers in Tanganyika."
History Can Outpace Human Expectations
In fact, of course, freedom came much quicker than even Nyerere expected. In 1962, only five years
after we spoke, Nyerere, head of the Tanganyika African National Union, became Prime Minister of the newly independent Tanganyika
and then, three years later, after his country's union with nearby Zanzibar, President of the new state of Tanzania. He retired
voluntarily in 1985.
In the article I mentioned Nyerere's early career as a teacher in a Catholic secondary school in Dar
es Salaam, the capital, before he started devoting full time to politics. The obituary, from the London Tablet, emphasizes that throughout his adult life Nyerere "never ceased to be a teacher by temperament, mission, and
title: he was always Mwalimu." After citing his political successes and failures, and his many talents (he translated two
Shakespeare plays into Swahili), the article concludes with this tribute:
"It is, nevertheless, Nyerere's moral example which made him so exceptional, the image of a President
standing patiently in a queue waiting to make his confession at the cathedral in Dar: a humble, intellectually open and ascetic
teacher, the true Mwalimu. Unlike almost all the other successful political leaders of his generation in Africa, he was uncorrupted
either by power or wealth....Gentle, humorous, radical, persistent, he remained the icon of a truly ecumenical Christian approach
to politics and human development."
Although Tanganyika won independence and was therefore no longer under British colonial rule, not
everything changed overnight.
There were some whites who did not accept the change and refused to treat black Africans and other
non-whites as equals even in public places. They were a minority but they did exist.
Andrew Nyerere, the eldest son of President Julius Nyerere and my schoolmate at Tambaza High School
in Dar es Salaam from 1969 to 1970, told me about one such incident when I was writing a book, Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era: Expanded Edition,
after I contacted him to find out if he had something
to say that I could add to the book. As he stated in his letter in 2003:
As you remember, Sheikh Amri Abeid was the first mayor of Dar es Salaam. Soon after independence,
the mayor went to Palm Beach Hotel (near our high school, Tambaza, in Upanga). There was a sign at the hotel which clearly
stated: 'No Africans and dogs allowed inside.' He was blocked from entering the hotel, and said in protest, 'But I am the
Mayor.' Still he was told, 'You will not get in.'
Shortly thereafter, the owner of the hotel was given 48 hours to leave the country. When the nationalization
exercise began (in 1967), that hotel was the first to be nationalized.
These incidents demonstrate,
in a very tragic way, how vulnerable and helpless we were at the hands of our colonial masters. They also demonstrate the
utter futility in trying to seek justice under a judicial system that did not treat blacks and whites as equals. And many
people in East Africa even today can tell similar stories about their bitter experiences with the British and other Europeans
who settled in our region in large numbers in order to turn it into a white man's homeland as if we did not even exist. However,
we must also understand that not all whites mistreated Africans. In many cases relations were good even if Africans and Europeans
did not interact socially.
People in West Africa have similar incidents to talk about, but not as many as we do in East Africa.
And probably there is more bitterness in East Africa about the white man's oppression than there is in West Africa for the
simple reason that we were subjected to direct humiliation than our brethren were in the western part of the continent because
of the daily contact we had with Europeans in a region where they had settled in large numbers. Just remember Mau Mau and
what it was all about.
Also remember the Maji Maji uprising in Tanganyika from 1905 to 1907 during German colonial rule.
It was a mass insurrection that covered the entire southern half of the country and almost drove the Germans out until they
sought immediate reinforcements from Germany to contain and eventually quell the "rebellion."
It was more of a revolution than a rebellion. It transformed the people into true nationalists
transcending tribal loyalties. Many tribes took part in the uprising as one people, Africans, fighting alien invaders. The
Germans, like the British, also came to East Africa to settle permanently.
I remember what our teachers used to say when they taught us African history in secondary school
in the sixties. They used to say the mosquito was the best friend of West Africa because it kept the white man out of there:
it stopped Europeans from settling permanently and in large numbers as they did in East Africa, especially in Kenya, and to
a smaller degree in Tanganyika.
It was a common saying in Africa, as it probably still is today, especially among people of my
generation or older.
When Tanganyika won independence in 1961, it had more than 20,000 white settlers, mostly British;
a significant number of Germans, some Dutch including Boers from South Africa and others. And Kenya had about 66,000 whites,
mostly British including members of the British aristocracy, at independence in 1963. Kenya also had a significant number
of Boers, or Afrikaners, from South Africa who founded the town of Eldoret in the Western Highlands in the Great Rift Valley.
Robin Johnson, whom I mentioned earlier, was typical of the British settlers who had established
themselves in East Africa determined to make it their permanent home as civil servants working for the colonial government
or as farmers or something else. In fact, a significant number of them were born in Kenya or Tanganyika.
Some came from South Africa and others from as far away as Australia and New Zealand. And many,
or their children and grandchildren, are still there today living in different parts Kenya and what is Tanzania today.
Some of the settlers who acquired large tracts of land were members of the British aristocracy,
probably the last people who would think of relinquishing power to Africans one day.
Johnson himself gave up his job as a civil servant and took up farming. He was the District Commissioner
(D.C.) of Kongwa in the Central Province in Tanganyika during the ill-fated groundnut scheme that was intended to produce
groundnuts on a commercial scale. The scheme was a disaster. He was later assigned to Arusha in northern Tanganyika, what
was then called the Northern Province:
Robin himself was becoming increasingly interested in Tanganyika's long-term future. He felt if
he became a farmer, like his father before him, and thereby rooted in the soil, he could play a more permanent role in the
country's development than permitted to a transitory civil servant.
He had met David Stirling, the founder of the Capricorn Africa Society, and felt that his policy
of common citizenship and a multi-racial form of government might well be the answer for the East African states where Africans,
though still backward, must soon begin to move politically, and there was a small settled European and Asian community.
He resigned from the Colonial Service in 1951 when he was alloted one of the Ol Molog farms [in Arusha
in northern Tanganyika]. His colleagues thought he was quite mad. Surely every diligent Administrative Officer only had one
goal in life - to be a Governor finally. How irresponsible of Robin carelessly to throw that chance away.4
Little did they realize that hard as they were planning to turn East Africa into their permanent
home dominated by whites, Africans were at the same time proceeding on a parallel path towards mobilization of the masses
in the quest for independence and did not, for one moment, believe that the multiracial government proposed by some of the
more liberal members of the settler community would ever include them as equal partners. Universal adult suffrage, a cardinal
principle cherished in every democratic society, was totally out of the question in this dispensation.
In Tanganyika, Nyerere admitted in the fifties that the colonial government and the African nationalist
movement were headed in the same direction, but at a different pace. As a UN Trust Territory under British mandate, Tanganyika
was supposed to be guided towards independence by the colonial government. But the colonial rulers had a different timetable.
It would have taken decades before the country won independence. Nyerere and his colleagues wanted independence much sooner.
Many of the settlers were, of course, aware of the political awakening and agitation that was taking
place but did not believe that the people of Kenya and Tanganyika under British tutelage would demand or win independence
within a decade or so.
The British colonial office suggested that if independence ever came to Tanganyika, it would be
in 1985. Britain had to have some kind of time table since Tanganyika was not a typical colony, like Kenya, but a trusteeship
territory under UN mandate, with Britain playing the role of "Big Brother" to guide the country towards independence on terms
stipulated by the United Nations. Yet the UN itself was not seriously concerned about freedom and independence for Africans
without being pushed by our leaders who included Julius Nyerere as the pre-eminent African leader in Tanganyika.
In fact, political awakening among Africans had already been going on for quite some time long before
the "halcyon days" of colonial rule in the 1950s. And Julius Nyerere played a critical role, at a very early age, in galvanizing
his colleagues into action, despite his humility. As Chief Abdallah Said Fundikira, who became one of the first cabinet members
after independence, said about what type of person Nyerere was in those days: "If you want the truth, one did not particularly
He was talking about the time when Nyerere entered Makerere University College at the age of 22
after attending secondary school in Tabora in western Tanganyika, the hometown of Fundikira, chief of the Nyamwezi tribe,
one of the largest in Tanzania today with more than one million people.
But in spite of such incidents, and they were rare, race relations were good in general, in fact
very good sometimes, as they were before independence.
For the vast majority of Tanganyikans of all races, including non-citizens, life in general went
on as before as if no major political changes had taken place in the country ending colonial rule.
Even during the struggle for independence indignities of colour bar experienced by Africans now
and then, here and there, did not fuel animosity towards whites among Africans to make them rebellious.
There was potential for revolt just like in any situation, anywhere, when people
are demanding basic human rights and those demands are not met. But in the case of Tanganyika, conditions were no close to
what they were in apartheid South Africa; nor was land alienation as serious or widespread as it was in Kenya, especially
in the Central Province where the Kikuyu revolted against the British.
There were, however, incidents in Tanganyika which clearly showed that fundamental
change was needed if the different races were to live in harmony.
Nyerere himself was involved in one such incident in the fifties (and there were others) just before
he formally began to campaign for independence; he was already, even by then, the most prominent African leader in Tanganyika
as president of the Tanganyika African Association (TAA) which was transformed into TANU in 1954. As Colin Legum, a South
African of British descent who knew and interviewed many African leaders including Nyerere and Nkrumah, stated in a chapter,
"The Goal of an Egalitarian Soceity," he contributed to a book, Mwalimu: The Influence of Nyerere:
I was privileged to meet Nyerere
while he was still a young teacher in short trousers at the very beginning of his political career, and to engage in private
conversations with him since the early 1950s.
My very first encounter in 1953 taught me something about his calm authority in the face of racism
in colonial Tanganyika.
I had arranged a meeting with four leaders of the nascent nationalist movement at the Old Africa
Hotel in Dar es Salaam. We sat at a table on the pavement and ordered five beers, but before we could lift our glasses an
African waiter rushed up and whipped away all the glasses except mine.
I rose to protest to the white manager, but Nyerere restrained me. 'I'm glad it happened,' he said,
' now you can go and tell your friend Sir Edward Twining [the governor at the time] how things are in this country.'
His manner was light and amusing, with no hint of anger.
This incident demonstrates one simple truth about Tanganyika in the fifties and throughout the
entire colonial period under British rule.
It was not a rigidly segregated society; and whatever racial separation existed was in most cases
voluntary and not strictly enforced even by convention.
There were no laws against racial integration. Had there been such laws, Colin Legum would not
even have thought about going to the white manager to protest against what happened to his African colleagues whose glasses
of beer were taken away by an African waiter at the Old Africa Hotel in Dar es Salaam.
Had this been apartheid South Africa, or had Tanganyika been a segregated society in the legal
sense, separating the races, Nyerere and other Africans who were with him on that day would not have entered the Old Africa
Hotel without being arrested. And their sympathetic friend, Colin Legum, who had invited them, would have been arrested as
well, not only for defying convention but for breaking the law.
But the incident also showed that without fundamental change in the system, there would be trouble
in the country even with Nyerere as the leader of those campaigning for independence.
After independence, Nyerere remained restrained in the conduct of national affairs and earned a
reputation as a tolerant leader. But he also had a reputation of being tough and uncompromising on matters of principle especially
One of his major achievements was containing and neutralizing radical elements in the ruling party
who wanted to marginalize racial minorities in national life, forcing them to live on the periphery of the mainstream.
There were even those who would have resorted to outright expulsion of these minorities, if they
had the power to do so, the way Idi Amin did in Uganda ten years later when he expelled Asians including Ugandan citizens
of Asian origin. Nyerere was the only African leader who publicly denounced Amin and called him a racist because of what he
Fortunately, there were no racial tensions in Tanganyika after independence, earning the country
a reputation as one of the most peaceful on the continent and tolerant of racial minorities.
But although the people celebrated independence and were glad to be masters of their own destiny
as a nation, they did not see any dramatic improvement in their lives as many of them had expected.
Such changes don't come overnight, yet there were many people who had very high expectations, thinking
that their lives would dramatically improve soon after the end of colonial rule. But that was not the case.
However, this was offset by the fact that there was a major achievement in one area, "overnight."
The prophets of doom who had predicted racial conflict or some kind of civil strife soon after independence were proved wrong.
I remember a few years after independence that there were still some signs
on toilets saying "Africans." I remember one very well at the bus station of the East African Railways & Harbours Corporation
in Mbeya. No one took it down. It was simply ignored.
Although it reminded one of a bygone era and symbolized the subordinate status
of Africans during colonial rule when they were not welcome in some places including a few hotels and clubs which had signs
saying "Europeans," it did not inspire the kind of outrage - if any - some people might have expected from Africans after
Tanganyika won independence.
There were Africans who simply accepted the status quo during colonial rule; there were those who
simply ignored it; and there were, of course, those who were determined to change it.
But even those who sought changes in the status quo were no more hostile towards whites than those
who did not after the country won independence. And that was one of the biggest achievements of the independence struggle,
making it possible for people of all races to live in harmony.
Many whites who left Tanganyika after independence did so for economic reasons mainly because of
the economic policies which deprived them of their property and even means of livelihood especially after the country adopted
socialism in 1967 and not because they were targeted as whites.
Many Africans who owned a lot of land and even more than one house for rent also lost most of their
property and were equally bitter because of such stringent measures designed, rightly or wrongly, to reduce income disparities
and gaps between the rich and the poor in the quest for socialist transformation of the country.
It was the most ambitious exercise in social engineering in the history of post-colonial Africa
launched only five years after Tanganyika won independence. But it also proved to be a disastrous failure in terms of economic
development as the economy virtually came to a grinding halt in the mid- and late seventies, less than 10 years after the
government enunciated its socialist policies embodied in the Arusha Declaration of February 1967.
Socialism and Africanization were some of the main reasons why many whites left or were forced
to leave Tanganyika and later Tanzania.
When Tanganyika won independence in 1961, it had about 22,000 white settlers, mostly British; a
significant number of Germans, some Dutch including Boers from South Africa and others. And Kenya had about 66,000 whites,
mostly British including members of the British aristocracy, at independence in 1963. It also had a significant number of
Boers, or Afrikaners, from South Africa who founded the town of Eldoret in the Western Highlands in the Great Rift Valley.
Robin Johnson, whom I mentioned earlier, was typical of the British settlers who had established
themselves in East Africa, determined to make it their permanent home as civil servants working for the colonial government
or as farmers or something else.
In fact, a significant number of them were born in Kenya or Tanganyika. Some came from South Africa
and others from as far away as Australia and New Zealand. And many, or their children and grandchildren, are still there today
in different parts Kenya and what is Tanzania today.
Some of the settlers who acquired large tracts of land were members of the British aristocracy,
probably the last people who would think of relinquishing power to Africans one day. Johnson himself gave up his job as a
civil servant and took up farming. He was the District Commissioner (D.C.) of Kongwa in the Central Province in Tanganyika
during the ill-fated groundnut scheme that was intended to produce groundnuts on a commercial scale. The scheme was a disaster.
He was later assigned to Arusha in northern Tanganyika, what was then called the Northern Province:
Robin himself was becoming increasingly interested in Tanganyika's long-term future. He felt if
he became a farmer, like his father before him, and thereby rooted in the soil, he could play a more permanent role in the
country's development than permitted to a transitory civil servant.
He had met David Stirling, the founder of the Capricorn Africa Society, and felt that his policy
of common citizenship and a multi-racial form of government might well be the answer for the East African states where Africans,
though still backward, must soon begin to move politically, and there was a small settled European and Asian community.
He resigned from the Colonial Service in 1951 when he was alloted one of the
Ol Molog farms [in Arusha in northern Tanganyika]. His colleagues thought he was quite mad. Surely every diligent Administrative
Officer only had one goal in life - to be a Governor finally. How irresponsible of Robin carelessly to throw that chance away.
Just as some white settlers were planning to turn East Africa
into their permanent home dominated by whites, Africans were at the same time proceeding on a parallel path towards mobilization
of political forces transcending race in their quest for independence and did not, for one moment, believe that the multiracial
government proposed by some of the more liberal members of the settler community would ever include them as equal partners.
And they spoke from experience.
The multiracial Legislative Councils, known as LEGCO, which existed during colonial rule were dominated
by whites. And whatever was proposed by the colonial authorities for the future would have proceeded along the same lines.
Universal adult suffrage, a cardinal principle cherished in every democratic society, was totally out of the question in this
Many of the settlers were, of course, aware of the political awakening and agitation that was taking
place but did not believe that the people of Kenya and Tanganyika would demand or win independence within a decade or so.
Even some of the African leaders themselves said their countries would not win independence until the 1980s.
The British colonial office suggested that if independence ever came to Tanganyika, it would be
in 1985. Britain had to have some kind of timetable - although only theoretically - since Tanganyika was not a typical colony,
like Kenya, but a trusteeship territory under UN mandate, with Britain playing the role of "Big Brother" to guide the country
towards independence on terms stipulated by the United Nations.
Yet the UN itself was not seriously concerned about freedom and independence for Africans without
being pushed by African leaders who included Julius Nyerere as the pre-eminent African leader in Tanganyika.
In fact, political awakening among Africans had already been going on for quite some time long
before the "halcyon days" of colonial rule in the 1950s. And Julius Nyerere played a critical role at a very early age in
galvanizing his colleagues into action, despite his humility. As Chief Abdallah Said Fundikira, who became one of the first
cabinet members after independence, said about what type of person Nyerere was in those days: "If you want the truth, one
did not particularly notice Nyerere."
He was talking about the time when Nyerere entered Makerere University College at the age of 22
after attending secondary school in Tabora, in western Tanganyika, the hometown of Fundikira, chief of the Nyamwezi tribe,
one of the largest in Tanzania with more than one million people today.
It was when he was at Makerere that his leadership qualities came to be noticed when he formed
the Tanganyika Welfare Association intended to help the small number of students from Tanganyika to work together as a collective
entity for their own well-being. It was not a political organization but had the potential to become one.
The welfare association soon forged ties and eventually merged with the Tanganyika African Association
(TAA), an organization founded by African civil servants in Tanganyika in 1929, to address their problems. But they had to
operate within prescribed limits, as defined by the colonial authorities who said the association could only deal with welfare
problems; nothing political.
Nyerere and his colleagues wanted the association to fight discrimination against the African civil
servants who were being paid less than their European counterparts. It was a "welfare" problem, but with profound implications,
hardly indistinguishable from political demands. He later described these "welfare" demands as "the politics of sheer complaints"
which did not address the fundamental problem of inequity of power between Africans and Europeans.
But he wanted the colonial authorities to pay attention to demands by Africans
in order to bring about fundamental change in this asymmetrical relationship that had existed since the colonialists took
over Tanganyika before he was born. As he recalled those days: "When I was born, there was not a single person who questioned
why we were being ruled. And if my father had heard that we wanted changes, he would have asked me, 'What do you think you
can do, you small silly boy?'"
But nothing could dissuade him from his commitment to justice, no matter what
the cost. And much as his father would have been apprehensive of the situation, had he lived long enough to discuss the matter
with his son after he became mature, Nyerere knew that nothing was going to change until Africans themselves did something
to bring about change. His mother was equally apprehensive and probably even more so. She was quoted as saying:
I began to know about Julius' activities when he was teaching at Pugu College [St. Francis College]
in 1952. Everyday, a man called Dossa Aziz came to our house and he would talk with Julius for a long time. One day I overheard
them talking about taking over the government from Europeans.
I became afraid. Later I asked Julius if what I heard was true. When he said yes, I became more
frightened. I told him what he was doing was bad. God had given him a good job and now he wanted to spoil it. But he said
that what he was doing would benefit not only us but everyone in the country.
Nyerere had just returned to Tanganyika in October 1952 after three years at Edinburgh University
in Scotland where he was admitted in October 1949. He earned a master's degree in economics and history, and also studied
The fifties was a critical decade in the struggle for independence in Tanganyika. It was the decade
when TANU (Tanganyika African National Union), the party that led Tanganyika to independence, was formed.
It was also the decade in which the colonial government tried to neutralize TANU, as much as the
British colonial authorities tried to do to KANU (Kenya African National Union) in neighbouring Kenya when they arrested and
imprisoned Jomo Kenyatta and other leaders in 1952 And it was the last decade of colonial rule in both colonies.
Before the 1958-1959 general election in Tanganyika, the British colonial government launched a
harassment campaign to discredit and if possible destroy TANU. Nyerere was banned from making public speeches; he was accused
of libel and put on trial; and twelve branches of TANU were closed down.
The banning of Nyerere came after a highly successful campaign across the country to get support
for TANU and for his campaign for independence. He travelled to all parts of Tanganyika, to every province, in a battered
Land Rover which belonged to his compatriot Dossa Aziz who gave the vehicle to TANU to help with the independence campaign,
and was able to build, with his colleagues, the party's membership to unprecedented levels. Just within a year, TANU had 250,000
It was during one of these campaign trips that I saw Nyerere for the first time when he came to
address a mass rally in Tukuyu in the late 1950s; riding in the same Land Rover that had taken him to all parts of Tanganyika
I remember that day well. He wore a light green shirt and rode, standing, in the back of the Land
Rover, waving at the crowd that had gathered to welcome him when he first arrived to address a mass rally at a football (soccer)
field in Tukuyu one afternoon.
Although he was committed to non-violence, the colonial authorities claimed that some of his speeches
were highly inflammatory; but, to the people of Tanganyika, they were highly inspiring. And because of this he was banned,
in early 1957, from making public speeches.
Yet he remained unperturbed. As he told a correspondent of The New York Times in
Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika, on March 31, 1957: "I am a troublemaker, because I believe in human rights strongly enough to be
Earlier in the same year he had written an article published
in the Tanganyika Standard which two district commissioners (D.Cs,
as we called them, and as they also called themselves) complained about, claiming Nyerere had libelled them; twelve years
later, I became a news reporter of the same newspaper.
Nyerere also said although TANU was committed to non-violence, the nationalist
movement would resort to civil disobedience to achieve its goals; and, by implication, to violence if necessary, if there
was no other option left in pursuit of independence. And his trial gave the colonial authorities the opportunity to learn
more about him.
The trial was a turning point in the history of TANU and of the country as a whole. A reporter of
Drum magazine was one of those who covered the trial. He had the following to say in the November 1958
edition when the proceedings took place in Dar es Salaam, the capital:
The sun has not yet risen but hundreds of people are already gathered round the small courthouse
in Dar es Salaam.
Some have come from distant villages, with blankets and cooking utensils as if for a camping holiday.
They have been in Dar es Salaam for more than a week at the trial of the president of the Tanganyika African National Union
(TANU), Julius Nyerere, on a charge of criminal libel. It was alleged that Nyerere wrote an article in which two district
commissioners were libelled.
Police constables line the streets round the court and a riot squad stands ready nearby in case
of trouble. As the time draws near for the court to open, the crowds jostle and shove for the best positions.
The trial has been a mixture of exciting arguments, explosive surprises and hours of dullness.
Mr. Pritt - Nyerere's counsel - insisted that the two commissioners should be called to give evidence.
He accused the government of prosecuting Nyerere without investigating his allegations. The government was telling the world
that if anybody said anything against a district commissioner, he could be put into prison for saying what was true.
When Nyerere gave evidence, he took full responsibility for the article and said that he had written
it to draw the attention of the government to certain complaints. He was followed by three witnesses who spoke of 'injustices'
they had suffered at the hands of the the two district commissioners.
Halfway through the proceedings, the attorney-general appeared in court in person to announce on
behalf of the Crown that it would not continue with the counts concerning one of the commissioners.
Now, on the last day of the show, the stars begin to arrive: Mr. Summerfield, the chief prosecutor;
Mr. N.M. Rattansey, defence counsel who is assisting the famous British QC, Mr. D.N. Pritt. Mr. Nyerere, wearing a green bush
shirt, follows later. He smiles and waves as members of the crowd cheer him.
The curtain goes up with the arrival of Mr. L.A. Davies, the magistrate. The court is packed. Everyone
is tense and hushed.
The magistrate sums up then comes to judgement - Nyerere is found guilty!
The magistrate, in passing sentence, says he has formed the impression that Nyerere is an extremely
intelligent and responsible man. He fines Nyerere Pounds 150 or six months. The money is raised by locals and the Kenya defence
In the election that followed in 1958 - 1959, TANU won a landslide victory. It won 29 out of 30 seats
in the general election. As Nyerere said after the victory, "Independence will follow as surely as the tick birds follow the
In March 1959, Sir Richard
Turnbull, the last governor of Tanganyika, appointed to his 12-member cabinet five TANU members who had been elected to the
Legislative Council (LEGCO), the colonial legislature which was established in 1926.
In 1958 Sir Richard Turnbull had succeeded Sir Edward Twining as governor of Tanganyika. He had
previously served as chief colonial secretary in Kenya during the Emergency, which was during the Mau Mau uprising, and had
witnessed first-hand the violence and bloodshed which resulted from the colonial government's refusal to address the grievances
of the masses over land and working conditions and from its unwillingness to accept demands by Africans for freedom and independence.
He did not want to see that happen in Tanganyika when he became governor.
Initially, the colonial government in Tanganyika wanted only three ministerial posts to be filled
by LEGCO members, but Nyerere insisted on having a majority from his victorious party, TANU.
During the election, TANU had sponsored an Asian and a European for each seat, besides its own
African candidates. The two also won.
Governor Turnbull conceded and appointed three Africans, one Asian and one European to the cabinet
to represent TANU and the majority of the voters who had voted for TANU candidates.
It was also in the same month, March 1959, that Nyerere was interviewed by Drum
and spoke about the future of Tanganyika after it won independence, which was almost three years away:
Tanganyika will be the first, most truly multiracial democratic country in Africa.
When we get our freedom, the light of a true multiracial democracy will be put high upon the top
of the highest mountain, on Kilimanjaro, for all to see, particularly South Africa and America.
Tanganyika will offer the people of those countries free entry, without passports, to come and
see real democracy at work.
As long as we do not have a popular government elected by the people on democratic principles,
we will strive for freedom from any kind of domination.
We regard the [UN] Trusteeship as part of a scheme to keep Tanganyika under the British Crown indefinitely.
The greatest enemy of our vision is the Colonial Office.
But Tanganyika cannot be freed by drawing up resolutions or by tabulating long catalogues of the
evils of colonialism. Nor do we find it enough to tell rulers to quit Tanganyika. It will be freed only by action, and likewise
the whole of Africa.
Continued colonialism is preventing investment in this country. Germany, for example, cannot invest
money as long as the British are still here.
I agree that the country lacks technicians. So what? Shall we give the British another 40 years
to train them? How many have they trained in the past 40 years?
As far as money for a self-governing Tanganyika is concerned, Tanganyika has not been receiving
much money from the British taxpayer at all. For the past 11 years, Tanganyika has only received Pounds 9 million. I can raise
100 times that within a year if it becomes necessary.
I believe that the continued, not existence, but citizenship of the European would be taken for
granted had not the white man created a Kenya, a Central Africa [the Central African Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland],
a South Africa and other similar places and situations.
African nationalism is not anti-white but simply anti-colonialist. When George Washington fought
the imperialists, he was fighting for the divine right of Americans to govern themselves; he was not fighting colour.
The white man wants to live in Africa on his terms. He must dominate and be recognised by the rest
of the inhabitants of this continent as their natural master and superior. But that we cannot accept. What we are after is
fellow citizenship, and that is exactly what is frightening the white man.
The question is not whether we must get rid of whites, but whether they must get rid of themselves.
Whites can no longer dominate in Africa. That dream is gone. Africa must be governed by Africans in the future.
Whether an immigrant African will have an equal part to play in this free Africa depends upon him
and him alone. In Tanganyika, we are determined to demonstrate to the whole of Africa that democracy is the only answer.
We are being held back, not by local Europeans, but by the Colonial Office and, I believe, by Europeans
in neighbouring countries, who are frightened of the possibility of success in Tanganyika.
A month later in April 1959, after the interview with Drum, Nyerere went to
Zanzibar to attend a meeting of the Pan-African Freedom Movement of Eastern and Central Africa, popularly known as PAFMECA
when I was growing up in Tanganyika, and of which he had previously been elected president.
One of the most prominent Tanganyikan leaders of PAFMECA was John Mwakangale from my home district,
Rungwe. He was also one of the TANU members who was elected as a member of the colonial legislature, LEGCO.
Mwakangale was also the leader who was assigned by the government
of Tanganyika to receive Nelson Mandela in Mbeya when Mandela came to Tanganyika for the first time in 1962, soon after we
won independence from Britain, as Mandela states in his book, Long Walk to Freedom.
While in Zanzibar, Nyerere played a critical role in forging unity between
some Africans and some Arabs, bringing their political parties closer together in the struggle for independence and for the
sake of national unity.
Speaking at a meeting of PAFMECA in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 1959, he made it clear that Europeans
and Asians as well as others were welcome to remain in Africa as equal citizens after independence was achieved.
The following month, in October, he gave a speech in the Tanganyika colonial legislature (LEGCO)
in which he uttered these famous words:
We will light a candle on mount Kilimanjaro which will shine beyond our borders, giving hope where
there is despair, love where there is hate, and diginity where before there was only humiliation.
In December 1959, Britain's
new Colonial Secretary Ian McLeod announced that Tanganyika would be given virtual home rule towards the end of 1960 under
a constitution that would guarantee an African majority in the colonial legislature, LEGCO. However, Nyerere criticized the
retention of income and literacy qualifications as eligibility criteria for voters and for membership in the legislature.
He was also critical of the reservation of a specific number of seats in LEGCO for the European
and Asian minorities. But he saw the concessions by the British colonial rulers, including new constitutional provisions guaranteeing
a legislature with an African majority, as a step towards independence in the not-so-distant future.
In the elections of August 1960, TANU again won by a landslide, 70 out of 71 seats, its biggest
victory so far and less than a year before independence.
Nyerere was sworn in as chief minister of government under a new constitution,
but the governor, Sir Richard Turnbull, continued to hold certain veto powers, although rarely exercised, if at all, since
it was now inevitable that Tanganyika would soon be independent.
Nyerere's status as the leader of Tanganyika was formally acknowledged even
outside the colony, for example, when he attended a meeting of British Commonwealth prime ministers in London in March 1961,
although Tanganyika was still not independent.
But in his capacity as prime minister of Tanganyika since the
colony won internal self-government, hence de
head of government in lieu of the governor, he joined other African leaders in denouncing the apartheid regime of South Africa
and its racist policies and declared that if South Africa remained a member of the Commonwealth, Tanganyika would not join
the Commonwealth; a position he had articulated earlier in August 1960 when he said: "To vote South Africa in, is to vote
South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth, and many people attribute this
to Nyerere's uncompromising stand on the apartheid regime and his threat to keep Tanganyika out of the Commonwealth had South
Africa remained a member.
Following a constitutional conference in March 1961, Colonial Secretary Ian McLeod announced that
Tanganyika would have internal self-government on May 1, and full independence in December in the same year.
On 9 December 1961, Tanganyika became independent. A few days later, it was unanimously accepted
as the 104th member of the United Nations. Nyerere was 39 years old and, at that time, the youngest national leader in the
On 9 January 1962, Nyerere resigned as prime minister and appointed Rashidi Kawawa, minister without
portfolio, as his successor. He said he resigned to rebuild the party which had lost its focus and to give the country a new
purpose now that independence had been won.
But with independence came responsibilities. It was no easy task. So much lay
From Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa and America in The Sixties, First Edition, New Africa Press, 2006.
WRITING about the sixties has been a personal odyssey for me.
I grew up in the sixties. I was ten years old at the dawn of
the decade and the euphoric - and turbulent - sixties were an integral part of my life. And they always will be.
Therefore I write from personal experience. Much of what I
have written in this book is what I knew, and even experienced, when I was growing up in the sixties.
But a lot of it also comes from other sources I have cited
to complement my work. And for that I am very grateful to all the individuals and institutions whose material I have used
in this study to help me look at the sixties from a better perspective I otherwise would not have.
I am also grateful to the people of my generation and others
who were there in those days for inspiring this work. It was, in many ways, a collective experience. And it is, indeed, a
decade to remember.
Wednesday, 27th September