From Godfrey Mwakikagile, Relations Between Africans and African Americans: Misconceptions, Myths and Realities, Third Edition, New Africa Press, 2007:
AFRICANS on both sides of the Atlantic, that is Africans in Africa and African Americans who as a people of
African descent are also Africans, equally inspired this study. So did African immigrants and students in the United States.
I myself went to school in the United States and have lived and interacted with African Americans for more than 30 years.
Although African Americans are also Africans in the genealogical sense, I have used the term Africans in the
book almost exclusively to mean those born in the motherland for identification purposes to distinguish them from African
Americans in my study of relations between the two. Professor Ali Mazrui, a Kenyan who has taught at universities in the United
States since the early seventies, has coined a term to identify African immigrants in America and calls them American Africans
as opposed to African Americans.
The idea for this book has been in my mind for quite some time, although I cannot say for sure exactly when
I first thought about writing it. It probably goes back to the eighties when I was in my thirties, although my interest in
the subject goes back further than that, at least to the early seventies when I was a student in Detroit, Michigan, and wrote
an article in a student newspaper about relations between Africans and African Americans.
I wrote the article in 1973 and it was published in Open
Door, a student newspaper of Wayne County Community College which I
briefly attended before transferring to Wayne State University in the same city where I graduated in 1975. Part of my article
was reproduced in The Michigan Chronicle, a black weekly newspaper published in Detroit, and the state's largest black newspaper and one of the most influential
black papers in the country for years.
I remember the editor of the school newspaper asked me to write an article on the subject.
One factor that played a role in his decision to ask me to write the article was my background. He knew that
I once was a news reporter in Tanzania.
He was a black student from Detroit, a city with a long history of black activism, also known as the birthplace
of black nationalist organizations such as the Nation of Islam founded in the early thirties; the Shrine of Black Madonna
(Black Christian Nationalism), in 1967 by Reverend Albert Cleage; the Republic of New Afrika in 1968; and the Pan-African
Congress-USA, founded in 1970, and which sponsored me as a student. It is also a city to which Malcolm X had strong ties,
personal and family. Many people who knew him or about him or followed his political career also remember him by his nickname,
When I wrote the article in the student newspaper, Open Door, I was free to address the subject the way I wanted to.
But the focus of my article was undoubtedly influenced and dictated by my interest in attempting to answer one
perennial question Africans from Africa are often asked by black people in the United States: "Is it true that they don't
want us over there?" Or something along those lines.
And later on, towards the end of 2004 when I started writing this book, I stumbled upon an article by a Nigerian
student at the University of North Carolina in the student newspaper addressing the same subject, although from a perspective
different from mine in this inquiry.
There were, however, no fundamental differences, if any, between what he said in his article
and what I say in this book in terms of the nature of relations between Africans and African Americans, and on why there are
some misunderstandings between the two groups. The difference may have been on the focus.
And I am sure others have tackled the same subject from different angles and perspectives, agreeing and disagreeing
on a number of issues critical to an understanding of what is at the heart of some of this misunderstanding between Africans
and African Americans, and what binds us together.
Therefore, in a very direct way, it is African Americans who have had a profound impact on my decision to write
this book probably more than Africans from the motherland have. And I am grateful to them for being the source of such inspiration.
It is African Americans, at least from my experience and I am sure of many others, who have shown great interest
in the relations between the two groups probably more than Africans have. It is they who ask questions about Africa, whether
or not it is true that they are not welcome over there.
And it is they who see all of us, black people in Africa and in the United States, as one people, although there
are also many among them who don't want to have anything to do with Africa because they are ashamed of their African heritage
rooted in a "backward, primitive" continent.
But even they, the hostile ones, helped to inspire this study, focusing my attention on some of the myths propagated
in the United States and elsewhere about Africa, the so-called Dark Continent.
Many of our white conquerors believe that because we have a dark skin, our continent is also dark, living in
darkness, and we also have a dark mind. And some of our people are ashamed of their African roots, and of themselves, because
of this. It is a myth that has inspired me to write this book as much as positive attributes of Africa have.
Therefore, in acknowledging the interest of African Americans in Africa as an inspiration in my pursuit of this
study, I must also admit that our detractors have been an equally powerful motivation in my decision to undertake the project
even if such motivation has sometimes been out of anger because of the way many people look at us as the most backward, and
most primitive human beings, in the world.
Fellow Africans born and raised in Africa like I was, also inspired me in a very special way to write this book.
I am a part of them as much as they are a part of me in terms of common experience as a people born and brought up in Africa.
Therefore we share common perspectives on a number of issues.
They are also the focus of this study as much as African Americans are. Many of them are
also genuinely interested in the subject and in the well-being of our brethren, African Americans. And probably just as many
are equally interested in the improvement of relations between the two, a subject that continues to be of paramount importance
to both groups, especially to those individuals who sincerely believe that we all have one destiny as children of Africa.
THIS work looks at relations between Africans and African Americans from the perspective of an African, and
of shared perceptions on both sides of the Atlantic.
Incorporated into the analysis are stories of individuals who have interacted, worked and lived with members
of both groups in Africa and in the United States, including myself.
Stereotypes and misunderstandings of each other constitute an integral part of this study, explained from both
perspectives, African and African-American.
As a former journalist in Tanzania, I have drawn upon my experience as a news reporter to write
this book, with fairness and a passion for truth even if some of the things I say may offend some people. But my interest
is not please anyone.
I am interested in only one thing: to tell the truth as I know it. And having lived in the United States, mostly
in the black community, for more than 30 years, I have first-hand knowledge of African Americans I have used to complement
I also articulate my position from the vantage point of someone who has lived on both sides of the Atlantic,
focusing on a subject that has generated a lot of interest among Africans and African Americans through the years. And it
continues to be one of great misunderstanding between the two sides, in spite of increased contacts and communication between
Africa and Black America, and between individual Africans and African Americans in the United States and in Africa.
Although some people such as Professor Harold Cruse of the University of Michigan in contemporary times, and
others such as Professor E. Franklin Frazier of Howard University in the past, contend that after more than 300 years of physical
separation since the slave trade, virtually all cultural ties between Africa and black America have been severed, I believe
that there are still some elements in African-American culture which can be traced back to Africa.
You find that in music, foods, and life styles; and may be even in linguistic patterns of African Americans
as Professor Geneva Smitherman at Michigan State University – formerly Wayne State University when I was a student there
- and others argue. Therefore, it was more than just hair braids that survived the middle passage across the Atlantic.
Other people have made the same arguments in the past. One of them was Kwame Nkrumah when he was a student in
the United States.
He once debated Professor Frazier at Howard University on this subject, contending that there were still vestiges
of African culture among African Americans, proving that slavery and centuries of physical separation had not erased all cultural
ties to Africa.
Nkrumah won the debate, partly because of his oratorical skills which served him well years later when he became
a leader of the African independence movement and president of Ghana, but mainly because of his factual presentation. However,
Frazier maintained his position and the two agreed to disagree.
Many Africans and African Americans may also disagree with me and others who contend that some elements of African
culture survived slavery. And probably just as many will agree with this position. But whatever the case, it is one of the
subjects I address in this book but in a much wider context with an emphasis on the ties that have existed between Africa
and black America for centuries.
I have also included in the book some information about African immigrants in the United States because, together
with foreign students from Africa, they constitute the largest number of continental Africans who interact with African Americans
on daily basis.
A number of other subjects are also covered in this book. The image of Africa among Americans of all races,
the attitude of Africans and African Americans towards each other, misunderstandings, myths and realities which characterize
their relationship, and the role African Americans played in the liberation struggle in Africa are some of those subjects.
And their role in this struggle cannot be underestimated, especially by some Africans who may be inclined to
minimize the contribution of our brethren in the United States.
Because of their strategic position within the United States as American citizens, African Americans kept the
struggle in the spotlight with marches, demonstrations and contributions, with the support of other Americans and remained
a constant reminder to the American government and racist forces supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa and other
white racist governments on the African continent that nothing was going to stop them from supporting the independence struggle
in Africa until the white minority regimes were swept out of power.
Black people in the United States also pushed economic sanctions against the apartheid regime
and exposed the hypocritical nature of the American leaders who supported white minority regimes in Africa while professing
democracy at home and abroad.
There is no question that African Americans played a bigger role in supporting the liberation
struggle in Africa than Africans did in supporting the civil rights movement. But it was also for understandable reasons.
African countries were still under colonial rule or had just won independence and could not have supported the civil rights
struggle in the United States through international forums as much as they would have liked to.
Other subjects I have covered in the book include the treatment of African Americans by Africans in Africa,
especially those who have returned to the motherland after centuries of separation, seeing Africa for the first time.
Have they been well-received? Do they have any regrets? Do they wish they had never gone back to Africa? These
are some of the questions I try to answer, citing disgruntled and satisfied African Americans who have lived in Africa as
the primary source of information.
Some of them lived in my home country, Tanzania. There were those who stayed, and there were those who left.
Some of those who stayed include a well-known Black Panther leader, Pete O'Neal, who has lived in Tanzania since the early
seventies and whose life became the subject of a documentary film shown in the United States, Tanzania and other countries.
His life in Tanzania and as a former Black Panther leader is one of the subjects I also address in this book.
He was later joined in Tanzania by Geronimo Pratt, former deputy defense minister of the Black Panther Party
under Huey P. Newton. Pratt served 27 years in prison, on death row, after he was falsely accused and convicted of killing
a white woman hundreds of miles away from where he actually was.
A former FBI agent later admitted Pratt was framed. He won his freedom with the help of Johnnie Cochran, the
famous African American lawyer, and later went to live in Tanzania where he and his wife built a house next to Pete O'Neal's,
as we will learn more about that later on in the book.
I have also addressed the treatment of African Americans by the white majority in the United States, and how
Africans see the United States especially in terms of her relations with Africa and as a predominantly white nation in whose
bosom are millions of people of African descent who ended up where they are by "accident."
It was this "accident" of history that has also been a subject of utmost importance in trying to understand
what the United States is all about, as nation that portrayed itself to the whole world as the embodiment of the ideals of
liberty and equality while at the same time upholding the institution of slavery.
Even today, the subject of slavery inflames passions across the racial divide. And the demand for reparations
by African Americans, which I also discuss in the book, has only fueled intense debate on the legacy and relevance of slavery
in contemporary America.
Coincidentally, it is a subject on which many Africans and African Americans agree, even if
they disagree on other things, because people in Africa are also demanding reparations from the European powers who played
the biggest role in the enslavement of Africans. They also also colonized us, which is another case for reparations. As Ed
Vaughn, one of the leaders of the Detroit-based Pan-African Congress-USA who later served as assistant to Detroit Mayor Coleman
Young and as a state representative in the Michigan state legislature, said about reparations: they have paid everybody else
And as Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian writer, also said, others have been paid reparations. So why not African Americans?
He also supports the claim for reparations by African countries but has made it clear that if we are going to demand that
from Europeans, we should also claim reparations from the Arabs who also enslaved us.
But that is a subject that is beyond the scope of this work in terms of comprehensive analysis. I have restricted
myself to the case for reparations presented by African Americans in the American context. And even here I may not have done
justice to the subject, although I have tried my best to do so.
I have concluded my study on an optimistic note in the quest for greater cooperation and understanding between
our two peoples who have always been one in spite of centuries of physical separation resulting from slavery whose devastating
impact is still felt across Africa and Black America today
It is also encouraging to note that in acknowledgment of our common ties, the African diaspora
which includes Black America is represented in the African Union (AU) as an integral part of Africa and the African world.
My Life with African Americans
MY INTEREST in black America goes back to my teens when I was in secondary school in Tanzania in the sixties.
In fact, the first American school I applied to when I was in secondary school was Lincoln University, a black academic institution
in Pennsylvania. I decided to apply to this school after I read Kwame Nkrumah's autobiography in 1966. Nkrumah himself attended
Lincoln University, and that is how I first came to know about the school.
But I never went to Lincoln University. Instead, I ended up elsewhere in the United States. But that is another
story, as I explain in this chapter.
My first contact, or encounter, with an African American was in 1965. I was 15 years old attending Songea Secondary
School in Ruvuma Region on the Tanzanian-Mozambican border; the other Tanzanian administrative region bordering Mozambique
is Mtwara, east of Ruvuma. And River Ruvuma is the boundary between the two countries.
I also remember the bombings by the Portuguese in these two regions, especially Mtwara Region, during the Mozambican
struggle for independence in the sixties and early seventies. Our country provided sanctuary to the Mozambican freedom fighters
(FRELIMO) and refugees, and thus incurred the wrath of the Portuguese. Fortunately, our school and many other parts of southern
Tanzania escaped the bombings mainly because of the defense provided by our armed forces.
I was in standard 9, what Americans call grade 9, in 1965 when I first "met" a black American for the first
time. It was not a direct personal meeting but a group encounter, together with other students. But I had met other Americans
before. They were my teachers and all were white.
Earlier, when I was a student at Mpuguso Middle School (from standard 5 to standard 8) from 1961 to 1964 in my
home district, Rungwe, in the Southern Highlands of southwestern Tanzania close to the border with Malawi, I had been taught
by two American Peace Corp teachers in my last year, 1964, the only American teachers we had. One of them, Leonard Levitt,
wrote a book, African Season, about his experiences at our school and in Tanzania in general, and later ended up as a news reporter at Newsday, Long Island, New York, where
he was still working when I was writing this book.
I vividly remember what he said when he first introduced himself to our class one morning:
"My name is Leonard Levitt. I am a Jew from New York City." He taught English and math. The other teacher was named Wayne.
But I don't remember his other name, if we ever knew it; we simply called him Mr. Wayne. I think he came from Colorado.
But I had never met an African American, or black American, back then until I went to Songea Secondary School
in 1965. He came to our school with other Peace Corps teachers who taught at other schools in Tanzania. They came to visit
their counterparts at our school. We had a number of Peace Corp teachers but none of them was black. We also had quite a few
teachers from Britain. Others came from India, and the rest were Tanzanians, all black. But the majority of the teachers were
white, mostly from Britain, a colonial legacy since Tanzania was once a British colony.
The American Peace Corp teachers who came to visit their counterparts at our school were all white except one,
the black American. And that's what we called him: black American. Black Americans back then hardly called themselves African
Americans as many of them do nowadays.
There are, of course, those who don't like the term "African American." For example, I remember reading a letter
to the editor of the black conservative journal National Minority Politics, renamed Headway, published in Houston, Texas, in which the writer said "whenever I see the term 'African American'
used in a newspaper or magazine, I drop it right there." That was in 1997.
Headway was not a very popular publication among blacks, anyway,
because of its conservative philosophy and went out of business in less than five years. Black conservative radio talk show
host Larry Elder also doesn't like term "African American." He calls it "silly terminology," as he said in the late 1990s
in an interview with The Washington Times, a conservative newspaper, and blames Jesse Jackson
for imposing this "new" identity on black Americans.
Anyway, the black American, or African American, Peace Corp teacher who came to our school
became the focus of our attention because he was black, like us, and American. We identified with him and sympathized with
blacks in the United States because of the racial discrimination they were going through in the land of their birth and the
only country they knew as home. As John Alfred Williams, a black writer from Mississippi, said, "This is my country too,"
which is also the title of his non-fiction book published in 1965, the same year I saw a black American for the first time
in my life.
Williams' passion for racial justice and identification with Africa is clearly evident in his works. And he never
downplayed racism. As he put it in some of his writings, it takes a lot of courage for a black person to drive out there on
a highway, let alone across the United States. A victim of blatant racism himself, he was once awarded a grant to the American
Academy in Rome in 1961 because of his excellent novel, Night Song, but the grant was rescinded because he was black; also because of rumors that he was getting
ready to marry a white woman, which he did.
Many of his works revolve around one theme: what it means to be black in America. He taught, into the 1990s, at
a number of colleges and universities including Boston University, the University of California-Santa Barbara, the University
of Hawaii, the City University of New York, and Rutgers University from where he retired in 1994 as professor of English.
But he was never accorded full recognition as a writer, let alone as one of the finest black novelists of his generation,
because of racism, until years later. The author of 21 fiction and non-fiction books, he won the American Book Award in 1998
for Safari West,
an outstanding collection of his poems.
His book, This is My Country Too, was definitely one of those works that did not win him endearment among many whites who believe black people
are not entitled to equal rights and should "go back to Africa," a common expression among them.
Williams' identification with Africa was, among other things, demonstrated by his non-fiction book, Africa: Her History, Lands, and People, published in 1969; and by his classic best
seller, The Man Who Cried I Am, a novel published in 1967, which won him international acclaim despite his "pariah" status in his own country,
the United States, where he was ignored by many literary critics and other fellow Americans simply because he was black. In
the book, Williams explores the exploitation of blacks in a predominantly white society in a plot in which the protagonist,
Max Reddick, exposes a sinister plot by western countries to prevent the unification of Africa, and an even more diabolical
scheme code-named "King Alfred," a genocidal plan to end the race problem chillingly similar to Hitler's "Final Solution"
that entailed extermination of the Jews and members of other "inferior" races.
Now, here is a black man who, in spite of all the racial persecution he was going through right there in the
United States, was still bold enough to tell the truth about it, just like millions other African Americans did and still
do. Yet another black man, also born in the United States but now far away with us in Africa, could not even admit what was
obvious to everybody - including us - that racism was a fact of life in the citadel of democracy where he was born and raised.
As a black Peace Corp teacher in Africa, it was obvious he had some interest in the continent and in the well-being of fellow
blacks. And we approached him with open hearts.
We wanted to hear what he had to say about racial problems in the United States. We already knew about Dr. Martin
Luther King and the civil rights movement and pretty much kept up with what was going on in the United States and in other
countries. When Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, our headmaster, Mr. Sanga, called an emergency meeting of all
the teachers and students to break the news. We went back to our classroooms but the only thing we had in mind on that day
was King's assassination. I was then 18 years old and in standard 12, my last year at Songea Secondary School.
We hardly missed important news. We read newspapers, and we listened to the radio including the BBC in both
English and Kiswahili. And we knew some history, including the history of the United States even if not in detail in all aspects,
but enough to talk about the civil rights struggle and other issues.
All the students at our school were black, except two of Indian origin. And we thought the black American Peace
Corp teacher would feel pretty much comfortable with us as fellow blacks. And he was pretty much relaxed, smiling a lot during
our conversation. He didn't talk much, but he didn't seem to be uncomfortable either.
In spite of all the enthusiasm on our part, anxiously waiting to hear what he had to say, we got nothing from
him, except denials, flat denials, about racism in the United States. It was an informal gathering, only a few of us probably
no more than ten or fifteen, standing outside that evening. The white teachers who came with him did not in any way interfere
with us. And some were talking to another group of students.
It was a frustrating experience trying to get something out of him. We knew he wasn't telling the truth.
Yet, our interest in him was genuine since we identified with him as a fellow black who came from a country
where some of our people had been taken as slaves and were still being oppressed for no reason other than that they were black,
and of African origin, like us. That's how we saw it. I remember he was tall, dark, and slim, and probably in his twenties
as many Peace Corps teachers were, fresh out of college.
But, whatever the case, nothing worked. And for whatever reason, he saw it differently, not in terms of racial
identification with us - he knew we were black just like he was, simple common sense, even if he didn't like it, which I doubt
seriously; he saw it differently in terms of racism in the American context and obviously in terms of how his country, the
United States, was viewed abroad especially in Africa, the black man's homeland.
He was concerned about the American image. He did not want it to be tarnished, I don't know by whom, since we
had nothing to do with that; in fact, America had already tarnished her image by practising and condoning racism especially
We were not trying to drag the name of his country in the mud. He didn't say that, but that's how some of us
saw it. He was also very conscious of the fact that all his colleagues were white and he did not want to step on their toes,
although many whites in the United States were stepping not just on the toes but on the necks of black people, deriving satisfaction
as they saw them groaning in pain.
And that was back in 1965, the same year Watts exploded; also the same year in which Malcolm
X was assassinated. He had just been assassinated a few months earlier, in February, before the black Peace Corp teacher and
his colleagues came to our school. And it's probably an encounter he never forgot for a long time.
We knew racism was a serious problem in the United States. We knew blacks did not have equal
rights as much as we knew black people in South Africa did not have equal rights. There was apartheid in the southern states
of the United States. And the whole world knew about that. Even the Soviet Union tried to capitalize on that, exposing the
hypocrisy of the United States as a democratic country while at the same denying blacks equal rights as citizens and human
beings, rights whites, even white foreigners in terms of human rights, took for granted.
Racism tarnished the image of the United States worldwide. It was a major problem back then in the sixties just
as it is today in spite of the progress made to overcome it. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, this black Peace Corp teacher
pretended that it was not, if it was one at all. In fact, I remember him flatly denying it.
There probably wasn't any among us who did not notice right away that he was not forthright and cooperative
in answering our questions. Most of us were teenagers; the oldest were probably in the early twenties since some students
started school late and were therefore a little older than the rest of us. We still knew better; we knew he was being deliberately
evasive and was not telling the truth, may be not offend his counterparts who were white and within earshot, although some
of them were talking to other students and probably were not even paying attention to what was going on in our group with
the black American teacher.
I remember one student, Raymond Mshamu, from Mtwara Region, whose family once lived in my home district when
his father was headmaster of Ndembela Middle School about two miles from Tukuyu, the administrative capital of Rungwe District
on the Tanzania-Malawi border about 300 miles from Songea Secondary School. Raymond spoke Nyakyusa, my tribal language, he
learned when they lived in Tukuyu.
They were members of a different tribe from Mtwara Region, and his facility with language when he learned Nyakyusa
demonstrated a capacity and the ability to interact with people of other tribes so common among Tanzanians; the kind of brotherhood
that was vigorously promoted by the government of President Julius Nyerere who was our leader until 1985, although he remained
the most influential figure in the country even after he stepped down from the presidency.
In general, people of different tribes and races live together peacefully in Tanzania and the government under
Nyerere had a policy of assigning people of different tribes to work in districts and regions other than their own in order
to break down tribal barriers. And it worked. The same applied to students, and we liked it; an attitude that was also reflected
amongst us when we identified with black people in the United States, prompting us to ask the black American Peace Corp teacher
questions about racism in the United States.
Since we accepted each other in spite of our tribal differences, it was obvious that we would equally accept
blacks in the United States as an integral part of us. People who don't accept members of other tribes, in their own country,
are certainly not going to accept people of other tribes in other countries including detribalized Africans such as African
Americans. We were different, as are the majority of Tanzanians. I don't know how the black Peace Corp teacher saw us, but
we saw him as one of us.
I remember Raymond Mshamu asking him, over and over again, questions about racism in the United States. He told
him we hear and read about racism in America, and that we hear and read about Dr. Martin Luther King leading the civil rights
movement fighting for racial equality. Still, we got nowhere with him, despite being pestered with all sorts of questions
on the subject, repeatedly, especially by Raymond. The fellow just smiled. It was a disarming smile, but not quite. Raymond
didn't give up.
He took the lead because of the type of person he was: aggressive, unrelenting, and very outspoken. He was also
older, four years ahead of me and others; at least some of us in that group. He was in his last and senior year, standard
12, in 1965, while I was in my first in the four-year secondary school which was also a boarding school; the equivalent of
an American high school. Our high school goes up to standard 14, and only a few students make it that far because of the highly
competitive elimination exams every four years. Once you fail, you are out.
It was a frustrating experience, to say the least, with this black Peace Corp teacher. But nothing dampened
my interest, or that of the other students, in black America and the United States in general, especially as a country that
was also built by our African ancestors who were taken to "the land of the free and the home of the brave" in chains, as slaves,
and where their descendants are still not treated as equal citizens almost two hundred years after the end of slavery.
It was not until after I went to high school (standard 13 and standard 14, generally known as Form V and Form
VI) that I came into the presence of another African American. There were, of course, a number of black Americans living and
working in Tanzania, including some well-known ones such as Bob Moses and Charlie Cobb who had been active in the American
civil rights movement in the south.
Tanzania was one of the African countries which attracted a very large number of African
Americans because of President Nyerere's formidable credentials as a staunch Pan-Africanist who accepted black Americans and
other blacks in the diaspora as fellow Africans; also because of his relentless support for the African liberation movements;
and his pursuit of socialist policies in an attempt to break the stranglehold of western countries on our economies.
All this was very appealing to a large number of African Americans, including militants such as the Black Panthers
and others, as much as Ghana was under Nkrumah until his ouster in February 1966 in a military coup engineered and masterminded
by the CIA.
After my encounter with the black Peace Corp teacher at Songea Secondary School in 1965, the next African American
whose presence I was aware of, was in 1969 at our high school Tambaza in the nation's capital Dar es Salaam. He was a student
there with us and his parents or relatives had been attracted to Tanzania by President Nyerere's policies and leadership just
like many other African Americans had been.
We lived in the same student hostel for Tambaza High School students only a few yards away from the school and
from the beach on the Indian Ocean. But I never interacted with him on personal basis. He was my junior, a secondary school
student, while I was in high school (standard 13 and standard 14), and he had his own friends who were not in my circle.
Formerly known as H.H. The Aga Khan High School almost exclusively for Tanzanian students of Indian and Pakistani
origin, Tambaza was one of the best schools in the country and most of the students at the hostel were of Asian origin. The
school was also fully integrated when I was there, mostly by black African students and those of Asian descent. There were
also a few Arab students.
The black African students also came from many different tribes across the country. And students in my class
were among the first to integrate the school, a mandatory policy the government pursued since we won independence in 1961,
as it still does today. The African American student also added diversity to the student body, as a foreigner, although he
was black like some of us.
I went to Tambaza High School in 1969 after completing my four-year secondary school education at Songea. I
was one of the very few students in the country who qualified to go to high school and the only one who went to Tambaza from
Songea. A handful of others from my school, not more than 10 altogether, went to other high schools. It was also when I was
at Tambaza that I again seriously considered pursuing further education in the United States, as I did when I was at Songea
Secondary School. I just didn't know how I was going to do it. But I was determined to achive my goal.
It was not until after I became a reporter at Tanzania's main news paper, the Daily News, formerly the Standard, that I got the opportunity to pursue my dream.
Again, as in my interest in Lincoln University earlier when I was at Songea Secondary School and even at Tambaza High School
where I also had interest in the same school inspired by Kwame Nkrumah, black America became my main focus in pursuit of my
goal, and eventually African Americans played a critical role in helping me achieve it.
Coincidentally, another student, Frank Chiteji, from Ruvuma Region where I attended secondary school, was also
attracted to Lincoln University and finally went there. And by another coincidence, he ended up living in the same room Kwame
Nkrumah did when he was a student there in the thirties. Nkrumah first went to Lincoln University in 1935; Chiteji about thirty
years later in the sixties.
Yet, by another coincidence, Frank Chiteji also attended another school in the same state I did, Michigan. He
earned his PhD in history from Michigan State University in the late seventies and became a professor. He taught at Ohio State
University and, at this writing, was a professor at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.
When I met him at Michigan State University in the late seventies, he recalled with pride the years he spent at
Lincoln University, and told me he lived in the same room Kwame Nkrumah did. I met him for the first time when I went to visit
Kaboko Issa Musoke, a former colleague of mine at the Daily News where he and I worked as reporters in the early seventies, and who was Chiteji's roommate
at Michigan State University. So, this was another coincidence: two former reporters, Musoke and I, from the same newspaper
in Tanzania, ended up going to school in the same state around the same time.
Musoke also earned a PhD, in sociology, from Michigan State University and returned to Tanzania
where he became professor of sociology at the University of Dar es Salaam. He also taught at the University of Botswana. And
like Chiteji and I, he was also an admirer of Nkrumah. I remember the day I visited them in 1977, I had a debate with Musoke
on the merits of Nkrumah's argument for immediate continental unification and his contention that Nyerere's approach towards
African unity - by first trying to form an East African federation - was "balkanization on a grand scale" as Nkrumah put it.
I supported Nyerere's approach. As Nyerere said in an interview with the New
Internationalist in December 1998:
"Kwame Nkrumah and I were committed to the idea of unity. African leaders and heads of state did not take Kwame
seriously. However, I did. I did not believe in these small little nations. Still today I do not believe in them. I tell our
people to look at the European Union, at these people who ruled us who are now uniting.
Kwame and I met in 1963 and discussed African Unity. We differed on how to achieve a United States of Africa.
But we both agreed on a United States of Africa as necessary. Kwame went to Lincoln University, a black college in the US.
He perceived things from the perspective of US history, where 13 colonies that revolted against the British formed a union.
That is what he thought the OAU (Organization of African Unity) should do.
I tried to get East Africa to unite before independence. When we failed in this way, I was wary about Kwame's
continental approach. We corresponded profusely on this. Kwame said my idea of 'regionalization' was only balkanization on
a larger scale. Later, African historians will have to study our correspondence on this issue of uniting Africa."
Nyerere has been vindicated by history, as African countries in different parts of the continent
have taken a regional approach towards integration and eventual unification. In East Africa, we have the East African Community
(EAC) whose leaders are seriously considering a forming political federation in 2010. In 2004, they formed a committee to
explore and institute mechanism for achieving this goal.
In West Africa, there is ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States which is
also a political organ and an instrument for peace and security in the region. West African leaders are also working towards
creating a common currency, a common market, and eventually a federation.
In southern Africa, there is SADC, the Southern African Development Community, the richest and strongest of
the African regional organizations mainly because of South Africa's membership and economic might. It also wants to establish
a common market, form a regional parliament and create other institutions to achieve maximum regional integration.
It is a subject I have addressed in one of my books, Nyerere
and Africa: End of an Era. An entire chapter is devoted to this subject:
Nyerere's versus Nkrumah's approach towards continental unification.
Dr. Nkrumah galvanized many Africans into action with his inspiring rhetoric and Pan-African militancy, especially
on the subject of African unity, and there is no doubt that he also inspired many African students to follow in his footsteps
to attend school in the United States even if they ended up elsewhere besides Lincoln University where he went.
But his ties to Lincoln University, and those of other African students who went to school there and other black
colleges and universities, clearly shows that black America has always been in the consciousness of many Africans on the continent
because of the common heritage we share with black Americans as an African people in spite of centuries of physical separation
since the slave trade; and in spite of some misunderstandings between us which continue to put a strain on our relations,
a subject I also address in this book and about which I have some knowledge because of the many years I have lived with African
Americans in the United States.
My life with African Americans has been an enriching experience for me spanning more than three decades. And
my first, direct contact with them began when I was a journalist in Tanzania.
My first experience as a reporter was with the Standard, renamed Daily News in 1970, where I was hired in June 1969 when I was still in high school at Tambaza. I got the
job in June because it was a holiday, what Americans call vacation, and therefore did not go back to school until July. And
my first job as a journalist working full-time after I finished high school was at the headquarters of the Tanzania Ministry
of Information and Broadcasting in Dar es Salaam in 1971 where I worked as an information officer. That was before I joined
the editorial staff of the Daily News where I had worked earlier in 1969 as a reporter of the Standard. The name of the newspaper was changed when it was nationalized. President Nyerere became
our editor-in-chief but only as nominal head. He played no executive role.
It was when I was at the Daily News that I first got in touch with some African Americans in the United States. I did not, back
then, have any direct personal contact with any African Americans living in Dar es Salaam or anywhere else in Tanzania; and
there were quite a few of them. The only personal contact I had was with one reporter of Mohammed Speaks who was based in Dar es Salaam, our nation's
capital, which is also known as Dar. I remember he said he came from Chicago, and he used to come to our editorial office
on regular basis to get stories he could use in the black Muslim paper back in the United States.
I also remember another African American who came to our editorial office. That was Robert Williams, an internationally
known civil rights leader from Monroe, North Carolina. But I never got the chance to talk to him when he came to our office
until a few years later in the United States. I was a student then, at Wayne State University in Detroit, and he came to the
city to talk to a group of students who were members of the Young Socialist Alliance. That was in 1975. When I met him, I
reminded him of his visit to our newspaper in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and he remembered it very well.
Working at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in Dar es Salaam had serendipitous benefits which later
changed the course of my life forever. One evening, when I was about to go home, I accidentally came across a newspaper, The African World, in the office
of our chief press officer Mr. Mtoi. The paper had been discarded, but the title caught my attention right away. I had never
seen it before and didn't know where it was published; it could have been anywhere: Africa, Britain, the United States or
any other place. I thought about Africa first. It was therefore somewhat of a surprise to me when I found out that it was
published in Greensboro, North Carolina, and had somehow found its ways to our office in Tanzania.
The paper was, in fact, on the floor, ready to be tossed out by the janitor, together with other papers including
local ones at the end of the day. Fortunately, I got it in time just before it ended up in the garbage. It was a treasure,
and a discovery, which played a critical role in my life. After glancing at it, I took the paper home and kept it.
What I saw in that paper was the beginning of a long journey that would take me from Tanzania, East Africa,
all the way to the United States and change my entire life, for better or for worse.
After I left the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and joined the Daily News in the second half of 1971, I started corresponding
with a number of African Americans whose contacts I had found by reading The
African World. I had already written the people on the editorial staff
in Greensboro and asked them to start sending me the paper. And they did so generously.
But it was the issue I picked up from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting which proved to be critical.
In that edition, there was an article about Malcolm X Liberation University in Greensboro which also fueled my interest in
Malcolm X as a leader, and in the civil rights struggle in the United States in general.
A number of other articles, including one on a young black minister, Benjamin Chavis, in Wilmington, North Carolina,
who was then 28 years old and whose photo was also in the same paper I had, and what he was going through at the hands of
the authorities because of his political activism; and other stories on police brutality against blacks, all had an equally
profound impact on me and widened my mental horizon on civil rights and human rights issues in the American context and elsewhere
round the globe.
It was also in the same paper that I saw a photograph of one of the leaders of the Detroit-based Pan-African
Congress-USA, Ed Vaughn, and a caption about the organization's scholarship program for African students. There I was, trying
to go to school in the United States. And right there in my hands, was a black newspaper with a picture of one of the leaders
of a black organization in the United States that was sponsoring African students. It was quite a coincidence. But I did not
pursue the matter right away.
Instead of writing the Pan-African Congress in Detroit, I wrote The
African World in Greensboro and asked for a subscription. My immediate
interest then was to learn more about black America, although I was still interested in going to school in the United States.
The publishers were generous enough to send the paper to me free, and I received several issues after that. My
colleagues on the editorial staff at the Daily News also liked The African World very much. I remember Reginald Mhango, who was then a senior reporter and who thirty years
later in 2002 became editor of one of Tanzania's main daily newspapers, The
Guardian, saying: "This is a very good paper."
While at the Daily News, I applied for admission to Malcolm X Liberation University and got a response from the school's president, Owusu
Sadaukai (Howard Fuller), saying I had been accepted on a scholarship. I had never heard of this school before until I read
about it in The African World. Having secured admission, on a scholarship, all I had to do was get a plane ticket to the United States.
I told my editor Ben Mkapa about it, and he agreed to help me. Many years later, Mkapa
was elected president of Tanzania (1995 - 2005) with the full support of former President Julius Nyerere who played a critical
role in choosing him as the presidential candidate of the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), which is a Swahili name
meaning Party of the Revolution. Without Mkapa's help, I would not have gone to the United States when I did, if at all.
I left Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, around 8 PM on Friday, November 3, 1972, and arrived in New York the next day
on Saturday, November 4, on a flight from London and went straight to Greensboro, North Carolina. I had a telephone number
to call and two staff members from Malcolm X Liberation University came to pick me up from the airport and take me to the
I also had with me a copy of Africa magazine. A black air hostess on the flight from London to New York, PANAM flight 101, asked
me if she could have it but I said I couldn't give it to her. I told her I wished I could have given it to her but that was
the only copy I had. I also had with me The African World which contained a short article about the Pan-African Congress-USA and its scholarship program
for African students.
My stay in Greensboro was short. Malcolm X Liberation University was not suitable for me in terms of what I wanted
to study. I left for New York City where I stayed for about two months with a relative who worked at the Tanzania Mission
to the UN. As fate would have it, I again turned to my copy of The African
World I had brought with me from Tanzania and remembered it had an
address of the Pan-African Congress (PAC) in Detroit.
Without hesitation, I wrote the leaders of the organization and asked them if they could sponsor me, while I
was at the same time trying to get into the State University of New York-Stoneybrook. Within a few days, I got a call from
Detroit. The director of the PAC scholarship program, Malikia Wada Lumumba, a professor of psychology in Detroit, was on the
phone. But I was not there to answer the call.
I had just left and gone to the store around the corner from where I lived on East 52nd when the call came.
It was in the evening in November. That was also when I had a rude awakening at the store. It was a way of saying, "Welcome
to America," but in a very strange way. I had been in the country for less than a month, mostly in Manhattan except for the
few days I spent in Greensboro, North Carolina.
I walked straight into a robbery and did not have the slightest idea of what was going on. A young black man,
probably around my age, had a chrome-plated snub-nosed pistol pointed at the head of the manager who was trembling and helping
the young robber to help himself, handing him dollar bills. He may have had his admirers, other criminals, who would have
felt that was just a soul brother emptying the cash register; a stereotypical view of so many young black men who are collectively
portrayed as muggers. But I did not see him as any kind of hero, role model or freedom fighter after I found out what was
going on, a few minutes after I had entered the store.
As the customers, coincidentally all white, walked into the store, caught unaware, the robber kept on waiving
his pistol ordering them to move on: "Move, move," he shouted. He said the same thing to me as soon as I walked in. But I
ignored him and went straight to get a shopping basket. He was on my left, by the cash register, and I turned right to the
area where the baskets were. He kept on shouting but I told him I was there to shop and had to get a basket. I thought he
was a security guard and it was closing time. But since I was already in the store, I saw no reason why he would try to stop
me and not let me shop. So I ignored him.
He also ignored me and probably thought I was out of my mind, or he noticed my accent and thought I was new
in the country and didn't know what was going on; especially when everybody else was scared and following his orders to "move,
move," except me.
Whatever the case, he kept on ordering other incoming customers - "move, move!" I was the only one who was relaxed,
while everybody else was scurrying for cover. And I stood out because of that.
I also stood out for another reason. Besides, the robber, I was the only black person in the store during that
time. And I will never forget how he looked like. He was about 5' 9", thin, dark, with a thin, long face, but not very long.
And he had an intimidating look but which did not intimidate me at all. It's a miracle I wasn't shot.
After the soul brother spared my life, it's a miracle he did, and had emptied the cash register,
he fled outside to a waiting getaway car, with its engine still running. I remember it was a beat-up dull green car, medium
size. Within minutes, the police came into the store. They talked to the manager and to other customers and came straight
Everybody in the store, including the manager, knew I was the only customer who talked to
Detectives, in trench coats, showed me mug shots and asked me if I could recognize him and
identify him in any of the photos. I told them I couldn't. His picture was not there. They gave me a card to call them later
if I had any information on the robber and the robbery itself.
When I got back to where I was staying, having bought everything I wanted to buy, I told
my relative about the robbery. He said that was New York. I knew exactly what he meant. I learnt fast from just that one experience
at the store where I could have lost my life, 6,000 miles away from my home country, Tanzania, and after being in the United
States for only about three weeks. But that was not my fate or destiny. I lived to tell the story, and much more.
My relative then told me I had an important call from Detroit and the lady who called asked me to call back
collect. I did right away. The caller was Malikia Wada Lumumba, director of the scholarship program at the Pan-African Congress-USA.
She had good news for me and told me I had been offered a scholarship. I accepted the offer and no longer pursued plans to
try to get into the State University of New York (SUNY) or any other school in New York. Money was a critical factor, and
there was no reason for me not accept the scholarship in Detroit.
In addition to the scholarship, the organization also bought a plane ticket for me. Malikia, which in Kiswahili
means Queen, told me to pick it up at the airport and fly to Detroit. She also told me there would be someone waiting for
me at the airport to pick me up. It was a Pan-African Congress member. I flew to Detroit where my new life in the United States
began. But my trip to Detroit had a surprise for me and even for my sponsors, the Pan-African Congress (PAC).
After I boarded the plane in New York for the flight to Detroit, a young lady came aboard and was assigned a
seat right next to me. It was such a coincidence. She came from Africa; I also came from Africa. She came to the United States
to go to school, I also came to the United States to go to school. She was young, I was young, having turned 23 on October
4, 1972. I never asked her how old she was, but I believe she was a little younger than I was. She was headed to Michigan,
I was headed to Michigan. Her name was Yormie Amegashie from Liberia.
She asked me where I was headed. I said Detroit. I asked her where she was going. She said Lansing which, as
I learnt later, was only about 76 miles from Detroit; it was also Malcolm X's hometown. She told me her sister was a nurse
in Lansing, the state capital, and was going to pick her up from Detroit airport. Unfortunately, when we got to Detroit, her
sister was not there. But fortunately, the Pan-African Congress member who had been sent to pick me up was there. His name
was Kali and recognized me right away soon after I got off the plane; tragically, he died of cancer in the late seventies
after I moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was only 28 when he died.
Before I left New York, I told the director of the scholarship program at the Pan-African Congress in Detroit,
Malikia Wada Lumumba who had called me, how I would be dressed: in a dashiki. When I arrived in Detroit, Kali was able to
identify me by my attire and came straight to me at the airport and introduced himself. By another coincidence, Yormie also
was in African attire.
After she told me her sister was not at the airport, I told her not to worry. I told her I would ask the Pan-African
Congress member who came to pick me up if he would agree to take her with us. He did, and told me and her there was no problem.
He said Pan-African Congress members would also take care of her until her sister came to pick her up. And off we went.
It was one of the best ways the Pan-African Congress members demonstrated their hospitality and desire to embrace
us, and others, as members of the same African family in a Pan-African context. When we got to the Pan-African Congress house,
one of the members of the organization, Akosua Ahadi, offered to take in Yormie right away. She was a teacher and lived alone.
And a few years later, she ended up moving to Liberia where Yormie came from; another coincidence.
Yormie stayed with her for about two weeks or so and was very grateful to the Pan-African Congress members for
what they had done to help her until her sister came to pick her up. She finally ended up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she
attended college and wrote me when I was still in Detroit to tell me she was getting married. She also said she would always
be grateful to the Pan-African Congress members and would always consider them to be part of her family. We all wished her
the best. And I hope she survived the civil war in Liberia if she returned home and was there when the country dissolved in
That was Pan-Africanism at its best in a personal way. Here was an organization whose members had gone out of
the way to sponsor African students when they didn't have to; took in other African students, including Yormie, who were in
need. And there I was, myself, as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the generosity of this Pan-African family based in Detroit
but whose roots stretched all the way back to Africa, from where African Americans were uprooted and forcibly transplanted
on American soil.
It was an organization that had a lasting impact on my life and those of other African students sponsored by
the same same organization. Some of them became national leaders when they went back to Africa after completing their studies
in the United States. They were Kojo Yankah from Ghana, one of the first two students to be sponsored by the Pan-African Congress-USA,
who became a member of parliament and later a cabinet member under President Jerry Rawlings; and Amadou Taal from the Gambia,
who held a number of cabinet-level posts under President Dawda Jawara and was Gambia's chief economist.
One of the first two students to be sponsored, together with Kojo Yankah, was Olu Williams from Sierra Leone
who went on to get a PhD in agricultural economics from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. I did not know his fate after
he returned to Sierra Leone and hoped that he survived the civil war which nearly destroyed his home country in the 1990s.
I didn't even know if he was in Sierra Leone during the war until I learnt later what happened to him.
I was in touch with one Sierra Leonean, Kadija Kabba, a close relative of President Ahmed Tejan Kabba, who happened
to know Olu Williams. When we first got in touch, I told her I knew one Sierra Leonean from my student days in Detroit, Olu
Williams, who was sponsored by the same organization which sponsored me and asked her if she knew him and if he was in Siera
Leone and survived the war. She told me that she knew Olu Williams well. But something tragic happend to him. As she stated
in her email to me on October 7, 2005:
"I did know Olu Williams and in fact used to call him uncle, 'cause, as you know in Africa, if someone is close
to your family, you call them Uncle or Aunt even though they may not be related to you.
He used to work on Consultancies with my Dad; on projects such as - this one particular they did for UNDP in
1995 with a colleague of theirs called Dustan Spencer. His wife is a very good friend of my mum. Unfortunately and sad to
say, he died in 2000 and his five-year anniversary has just passed this September, if I’m counting correctly. He did
survive the war but was seriously ill by 1998 and 1999."
Kadija Kabba got her master's degree in international studies from Norway in 2005 and we have remained in touch
since then, working together on some projects relating to conflict resolution and other issues about Africa.
One of the students I mentioned earlier, Amadou Taal, was not sponsored by the Pan-African Congress but was
helped by the organization when we went to school together at Wayne State University and even before then when he was a student
at Wabash College in Indiana. He stayed with us at the Pan-African Congress house during summer vacation when he was a student
at Wabash College, as did another Gambian student, Mamadou Sohna, who went to the same school. And both lived with us when
they enrolled as graduate students at Wayne State University. Mamadou later became a professor in the United States.
Another student sponsored by the organization was Kwabena Dompre from Ghana who also became a high-level government
official and worked closely with President Hilla Limann after he went back home.
They all achieved their goals with the help of the Pan-African Congress-USA. And we all lived as students in
the same house owned by the Pan-African Congress (PAC). Those were some of the best days of our lives, interacting with our
brethren, African Americans. It was a truly Pan-African organization. As Amadou Taal, in remembering those days, said in a
letter to me from The Gambia in May 2003:
"Although many of us stayed at the PAC house, which we all enjoyed, we were not all part of the sponsorship
programme. This does not, in any way, minimise the contributions of the Pan-African Congress to education of African students
from the continent. Indeed, we all appreciated their noble objectives and meaningful efforts in bringing together Africans
from different countries to stay and interact under one roof and to share our experiences with our brothers and sisters from
the diaspora. The PAC days were a real experience which have contributed in no small measure to our perception of Africa within
the context of this globalising world."
My life in Detroit was another turning point in my journey in this world. And it had been one long journey from
Tanzania about 6,000 miles away. But it had been a short one in my life of 23 years when I first arrived there. I just hoped
that I still had many more years to live in this short journey of ours, as mere mortals, on earth. And Detroit had a lot to
offer, especially in terms of Pan-Africanism.
Probably more than any other city in the United States with a predominantly black population, Detroit was a
hotbed of political activism that has not been duplicated anywhere else in the country. It was in Detroit where the Black
Nation of Islam was founded in the thirties. And it was also in Detroit where the Republic of New Afrika, the Shrine of Black
Madonna also known as Black Christian Nationalism, the Pan-African Congress-USA and other black nationalist groups were started.
Even Marcus Garvey's United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), a black-to-Africa movement which was the biggest
black organization in American history since the 1920s, was very strong in Detroit. I even met some of the older members of
this organization in the early and mid-1970s when they spoke at the meetings of the Pan-African Congress, my sponsor. The
Black Panther Party also had a strong presence in Detroit.
Malcolm X also had strong ties to Detroit; hence his nickname, "Detroit Red." His wife Betty Shabaaz also came
from Detroit. And he himself spent a lot of time in Detroit when he was growing up in Lansing, about 67 miles away, and made
frequent trips to the city when he became a leader in the Nation of Islam, and thereafter.
Many of his family members also lived in Detroit, including his eldest brother Wilfred Little Shabaaz. And they
are still there today. Also, some members of the Pan-African Congress knew Malcolm X. One of his best friends, Riley Smith
who adopted the African name, Kwame Atta, was a leader of the Pan-African Congress when I was in Detroit. And Like many Pan-African
Congress members, Kwame visited Africa a number of times and later moved to Ghana with his family.
Malcolm X's brother, Wilfred, was also a strong Garveyite throughout his life in Detroit. As Paul Lee, a Detroit
black writer and historian, stated in his article in The Michigan Citizen, Highland Park, February 10, 2002:
"Some elder Detroit black nationalists recall the visit of a Black Star steamship in August 1964. Malcolm X's eldest
brother, the late Wilfred Little Shabaaz, himself a son of Garveyites, told the author of his pride at meeting the ship's
captain and posing for photographs, one of which appeared in Now, a black nationalist magazine published by Detroit attorney Milton Henry."
Milton Henry, who took the African name of Gaidi Obadele, and his brother Richard Henry, renamed Imari Obadele,
founded the Republic of New Afrika in Detroit in 1968. Both knew Malcolm X whose father was a Baptist preacher in Lansing,
Michigan, and a follower of Marcus Garvey. After Malcolm X was assassinated, the Obadele brothers and other black nationalists
formed the Malcolm X Society in Detroit to honor him and implement his ideals. Together with the Republic of New Afrika, the
Malcolm X Society also demanded reparations for the labor extracted from African slaves and their descendants in the United
In fact, it was the members of the Malcolm X Society who called a meeting in Detroit which led to the establishment
of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) in March 1968. Therefore the RNA was a product of the Malcolm X Society which itself was
Garveyist in orientation. Robert Williams, the black militant civil rights leader from North Carolina who was then in exile
in China was named president of the Republic of New Africa. Milton Henry, renamed Gaidi Obadele, became first vice president,
and Betty Shabaaz, Malcolm X's widow who was also from Detroit, was named second vice president. Imari Obadele became minister
of information in this Garveyist organization.
Years earlier, Malcolm X's father was one of the strongest supporters of the Back-to-Africa movement advocated
by Marcus Garvey. He was killed in Lansing because of his outspokenness against racial injustice. It is believed that Ku Klux
Klan members killed him. But nothing could kill the spirit that Malcolm X had in pursuit of freedom for African Americans
and remained committed to Marcus Garvey who believed that black people should go back to Africa, the only place on earth where
they could be free.
The Black Star Steamship Line was launched by Marcus Garvey to promote trade among black people worldwide, especially
between those in the Americas and Africa, and to finally transport African Americans and other blacks back to Africa to settle
permanently in fulfillment of his dream of the "Back-to-Africa" movement, and "Africa for Africans." Unfortunately, it is
a goal he never realized.
But Detroit remained an activist center in the Marcus Garvey tradition even after Garvey died destitute in London
in 1940. The Pan-African Congress-USA based and founded in Detroit in 1970 was one of those organizations which considered
themselves to be heirs of Marcus Garvey.
One of the reasons black nationalist groups, and black activism, thrived in Detroit was the predominance of
the black population. When I lived there in the seventies, it was mostly black and the fifth largest city in the United States;
it slipped to seventh in the nineties while at the same time the percentage of the black population rose, making it almost
90 percent black, although numerically it lost some people, including blacks, through the years.
It was also in Detroit where I forged the strongest ties with Black America; ties which started when I was still
in Tanzania in the early seventies and corresponded with people like Nathan Hare, editor of the Black Scholar published in Sausalito, California, and
who later became a professor at Howard University; editors of The Black
World; Owusu Sadaukai (Howard Fuller), president of Malcolm X Liberation
University, and later professor of education at Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Les Campbell (Jitu Weusi, Swahili
meaning Black Man), a black activist and head of a black nationalist group in Brooklyn which had ties to the Congress of African
People based in Newark, New Jersey, led by renowned poet and playwright Amiri Baraka, formerly LeRoi Jones, and other civil
rights groups; Kimathi Mohammed of the Marcus Garvey Institute in Lansing, Michigan; and others including those in academia.
One was a professor at Tufts University who encouraged me to go to school there. I even talked to him when I was staying in
New York but never got the chance to go to Tufts and ended up elsewhere, instead, in Detroit.
When I stayed in New York City for about two months from November to December, 1972, I interacted with a number
of African Americans in the black nationalist movement. They included Les Campbell and his group in Brooklyn some of whose
members spoke Kiswahili and whom I visited on several occasions. Les Campbell and his colleagues also took me to a gathering
at Temple No. 7 in Harlem once headed by Malcolm X. I had been to Harlem before and continued to visit this bustling black
"city" thereafter when I stayed in New York. I also attended functions in Manhattan organized by the Congress of African People
where Amiri Baraka himself, the leader of this organization, was the main speaker. Guests included African diplomats, among
them officials of the Tanzania Mission to the UN, and I got the chance to meet Baraka.
I was also invited to City College in Harlem by one of the professors, Mrs. Sanga, an African American married
to a Tanzanian, Dr. Tuntemeke Sanga (not our headmaster I mentioned earlier), who years later became a member of parliament
in Tanzania. She spoke fluent Kiswahili and taught the language at City College, in addition to African and African American
history. Mrs. Sanga also, unbeknownst to me then, had ties to the Pan African Congress in Detroit who were to sponsor me later
on. But I didn't know then that I would be getting a scholarship from them. I had not even written them when I visited City
After I moved to Detroit, Mrs.Sanga came to the city shortly thereafter, accompanying Madame Jean Cisse, the
ambassador of Guinea to the UN who had been invited by the Pan-African Congress (PAC) to be the main speaker at one of the
organization's forums held every Sunday at their PAC hall. All the meetings dealt with Pan-Africanism and other subjects about
Africa and the African disapora in a global context.
Because of the organization's ideological orientation, members were also taught African history. A significant
number of them also wanted to learn Kiswahili which they considered to be a truly Pan-African language. Many ethnic groups
contributed to its evolution and growth and it is the only major African language that is not identified with any particular
ethnic group. It transcends tribalism and ethnic identities; hence its appeal to a large number of Africans and those of African
descent in the diaspora. And I played a role in spreading the language in Detroit.
The Pan-African Congress members asked me to teach them the language. We had classes every week at the PAC hall
and I taught them free. After all, they had sponsored me; so why not do something in return as a token of appreciation? But
my primary interest in teaching the language was to promote unity among the children of Africa, those at home and those abroad,
by encouraging them to embrace a language that transcended ethnic loyalties and rivalries which have caused so much misery
across Africa through the decades simply because many people of different tribes don't like each other or feel that they are
better than others.
The desire to unite Africans, including those in diaspora, was also clearly evident in what the Pan-African
Congress did in sponsoring African students. They all came from different parts of Africa: Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and
Tanzania. And as I said earlier, the organization also helped two students from the Gambia by giving them free accommodation
when they were on summer vacation from Wabash College in Indiana, and when they attended Wayne State University in Detroit.
While Amadou Taal became a high government official after he returned to the Gambia, his compatriot, Mamadou Sohna, became
a professor in the United States.
Some refugees and freedom fighters from South Africa also stayed briefly at the Pan-African Congress house where
all the students lived. One of them was a senior leader of the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) of South Africa whom I knew in
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, when I was a news reporter and who was invited to Detroit by the Pan-African Congress-USA. The two
groups shared a common philosophy which emphasized the significance of race and racial solidarity to the exclusion of other
factors in the struggle for freedom and justice. Neither favored or promoted racial integration, a philosophy that was fundamentally
at odds with the beliefs of some of the students and other people who supported both organizations in their relentless struggle
against racial oppression and exploitation.
The Pan-African Congress-USA also forged links with African countries at the official level, in addition to
sponsoring students like me. Besides the Guinean ambassador to the UN, Madame Cisse, other African leaders who were invited
to Detroit included the Tanzanian ambassador to the United States, Paul Bomani; deputy ambassador Hamza Aziz, and Martin Kivumbi,
a senior diplomat at the Tanzania embassy in Washington, D.C. They all spoke at the PAC meetings.
One of the main subjects discussed was the liberation struggle in Africa. Tanzanian diplomats were in a unique
position to address the subject because Tanzania was the headquarters of all the African liberation movements in Africa and
one of the frontline states in the liberation wars in southern Africa. Others were Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, and Botswana.
And Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere was the chairman of the frontline states.
The Pan-African Congress-USA also supported the liberation struggle in southern Africa and
Guinea-Bissau which was ruled by the Portuguese and some of its leaders, together with other African Americans, went to Africa
on a fact-finding mission in some of the countries where the freedom fighters were waging guerrilla war against the colonial
forces. One of them went to Angola in 1974 and filmed a documentary on the atrocities perpetrated by the Portuguese against
innocent civilians which was shown at Wayne State University. Among those who attended was black US Congressman Charles Diggs
from Detroit who also had been to Africa a number of times. One of the countries he visited was Tanzania where he met President
Mrs. Rosa Parks, Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, was also in the audience and I got
the chance to meet her for the first time. She and her husband moved from Alabama to Detroit in 1957 and had been living there
since then. They fled Alabama after many threats by the Ku Klux Klan and other racist groups and individuals because of what
Rosa Parks did to fuel the civil rights movement when she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man in December
I remember the documentary about Angola well. It was filmed by Kwadwo
Akpan, one of the leaders of the Pan-African Congress-USA who and his wife years later moved to Ghana permanently, and it
provoked an angry reaction from the audience. One of the victims in the documentary was an elderly man with a very large bad
wound on his head; a victim of bombings by the Portuguese colonial forces. This ghastly image was seared in my memory, and
in the memories of others including a veteran and fiery journalist and editorial writer at the Michigan Chronicle, Nadine Brown who could hardly contain
her anger after seeing the film. The documentary galvanized the audience which included Wayne State University students, mostly
black, and members of the general public.
It is this kind of involvement in the African liberation struggle, and in the redemption and unification of
Africa in general, which gave the Pan-African Congress-USA a very high profile among many African Americans in Detroit and
elsewhere in spite of the fact that it was not a very large organization and had been formed only recently in 1970. But it
remained very active and, together with the Republic of New Afrika also founded in Detroit, organized very successful marches
in May every year on African Liberation Day to support the liberation struggle in Africa. And the people of Detroit responded
Hundreds and hundreds of them participated in the marches. The authorities were informed in advance and the
roads, with the participation of the Detroit police and other law enforcement agencies, were cleared of all traffic on the
day of the march throughout the entire route taken by the marchers. Those were the seventies when the liberation wars in southern
Africa were most intense. And the racial solidarity demonstrated in those marches and other events was very encouraging to
all those involved in the struggle, as were the contributions made.
When I was a student at Wayne State University, the liberation struggle in southern Africa was one of the main
subjects discussed by African and African American students. In 1975 at the suggestion of Mamadou Sohna, a few of us decided
to form an organization of African students on campus. It was named the Organization of African Students. A significant number
of African students and some African American students attended the first meeting and Sohna was elected president; I was elected
vice president. Mamadou relinquished his post not long after that, and I was elected to succeed him.
We also had a newsletter, Ngurumo, which in Kiswahili means thunder, as a forum for discussion and dissemination of information
about the organization. Some students voted for this name because it reminded them of Nkrumah. It sounds like his name, and
its meaning, thunder, was best personified by none other than Nkrumah in the minds of many of them. Others said they chose
the name because of the significance of Kiswahili as a Pan-African, non-tribal language not identified with any African tribe
or ethnic group.
Although our student organization was new, we tried to reach out within Pan-African circles in order to promote
Pan-African ideals and unity among Africans. We also invited speakers. One of them was the Kenyan ambassador to the United
States who spoke to a large audience of African students and African Americans at Wayne State University in 1975. During that
time there were about 200 African students attending Wayne State University. Most of them came from West Africa, especially
Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia. There were only three of us from Tanzania. The other two, Mark Kiluma and Mayowera, were graduate
students and both taught Kiswahili at Wayne State.
On the campus itself, we also tried to forge links with the older and larger Black Students Union of African
Americans but did not have a functional relationship. Our relationship was more symbolic than functional because neither side
tried hard to build a strong relationship between the two. But as individuals, many African and African American students
got along very well on and off-campus.
I remember one particular meeting to which we were invited by members of the Black Students Union in 1975. They
were discussing how the students should respond to the anti-busing violence in Boston, Massachusetts, where black students
were being attacked by white racist opponents of school busing to integrate schools in that city. Some of the students wanted
white students to be involved, others were opposed to that. The trend was towards integration but there were some who did
not trust whites to be genuine allies in their struggle for justice and equality.
I was one of the students who went to Boston that summer in 1975 to attend a mass rally condemning the racial
violence being perpetrated against black students in that city. It was a free ride. About three buses left Wayne State for
Boston. The convoy was organized by student groups on campus, black and white, and was fully integrated. We were a part of
a large gathering of students from all over the United States who participated in workshops on race and other subjects held
at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. Many other people also went to Boston for the event. I remember the buses which
kept on coming into the city from all parts of the country after we arrived there. Students and members of the general public
were all on board.
After they all had arrived, a mass rally was held. It was a rainbow coalition and, despite the large number
of African Americans from all walks of life and from all over the United States at the rally, a strong presence of white supporters
of integration was very noticeable and added to the significance of the event as a defining moment in the history of race
relations in Boston. The rally was addressed by Roy Wilkins, head of the NAACP. Although he was not an orator like Dr. Martin
Luther King and Malcolm X, his speech was very inspiring and gave hope to those who believed in racial integration that they
would overcome some day.
That was the dream. And it still remains a distant goal even today, despite the progress made across the United
States through the decades since the civil rights movement. As the NAACP New York office says in one of its statements: "The
NAACP was officially founded in 1910....Ninety-four years later, the work is not yet done. The face of racism changes continuously."
That is not Louis Farrakhan talking.
Although racial integration remains an elusive goal in the lives of many African Africans, many of them, may
be even the majority, see it as the only way forward in a predominantly white society. Then there are those who see it as
a noble but an unattainable ideal, therefore a waste of time and energy. And there are those who simply don't believe in it.
In my relations with African Americans in the course of more than three decades, I have met all three types,
They include those who support integration but don't trust whites, not necessarily as individuals but as a race
in general because of historical experience through the centuries beginning with the conquest of Africa and subsequent enslavement
of millions of her people shipped to the Americas, with millions more lost at sea.
I have seen a lot of anger and bitterness, but also hope and optimism among many African Americans. I have also
seen despair. But it is despair tempered with hope and faith in the American dream in the world's richest, most powerful,
and most successful country in the history of mankind in terms of material civilization.
Yet, material civilization is not the pinnacle of success in man's life if it is not inspired by noble ideals
including compassion for the weak and helpless; and if it does not value man's spiritual qualities as the very essence of
the meaning of life. As Kwame Nkrumah said in his speech on the motion for Ghana's independence he delivered before the Gold
Coast Legislative Assembly on July 10, 1953:
"In our daily lives, we may lack those material comforts regarded as essential by the standards of the modern
world; but we have the gifts of laughter and joy, a love of music, a lack of malice, an absence of the desire for vengeance
for our wrongs, all things of intrinsic worth in a world sick of injustice, revenge, fear and want....
We feel that there is much the world can learn from those of us who belong to what we might term the pre-technological
societies. These are values which we must not sacrifice unheedingly in pursuit of material progress....
We have to work hard to evolve new patterns, new social customs, new attitudes to life, so that while we seek
the material, cultural and economic advancement of our country, while we raise their standards of life, we shall not sacrifice
their fundamental happiness. That...has been the greatest tragedy of Western society since the Industrial Revolution."
Still, many African Americans, just like many Africans and other people, value material things more than they
value anything else. Yet, they don't represent all of their people or what is best among them. Most Africans who emigrated
to the United States did so to improve their lives and pursue the American dream. Even African students in the United States
go to school in order to get good paying jobs after they graduate and return to their countries or stay in America. They want
material things. They want security. And there is nothing wrong with that if they don't compromise principles they cherish
as a people and as human beings with a conscience.
But sometimes there is a conflict of visions and perceptions between the two groups. I have talked to a number
of Africans who say black people in the United States don't take advantage of the opportunities they have to succeed in life.
May be that is because we have so little in our countries in terms of opportunity and development to reach the pinnacle of
success. And I have talked to African Americans who say when Africans come to the United States, they are treated better and
are favored by whites and think "they are better than us."
And there are, of course, those who have little regard for each other; African Americans who look down upon
Africans because they come from a poor and a backward continent; and Africans who see American blacks as arrogant. In fact,
a number of African Americans, especially black Republicans and other conservatives like them, as well as others who are not
even ideologically inclined, don't want to have anything to with Africa. It goes on and on.
Yet, in spite of all this, in all my thirty years living and working with African Americans, I have noticed
that the majority of them - the ones I have dealt with - see us as a part of them, the same black race, the same people, because
they don't have the same kind of problem we have in Africa: tribalism. Civil wars and other conflicts in many African countries
since independence have been fueled by ethnic rivalries in the struggle for power and resources simply because many Africans
don't see themselves as one people like African Americans do. And many African leaders and other unscrupulous politicians
and the elite exploit and capitalize on these differences to promote their own interests and win power or perpetuate themselves
in office and favor members of their own tribes.
In a number of African countries, even the struggle for independence was carried on along tribal lines by tribal
political parties; for example the Northern People's Congress of Northern Nigeria dominated by the Hausa-Fulani; the Action
Group of Western Nigeria dominated by the Yoruba; the Kabaka Yekka of the Banganda tribe in Uganda; the Inkatha Freedom Party
of the Zulu in South Africa; the African National Congress in Zambia led by Harry Nkumbula which was strongest among the Ila
and the Tonga, southern tribes; the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) in the Gold Coast led by Dr. J.B. Danquah which was
strongest among the Ashanti; the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) in Sierra Leone which was dominated by the Mende, a southern
tribe and one of the two largest tribes in the country together with the Temne in the north.
Those are just a few examples of ethnic and regional loyalties and rivalries which have caused a lot of problems,
including civil wars, across Africa through the decades.
Fortunately, African Americans have been spared this agony, although in a tragic way. That
is because they were enslaved, and their tribal identities were destroyed during slavery. Yet out of all this emerged one
people. In Africa, we remain divided along tribal or ethnic lines. This is one of the main reasons why some Africans don't
identify with African Americans.
If they don't accept people of other tribes even in their own countries, they are not going
to accept black people in the United States as a part of them. Fortunately, many Africans in the United States, at least the
ones I have known, don't feel that way anymore than many African Americans do. And many African Americans are very much interested
in Africa probably more than Africans are interested in black America. They ask questions about Africa more than Africans
do about black America.
But it was probably my life with the Pan-African Congress members in Detroit during my student
days that best exemplifies what can be done and achieved in terms of building, maintaining, and strengthening relations between
Africans and African Americans who remain one people as children of Africa in spite of centuries of physical separation since
slavery. It is this spirit of Pan-Africanism that continues to animate many of our people on both sides of the Atlantic, and
it is the essence of our very being as a people who share a common heritage deeply rooted in Africa. Nothing can destroy that.
End of a Journey: Death of a
Pan-African Congress leader
In the last chapter, I mentioned some leaders of the Pan-African Congress-USA, an African
American organisation which sponsored me as a student in Detroit, Michigan.
Some of them immigrated to Ghana in the early 1990s. And one of them died in 2008.
He was one of the people who played an important role in my life when I was a student in
Detroit because he was an integral part of the collective leadership of an organisation which sponsored me and other African
students in that city. His name was Kwadwo Akpan. We simply called him Kwadwo.
Kwadwo died in Togo and was buried in Ghana in the land of his ancestors: Africa. May his
soul rest in peace.
I have included in this book some information about his life and death which
is not in the third edition of my book, Relations
Between Africans and Africans,
because it was published before he died.
The articles about his death, reprinted below, were written by some of the people who knew
him best. One of them is Herb Boyd who taught at Wayne State University in Detroit when I was a student there in the early
Boyd later became a prominent author and nationally-renowned. One of his acclaimed works
is on James Baldwin, an African American or black American author, who is acknowledged by many people – not just blacks
– as one of the greatest writers in American history. He has also written about Malcolm X among many other subjects.
This is what Herb Boyd had to say about Kwadwo Akpan in his article published
in The Black World Today (TBWT):
Kwadwo Oluwale Akpan, Makes His Transition
Herb Boyd, Managing Editor, TBWT
updated Tuesday, 01 July 2008
Black World Today
Randallstown, Maryland, USA
State University in the late sixties and the earl seventies was a hotbed of political, cultural and economic activism. Such
organizations as Uhuru, the Shrine of the Black Madonna, the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (later part of the League
of Revolutionary Black Workers), the Republic of New Afrika, the Black Workers Congress, and Facing Reality owe their development
to students and faculty at this urban-based college.
Akpan, then Gerald Simmons, Jr., was part of this ferment, and lent his skills and consciousness to several political formations
that emerged during this period, particularly the Pan-African Congress, where Ed Vaughn was such a pivotal figure.
Rarely was Kwadwo
– and he adopted this name before he left Wayne State – without his camera and when a coterie of students, including
Ozell Bonds, Bruce Williams, Lonnie Peek, Cathy Gamble, et al, formed the Association of Black Students, Kwadwo was among
the group’s leadership. Very few were as informed about the developments in Africa as he was, and it was only a matter
of time before he began to venture to the continent, establishing ties in the business and political realm.
On May 30, Kwadwo,
63, made his transition in Lome, Togo, though for the past 13 years he lived in Ghana where was the founder of FIHANKRA International
and was enstooled as Chief Ye Fa Ogyamu in the historical township near Akosombo.
As an activist
and community leader, he worked tirelessly for most of his life for the advancement of Africans throughout the Diaspora. Burial
will be in Akosombo, Ghana. He leaves to mourn, his courageous wife, Majewa Akpan, loving parents; Gerald L. Simmons and Theresa
S. Simmons, 8 children, 4 grandchildren, 2 brothers, and 2 sisters.
photographic and political legacy
Nana Kwadwo O. Akpan
to The Michigan Citizen, Detroit, Michigan, USA
[In last week’s issue of The Michigan Citizen, dated July 6th-July 12, 2008, we inadvertently published the first, uncorrected draft of the obituary of Nana
Kwadwo O. Akpan by historical features writer Paul Lee. Because we believe that Nana Akpan’s life and
legacy are worthy of being remembered, we are presenting below the corrected, much fuller version of his obituary, along with
a poem by Nana Akpan and an exclusive gallery of his photographs. — Ed.]
Nana Kwadwo Oluwale
Akpan, formerly Gerald L. Simmons, Jr., 63, died of complications of a stroke on May 30, 2008, in Lomé, Togo, West Africa,
where he was visiting for business and pleasure.
Although his name
would be unfamiliar to young persons in Detroit and Michigan today, Nana Akpan, who was born in Memphis, Tenn., on Aug. 10,
1944, was a well-known and respected photographer, filmmaker and social activist during the civil-rights, Black Power and
pan-African movements of the 1960s and ’70s.
a time in Detroit when we had a leader who was completely and totally dedicated to the liberation of black people, at home
and abroad,” is how his friend Mwalimu Edward Vaughn, president of the Alabama NAACP conference, suggested Nana Akpan
While few who
knew Nana Akpan would question the depth of his pan-African commitment, some would beg to differ with this assessment –
if only in private, out of respect for the departed, his family and friends.
Nana Akpan, they
would contend, could be aloof, stubborn and seemingly self-interested.
This merely underlines
the fact that his life, like all lives, was complex, but it was also one of great consequence — enough to provoke strong
passions from divergent, though not necessarily contradictory, perspectives.
the period that has been called the U. S.’s second Reconstruction, and particularly in the wake of the July 21-27, 1967,
Detroit Rebellion, Nana Akpan was a popular photographer, visually documenting the fast-evolving black rights movement.
photographer -/Man, is that camera loaded with Tri-X and bullets?” Nana Akpan asked in a 1968 poem, “TRI-X and
BULLETS,” the former referring to Kodak’s classic high-speed black and white photographic film.
camera, the poem continued, was a “weapon in my arsenal/to shoot/to expose … to kill./And in reality.” (See
sidebar for the complete poem.)
his many subjects was Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, then known as the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., founder of the Shrines of the
Black Madonna of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church (PAOCC), who was Detroit’s most prominent “black militant”
during the 1960s.
Akpan had a long and varied relationship with the Shrine.
In April 1970,
Jaramogi Agyeman hired him to photograph “New Directions For the Black Church,” the historic First Annual Convention
of the Black Christian Nationalist Movement, which codified the magnetic Detroit minister’s revolutionary new Africa-centered
creed, known as BCN.
(In 1978, the
movement evolved into the PAOCC, a new black denomination.)
It appears that
Nana Akpan’s portrait of Jaramogi Agyeman, which appeared in last week’s draft version of Nana Akpan’s obituary,
was taken at the 1970 BCN convention.
Photos by Nana
Akpan also graced the cover of the BCN Second Biennial Convention booklet.
also photographed the young Kwame Turé, then known as Stokely Carmichael, who in 1966 popularized the call for Black Power,
a modern variant of black nationalism, which both reflected and helped accelerate the transformation of a wing of the modern
civil-rights movement from one seeking racial integration to one that worked for black self-determination.
Akpan also photographically chronicled Detroit’s and the nation’s booming musical scene. “He took photos
of every group that came to Detroit,” remembers Vaughn. He even went on the road with the popular Earth, Wind and Fire.
photographs appeared in Black Consciousness, a poetry journal; the popular Johnson Publications Ebony and Jet;
The Journal of Black Poetry; The Michigan Chronicle; and Muhammad Speaks, the organ of Elijah Muhammad’s
Nation of Islam.
He also published
several collections of his photographs, including “Ex-posures In Black” (Detroit: ULOZI Photographics, 1968),
which featured street scenes of everyday black life in Detroit, Harlem, Philadelphia and other cities.
It also included
arresting images of several local and national literary, musical and political figures, including:
- Detroit poet
Slick Campbell (later Abdul Jalil).
- Militant Pontiac
attorney (and later Rev.) Milton R. Henry, also known as Abiodun Gaidi, who was called “The Black Defender” (see
He was photographed
at a “Malcolm X Day” rally at Central United Church of Christ, the Shrine of the Black Madonna, on Feb. 21, 1968,
the third anniversary of the Muslim and nationalist leader’s assassination.
In the photo,
the lower portion of the church’s famous 18-foot Black Madonna and child chancel mural could be seen; at right, a painting
of Malcolm X based on a photo by Henry’s brother Laurence.
- Harlem reparations
advocate Queen Mother (Audley) Moore (see gallery).
- Jazz pianist
and composer Horace Silver.
- Jazz singer
Nina Simone, the stage name of Eunice Kathleen Waymon, who was noted for her heartfelt, sometimes acid protest songs, including
“Mississippi Goddam” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” the latter written in memory of her late
friend playwright Lorraine Hansberry.
- Venerable Detroit
Garveyite Henry (Papa) Wells, also known as Anwar Pasha, who was a student of Master W. D. Fard, the mystical founder of the
Nation of Islam (NOI) (see gallery).
Nana Akpan had
a large three-feet by four-feet photograph on Detroit’s famed “Wall of Dignity,” a montage of black heroines
and heroes on an exterior wall of Grace Episcopal Church on Rosa Parks Boulevard (formerly 12th Street) at Virginia Park.
1969, Detroit activist, actor and black film archivist James E. Wheeler and a friend sold Nana Akpan a rare French Beaulieu
16mm motion picture camera.
most important thing for Black people is to develop means to communicate effectively with each other,” Nana Akpan wrote
in “Ex-posures In Black.” “It is essential that our efforts become as deliberate as possible, and I think
that film is one of the most effective means we have to communicate.”
it appears that Nana Akpan again memorialized Jaramogi Agyeman and the Shrines of the Black Madonna, this time on film.
is credited, along with James Jewell, with filming an in-depth profile on “Black Christian Nationalism” for “Black
Journal,” the pioneering PBS black affairs series hosted by former Detroiter Tony Brown, which was broadcast on Nov.
Wheeler thinks that Nana Akpan might have used the movie camera that he sold him to film “Kwacha,” Nana Akpan’s
pioneering 1975 documentary on the guerilla struggle to liberate the south-central African nation of Angola from five centuries
of colonial domination by Portugal.
film graphically exposed Portuguese atrocities committed against black Angolans. In highlighting the liberation struggle,
the documentary united Nana Akpan’s belief in cameras and bullets.
that time,” says Wheeler, the founder-director of Concept East II and the Black Cinema Gallery, “black filmmakers
really weren’t doing films like the ones that he did on Africa, which I think were very important,” particularly
in terms of the “revolutionary struggles.”
Vaughn: “He was in the bush” with the guerilla fighters. “It didn’t even faze him that he was in danger.”
Nana Akpan’s support of the União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (National Union for the Total
Independence of Angola, or UNITA), one of three ideologically and ethnically diverse Angolan guerilla movements, would create
UNITA, which was
originally supported by the People’s Republic of China, was led by the charismatic Jonas Savimbi.
who visited UNITA guerilla camps in 1973 as a reporter for Muhammad Speaks, observes, “Savimbi was a chameleon
of a character who would say different things to different audiences and was able to capture lots of support within the African
American community [among those] who did not have access to international perspectives.”
For example, Simmons
notes, “Savimbi was sophisticated enough to understand what African Americans wanted to hear. He was friends with Ché,
he was friends with Malcolm,” the Angolan leader claimed in exaggeration.
Savimbi was referring
to Ernesto (Ché) Guevara, the legendary Argentine-Cuban guerilla leader, who Savimbi met during Guevara’s 1964-65 African
tour, and Malcolm X, who Savimbi might have met when both attended an Organization of African Unity (OAU) summit in Cairo,
Egypt, in July 1964.
was heaven” to some U. S. pan-Africanists, Simmons noted. Many of them “were intelligent and committed and thought
that [Savimbi] was clean.”
Ed Vaughn, who
also supported Savimbi, recalls: “We were convinced that any Africa leader who exposed the concept of pan-Africanism
was our friend.”
some of Savimbi’s Western admirers felt compelled to reevaluate their race-based enthusiasm for him after evidence emerged
that he had begun to receive financial and military backing from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the then white-minority-ruled
government of apartheid South Africa.
President Julius K. Nyerere and Zanzibari revolutionary leader Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu (who had actually been a close friend
of Malcolm X) told Simmons that they were “certain that Savimbi was getting support from South African apartheid and
U. S. intelligence agencies.”
this, Nana Akpan continued to support UNITA, perhaps, as Vaughn suggests, on the basis of British statesman Lord Palmerston’s
famous political dictum: “Nations [and peoples] have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. Only permanent interests.”
the Reagan administration in the 1980s, Nana Akpan headed the Angola Peace Fund, which, according to Vaughn, was a UNITA front.
Akpan’s steadfast, mostly uncritical – if entirely sincere – association with UNITA would strain and, in
some cases, completely rupture old political relationships and haunt his reputation for the balance of his life.
he continued to be productive. He produced “Liberia – 1980 – After the Coup,” a 30-minute documentary
on the bloody overthrow of the corrupt traditional Americo-Liberian government. It was based on films made by Nana Akpan during
a visit to the West African nation that was founded by former U. S. slaves.
In assessing Nana
Akpan’s contributions as a pan-Africanist filmmaker, James Wheeler says that it is significant that he “was working
in the media to create positive images of black people” and made a “conscious effort” to refashion the bonds
of brother- and sisterhood between peoples of African descent.
an activist and community leader, Nana Akpan worked tirelessly for the advancement of Africans throughout the Diaspora. And
he did so in style. “He was always neat to the bone,” recalls Vaughn.
Akpan was an original member of Forum 65 and Forum 66, a black nationalist discussion group that began at the famous Vaughn’s
Book Store at 12135 Dexter Ave. at Monterey in 1965. The forums later sponsored the historic first and second annual black
arts conferences in 1966 and 1967.
conclaves, held at Jaramogi Agyeman’s Central United Church of Christ, later renamed the Shrine of the Black Madonna,
featured a wide variety of local and national black artists and leaders.
included Turé, his quotable successor as chairman of the militant Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), H. Rap
Brown (later known as Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin), and playwright LeRoi Jones (who would soon be known as Imamu Amiri Baraka).
of all three were later featured in “Ex-posures In Black” (see gallery for Brown and Jones photos).
Akpan was also involved in local efforts to reform racist educational institutions. “Kwadwo was with us at Wayne State
University during the struggle to develop Black Studies there,” recalls friend Herb Boyd, managing editor of The
Black World Today Web site.
Nana Akpan was
the minister of communications for the Association of Black Students (ABS).
to Vaughn, Nana Akpan’s activism could be brave to the point of recklessness.
Saturday, July 22, 1967, Nana Akpan, Vaughn, Kwame Atta (then known as Arthur Smith, or “Smitty,” who worked at
a Detroit post office branch with Vaughn) and Ken Hamlin (later a conservative radio talk show host who styles himself “The
Black Avenger”) were detained by police in a suburb outside of Newark, N. J.
were on their way home from picking up a load of books for Vaughn’s bookstore at “Professer” Louis H. Michaux’s
famous National Memorial African Book Store at black Harlem’s most celebrated intersection, Seventh Avenue and 125th
City went up that same night,” recalls Vaughn, referring to the uprising of that city’s black community, “and
we could see the smoke and flames rising over the hills.”
was only a week after the much larger rebellion in Newark, where African Americans finally rebelled against police brutality,
political exclusion, urban renewal, inadequate housing and other injustices.
fact, before stopping off in Harlem, Nana Akpan and the others had attended the First National Conference on Black Power,
which was held in Newark from July 20-23.
was here that Nana Akpan met his first wife, Yoliswa, called “Yola.” He featured her on the cover of “Ex-posures
In Black” the following year.)
Jersey City alight in the distance, the chief of a suburban police department, “with about 15 burly cops with riot guns
trained on us,” stopped the Detroit group, recalls Vaughn.
the trunk, the chief pulled out the Yusuf Ali translation of the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book. “Are you boys Muslims?”
sir, I’m a Christian,” Vaughn replied, conscious of the fact that encounters with the police often proved fatal
to African Americans.
chief was next intrigued by Color Me Brown by Lucille H. Giles, one of the first black children’s coloring books,
put out by Johnson Publications.
The chief said
that he would like it for his daughter. “Naw, you’re not either,” Vaughn vividly recalls Nana Akpan replying.
“You’ll have to pay for it.”
God!” Vaughn thought, but the chief dutifully returned it to the trunk. “Kwadwo was so stern when he told him,”
Vaughn recalls with an amazed chuckle.
The next day,
a Sunday, Detroit erupted in a rebellion that dwarfed all others, and wouldn’t be surpassed until African Americans
in Los Angeles exploded a quarter-century later, in 1992.
the 1970s, Nana Akpan was a member of the central committee of the Detroit-based Pan African Congress, U. S. A. (PAC), which
sought the unification of Africans worldwide.
PAC was organized in 1969 by Vaughn and Kwame Atta in the original Inner City Sub Center on Mack Avenue on Detroit’s
east side. “[Nana Akpan] didn’t join at first,” recalls Vaughn. “He was always inquisitive about stuff”
and only joined the PAC “after investigating it.”
Akpan edited many of the PAC’s publications, including The Pan African Congress U. S. A. pamphlet, which featured
a Sankofa bird, an Akan symbol from Ghana, on its cover.
always very technical and wanted to make sure that we didn’t put out anything that wasn’t first class,”
remembers Vaughn. Because of this, “we didn’t put out anything that wasn’t professional.”
Nana Akpan was
also well versed in the ideologies of pan-African thinkers such as Kwame Nkrumah, the visionary independence father and first
president of the West African nation of Ghana; Ahmed Sékou Touré, the regal trades-union-leader-turned-president of Guinea,
also in West Africa; and Julius Nyerere.
was the guiding force in terms of the ideology” of the PAC, says Vaughn.
1995, the pan-Africanist Nana Akpan resettled in Ghana, where he was a co-founder of Fihankra International, a community of
African Americans who were granted land by the Ghanaian government.
located in eastern Ghana near the banks of the Volta River between Accra, the capital, and Tema, the main seaport, describes
itself as a “Bridge to Land, Tradition and Opportunity.” As a sign of respect, Nana Akpan was enstooled as chief
of Ye Fa Ogyamu, the historical township near Akosombo.
credits him as the “prime mover” behind the Ghanaian government’s granting of dual citizenship to African
the law felt short of some African American’s hopes, granting limited rights instead of full citizenship, Nana Akpan
hailed its potential.
step forward moves us closer to our goal of re-integrating Africa with its Diaspora,” he said. “Toward that objective,
this law is a most significant step ahead while there will be continued dialogue to further improve relations between Diasporans
and the government of Ghana.”
traveled often to the U. S. to promote better pan-African relations. In June of last year, he addressed the 1st Annual NAACP
Alabama State Conference Economic Development Summit On Africa, arranged by Vaughn and Dr. John Alford in Montgomery and Dothan,
will be in Akosombo. Nana Akpan leaves to mourn him his courageous wife, Majewa Akpan; eight children, Ewunike, Samwimbila,
Adwoa, Osakwe, Aziza, Afriyie, Osonose and Isiko Akpan; two foster sons, Richard and Narciss Miller; four grandchildren, Maia,
Nkosi, Nala Akpan, and Anthony Flowers; two brothers, Phillip and Stephen Simmons; his loving parents, Gerald L. Simmons,
Sr., and Theresa S. Simmons; two sisters, Sharon Simmons-Lofton and Valerie (Simmons) Tyler; many nieces and nephews; and
a host of friends and admirers throughout the pan-African world.
service to be held at a later date.
Herb Boyd and
Paul Lee who wrote about Kwadwo Akpan and his death were just some of the many people from all walks of life who knew him.
One of the
most prominent African scholars, Professor Ali Mazrui, also briefly wrote about Kwadwo Akpan in connection with a conference
both attended in Washington D.C., in 1989. It had to do with Angola. As he stated in his Mazrui Newsletter, Eve of 1990:
“The Angola Peace Fund, based in Washington, D.C. invited
me (in 1989) to a one-day symposium on "Reconciliation in Angola: Perspectives on Africa's Future".
Guess how may people were scheduled to speak? Yes, five in all.
Andre Franco de Sousa, one of the founders of MPLA (now the ruling party
of Angola), made a moving case for genuine reconciliation.
Ambassador Herman Cohen, the United States Assistant Secretary of State
for African affairs, tried to explain the Bush Administration's approach to the problems of Southern Africa.
Kwadwo O. Akpan spoke as the Executive Director of the Angola Peace
Fund, a private organization, led by African-Americans. The Fund is committed to the search for reconciliation in Angola.
Jonas Savimbi (leader of UNITA) was expected to turn up at the symposium,
and was in the programme as one of the five speakers. Strict security precautions were taken towards the time of his scheduled
At the very last minute he sent his apologies. He was indeed in Washington,
D.C. - but the pressure of official business kept him from our symposium. The participants and journalists at the symposium
were of course most disappointed.
My own speech to the symposium included a sub-section on 'Heroic Villains
in Recent African History.'
I compared the late Moise Tshombe of Zaire with Jonas Savimbi of Angola.
Perhaps it was just as well that Dr. Savimbi was not present to listen
to what I had to say! There might have been an explosion!
On the other hand I did try to be fair and even-handed in my analysis.”
From Godfrey Mwakikagile, Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, Third Edition, New Africa Press, 2006:
Godfrey Mwakikagile interviewed
in February 2003 by an American journalist, Jeremy Swanson, who worked in Tanzania for the Kenyan weekly newspaper, The East African, and
Recollections by Andrew Nyerere
What inspired you to write a book about
Julius Nyerere and his pan-African policies? Has it been a long-term goal of yours to write such a book?
When did you start writing it? Is this
your first book specifically about Tanzania?
I think you mentioned that you are working
on a second edition. Is this true? Is the book targeted at both a general and more academic audience?
What inspired me to write this book about
President Julius Nyerere was his pan-African commitment. He was one of the few African leaders who sincerely believed that
Africans are one people, and that Africa is one organic entity, regardless of the ethnic and racial differences we have across
the continent, and the national borders we inherited at independence from our European conquerors who divided the continent
among themselves as if we did not even exist. As he said in Accra, Ghana, on the 40th anniversary of Ghana's independence
in March 1997: "We are all Africans trying very hard to be Ghanaians or Tanzanians."
I was also inspired to write about Mwalimu
Nyerere and his pan-African policies because of his achievements in a pan-African context. He was the most successful African
leader in that area. No other African leader can match his record.
For decades, he was the strongest supporter
of the African liberation movements which ended white minority rule on the continent. Without Nyerere and Tanzania, the countries
in southern Africa would not have achieved freedom when they did. One of the strongest advocates of African unity like Dr.
Kwame Nkrumah, Nyerere was also the first African leader to achieve this goal when he united Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964
to form Tanzania.
This is the only union of two independent
countries ever formed on the continent. The rest have not even attempted to unite; the confederation of Senegal and Gambia
named Senegambia was more symbolic than functional, as was the Ghana-Guinea-Mali union, and the Ghana-Congo union formed by
Nkrumah and Lumumba during the Congo crisis and which many people don't know about.
The Ghana-Congo union agreement was signed
in secrecy by Nkrumah and Lumumba in Accra, Ghana, on August 8, 1960. The union was supposed to have a federal government
responsible for foreign affairs, defence, establishment of a common currency, and common policies for economic development.
It was also agreed that there would be
no customs barriers between any parts of the federation; there would be a federal parliament and a federal head of state;
and the capital of the union would be Leopoldville, of what would then be the former Congo after the federation was formed.
And any other African country would be free to join the union. Ghana would also quit the Commonwealth.
But the union agreement was never implemented.
However, it demonstrated a commitment of the two leaders to unite Africa; a goal that was achieved in East Africa by Nyerere
only a few years later.
Nyerere was the first East African leader
to call for federation of the countries in the region, and even offered to delay independence for Tanganyika to achieve this
goal. And he was the most successful African leader to unite different tribes and races to achieve national unity.
No other African country is as united as
Tanzania, in spite of the large number of tribes and racial minorities we have in the country, one of the largest in Africa.
Only Nigeria with more than 250, the Democratic Republic of Congo with more than 200, and Cameroon with 150, have more ethnic
groups than Tanzania. And they all have been rocked by ethnic conflicts, except Tanzania.
It was because of Nyerere, and his unsurpassed
skills in nation-building, that Tanzania was spared this agony.
I seriously doubt the country's 126 tribes
and racial minorities would have been as united as they are today, and formed a cohesive entity we call Tanzania, without
Nyerere or another leader of his calibre.
So, Nyerere's pan-African commitment and
his achievements inspired me to write this book. I was also very much impressed by his formidable intellect.
But it had not been a long-term goal of
mine to write such a book. All that changed when Nyerere died. His death shocked me. It had a very big impact on me because
of the profound respect and admiration I had for him as a leader and as an intellectual. I grew up under Nyerere. A man of
impeccable logic, I listened to his speeches and read his writings and interviews for decades, and they sparkle with brilliance,
combined with his uncompromising commitment to the poor and Africa's - not just Tanzania's - wellbeing and that of the entire
Before I started writing this book about
Nyerere and his pan-African policies, I had thought about writing a book about Nyerere and Nkrumah, another leader I have
also always admired since my student days in secondary school in the sixties; tragically, the same decade in which he was
overthrown in February 1966 in a coup supported by the CIA. In fact, it was partly because of Nkrumah that I was inspired
to go to school in the United States after I read his autobiography in 1967. And the first school to which I applied when
I was still in high school was Lincoln University, a predominantly black academic institution in Pennsylvania, which Nkrumah
first attended. But I ended up elsewhere in the United States.
So, in a significant way, Nkrumah also
inspired me to write this book about Nyerere because of the pan-African commitment of both leaders.
And I have an entire chapter devoted to
the two leaders in the book. And I still intend to write a book about them.
I started writing the book
about Nyerere towards the end of 2001 and it took me about seven months to write it. It is also the first book I have written
about Tanzania; except for the chapters I have written in two of my other books. I have written one chapter on Tanzania in
Development in Africa published in 1999; and one in Africa and the West published
All my published works are about Africa
from a continental perspective; including this one about Nyerere, although I have covered Tanzania in this book more than
I have in any of my other books.
I am also working on an expanded edition
of the book about Nyerere. Like the first edition, it is intended for a general audience, and for members of the academic
community who use my books as college textbooks.
as your book is about Julius Nyerere and his vision, it is also about African liberation movements. Is there a reason why
you chose to focus on this history for the book? Briefly, how would you describe Nyerere's life in terms of liberation and
support for African liberation movements?
I also chose to focus on the African liberation
movements because this is the area in which President Julius Nyerere made his biggest and lasting contribution in a pan-African
context and foreign policy in general.
No other African leader, besides Dr. Nkrumah
who did not last long in power to support the liberation struggle as long as he would have, did as much as Nyerere did to
further the cause of African liberation. And no other African leader was as committed to this cause as he was.
And he demonstrated his commitment, by
words and deeds, a fact conceded by the leaders of the liberation movements themselves who are in power today in the countries
of southern Africa: Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, and South Africa itself, the citadel of white supremacy on the
continent but whose walls came tumbling down under a sustained campaign largely spearheaded by Nyerere whom rebel Rhodesian
Prime Minister Ian Smith described as "the evil genius" behind the liberation wars in Rhodesia and southern Africa in general.
Nyerere's support for the liberation movements
started even before he led Tanganyika to independence. He was the first African leader, together with Father Trevor Huddleston,
to launch the anti-apartheid movement in London in 1959 in order to mobilize international support for the liberation struggle
and boycott of the racist regime of South Africa.
And when Tanganyika won independence from
Britain in December 1961, Nyerere opened the doors and invited the leaders of the liberation movements to Tanganyika and provided
sanctuary for others fleeing from persecution in their home countries still under white minority rule. For example, it was
Nyerere who encouraged Dr. Eduardo Mondlane to come to Tanganyika and unite the Mozambican nationalist organizations to form
a united front against the Portuguese colonial rulers, leading to the establishment of FRELIMO in Dar es Salaam, our capital
city, in June 1962.
It was also in the same year that Nelson
Mandela came to Tanganyika and met Nyerere, the first leader of an independent African country in the region to win independence,
providing inspiration and material and diplomatic support to the liberation movements in southern Africa.
In short, during his tenure, Nyerere was
the embodiment of the African independence struggle, and of the aspirations of hundreds of millions of Africans, the downtrodden
masses and other victims of injustice across the continent, and rightfully earned the title, "The Conscience of Africa."
Throughout the book, you praise Nyerere's
great achievements of bringing unity to Tanganyika, forging the union with Zanzibar, promoting Swahili and education, supporting
liberation movements, etc. You also contend that Western academics often overlook Nyerere's nation-building achievements in
ridicule of his failed economic policies. For East African readers, who have often heard both the praises and the criticisms,
perhaps you could better explain how Nyerere is perceived in the West with those people who know something about his life.
How did this perception influence you as you wrote the book?
In the West, where I have lived for many
years, Nyerere is highly regarded among academic intellectuals, who are mostly liberal as he was. I remember one of my economics
professors, Kenneth Marin who worked for the Tanzanian government in Dar es Salaam in the late sixties and early seventies,
telling our class at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1976, that "Nyerere is one of the best world leaders we
have today." He called him a world leader, not just an African leader and had great respect for him. He even read Nyerere's
writings during some of his lectures.
Even conservative critics,
for example The Wall Street Journal which strongly supports conservative Republican
policies, acknowledge his ability as a skillful nation builder who formed a cohesive political entity, while at the same time
severely criticizing him for what they describe as his disastrous economic policies. But they ignore or conveniently overlook
the egalitarian ideals which inspired Nyerere's ujamaa policies: commitment to
equality and the desire to help and uplift the poor masses who consitute the vast majority of the population of Tanzania.
Liberal academic intellectuals on the other hand, in colleges and universities, and liberal papers such as The New York Times and
Washington Post, acknowledge both, his successes as well as his failures, and the noble
ideals which inspired his failed socialist policies.
But while many Western academics acknowledge
the nobility of his ideals and his genuine commitment to the masses and sometimes even consider him to be one of them because
he espoused and implemented the same liberal ideals they cherish, and also because he was Western-educated, in colonial Tanganyika
and Uganda in the Western intellectual tradition and finally in Britain itself; they definitely overlook his achievements
as a nation builder who left behind a country that stands out on the continent in terms of peace, unity and stability.
Few mention these attributes, without which
a country is nothing, however rich. Just look at Tanzania's neighbour, Congo, a rich country pulverized from within, reduced
to ashes because of rotten leadership.
Here is a leader who inherited one of the
poorest countries in the world, with one of the highest illiteracy rates, and one of the largest numbers of tribes in Africa,
yet managed to provide free education and free medical service to everybody, as well as other social services including clean
water; and reduced the level of illiteracy to the point where Tanzania had the highest literacy rate in Africa, over 90 percent,
even higher than that of India, a country which has one of the largest numbers of educated people in the world and the third
largest number of scientists after the United States and the former Soviet Union.
This does not mean that
Nyerere's economic policies were not a failure in many areas. He himself admitted that much, as much as I do, although I have
been accused by some critics such as Professor George Ayittey, a Ghanaian professor of economics at The American University
in Washington, D.C., of glossing over these facts. I have even reviewed on Amazon.com one of his books, Africa in Chaos, partly
in response to such unwarranted criticism of my work, not only by him but by others as well.
Anyway, the mere fact that Tanzania has
not been wracked by civil wars like many other African countries have been, should be enough to convince even some of Nyerere's
harshest and most ardent critics that he built and left behind a stable, unified and peaceful country without parallel on
this turbulent continent. So is the fact that tribalism and racism have never been major problems in Tanzania because of Nyerere.
No other African country can claim this distinction.
It was this deliberate distortion or oversight
among Western intellectuals critical of Nyerere, which partly dictated my focus on life under Nyerere from a personal perspective;
an analysis which constitutes one of the longest chapters in the book, the last chapter.
I still would have written the same kind
of book even if there had been no such unjustified criticism of Nyerere's policies and deliberate oversight of his achievements.
But the fact that many of his critics have chosen to ignore or overlook his achievements in nation-building, in providing
free education and free medical service, in vigorously promoting Kiswahili as our national language, and in combating tribalism
and racism more than any other African leader, definitely served as a catalyst and influenced me when I wrote the book.
More than three years after his death,
why do you think Mwalimu continues to inspire both older and younger Africans? Is his legacy, especially that of unity in
Tanzania, in danger of eroding today? Why or why not? Do you have anything else to add about the new era of politics in Africa?
I am thinking specifically about the movement toward democracy and economic liberalization in Tanzania and the recent electoral
triumph of the opposition in Kenya.
More than three years after his death,
millions of people across Africa and beyond continue to draw inspiration from Nyerere because of his high moral integrity
and selfless devotion to the poor and to the victims of injustice regardless of their social and economic status, and to the
well-being of others on the basis of equality to all. He had saintly devotion and inspired admiration reserved for saints
because of his selflessness, humility and simplicity unheard of among leaders. And he died poor. Even his worst enemies acknowledge
that much even if they don't always say so or as much as they should. Actions speak louder than words. They have not been
able to expose any hidden bank accounts of Nyerere. That's because none exist. He didn't steal anything.
And his exemplary leadership
will always serve as an inspiration to millions of people. He admitted his mistakes like no other leader, and was not afraid
to criticize fellow African leaders when they were wrong; unlike other leaders across the continent who kept quiet or simply
looked the other way, and even quietly applauded Idi Amin. And people noticed that about Nyerere. That's why he was called
"The Conscience of Africa." And as Biafran leader Odumegwu Ojukwu said about Nyerere when he died, "he was the greatest teacher
of our time." He also deserved to be called "Saint Julius" as I state in my book, because of his unswerving devotion to the
masses. He was their patron saint, a phenomenal role I witnessed him play when I was a new reporter in Tanzania, and just
as a Tanzanian myself even before I became a reporter at the Standard, the
News, and an information officer at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in Dar es Salaam.
his legacy may not be able to sustain Tanzania as a peaceful and united country if the leaders who came after him ignore the
poor and victims of injustice, and don't work hard to build consensus across the nation as a basis for government. Why should
50 or 60 or even 70 or 80 percent of the people, the party which won the election and that many votes, provided the election
was not rigged, have 100 percent of the power? Minorities, or those who lose elections, must also be represented in the government
to avoid conflict and marginalization of some groups and individuals. And that can be done only by forming a government of
national unity, coalition government.
The union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar survived
and thrived as Tanzania under Nyerere because of his extraordinary ability in consensus building to accommodate the interests
and allay fears of Zanzibaris who felt that they had been "swallowed up" by Tanganyika and were no more than junior partners
in the union. Nyerere reassured them that they were equal partners and even allowed them to have their own government in order
to rule themselves under a unique form of federalism under a unitary state; an achievement unheard of. Find one functional
federal entity under a unitary state anywhere in the world, and a unitary state with such extensive devolution of power. There
is none except Tanzania, because of Nyerere.
If resentment against the union continues
to build up in Zanzibar, and nothing is done to defuse tension and vent this frustration, the future of Tanzania as a stable,
united entity cannot be guaranteed; although Tanganyika can very easily do without Zanzibar, a former island nation of about
one million people today in a country of about 35 million. Most Tanzanians live on the mainland. Zanzibaris fed up with the
union, of course, also feel the same way: they can do without Tanganyika as they did before the union in 1964.
But the union can and should be maintained
and even restructured to accommodate conflicting interests by re-writing the constitution to address grievances of Zanzibaris.
Also one way to rob secessionists of momentum
is through extensive devolution of power, but without unconditional accommodation of secessionist sentiments and tendencies
in the former island nation. But there is still an imperative need to address their grievances on consensus basis if the union
is to survive. Coercion will not work. Ask the Ethiopians about Eritrea, or the Russians about Chechnya.
Regarding the country's new economic direction
away from its socialist past, I would say economic liberalization is proceeding in the right direction under President Benjamin
Mkapa (1995 - 2005). But its benefits have yet to trickle down to the masses wallowing in the fetid swamp of misery, poverty
and disease, prompting many people to call for a return to the status quo ante as life was under Nyerere when he implemented
the Arusha Declaration. And let's face it, it is a brilliant document.
Some of the people who are so critical
of Nyerere today are the very same ones who benefited immensely from his egalitarian policies of free education and free medical
service. And they wouldn't be where they are today had it not been for the free education - from primary school all the way
to university - they got under Nyerere.
Many of them would also have died had they
not been provided with free medical service. They are also some of the harshest critics of his failed socialist policies.
Yet they were the very same people who were in office, busy stealing and sabotaging the economy, and raiding the national
treasury, and were therefore directly responsible for the failure of the policies they now criticize so much. That is the
kind of gratitude he gets from them, now that he is gone.
In this era of globalization and free market
policies, there is an imperative need for government intervention to protect the poor from ruthless market forces because
of the predatory nature of capitalism. Who is going to protect them? They are left at the mercy of greedy people who couldn't
care less if they all starved to death.
So, while commendable efforts have been
made to liberalize the economy in this era of globalization, which is dictated by the rich nations to the detriment of the
poor, not much has been done to protect the masses from the devastating impact of capitalism and structural adjustment programmes
imposed on poor countries by the rich ones through the IMF and other multilateral institutions dominated by the industrial
West. This government, under Mkapa, and others after it can provide free education and free medical service the way Nyerere
did. Good economic policy must translate into good social policy, which is anathema to capitalism. The people come first.
Another major problem Tanzania may face
is the resurgence of tribalism and racism, twin evils which were effectively contained and in many cases even neutralized
under Nyerere because of his strong moral leadership.
Unfortunately, Tanzania today does not
have a leader of the moral stature Nyerere had as the founding father of the nation; who also, by sheer force of intellect,
inspired awe and admiration across the spectrum.
President Mkapa has won accolades as a
just leader, and untainted by corruption. But he does not have the kind of stature Nyerere had as the father of the nation
to exercise formidable influence across the spectrum. And he does not have the kind of political base Nyerere built for years
and which helped to sustain his leadership.
So, in spite of Mkapa's
high intellectual calibre - I know him, he was my editor at the Daily News - the
Zanzibar crisis may not be resolved under his leadership or that of his successor the way it would have been under Nyerere
because he does not have the kind of influence Nyerere had, on the mainland and in the former island nation, as the founding
father of Tanzania.
A major concession by the opposition in
Zanzibar, most of whose members are opposed to the union, may come if Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim is elected the next president
of Tanzania. He is a formidable political personality who is also internationally renowned and comes from Pemba island, a
hotbed of political activism in the opposition camp. The strongest opposition to the union also comes from Pemba. But it may
be muted or neutralized if the union opponents feel that one of their own has been elected president of the United Republic.
Otherwise the secessionist
movement is going to gain momentum. As the main opposition leader of the Civic United Front (UCF) Seif Shariff Hamad bluntly
stated in October 2000 just before the Tanzania general election in an interview with Time:
"If we win I see no reason to stay in the
Union. Zanzibaris have not benefited from it one bit. I would go to the mainland and start talks on a programme to move toward
Zanzibar's outspoken former
Attorney-General and later Chief Justice Wolfgang Dourado who once was detained for more than 100 days for criticizing the
union and calling for a three-government federation during Nyerere's presidency, articulated similar sentiments, echoed by
many Zanzibaris, when he was also interviewed in October 2000 by Time:
"The millions and billions of aid and development
money that comes into Tanzania, do your research into how much of it comes here. Nothing. We try to talk to them but it's
a dialogue with the deaf and dumb."
Tanzania's former first vice president
who was also the president of Zanzibar, Aboud Jumbe, was just as blunt about his disenchantment with the union. He resigned
in 1984 because of his opposition to the structural arrangements of the union and wanted Tanzania to have three governments,
instead of two as is the case today.
There is a union government for the united
republic and a separate government for Zanzibar.
Aboud Jumbe wanted three governments: one
for the union, one for Zanzibar, and one for Tanganyika; a move that was strongly opposed by President Nyerere who said this
would lead to the break-up of the union.
Jumbe even wrote a book
about this problem. The title of his book is The Partnership: Tanganyika-Zanzibar Union: 30 Turbulent Years, published
in 1994, ten years after he resigned, in which he contends that Zanzibar has not benefited from the union since it was formed
in 1964. As he stated at a press conference in Dar es Salaam in January 1998 on the 34th anniversary of the Zanzibar revolution,
he did not understand why the government continued to maintain the rigid structure of the union and refused to have three
governments in spite of the desire for such change among many people in the country. As he stated:
"I don't understand why
the government should cling to this stand, but I suspect it is for the same reasons that my book, The Partnership, has
been ignored since the era of the single party system."
On whether the union was beneficial, and
if it had in any way benefited Tanzania mainland since he said it had not benefited Zanzibar, he bluntly stated:
"Ask Nyerere, because he is the one who
went to Zanzibar. He is the one who wanted the union. He must have had goals. Has he achieved them? I cannot speak for mainlanders
on the achievement of the union."
He also went on to say that he believed
the shortcomings of the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar had played a major role in delaying the establishment of an East
Therefore, there are serious problems.
And I don't believe that if a referendum were held today, the majority of the people of Zanzibar would vote in favour of the
union as it is now.
It should be restructured to accommodate
their interests and ventilate their grievances. That is why the ruling party CCM is not very popular in Zanzibar.
The union can and should be saved. The
question is how. Continue to talk to the people of Zanzibar. Listen to their grievances. Give them meaningful concessions.
Otherwise we are going to have an eruption which could threaten and even destroy the union.
But Zanzibaris - not all of them - are
not the only people who are not satisfied with the union. Many people on the mainland, including a significant number of members
of parliament, feel the same way. They also want three governments. And they feel that Zanzibar is overly represented in the
union government and in parliament far out of proportion to its size.
I believe the union will continue to exist.
But it is a precarious existence. Dialogue and concessions are critical to its continued existence. So is rule by consensus,
including formation of coalition government which includes major opposition parties; of which there is none at the moment
- the opposition is too weak and hopelessly divided - except the Civic United Front (CUF) in Zanzibar.
There is another problem that has begun
to surface on the political scene in Tanzania. And that is complaints by a significant number of Muslims who feel that they
have been marginalized in a country whose government since independence has been dominated by Christians; although this is
highly debatable. Tanzania's ruling party has done everything possible to defuse religious tensions by providing equal opportunity
to all Tanzanians regardless of their religious beliefs. I also discussed this matter with Andrew Nyerere, President Nyerere's
eldest son, in October 2003 in connection with my book about his father and Tanzania and he had this to say:
"I wish to make a few comments on some
things which have happened on the political scene here in Tanzania. I want to comment about the street protests against the
Mostly, it is the Muslims who have protested
against the government. These protests started when Ali Hassan Mwinyi was president. The Muslims were saying that ever since
before independence, the policy of the government had been to favour Christians in educational opportunities, and that this
resulted in Muslims becoming less educated than Christians; and consequently, becoming comparatively poor. They said that
when Mwalimu Nyerere came to power, he had a policy of favouring Christians because his mentor, Father Walsh, was telling
him to turn the country into a Christian country.
Also, they wanted some
Islamic tenets to be observed as government policy. For example, we have had street riots here because the Muslims wanted
Muslim school girls to be permitted to wear hijab, the head scarf, when
going to school. There have been very many of these riots by Muslims. I remember the last riot which happened a few years
ago was very serious. It went on for four hours. The police were able to restore calm after they had fired more than one hundred
These riots have become progressively more
violent. It used to be that the crowd would disperse after the police fired one or two tear-gas cannisters. But in the last
riot, the mob dispersed only after the police had fired one hundred tear-gas cannisters.
So, this is what has always happened; a
minor incident would trigger violent street protests, but it is not only because of this minor incident that the masses would
protest. It is also because they have these perceived grievances; they feel that there are economic inequalities, or they
may feel that there is no justice; they feel that justice is only for the rich.
But the protests against
the government were not very successful. They were not successful because the people who were leading this struggle against
the government were not educated. These people were well-versed in the Quran. But they were not educated
in the way of the world. And so they could not threaten the government. I remember one day I went to one of their religious
meetings. They were having many such meetings to argue with Christians. And at this meeting, they had a banner which read:
"Let the Bible speake." So, I told the Ustaadh who was there that the
spelling of "speak" was not correct. That was the way it was written five hundred years ago. And, in subsequent days, when
I saw that banner, he had changed the spelling.
The purpose of the banner was that they
wanted to criticize the Bible, and that they would find proof in the Bible to support their statements. But when these people
were writing in English, as if William Shakespeare was their English teacher, it showed they were not intellectual, and the
government did not have any reason to fear them. In saying this, I do not mean to disparage William Shakespeare. I am sure
the common man would benefit from reading Shakespeare; he seems to me to be a prophet of the common man.
Another reason why they did not succeed
in shaking the government is because they rioted. They did not want to cooperate with Christians. When they rioted, it was
not safe for Christians to approach them. They refused to cooperate with people who had the same socio-economic problem they
had. And so, the mob had to disperse when the police brought more reinforcements.
But the government, of course, made a great
effort to have a dialogue with the Muslims and to assure them that it was doing everything possible to address their concerns.
And this went a long way to pacify the Muslim community.
So, these people demonstrate against the
government and they are quickly dispersed, and it seems as if it is not important. But this is not the way it should be treated.
When these riots took place, President Mwinyi panicked, and suddenly promoted the minister for home affairs and made him deputy
prime minister. The interior (home affairs) minister would retain his post but would also be deputy prime minister. This post
did not exist before; it is a post President Mwinyi created at that moment. The idea of promoting the minister of interior
was, of course, to make him ruthless and grateful for the promotion, and protect the government.
I have been watching these things happen
and have felt that this is real politics, when the masses threaten to bring down the government; not to vote it out of office
but to bring it down violently. Then it can be said that the people are engaged in political action.
But now you don't see these protests anymore
because the government probably has got legitimacy and the masses are convinced that it is doing everything possible to help
There was also rioting by hawkers in Dar
es Salaam. The government wanted to remove them from the city centre and send them to the outskirts. There was a big riot.
Again, it looked as if it would become messy. But the Regional Commissioner, Mustapha Nyan'ganyi, talked to the hawkers, the
street vendors, and calmed them down.
I was there, and I thought it was a good
thing that Mustapha Nyan'ganyi had been able to calm those people down. And after two weeks, or may be less, Mustapha Nyan'ganyi
was appointed the Tanzania ambassador to the United States. Obviously, President Mwinyi was pleased with what he had done.
there was the CUF (Civic United Front) riot in Zanzibar after the election (in 2000). It was very serious and many people
died. It was preceded by election violence, on the day of the (general) election, in which many civilians were beaten by the
Time alone will heal these wound because
such political violence scars the minds of the populace. All these incidents are very savage, very brutal, and one wonders
why the masses are ever ready ro riot.
But, now, we have peace in the country.
Occasionally, there will be a rich man trying to dispossess ten or twenty families of their land. But mostly, there is peace.
These are the riots which have been taking
place in the country. I don't know what the future holds."
All this came up when I
was discussing with Andrew the political situation in Tanzania while I was working on the expanded edition of my book, Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, to
which he has made a significant contribution in terms of comments on a number of subjects.
Concerning the new era of politics in Africa
which is characterized by multiparty politics, and which you have asked me about in this interview, I believe that it will
be a long time before the continent achieves true democracy.
Most countries, including
Tanzania, remain de-facto one-party states even when elections are not rigged; a rare
phenomenon. For example, Tanzania's ruling party CCM has the electoral mandate to rule, although that's highly questionable
in Zanzibar. But it clearly won on the mainland. And the country remains a de-facto one-party
state for all practical purposes because the opposition is weak and divided. And that is the case in most African countries
where government opponents are too weak and divided to mobilize nation-wide support against those in power. And incumbents,
whose parties have ruled for decades, capitalize on that to perpetuate themselves in office.
Opposition parties can win elections -
provided they are not rigged - if they form a coalition and unite behind a single candidate as happened in Kenya in 2002.
It also could have happened in Zambia when Levi Mwanawasa, candidate of the ruling party, won only 29 percent of the vote
in the 2001 general election. And it may happen in Tanzania, although the opposition is too weak, too fragile, too divided,
to provide a credible challenge to CCM in the 2005 general election, despite attempts to form a coalition of the country's
opposition parties, with some of the larger parties pulling out of the coalition.
Opposition parties in Tanzania may have
a far better chance in the 2010 general election if they form a coalition and unite behind a single candidate, although I
don't believe they will win the presidency even then. But they should start now and spend the years before the 2010 general
election to build a solid alliance across the nation and explain their agenda to the people, telling them exactly what they
are going to do for them and how; and why they would form a better government than CCM which has ruled since independence
- as TANU on the mainland, and the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) in Zanzibar, until the two parties merged in 1977 to form Chama
Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), a Swahili name which means Party of the Revolution.
But it is going to be very hard to dislodge
CCM from power. That is because CCM is a national movement, not just another political party, and is solidly anchored among
the masses across the nation, with solid credentials as a truly nationalist party with a populist agenda. The opposition in
Kenya would also probably have won the 1992 and 1997 general elections had the parties formed a coalition and united behind
a single candidate against President Daniel arap Moi who won less than 50 percent of the vote in both elections.
That is one way African countries can achieve
true democracy. The emphasis should be on building one strong opposition party formed by a coalition of parties. Third parties
hardly win elections. They are a nuisance. After all, when we talk about a multi-party system in practical terms anywhere
in the world including the West where democracy supposedly originated, which is utter nonsense, we are talking about a two-party
system. Without a credible opposition, the ruling party may degenerate into a dictatorship.
Another way to achieve
democracy and genuine representation is rule by consensus. All political parties, together with the ruling party, should form
a government of national unity to avoid civil conflict and represent a much broader spectrum of interests reflecting the true
nature of society. All parties, and all regions, must be represented in the government especially in African countries which
are so divided along ethnic and regional lines. These are some of the issues I have addressed in two of my books, Ethnic Politics in Kenya and Nigeria, and
Coups in West Africa since the Sixties.
number of "forthcoming books" are mentioned in the "About the Author" section. Are you currently working on all these books?
Can we expect one or more to be published this year (2003)? Which ones? Have all your past (and future) books been published
with Protea? How did you first come to publish books?
Almost all the books mentioned
in the "About the Author" section are already written. And I am working on the rest. Some of the books already written and
which I expect to be published sometime next year, or thereafter, include Civil Wars in Rwanda and Burundi:
Conflict Resolution in Africa, and Africa after Independence: Realities of Nationhood.
In fact, the two titles
were supposed to be published by Nova Science Publishers last year (in 2002) and were even listed on Amazon.com and other
online sellers as well as other outlets, as they still are this year on many of them. I told Amazon.com to take them off.
That is because I cancelled the contracts I signed with this scholarly press and have found other publishers interested in
both books and the others I have written. Another book I expect to be published next year is Black Conservatives which
addresses the black conservative phenomenon in contemporary America.
Five of my books were published by Nova
Science Publishers, Inc., New York, between 1999 and 2001. And only one book, about Nyerere, was published by Protea Publishing
Company in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2002.
How did I first come to publish books?
Well, it has been one long journey. I contacted the publishers on my own. I remember back in 1974, I got a telephone call
from an editor at Hill & Wang, a major publishing company in New York, offering me $700 for a book I wrote on how to learn
Kiswahili. I was then a student at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, USA, sponsored by the Pan-African Congress
(PAC), USA, a black American organization founded in that city. I knew he was not being fair to me and I turned down the offer
right away. I also told some of my sponsors about it - in fact I got the call at their boarding house where I and a few other
African students lived - and they said the company was going to make a lot of money selling the book; that's why the editor
called me. And he showed great interest in the book.
In those days, Kiswahili, commonly known
as Swahili among foreigners, was a very popular language among African-Americans - black Americans - and was taught in high
schools, colleges and universities as it still is today.
The seventies were also turbulent times,
right after the sixties when the civil rights movement reached its peak, and black pride among African-Americans was high
on their agenda, as they strongly identified with Africa, showing great pride in their African heritage including the study
of African history and politics which led to the establishment of African and African-American studies departments at colleges
and universities across the United States.
They also showed great interest in African
life styles - attire, foods, and languages. And among all the African languages, Kiswahili was the most popular in the United
States. The publisher in New York who wanted my book, for "pennies," wanted to capitalize on that.
That was my first experience with a major
traditional publisher, although earlier, I believe in 1973, I translated a children's book into Kiswahili for a black author
in Detroit, Akinwole Alhamisi, who was affiliated with my sponsors, the Pan-African Congress, and which he published himself.
He had his own company, Wakweli Publications. He wrote and published his own books, mostly militant poetry.
Then Haki Madhubuti, formerly known as
Don Lee, a nationally known black nationalist poet and founder of Third World Press in Chicago, also showed great interest
in my Kiswahili book. He also had strong ties with the Pan-African Congress in Detroit and even had his books printed in Detroit
when he first started, although he lived in Chicago. I remember talking to him back in 1974 when I was in the Chicago area,
visiting, and called him to ask about my manuscript I had submitted to him. He said they were still interested in the book
and someone was reading it for them. He also wrote me in Detroit. And I still have his letter today 30 years later, as I do
others from other publishers. But we couldn't go further than that on the project for a number of reasons.
Finally, I got to where I am today after
my works were published by Nova Science Publishers, five books within two years between June1999 and May 2001. Again, I submitted
all the manuscripts on my own without a literary agent. After one agent, W. Gail Manchur of ABS Literary Agency in Ashland,
Oregon, took on my projects, it was after I had done all the work myself. She had a track record with major publishers in
New York including McGraw Hill and Harper Perennial Books and represented me for about a year.
But I cancelled my contract with her because
she did not represent my academic works the way I felt she should have. She was more interested in trade books than academic
titles. From then on, I decided to continue representing myself as I had done before and forget about agents.
So, I got published by finding and contacting
publishers on my own. I took the initiative to do so because I always wanted to write books since I was in secondary school
in Tanzania in the sixties. But it wasn't easy. As the saying goes in the publishing industry, you can't get published without
an agent, and you can't get an agent without being published. I defied the odds, as many others do.
And it is not much different from what
I did as a news reporter in Tanzania. I wrote everyday. We all did, and had to meet deadlines, as all reporters normally do.
it like covering Julius Nyerere as a reporter and working under Benjamin Mkapa for the Daily News? What
was Mkapa like as an editor? How do you view him now as president?
I did not cover President
Nyerere much when I was a reporter, except in the company of other reporters when assigned as a team; which was rare and mainly
when new and younger reporters accompanied senior reporters as I did. I was only 19 when I first joined the editorial staff
at the Standard in June 1969 when I was still a high school student in standard
13 (Form V) at Tambaza in Dar es Salaam, and before the paper was renamed Daily News in
1970 after it was nationalized that year and President Nyerere became our editor-in-chief but in a non-executive capacity.
I do remember two exciting assignments; one was when the president addressed a rally criticizing some leaders of the Coast
Reagion, including the Regional Commissioner himself, Mr. Mustafa Songambele, for ordering the demolition of stands used by
hawkers in Dar es Salaam, an event I covered with Stanley Kamana; and another one, in the company of Emmanuel Bulugu and senior
reporter Kusai Khamisa, when President Nyerere spoke at a groundbreaking ceremony at the construction site of one of the Tanzania-Zambia
Railway (TAZARA) stations outside Dar es Salaam.
The construction of the railway started
in October 1970 and was completed in July 1976. A total of 93 stations were built, stretching all the way to Zambia. More
than 50,000 Chinese were involved in the building of this railway.
I remember the president made quite a few
jokes with the Chinese technicians working on the project on that day. And there were a few other assignments in which I was
involved in covering the president, including one at Dar es Salaam airport when the president returned to the capital after
working with the peasants for several days in one part of the country. That was typical Mwalimu, working with and identifying
himself with the masses, the poorest of the poor, in spite of his lofty status as president and as an internationally renowned
This reminds me of what
one of our staff members at the Daily News, Costa Kumalija, said one morning
in our editorial office in 1972. Kumalija, now dead, was a former news editor at The Nationalist and
its sister paper, Uhuru, published in Kiswahili. Both were daily newspapers.
When Mkapa was appointed editor of the Daily News by President Nyerere, he
brought with him to our paper some members of his editorial staff including Kumalija and Stanley Kamana. The Nationalist ceased
publication, but its Swahili couterpart Uhuru continued to be published.
Anyway, on that morning in 1972, Kumalija
said, "All these bourgeoisie are here in Dar es Salaam, living in comfort, while Mwalimu is working with his poor peasants
out there in the villages." It was a searing indictment against this vampire elite, some of the very people who undermined
Nyerere and sabotaged his socialist policies.
They were lazy, and they were thoroughly
corrupt, stealing from state enterprises after the government nationalized the country's major assets. They also stole directly
from the government. Yet they were the same people who were supposed to help implement Nyerere's socialist policies. They
were also some of the biggest beneficiaries of Nyerere's egalitarian policies, including free education and free medical service.
Tragically, they ended up being some of
the worst critics of Nyerere after they sabotaged his economic policies. They really betrayed him.
Yet he helped them get where they got to
be as members of the elite.
But instead of working for the masses,
who paid for their education and medical service, they were busy raiding national coffers. That was their gratitude to Mwalimu
Nyerere and to the masses, without whom they wouldn't be where they are even today.
They were some of the worst economic saboteurs
we had, the enemy within, in Tanzania, besides our external enemies especially Western powers resolutely opposed to our socialist
policies and pan-African militancy including our uncompromising support of the liberation movements in southern Africa.
And I never felt intimidated at all in
Nyerere's presence when I was a news reporter. He was always very friendly and made everybody feel at ease, in spite of the
awe he inspired among the people around him. He had an intense look and piercing eyes, but more authoritative than intimidating.
So I remember him with affection, not with fear.
And more than 30 years later, I still vividly
remember some of the other assignments I did as a reporter. For example, I remember interviewing Job Lusinde, the minister
of communications and transport, more than once in his office. He is also one of the cabinet members I asked to comment on
the assassination of Kenyan leader and Kenyatta's heir apparent Tom Mboya.
I talked to Lusinde that
very same afternoon Mboya was assassinated. It was saturday afternoon in July 1969, about a month after I was first hired
as a reporter when I was still a student in Form V, or standard 13 - what you Americans would call the 13th grade if you had
it in your school system - at Tambaza High School in Dar es Salaam. The newspaper then was called the Standard, before
it was nationalized the following year, in 1970, and renamed Daily News.
I also remember interviewing Amir H. Jamal,
then minister of economic planning. He was furious with me because of an article I had written about cooperative societies
in Tanzania. I interviewed Brown Ngwilulupi, head of cooperatives in the country, and Jamal did not like that I had not talked
to him first about the interview. He called me to his office in the Cooperative Building on Lumumba Street for a stern lecture.
But I had no regrets for what I did, and Jamal continued to be very friendly after that whenever I saw him. He was more of
a technocrat than a politician and one of the most capable cabinent members and national leaders Tanzania, indeed Africa and
the entire Third World, had ever produced. He died.
Another official I dealt with quite often
was Joseph Warioba who later became minister of justice, prime minister, and second vice president, at different times under
President Ali Hassan Mwinyi. He was then, back in 1972 and thereafter, the city attorney for our nation's capital Dar es Salaam.
We had a kind of "tumultuous" relationship
with him - I remember that very well - because he felt that we were just pestering him when we asked him about the city's
problems. But he was also one of the officials who toughened me up for the job as a reporter. I also remember that he had
a temper, as I recall asking him questions in his office.
And I dealt with many other Tanzanian leaders
as well as foreign ones including ambassadors; for example Zubair Mahmud Kazaure who in the late 1990s was Nigeria's ambassador
to the United States. I remember interviewing him at length back in 1972 when he was Nigeria's high commissioner - ambassador
- to Tanzania. I also went to our international airport quite often to meet and interview foreign leaders.
I also covered the first vice president
of Tanzania, Abeid Karume, alone, when he came to Dar es Salaam as I state in my book. It was a memorable assignment. I went
to Zanzibar in January 1972 with senior reporter Juma Penza to cover the eighth anniversary of the Zanzibar revolution. We
were there for several days. Karume was assassinated not longer after that, as I explain in the book.
Working under Ben Mkapa,
as he was then called without using his whole first name, was equally exciting. He was a very serious editor but easy to get
along with, as much as his predecessor at the Daily News, Sammy Mdee who went on
to become President Nyerere's press secretary, was; In 2003, President Mkapa apponted Mdee chairman of the Tanzania Broadcasting
And he did not tolerate fools anymore than
Nyerere did; an experience I personally had with him when another reporter Marianus Mbunda and I missed covering parliament
one day. I was assigned to cover parliament a lot of times.
And he does not tolerate
fools today as president, leading many of his critics in the opposition camp, such as Bob Makani, to say he's too sensitive
to criticism. But that's not the way I saw him when he was our editor at the Daily News in
the early seventies.
Benjamin Mkapa also is very self-confident,
an asset complementing his great intelligence, and has thorough command of the language, be it Kiswahili or English, like
Mwalimu Nyerere did; an ability he also demonstrated when he excelled in English Literature at Makerere University College
in Kampala, Uganda, where he graduated with honours in the early sixties from the same academic institution Mwalimu Nyerere
attended earlier in the 1940s.
Mkapa also attended Columbia University
where he earned a master's degree in international relations in the sixties.
More of a technocrat than a politician,
highly educated and very knowledgeable, he is one of the most capable presidents Africa has produced since independence. And
his high education and intelligence have served him well as president of Tanzania in this highly competitive and turbulent
era of globalization. Highly articulate, he is capable of analyzing the complex global situation very well, as one can easily
tell from his interviews and speeches in international forums. I have read them and continue to do so.
course, when he helped me to go to school in the United States in the early seventies when he was my editor at the Daily News, I
never knew - nor did he or anybody else know - that he would be president of Tanzania one day. And it is said that he was
an unwilling candidate, reluctant to run for president. And he may not have done so, had it not been for Mwalimu Nyerere recommending
and endorsing him to be the next president of Tanzania after Ali Hassan Mwinyi. He probably just couldn't say "No" to Mwalimu,
did you leave Tanzania? I've heard that the Pan-African Congress-USA, who sponsored you, was a part of the Black Panther Party.
Is that true? Given the political controversy surrounding the Panthers in the 70s, did you think accepting sponsorship from
an affiliated organization was in any way risky? How familiar were you with the Panthers organization while you lived in Tanzania?
Without Mkapa's help as my editor, I probably
would not have gone to the United States for further education when I did, if at all.
I left Tanzania on Friday, November 3,
1972, and first went to Greensboro, North Carolina, where I stayed for a few days at Malcolm X Liberation University founded
in 1970 by Howard Fuller, an African-American then known by his adopted African name, Owusu Sadaukai. He was then a black
nationalist firebrand and staunch pan-Africanist.
I don't know if he's still a black militant
today, although I seriously doubt it, since he once served as superintendent of the Milwaukee Public Schools and as director
of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services; establishment positions, in the American system, he may not
have been given had he remained an "outsider," a fire-breathing black militant as he was in the seventies when I first met
He also came to Detroit where he and I
were the main speakers at a conference about Africa attended by African-Americans and Africans in 1975. I spoke about the
significance of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA) in a pan-African context.
Known for his oratorical skills and fiery
rhetoric, he was considered by a number of people in the United States to be the next Malcolm X, although he never went that
far. The racist US senator from North Carolina, Jesse Helms, described him as "the most dangerous man" in the state of North
Carolina. That was when he was president of Malcolm X Liberation University in Greensboro.
I also vividly remember
when he addressed students and faculty members at the University of Dar es Salaam in 1972, an event covered by Jenerali Ulimwengu,
a fellow reporter at the Daily News. I was still in Tanzania then. Ulimwengu
came back to the office very impressed by him, saying Owusu kept on saying, "We are an African people! We are an African people!"
It was an expression he used a lot when
he also addressed black American audiences - African-Americans - to emphasize that they were also Africans. In fact, Malcolm
X said that even earlier, in the sixties, in his speeches. I remember one of his speeches in which he told a black American
audience, I think in New York or Detroit, that "You are nothing but Africans." And he used it more than once. He also used
the term African-Americans, which is now - since 1988 - being officially used to identify black Americans.
Anyway, Owusu Sadaukai is now (in 2003)
a professor of education at Marquette University in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and uses his former name, Howard Fuller,
which he may never have officially changed as is the case with many other African-Americans who use African names. And he
remains an activist of national stature especially in the area of education for blacks in the inner cities and elsewhere.
in the seventies, Owusu was also national chairman of the African Liberation Day Support Committee formed to mobilize support
across the United States for the liberation struggle in southern Africa and in the West African Portuguese colony of Guinea-Bissau.
In 1971, he visited Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau,
and Angola to observe and support the liberation struggle going on in those countries against Portuguese colonial rule. When
he returned to the United States, he began to make plans for African Liberation Day (ALD) demonstrations to show support for
the liberation struggle on the African continent. The demonstrations became an annual event in many cities across the United
States and were held in May every year. And I participated in all of them when I lived in Detroit. Dr. Walter Rodney, who
then taught at the University of Dar es Salaam, was one of the speakers at some of those events in different parts of the
I also met Owusu Sadaukai when he came
to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1972 and we talked about my interest in attending his school, Malcolm X Liberation University
in Greesnboro; probably one of the reasons why James Mwakisyala thought and told you that I was sponsored by the Black Panthers,
although even this school was not affiliated with the Black Panthers. But I could not attend that school because it was not
By the way, there are now a number of accredited
academic institutions in the United States named after Malcolm X. They include two four-year colleges, one in New York City
and the other one in Chicago.
And although Malcolm X was vilified for
years during his life time and after he died, mainly by the federal authorities and by many whites who didn't like him or
deliberately twisted what he said, he was eventually accepted as a major civil rights leader and one of the most influential
in the twentieth century and was even honoured when his picture was used on an American postage stamp in the late 1990s in
commemoration of his legacy.
From Greensboro, I went to New York City
where I stayed for about two months before moving to Detroit, Michigan, where I attended Wayne State University. I also attended
Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
One of my economics professors at Aquinas
College was Kenneth Marin from Grand Rapids, simply known as Ken Marin. In fact, I mentioned him earlier. He was appointed
to a federal post on Wage and Price Control by President Lyndon B. Johnson in the sixties before he went to work in Tanzania
for the government as an economist. He worked in Dar es Salaam. We talked a lot about Tanzania. There was not a single day
he did not talk about Tanzania in our economics class and he always asked me to comment on whatever he said. That was in 1976.
I was the second Tanzanian student to attend
Aquinas College. The first one was Enos Bukuku, in the sixties, who also was taught economics by Professor Marin and went
on to become a prominent economist when he returned to Tanzania, as Marin himself said in class. I also met Bukuku in 1972
when he worked in the Ministry of Treasury not long before I left for the United States. Little did I know then that I would
attend the same school he did in the United States. He later became professor of economics at the University of Dar es Salaam,
economic adviser to the prime minister, permanent secretary in the president's office, and chairman of the Tanzania Revenue
Authority, among other posts.
But I really never got to know him. I met
him only once or twice when he worked at the Treasury in Dar es Salaam with one of my cousins, Bello Mwambapa, who was then
an economics student at the University of Dar es Salaam.
When he was in Dar es Salaam,
Professor Ken Marin worked with the director of cooperatives in the ministry of agriculture, the late Brown Ngwilulupi who
was the uncle of James Mwakisyala, Tanzania's bureau chief of The East African newspaper
where you worked with James, as both of you told me when you contacted me to make arrangements for this interview. In fact,
I intend to include in the expanded edition of my book the letter James wrote you, and copied to me, because of its historical
significance and for biographical reasons. James knows me well.
But he has one detail wrong, and I assume
that is what led you to conclude that the people who sponsored me in Detroit were affiliated with the Black Panthers as an
organization. That's simply not true.
I was sponsored by the Pan-African Congress-USA,
an organization founded in Detroit by a group of African-Americans to forge links between Africa and Black America and help
develop the continent. There has been a lot of misconception and distortion of what this organization was all about. It was
a black nationalist organization in the pan-African sense and sponsored or supported a number of African students to attend
college in the United States.
The students came from Ghana, Sierra Leone,
Tanzania, Nigeria and Gambia. One of the students was Kojo Yankah from Ghana. He was my schoolmate at Wayne State University
in Detroit and was sponsored by the Pan-African Congress-USA as I was. After he returned to Ghana, he was elected a member
of parliament, and in the 1990s served as a cabinet member under President Jerry Rawlings.
Another student, who was not sponsored
but was supported by the Pan-African Congress, was Amadou Taal from Gambia. He lived at the Pan-African Congress house, free
like the rest of us did, and was also my schoolmate at Wayne State University. When he returned to Gambia, he also, like Kojo
Yankah in Ghana, became a prominent national leader. He served as Gambia's chief economist and as permanent secretary in different
ministries appointed by President Dawda Jawara, until Jawara was overthrown in a military coup in July 1994.
Later on, Amadou Taal became a consultant
and head of Worldview, Gambia, a non-governmental organization, and continued to represent his country in many international
forums including some held in Tanzania. And we are in regular contact and intend to write a book together about NEPAD - New
Partnership for Africa's Development. He came up with the idea and asked me in June 2003 if we could write such a book together.
I said yes.
Although he was not sponsored by the Pan-African
Congress as a student, he got full support from the organization in many ways just like we did. It was a truly pan-African
organization, and Amadou recalls with great pride the days we spent together as a group of African students in Detroit under
the auspices of the Pan-African Congress-USA. I share those memories with just as much pride. As he stated in one of his letters
to me in May 2003:
"Although many of us stayed at the PAC
house, which we all enjoyed, we were not all part of the sponsorship programme. This does not, in any way, minimise the contributions
of the Pan-African Congress to education of African students from the continent. Indeed, we all appreciated their noble objectives
and meaningful efforts in bringing together Africans from different countries to stay and interact under one roof and to share
our experiences with our brothers and sisters from the diaspora. The PAC days were a real experience which have contributed
in no small measure to our perception of Africa within the context of this globalising world."
Contrary to what some people
claim, and I assume in this case the misunderstanding came from what James Mwakisyala mistakenly told you, the Pan-African
Congress-USA was not a part of the Black Panther Party.
The Black Panther Party was founded in
Oakland, California, in October 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale when they were students at Merritt College in that
city. It was founded for self-defence, especially against police brutality so common in black communities across the United
States even today because of racism. As Huey P. Newton said in an interview in 1984 on American television, CBS, the Oakland
Police Department in those days, in the sixties, liked to recruit racist whites from Georgia "because we know how to handle
niggers," he quoted these Georgia racists as saying. In 1989, Huey P. Newton was shot dead in the same city.
On the other hand, the Pan-African Congress-USA
was founded in Detroit in 1970 by a group of middle-class black Americans who were very much an integral part of the mainstream,
unlike many Black Panther Party members drawn from the periphery. The leaders of the Pan-African Congress included Edward
Vaughn, now (in 2003) a state representative representing a Detroit constituency in the Michigan State Legislature in Lansing;
a position he has held since the early 1990s. His constituency is black in a city that is also overwhelmingly black. Detroit,
the seventh largest city in the United States, now is about 90 percent black. When I lived in Detroit in the seventies, it
was the fifth largest city and was about 80 percent black.
Ed Vaughn, as he's popularly known, also
served as assistant to Detroit's first black mayor, Coleman Young, and he himself ran for mayor of Detroit in the 1990s. The
director of the Pan-African Congress scholarship programme was Malikia Wada Lumumba, a professor of psychology. Ed Vaughn
himself was also a college professor and owner of the oldest and one of the largest black book shops - Americans say book
stores - in the United States.
Other leaders of the organization
were also mainstream Americans including teachers, engineers, government employees, and journalists; even an editorial writer
at the conservative Detroit News, one of the nation's largest and most
influential newspapers, although she herself was not a conservative but a liberal and civil rights activist. She and her husband
Kwadwo Akpan, who also was one of the leaders of the Pan-African Congress-USA, now live in Ghana where they have lived for
more than 10 years since the early 1990s.
So, the organization, although black nationalist
in orientation, was very much a part of the mainstream. Most of its members were middle-class and highly educated. The authorities
knew about the organization, and I did not in any way feel that it was risky to be sponsored by this black nationalist group.
In fact, several members of the Pan-African
Congress-USA attended the Sixth Pan-African Congress conference held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1974, under the leadership
of President Nyerere. It was held in Nkrumah Hall at the University of Dar es Salaam and was the first to be held on African
soil. By the way, there is also a college in Tanzania named after Dr. Nkrumah. It's Nkrumah Teachers' Training College in
Anyway, the Fifth Pan-African
Congress was held in Manchester, England, in 1945 and was attended by future African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo
Kenyatta, who helped organize the conference, Azikiwe and others. The director of the scholarship programme at the Pan-African
Congress-USA in Detroit, Malikia Wada Lumumba, also attended the conference (of the Sixth Pan-African Congress) and even met
Ben Mkapa - my former editor and future president of Tanzania - at the Daily News and
told him that I was one of their students. She also met some of my relatives in Dar es Salaam.
As a mainstream organization,
the Pan-African Congress-USA in Detroit also invited African diplomats and other leaders to address its members at the Pan-African
Congress hall in that city. Some of those who came and spoke at our meetings on different occasions included Tanzanian ambassador
to the United States, Paul Bomani whom I knew in Tanzania as a senior cabinet member and one of the leaders of the independence
movement when I was a reporter at the Daily News; senior diplomats at our
embassy in Washington, D.C., Hamza Aziz and Martin Kivumbi; and Guinean permanent representative to the United Nations, Madame
Hamza Aziz, who was Tanzania's insepector-general
of police before he became Tanzania's deputy ambassador to the United States in the early seventies, died in February 2004
in Dar es Salaam.
One of the most memorable things about
those visits involved Madame Cisse. She came to Detroit in early 1973, not longer after I had moved from New York to Detroit,
and had been in the United States less than six months from the time I left Tanzania in November 1972.
Madame Cisse came to the Pan-African Congress
house where we lived. The director of the PAC scholarship programme, Malikia Wada Lumumba brought her to the house to meet
me and other students and show her the house where African students sponsored by the organization lived.
I was the only student in the house during
that time and Madame Cisse and I had our picture taken together in my room by Mrs. Sanga who also came to Detroit with the
Mrs. Sanga, an African-American married
to a Tanzanian, Tuntemeke Sanga, was a professor at City College in Harlem, New York, and was very active in pan-African politics.
I met her in New York in November 1972 when I stayed there and she spoke fluent Kiswahili. She also taught the language at
City College, among other subjects. She even invited me one day to her class where I sat with the rest of the students throughout
her history lecture. And she knew Madame Cisse.
So they came to Detroit together at the
invitation of the Pan-African Congress. Mrs. Sanga also knew the PAC leaders in Detroit.
I still have the picture I took with Madame
Cisse at the Pan-African Congress house in Detroit more than 30 years ago, and it is one of those I treasure the most mainly
because of its historical significance. I was only 23 then, when the picture was taken, new in the United States. It was also
the first picture I had taken in the country.
Madame Cisse was also one of the most influential
ambassadors in UN history, together with Tanzania's permanent representative to the UN, Salim Ahmed Salim, whom I also met
in New York in 1972 when I stayed there for about two months with the late Weidi Mwasakafyuka, a diplomat at our mission to
the UN who later served as Tanzania's ambassador to France, among other diplomatic posts including serving as Tanzania's high
commissioner (ambassador) to Nigeria in the mid-1990s.
Weidi was also the uncle
of your colleague at The East African bureau in Dar, James Mwakisyala, as
he probably told you before both of you contacted me for this interview. He was – together with Brown Ngwilulupi and
others – one of the younger brothers of James Mwakisyala's mother.
Detroit, by the way, has a history of black
activism and is a well-known black activist centre. The Nation of Islam led by Elijah Muhammed, now by Louis Farrakhan, was
founded in Detroit in the 1930s. And the Nation of Islam's Temple Number One is still in Detroit; while Chicago, the group's
headquarters, has Temple Number Two.
Malcolm X, who came from Lansing, Michigan,
not far from Detroit, spent a lot of time in Detroit and was even nicknamed "Detroit Red." His friend, the internationally
acclaimed black actor Red Foxx, was nicknamed "Chicago Red." Malcolm X considered Detroit to be his home town.
Other black nationalist groups were also
founded in Detroit, including the Republic of New Afrika (RNA), Black Christian Nationalism (BCN) popularly known as the Shrine
of Black Madonna, and the Pan-African Congress-USA.
But that does not mean that the Pan-African
Congress-USA or any of these groups were a part of the Black Panther Party which was hounded into extinction by the FBI in
A number of black nationalist leaders,
of course, including Stokely Carmichael - renamed Kwame Ture - were also invited to Detroit by the Pan-African Congress-USA
and addressed members of this organization.
Still, that does not mean the PAC was affiliated
with the Black Panthers, although they agreed on a number of issues, as they did with Dr. Martin Luther King.
And a number of PAC leaders such as Arthur
Smith and Ed Vaughn knew Malcolm X who had strong ties to Detroit (Arthur Smith was a close friend of his); in fact his wife
came from Detroit, although he himself grew up in Lansing, a few miles from Detroit, and spent a lot of time in Detroit. And
many of his family members including some of his brothers also lived in Detroit.
Yet, in spite of all these ties, the Pan-African-Congress-USA
was composed of members who came from the mainstream society. So, Stokely Carmichael's coming to Detroit at the invitation
of the Pan-African Congress meant nothing in terms of the organization's ideological orientation as an extension of the Black
Panther Party as you were erroneously told.
remember, Stokely Carmichael -as Kwame Ture - also worked with Presidents Kwame Nkrumah and Sekou Toure for years when he
moved to Africa in 1967. So he dealt with other mainstream leaders as well, besides Dr. Martin Luther King and others in the
civil rights movement, as he did with organizations such as the Pan-African Congress-USA, and even with the Black Panther
Party of which he once served as prime minister before leaving the party over policy differences. He also went to Tanzania,
as did Malcolm X and other black American civil rights leaders including Andrew Young and Jesse Jackson.
And here's some trivia about the two leaders,
Carmichael and Malcolm X, in relation to Tanzania: Carmichael liked to stay at the Palm Beach Hotel when he was in Dar es
Salaam, which was only a few yards away from our high school, Tambaza, and from H.H. The Aga Khan Hostel in Upanga where we
lived. And Malcolm X's favourite restaurant in Dar es Salaam was New Zahir on Mosque Street and Jamhuri Street. It was also
Che Guevara's favourite restaurant when he stayed in Dar es Salaam for about five months, where he also wrote his famous book,
the Congo diaries, after the failure of his Congo mission.
Also, when Malcolm X visited Tanzania in
1964, he was invited by President Nyerere to his residence in Msasani on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam. As Andrew Nyerere
told me when I was working on the second edition of this book: "When he came to Msasani, he gave Mwalimu the record of 'Message
to the Grassroots,' a speech by Malcolm X."
Concerning my knowledge
of the Black Panther Party, I knew about this militant group when I was a news reporter in Tanzania and even before then when
I was in high school. A number of Black Panther Party members also lived in Tanzania, although I did not personally know any
of them. And our newspapers, especially The Nationalist, owned by the ruling party
TANU and whose editor then was Ben Mkapa before he came to the Daily News, had
stories about the Black Panthers in the United States quite often.
The only member of the Black Panther Party
I know of, but whom I have never met although he has lived in Tanzania for more than 30 years now, is Pete O'Neill; leader
of the Black Panthers in Kansas City, Missouri, and a prominent national leader of the party in the sixties.
He fled to Tanzania in
1972 - after being framed by the authorities on gun charges - and has been in the media quite often through the years; may
be you have even read about him in The New York Times, The Washington Post and
other major newspapers. I have also read about him on the internet on BBC Africa. In fact, one of his compatriots back in
the sixties, Geronimo Pratt who was deputy minister of defence of the Black Panther Party under Huey P. Newton, who was the
defence minister, visited him in Tanzania in 2003.
Pratt was imprisoned for 26 years on trumped-up
charges of killing a white woman; he was hundreds of miles away from where the murder took place but was imprisoned, anyway,
because of concocted evidence and false testimony by an FBI informant, or informants. He eventually won in court, but with
26 years of his life gone down the drain. He also sued the FBI for wrongful imprisonment and won again.
O'Neill fled to Tanzania
with his wife Charlotte and neither expects or intends to return to the United States. They intend to spend the rest of their
lives in Tanzania. And both have read the first edition of my book, Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, and
excerpts from the second edition.
So that's my knowledge of the Black Panthers
in terms of individuals who lived and have continued to live in Tanzania; but nothing on personal basis.
Why did you decide to leave journalism
after your work in Tanzania and studies in the United States? What field did you move into?
I decided to leave journalism after my
work in Tanzania and studies in the United States because I wanted to write books full-time. That is the field I moved into:
But I never thought I would end up writing
college textbooks. Every publisher I wrote about my works and who saw my manuscripts for possible publication said those were
academic books, not trade books for the general market as I thought they were.
One of the reasons I ended up writing such
books, without deliberately trying to write academic works, is the habit of writing research papers in college. I wrote many
of them as all students are supposed to do if they do their assignments and pay attention to their professors. Once you form
this habit and retain it through the years, it is easy to drift in that direction and write textbooks.
If you liked writing research papers in
college and you were good at it, writing a book of an academic nature, well-documented, won't be much of a problem even if
you can't find a publisher to publish your work. But you know you have the ability to do so once you do it.
you comment on your long struggle as an independent scholar in attempting to publish books? Could you also describe your feelings
after you finally became a widely read and highly regarded author?
contacted trade publishers, major ones in New York City, about my books. The editors wrote me back saying my books were academic
works not suitable for the general market. They were mostly interested in trade books. Academic books have a smaller market,
mostly the academic community.
So, I wrote university presses. They wrote
back saying an author must have a PhD, at least, before they would even consider inviting him to submit his manuscript. Others
said you must have a doctorate and must be teaching in the field you have written about for your manuscript to be considered;
or you must be a faculty member at a college or a university. I did not have those credentials.
So I happened to contact
Nova Science Publishers, Inc., in New York. That was in 1998. I sent a large manuscript to the publisher and editor-in-chief,
Dr. Frank Columbus, who is a former professor at major American universities, and he was very impressed by my work. The manuscript
was more than 1,300 pages tentatively entitled, The Modern African State. He
said it was too big to be published as one book and he asked me to break it down into a few titles. I did and re-submitted
my work to him as five books. And he gradually published them all.
Nova Science Publishers publishes scholarly
works from authors around the world. The books are sold to universities worldwide and Dr. Columbus felt that my books would
be suitable for this market. And he was right. All my books have been recommended by professors as textbooks in the United
States, Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and many other countries.
After he read my manuscripts, my publisher
thought that I had a PhD and was a professor. And he addressed me as one in his correspondence to me. I explained to him that
I did not have those credentials.
But he and his staff continued to write
me letters saying, "Dear Dr. Mwakikagile," or "Dear Professor Mwakikagile." Obviously they have formed a habit of addressing
their authors that way. And it is understandable. Almost all the authors whose works have been published by Nova Science Publishers
They include at least five African professors
teaching in the United States, Britain and Australia; and I have been in touch with all of them; one of them is the head of
the department of politics at a major university in Australia.
In fact the publisher is well-known in
academic circles around the world and has quite a reputation for publishing scholarly works, including books by professors
in South African universities.
My first book, Economic Development in Africa, was
published in June 1999 when I was 49 approaching 50. I turned 50 on October 4th that year.
I saw myself as a late-comer but was glad
that I had finally arrived. Yet, I was not thrilled. I was stoic. But I was surprised that professors at most of the world's
leading universities and others in many countries recommended all my books for purchase by their school libraries, and as
textbooks mostly for graduate or post-graduate studies. I never thought that they would be highly regarded by so many scholars.
What surprised me most was that they are
also used by some students studying for their PhD degrees. Yet they were written by someone who does not have those degrees.
I just didn't have the money to go that far in school.
But I wouldn't go back to school now to
get my doctorate even if I had the money to do so. I just want to write, and live a simple, quiet life as I always have, although
I am not a recluse like J.D. Salinger; nor am in the same league with him. I'm just a simple African writing about our continent
and what I think can be done to improve our condition. Paradoxically, Salinger is one of the most well-known writers despite
his reclusive life style.
you fall into writing books about African economics and politics? I think you have said some of your books have been used
at various colleges, right? Which books? Overall, how do you think your books have been received by Western academic audiences?
writing books about African economics and politics for a number of reasons. I have always been interested in both subjects,
although when I was in secondary school and high school in Tanzania, I wanted to be a lawyer and a writer and even enrolled
as an LL.B. external student with the University of London (its external programme ended in 1977) when I was a reporter at
Another reason is that
I studied political science and economics in college, in addition to many other subjects including international relations,
history, literature, and philosophy which served me well when I wrote one of my books, Africa and the West, which
is also used as a college textbook in political science, history, and in the study of African philosophy, and in psychology
dealing with African Identity.
My background as a news
reporter at the Daily News and as an information officer at the Ministry of Information
and Broadcasting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, also had a lot to do with African politics and economics. That's another reason
why I ended up writing books abour African politics and economics. In fact, most of the stories we wrote were about African
politics and development economics. I also covered parliament many times when I was at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
and at the Daily News, in addition to interviewing cabinet members and other leaders
including foreign dignitaries, and covering political meetings and other gatherings dealing with politics and economics.
probably more than anything else, what motivated me to write about African politics and economics was my deep concern about
the condition of our continent. That's why all my books are about Africa as a whole, not just about my home country Tanzania.
I love Tanzania from the very depth of my being, heart and soul. But Tanzania also is an integral part of Africa; what Dr.
Nkrumah calls the African personality. Without the rest of Africa, Tanzania or any other African country is nothing. Africa
is one. And it is a natural entity, not an artificial creation like the countries we have across the continent today.
And you cannot truly love Tanzania, Nigeria
or Kenya without loving Africa. If you hate Africa, you also hate Tanzania, and hate yourself if you are an African. This
somewhat reminds me of what Monsieur Clemenceau, the French prime minister, said in a slightly different context when he talked
about loving France without loving Frenchmen. In nationalist terms or language, he was obviously talking about the idea of
France, France as an idea in its ideal form; its potential, of what it can be, but has yet to be, in contrast to what it has
failed to be what it is supposed to be. I may hate the failure of Africa in many fundamental respects, but still love its
very being as a spiritual and corporeal entity, an organic whole, hoping that one day it will live up to its full potential.
Concerning my works, all my books are used
as college textbooks, mostly for graduate studies, as I said earlier, although I don't mind answering your question again
depending on the context in which it is asked without necessarily being repetitive. And they are found in many university
libraries around the world. They are also found in a number of major public libraries, for example, in the United States,
Canada, Britain, Singapore, Germany, Sweden, the People's Republic of China, in the Indian Parliament library and elsewhere.
Some of the schools which have my books include Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, the University of London, the London School
of Economics and others in Britain; the University of Toronto, Carleton University and others in Canada; Princeton University,
Columbia University, the University of California at Berkeley, UCLA and other campuses; the University of Sydney, the University
of New South Wales and others in Australia and New Zealand; the University of the West Indies, the University of Cape Town,
the University of South Africa, Rhodes University, Stellenborch University and others in South Africa; the University of Hong
Kong, the University of Botswana, Duke University, the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, the University of
Wisconsin, Michigan State University, Indiana University and many others in the United States and other countries; to give
you a few examples at random.
The titles are Economic Development in Africa; Africa and the West; The Modern African State: Quest for
Transformation; Military Coups in West Africa since the Sixties; Ethnic Politics in Kenya and Nigeria; and
and Africa: End of an Era. And they have been well received by Western academic audiences
as you can tell from some of the reviews of my works by a number of professors - a few on the Internet - who have recommended
my books as textbooks.
African professors in the
West also like my books. For example, Professor Mahmood Mamdani, a Ugandan and one of Africa's most internationally renowned
scholars who also taught at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania in the late seventies and who now (in 2003) teaches
at Columbia University in New York, uses one of my books, The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation, as
a textbook for graduate studies in political science and international studies.
You mentioned that you have a medical
condition. May I inquire what it is?
I continue to write, I have a heart condition
which prevents me from doing more than I could in terms of writing. It is also the main reason why I could not be interviewed
by the BBC about my book on Nyerere. They contacted me saying they wanted to interview me on "Network Africa" but I turned
down the invitation. I remember Paul Bakibinga, who was going to interview me, is the one who contacted me. I referred him
to Ambassador Mrisho Sarakikya, Tanzania's high commissioner to Kenya, who wrote me about my book and ordered a copy for himself,
in case he wanted to be interviewed since he knew President Nyerere well when he was head of our armed forces for years. I
also referred Bakibinga to a number of people in Dar es Salaam who could be interviewed about Mwalimu Nyerere. But I don't
know if he interviewed any of them or not.
I was also invited to Washington, D.C.,
by TransAfrica, an organization led by Randall Robinson which played a critical role in the campaign against apartheid, mobilizing
public opinion across the United States against this abominable regime. They wanted me to give a lecture and discuss my book
about Nyerere and autograph copies of my work at a book signing ceremony. But I was unable to go for the same reason.
Also for the same reason, I could not accept
an invitation to be interviewed for a documentary about the history of socialism featuring President Nyerere and other leaders
to be broadcast on American television - Public Broadcasting System (PBS) - beamed nationwide. The PBS documentary is called
"Heaven on Earth," a two-hour exploration of the history of socialism; including a segment on Julius Nyerere and the socialist
experiment in Tanzania filmed in Dar es Salaam between February 15 and 22, 2003, and produced by New River Media of Cambridge,
Massachusetts. They wanted to interview me because they said they liked my writings about Nyerere very much; although I'm
nowhere close to being an authority on Mwalimu Nyerere. But I have written about him in more than one book. As the producer
of the documentary, Brittany Huckabee, said in her letter to me:
"I have come across your excellent writings
on Nyerere and would very much like to talk to you about the possibility of interviewing you on camera for the documentary.
If not in Dar, we might be able to catch you in London or perhaps in Washington or New York later this spring. I would also
be willing to discuss other possibilities depending on your interest. In addition, I am quite interested to know if you have
any suggestions on who else we might interview while we are in Dar. I would most like to identify individuals who had some
contact with Nyerere and who would be willing to honestly assess both Tanzania's successes and failures during the era."
Although I declined their invitation to
be interviewed because of my heart ailment, they still asked me if I could help them with the project in some other way. I
was very much impressed by their interest in Nyerere and in my work and gave them the names of quite a few individuals in
Dar es Salaam who would be able to help them.
They had already interviewed some of them
and contacted others, as the producer told me after they finished filming in Dar. So, she didn't have to catch up with me
anywhere. There was no need to. And my condition, of course, precluded any possibility of my travelling anywhere although
she and her staff were willing to come and interview me where I was. But I had turned down other invitations to go to other
places and discuss my book about Nyerere, and this one was no exception.
And this book is not just about Nyerere;
it is about Africa as a whole, although I have also written about him as a Tanzanian leader. Tanzania is my homeland and it
will always be. And I intend to spend the rest of my life in Tanzania and be buried in my native land. But Nyerere was, more
than anything else, an African leader in the pan-African sense, and a Third World leader who was the embodiment of the aspirations
of the downtrodden masses round the globe. Yet he was, first and foremost, an African leader. And in that sense, I would like
to reiterate several important things about President Nyerere before we end this discussion, in order to help maintain his
record in its proper historical context, now that he's gone.
Probably more than any other African leader,
Nyerere played a critical role practically in all the major events on the continent in the post-colonial era. He led Tanganyika
to become the first country in East Africa - and southern Africa - to win independence. He was the first East African leader
to call for federation of the three East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika; and even offered to delay independence
for Tanganyika so that the three East African countries could unite and become independent on the same day as one country.
He was also the first East African leader to achieve unity.
Nyerere also was one of
the strongest supporters of African unity, and he saw the proposed East African federation as a step towards achieving this
goal. To him, unity came first. And he was a commited socialist. But as he said in an interview with the New Internationalist in
December 1998, less than a year before he died, he would rather see a united Africa than a divided socialist Africa.
But he differed with Kwame
Nkrumah, another uncompromising Pan-Africanist, who - for other reasons as well - was opposed to the East African federation,
and other regional federations, in favour of immediate continental unification. I have an entire chapter devoted to this subject
in my book. In that chapter, I take a look at the different approaches taken by the two leaders in their quest for continental
unification, shedding some light on the underlying causes of the differences between the two leaders, despite their shared
vision of Africa and the close working relationship they had until Nkrumah's ouster in February 1966 in a military coup supported
by the CIA. As Nyerere stated in the same interview with the New Internationalist, and
which I quote in my book, he and Nkrumah corresponded a lot on the subject of African unity and how to achieve it.
Nyerere also was the first and the only
African leader who united two countries, Tanganyika and Zanzibar, to form one country, Tanzania. It is the only union of independent
countries ever formed on the entire continent, and it has survived for almost 40 years now, although not without problems
as Nyerere himself admitted.
Not long after he united Tanganyika and
Zanzibar in April 1964 to form Tanzania, Nyerere took another bold initiative which would have enduring significance for all
the countries on the continent. Less than three months later at the OAU summit in Cairo, Egypt, in July 1964, President Nyerere
introduced a resolution calling on the member states to maintain the borders inherited at independence, as he himself explains
in Appendix II of my book. His fellow heads of state and government agreed with him and adopted the resolution which became
one of the most sacred principles of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
Under his leadership, Tanzania also became
the first country on the continent to capture the capital and overthrow the government of another African country, Uganda,
following the invasion of Tanzania by Idi Amin and annexation of 710 square miles of its territory. Tanzania had no choice
but to expel the invaders and oust Amin from power to remove the danger this brutal dictator would continue to pose to the
security of Tanzania had he remained in power.
It was an act of self-defence; and international
condemnation of Tanzania was muted for this very same reason. Nyerere was fully justified in doing what he did, contrasted
with what President George W. Bush did in the case of Iraq. Iraq did not invade the United States or pose any danger to the
United States. And Bush knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when he invaded that country. There are no
parallels between the two, contrary to what the American ambassador to Tanzania, Robert Royall, said. Uganda invaded Tanzania
and had to be expelled. Iraq did not invade the United States. And there are no American oil fields in Iraq.
also was the first country to recognize, on moral grounds, the secessionist region of Eastern Nigeria as the independent Republic
of Biafra. Nyerere felt that the Igbos and other Eastern Nigerians were justified in doing so because they could no longer
feel safe and secure within the borders of Nigeria where the authorities did nothing to stop the massacre of the Easterners
in different parts of the country, especially in northern Nigeria.
Tanzania's role in the liberation of Africa,
especially southern Africa, is beyond dispute. All the African liberation movements had their headquarters in Dar es Salaam,
Tanzania. Tanzania also had the largest number of military training camps for the freedom fighters from southern Africa.
It was also in Tanzania where most of the
leaders from southern Africa and other African countries - as well as others - found safe haven during the liberation struggle.
President Nyerere became the strongest
and most relentless supporter of the liberation movements on the continent more than any other leader besides Kwame Nkrumah.
But Nkrumah was overthrown back in 1966 before he had full impact on the liberation struggle. Nyerere's dream of a free Africa
was finally realized when apartheid finally ended in 1994 five years before he died.
Nyerere will also be remembered for his
mediation efforts to try to end the conflict in Burundi between the Hutu and Tutsi, an undertaking that almost cost him his
life. In the late 1990s, Charles Mukasi and other Tutsi leaders met at a hotel in Bujumbura, Burundi's capital, and worked
on a plot to assassinate Nyerere, accusing him of favouring the Hutu in his efforts to help resolve the conflict. He had been
accused of that before and had dismissed the charge as "nonsense."
They could not have found a better mediator,
but he died without achieving his goal. Still, he will be remembered for that; and not only for trying to end the conflict
in Burundi but in other parts parts of Africa as well. He was an African statesman par excellence.
Nyerere was undoubtedly one of the world's
most influential leaders in the twentieth century. As Professor Ali Mazrui said in his tribute to Nyerere: "In global terms,
he was one of the giants of the 20th Century....He did bestride this narrow world like an African colossus."
I would also like to end this discussion
with a few words from Andrew Nyerere, President Nyerere's eldest son. I was in touch with him throughout my work on this expanded
edition and we discussed a number of issues covered in the book. He had the following to say in a letter he wrote to me on
September 1, 2003, and whose contents he said I could include in the book after I asked him to comment on my manuscript. Some
of his comments are in response to what I said in this expanded edition; others reflections on other subjects. We communicated
in Kiswahili, our national language, and in English, and this letter is one of those he wrote in English, quoted verbatim:
"This is a very interesting comment that
you have made about Mwalimu Nyerere being a liberal. I never heard Nyerere say that he was a liberal, I never heard him speak
And remember that Nyerere had as personal
secretary, Ms. Joan Wicken, who was a member of the Labour Party of Britain. And one cannot help wondering whether Mwalimu
Nyerere wrote The Arusha Declaration because Joan Wicken was his constant companion.
Certainly, Nyerere favoured the Labour
Party of Britain. I remember one day he cheerfully told me that if there was an election today, John Major would not win.
I specifically remember that he said this after John Major had already been re-elected for a second term. And I considered
it a little bit vindictive to make this statement after the re-election. But as it turned out, John Major did not finish that
term, after losing a challenge by Margaret Thatcher.
So, I really would not
say that Nyerere was a liberal. But then, I cannot say that I know what liberal means really. Liberal policies, it seems to
me, would be lax policies. And this laxity would be something a bit foreign to Nyerere who had an ascetic streak to him. He
started National Service, and preached self-reliance. When citizens marched to support The Arusha Declaration, he
I learned one thing from Mwalimu Nyerere,
and that is to behave in a civilized manner. Nyerere had nobility of character. He believed, it seemed to me, that a person
should act in such a way that he brings respect to the human species. And this is the way I have always tried to behave following
his example. Nowadays, I would modify this a bit, and I would say that humans must act in a way that gives respect to The
As you look at the history of Mwalimu Nyerere
and his contemporaries, you see that they were like a team who were born at the same time for the purpose of liberating the
country from British imperialism. So we do well to find out the truth about what these men did. We see, for example, that
there is evidence that Kwame Nkrumah financed the Zanzibar Revolution.
In a speech to the Party, Sheikh Thabit
Kombo gives an account of it. He explains how during the election in Zanzibar, there had been great carnage and many Arabs
were killed. And Nkrumah had financed this. He says it was not the fault of the Arabs that the disturbances started. They
had masterminded it, and started the trouble. But it is just modesty to say that the Arabs made no mistakes because this was
a government which was based on slave trading.
So, during this election, there was a lot
of trouble and many Arabs were killed, and Thabit Kombo and Mr. Karume fled to Dar es Salaam. They decided that they should
go to Nyerere to discuss this with him, to find out what was his opinion. And when they met Nyerere, they discussed this and
he told them to go back, and said, "I will send you money, I will send you guns."
They went back and there was a trial. A
white judge came from London. And Karume was asked by the prosecutor, "Do you know, Mr. Karume, when you started that fracas,
75 Arabs died?" And Mr. Karume made a very memorable statement. He spoke out in exasperation. He asked, "Who did you want
to die?" This is a statement which all the oppressed people of the world should remember. It is all on tape. I made copies
of it and sent it to quite a few people.
Also there is Haile Selassie, who died
in dishonour, with hardly any friend in the world. But this was a leader who worked for African Unity. Nowadays, there is
renewed initiative to unite the continent which is spearheaded by President Thabo Mbeki among others.
Concerning Idi Amin, I don't think Nyerere
would have any harsh words to say about his death if he had outlived Amin. Amin had troubled Uganda and he had been removed
from power. So there would have been no need to make such comments after his death. Many people vented their anger at Amin
when he died in Jeddah.
I remember when Amin was in power. Milton
Obote was in exile in Dar es Salaam and I would go to visit him sometimes. And there, when Amin went on radio to address the
Ugandan nation in his broken English, they would laugh their heads off. Also, after Amin was overthrown, one Asian film producer
made a film about that regime, and this film was quite a success.
When the film was shown in Dar es Salaam,
I told Nyerere about it and asked him to go and see it. He said, "No." I said it would be good if he went to see it because
at the end of the film, there was a statement which said his regime came to an end when the Tanzanian Army at the order of
President Nyerere invaded Uganda.
He said, "Has Amin see it? No, I don't
want to see it." And I would have made arrangements for that film to be brought home if it had not been for some of the lurid
scenes in the film. But it is a good film which I think should be shown again, especially to the young who did not know About
You also say that you think that it is
possible that the Opposition in Tanzania might win if they united like they did in Kenya. If anyone thinks that the Opposition
can win in 2005 (I said they might do better in 2010, not in 2005), he would be making a very big mistake. But that is not
to say that they cannot improve their rating compared to the last election.
I will end here. I asked (name withheld)
to contact you. I think you will be hearing from him in the next few days."
Concerning President Nyerere's political
orientation whether he was a liberal or not, Andrew is right when he says he was not, in the sense that he did not favour
"lax policies," as Andrew put it; that is why "he started National Service and preached self-reliance."
The term liberal in this sense has been
used, and continues to be used, to describe people, actions and policies free from restraint, condoning virtually anything
including licentious behaviour as was the case in the United States in the sixties when hippies and other hedonistic individuals
and groups, especially young people, felt they had the right to do anything they wanted to do; including engaging in free
sex, using drugs, and even refusing to work in defiance of the work ethic upon which their society - to which they were opposed
so much - was built.
That was the decade of the counter-culture
and anti-establishment sentiments, fuelled by opposition to the Vietnam war and support of the civil rights movement. I arrived
in the United States only a few years later, in 1972, and much of this was still going on in many parts of the country including
But Nyerere was definitely a liberal in
the sense that he espoused and implemented egalitarian ideals to achieve social justice and equality; something anathema to
conservatives; he strongly opposed apartheid in South Africa and racist policies anywhere else in the world, unlike conservatives
including the Conservative party in Britain and the Republican party in the United States who supported racist regimes in
Africa; and was always very sympathetic to the poor, prompting him to provide free education and free medical service to everybody
when he was president of Tanzania, something conservatives would never do. They say you are on your own. "I got mine, you
get yours. Each to his own."
And his favourable disposition towards
the Labour Party in Britain which advocates social policies to help the poor and victims of all kinds of injustice including
racism, shows that he was a liberal in that sense; as was his admiration of United States President Jimmy Carter.
what he said about Jimmy Carter one day when he visited the United States in the late seventies and was interviewed on American
television, ABC's "Issues and Answers" programme beamed nationwide, with regard to South Africa and Africa in general.
He was asked what he thought about Carter's
policies towards apartheid South Africa and Africa as a whole, and responsed by saying, "Look, the man is a liberal, he is
a democrat. I don't believe Jimmy Carter has changed." And Jimmy Carter was, of course, a liberal. Nyerere felt exactly the
opposite about President Ronald Reagan, a right-wing Republican and one of the most conservative presidents in American history.
was generous, free-hearted, open-minded, free from prejudice, and favoured changes and reforms to build a just and democratic
society, and was a true liberal in that sense. But he was not a liberal in terms of favouring liberal policies which are lax
policies, as Andrew put it. And he is right in that context. President Nyerere was a strict disciplinarian, he insisted on
working hard and on being self-reliant. That is why one of his first slogans right after independence was "Uhuru na Kazi,"
which means "Freedom and Work."
And I continue to draw inspiration from
Mwalimu Nyerere in what I do and always will. Without him, I would not have been able to go to school and write the books
I have written. Without him, I would not have gone beyond primary school. During his presidency, education was free for everybody.
He was, indeed, "one of us," the poorest of the poor, and we will always miss him. Always.
The chapter on coup attempts against Nyerere
prompted Andrew to seek comments on my work from one of the coup plotters mentioned in his letter above.
His father was one of the
first people killed by Idi Amin's forces on the Ugandan-Tanzanian border in 1972 when they made repeated incursions into our
country. The pictures of some of these victims were published in our newspaper, the Daily News, to
demonstrate the diabolical nature of Amin's blood-soaked regime; incursions into our country and the bombing and killing of
innocent Tanzanians by his forces being only the tip of the iceberg.
Earlier, Andrew had written this to me
about (name withheld), whom he said he met when they underwent basic military training together at the Tanzania Military Academy
(TMA), Mgulani, in Dar es Salaam, and about his attempts to get in touch with him in case he had any comments to make on my
I would like to make a few comments about
the interview (Appendix VI above). But I will do it tomorrow. There are many things which are not well-known. For example,
that Nkrumah financed the Zanzibar Revolution, the one which overthrew the Arabs. I heard it on a tape of a speech by Sheikh
(Name withheld) was one of the coup plotters.
He is the son of (name withheld) you mentioned. I will try one more time to find him, to see if he is willing to write anything.
I am Andrew."
That is how the coup plotter came into
the picture. I asked him to describe the sequence of events which led to their arrest and conviction and he sent me the following
statement in response to my questions:
“It was Friday the 7th January 1983
at around 1500hrs local time. We were to assemble at a house in Kinondoni ( a ward in Dar es Salaam, the nation's capital)
then proceed to another place for the final briefing as the coup was to take place the following night.
By this day we had already postponed the
strike twice at the request of the mastermind Pius Lugangira or known at that time as Father Tom or Uncle Tom. Apparently,
his reason was that he was expecting some ships with essential commodities in big shortage at that time.
We had planned for the previous Monday
but put it forward to Wednesday; then, again, he said he wasn't ready. We did warn him of the dangers of putting it forward
as the number of people in the conspiracy always increases towards the culmination and the chances of leaks increase. So,
on that Friday we had decided to go ahead whether he was ready or not.
close to the RV (the assembling place) when I saw Tamim running while being chased by three people. Shortly after that, I
heard shots and Tamim fell from the pickup that he had jumped into in his attempt to get away. He was taken to MMC (Muhimbili)
in a car that was waiting for them.
I followed them up to MMC to see what would
be next. I saw the body being taken to the mortuary and after a few minutes the pursuers who happened to be from the state
security came out looking quite excited about something.
I went to the attendant and gave him some
money and requested to see the body, which I did, and satisfied myself that Tamim was already dead. From the wounds, I knew
that he couldn't have said anything as death must have been immediate. But what the attendant revealed to me scared me. He
said those guys had taken a piece of paper from Tamim's pocket that had a list of names with military ranks.
I tried to look for my colleagues at their
homes but couldn't find any. I knew it would be futile to as the plan was no one was to return home that day but go somewhere
until H-hour (the hour that the actual action starts).
I went back to that house in Kinondoni
only to find it surrounded by both uniformed and plainclothed police. I could recognise some of them and, to my utter dismay,
I saw some of my colleagues already under arrest.
I knew then that the whole thing was abortive
as three of those arrested were from the tank unit whose success in the mission was of paramount importance. I spotted a few
of us hovering around the perimeter of that house. So, I went to them and informed them of what had taken place. It was already
2000hrs and there was nothing that we could do to salvage the situation and it was everyone for himself.
Some decided to flee to Kenya where they
were given refuge; only to be returned at a later date in exchange for Ochuka and Okumu who had fled from Kenya to Tanzania
after their attempt to overthrow Moi failed in August 1982. I was married and had a one-year old daughter, not knowing what
would happen to them. I decided to remain and ride out the storm.
I was arrested the same night around 0300hrs
and taken straight to the Central Police Station where I found my brother (name withheld), who was a captain and pilot, already
arrested; two captains in the company of a good number of armed soldiers. They said to me that they were arresting me on the
orders of the Chief of Defence Forces, but they did not say on what charge although I did ask them.
What I found out later was that my name
was also on that list of paper but appeared as Captain (name withheld). And since in the army we are addressed by our surnames,
there were two of us by that name. So, they arrested my brother first, as he was staying in the airwing barracks, and they
didn't know where I was staying in town until they asked my brother.
On my arrest, the whole of my family was
taken out and the house was locked. The following morning my house was searched in my presence by the police, the military
and the state security, but nothing of significance was found. We then went to my office. And, again, nothing was found.
I was not tortured physically, although
there were a lot of threats to do just that or bring harm to my family. In my opinion, we were not tortured due to an issue
that had occurred in the previous year.
What happened then was that there were
interrogations that were conducted by the state security guys among prisoners who were under the care of the police and the
prisons department. Something went wrong and some of those prisoners died.
One of them was was connected to a person
in power. So, an inquiry was initiated which culminated in the resignation of the then minister of home affairs, Mwinyi, who
later on became president, and of Siyovelwa who was the minister in the president's office dealing with security.
As for the operatives, the Regional Police
Commander and his counterpart in Prisons and some police officers were charged and received prison terms of between 3 and
8 years. But the guys from the state security were left scot free. It is this background that made the police protect us from
any kind of torture.
I vividly remember the
5th day of my arrest when
a security guy came to take me for interrogation but was refused permission by Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Mwamakusa
under whom I was placed for investigation.
The security guy angrily went away and
came back later with other top officials from the State House. But the SSP stood his ground. There were no interrogations
for the following two days after this episode.
We later found out that a meeting was held
by all the security organs and it was agreed that all questions were to be asked in the presence of police officers and they
should follow regulations.
We were to remain under police custody.
And that we did, until we were taken to court and thereafter to the prisons department.
We weren't allowed to get visits from relatives
until a strong rumour started circulating that some of us were dead. To prove that we were still alive, they had no option
but to allow relatives to visit us and bring us some food. Identification parades were held and, three weeks after our arrest,
we were formally charged and taken to prison remand. Thirty people were initially charged and all the military people were
remanded at Ukonga while the civilian elements were put at Keko.
Every two weeks we were taken to court,
and another mention would be requested and, of course, granted.
By the seventh mention, Father Tom and
Mcghee, who were the first and the second accused respectively, escaped from Keko and fled to Kenya. The case was withdrawn
and we were all put in detention.
There was no harsh treatment while in remand
but, as soon as we were detained, conditions changed and we were mostly held incommunicado and dispersed to different prisons.
I was always segregated from the others and and was always in leg shackles apparently for being accused of being the mastermind
of the Keko escape.
a year later, Kenya and Tanzania settled their differences and exchanged fugitives. Mcghee and a few others who had escaped
during the first arrests were brought back, while Tanzania sent back Ochuka and his friend. These two were later hanged by
After a long trial, almost a year, nine
of us were sentenced to life imprisonment and the others were set free. Altogether this time, 18 brought back to court while
the others remained in detention until four months after we were sentenced when they were released. And that included my brother
whose only mistake was to have a similar (the same last) name. He spent a total of three and a half years.
As a prisoner, conditions changed again
but this time slightly for the better as we were treated as political prisoners. Food was better; we were given beds, mattresses,
mosquito nets, radio and newspapers. We were also allowed visits from relatives and friends.
It is standard procedure for any person
in detention, or sentenced to life, to write a letter for clemency to the head of state. And I believe all of us did. I was
again put alone and changed prisons from time to time. I stayed at Ukonga, Maweni, Tanga, Mtwara, Lindi, Mwanza, ang again
Ukonga where I was released on presidential pardon in 1995 in the wake of the first multiparty elections. In total, I spent
13 years in prison.
In the beginning, a lot of people used
to avoid me. But gradually, as the freedom of speech increased in the country and the people became more bold, things began
to change until now where I am leading a normal life.
My wife waited for 10 years, then despaired
and divorced me. She is married with two children and lives in (name withheld) with our daughter who was one year old when
I was arrested; she is now 22. I own several trucks.... I married again in 2001 and have a six month-old son (in 2003) from
Besides the questions to which he provided
the answers in the preceding statement, I also asked him the following:
Why did the coup plotters want to overthrow
What did they have against Nyerere? Why
did the coup not succeed?
Was there a foreign power, such as the
United States, involved in trying to overthrow Nyerere?
Didn't the coup plotters worry that they
would not get support from most Tanzanians and the international community for overthrowing such a popular president?
Did the plot include assassinating President
Nyerere and other leaders? Did the plotters anticipate massive resistance from other members of the armed forces and from
the general public?
What kind of government and political and
economic system did they want to replace Nyerere's? Who was the coup leader or leaders?
Was the coup attempt very close to being
successful? What was your rank in the army when you got involved in the plot? When was the attempted coup and when was it
planned to take place? Was Oscar Kambona involved in this one as well? How many army officers or air force officers were involved?
He gave me these answers:
WHY THE COUP
In 1982 the country was going through a
very difficult economic period and shortages of essential commodities was an everyday thing. To the dismay of many, the blame
was always put on our imaginary enemies, external and internal, without mentioning who these enemies are.
If you are bold enough to ask about the
situation, then you are from there branded a fifth columnist, a name coined by the Nazis in Hitler's time to refer to anyone
in their ranks who opposed them.
Some of us got fed up and decided to look
for change. But since there was no way one could achieve that in a totalitarian regime like that, the only option viable at
that time was the use of force.
WHAT DID WE HAVE AGAINST MWALIMU
Nothing personal. The only thing was that
he was already surrounded by hypocrites whose survival depended solely on the system continuing as it was. And instead of
telling the president the truth, they would tell him what he wanted to hear.
Very unfortunately, Mwalimu had reached
a stage where he believed them and would listen to no one else. And if one wanted to get into his bad books, then he only
had to point out an anomaly and that would have been the end of him.
That is when people baptized
Mwalimu haambiliki (Kiswahili word meaning, Mwalimu can't be told or won't listen,
depending on the context - definition and clarification by the author, Godfrey Mwakikagile).
He believed the path he had chosen for
this country was the only one and there was no alternative. I remember one of his speeches where he said we should not look
back lest we turn into stone. As such, what was the alternative? Well, some of us were young and impatient, so we went for
WHY DID THE COUP NOT SUCCEED
Rather complex, and it would take a lot
of time to explain the sequence of events. But in short, I can say bad luck on our side and good luck on them.
What really happened is that one of the
plotters, Captain Tamim, was wanted for having had defected to Kenya when Ugandan interim president, Yusuf Lule, was ousted
and had fallen out of favour with Nyerere.
Tamim was then heading Lule's security
unit. So he joined him in Kenya. It is said, though, that Tamim was sent there by General Msuguri who was the Task Force Commander
in Uganda. General Msuguri later on denied that, as this would have put him in trouble for having exceeded his authority.
Be it as it may, Tamim could not return
as he would have faced a court martial although two of his colleagues were arrested, tried, and acquitted, thus giving credence
to Msuguri's complicity. So, (just) a day before the coup was to take place, the security guys decided to pick him up for
questioning but in the process, Tamim resisted and fought back. This culminated in gunning Tamim to death.
Unfortunately, he had a list of (some)
army officers' names on a slip of paper found in his pocket. And these officers were arrested the same day. Some of them confessed
and this led to more arrests. This is how it failed.
WAS THERE A FOREIGN POWER
Not one that I know of, although there
was foreign financing. But that could have been done by individuals and not necessarily by a government.
DID WE WORRY ABOUT NOT GETTING SUPPORT
Not at all. In fact, there were a lot disappointments
in different quarters when the whole thing failed. It was very surprising that, in the wake of such an incidence, the normal
procedure would have been rallies to condemn us, choirs would have been sung and all such razzmatazz. But there was no such
And this really helped to get Mwalimu out
of the dreamland to reality as he realized how unpopular his government had become. History will be the judge of that, but
one thing I can say for sure is that any meaningful change that has taken place in the country started soon after that.
DID THE PLOT INCLUDE ASSASSINATION
No. The issue was discussed at length as
there were worries that if the coup succeeds but Mwalimu slips away, then he may be an obstacle to us. This argument was discarded
on the grounds that there was no neighbouring country that would have risked having him there as they all had plenty of trouble
internally and we could have reciprocated by escalating those problems by aiding their opposition. For example, if (Mozambican
President) Samora gave us problems, then we would have welcomed RENAMO; in Uganda we would have aided Museveni who was against
Obote; Zambia, we would simply have choked them by closing the (oil) pipeline and the port. There was agreement that there
was no need to kill anyone without without a strong reason to do that.
WAS RESISTANCE ANTICIPATED
Yes. There is no way that one can take
power from another and expect to get it on a silver platter. But you have to know one thing in military planning: surprise
is the main thing that plays an important role in determining the kind of resistance that you may get.
In our case, there would have been some
resistance mainly from areas of strategic importance and that would have been overcome easily. We didn't think there would
have been a long-term and consistent resistance, given the unpopularity of the government at that time. But should one have
arisen, then it would have been dealt with accordingly by the new government.
KIND OF GOVERNMENT AND ECONOMIC POLICIES
Ironically, we are now having the type
of government that we wanted then. We would have installed an interim government that would have prepared the country for
a multiparty election within one year. And this interim government would have been totally civilian.
A liberalized economic policy is what we
advocated And after surviving the coup, Mwalimu borrowed a chapter from us and put it into practice, albeit with a few items,
the list of which kept on expanding until now where we can trade freely.
THE COUP LEADERS
There was one person who masterminded the
whole thing. And if there was someone behind him, then I don't know. The mastermind is dead now, and his name is Pius Mtakubwa
He was a chemistry teacher in secondary
schools but had long quit that job. At the time of this plot, he was a businessman supplying different manufacturing industries
with chemicals. On the operational part, I cannot reveal their names as it may jeopardize their position.
WAS IT CLOSE TO SUCCESS
I think yes, because it was (only) a few
hours away, with the security guys still in the dark.
According to Mr. Apiyo, now retired but
at that time the Principal Secretary in the president's office, this was the closest of all the attempts ( to overthrow the
government), and it did speed up Mwalimu's retirement.
WHAT WAS MY RANK
I was a captain.
The plot was planned from November 1982
and was to take place on 9th January 1983. We were arrested on the eve of the 8th.
WAS KAMBONA INVOLVED
No, he was not, as he was already a spent
force by then.
HOW MANY WERE INVOLVED
I can say many, because it was already
in the implementation stage. But the ringleaders were about 14.
I communicated with him further and asked
him a few more questions:
You say this was the third coup attempt.
Which one was the second, by Eli Anangisye? And when was Anangisye's attempt? Who else was involved in Anangisye's coup attempt?
Was Kambona one of them?
And he answered this way:
I have never heard of Anangisye as having
attempted a coup. But if I can recall right, I think he was like what the Soviets used to call dissident; someone who differs
with the authorities and makes noise about it. They are usually detained without trial, and this is what I think happened
The coup attempts that were known are the
Chipaka and Bibi Titi one which involved Kambona. These were tried in court.
The second one was in 1974 when I was in
Officer Cadet School. This was said to be rather tribal by officers mainly from the Chagga group. No one was tried but more
than 50 officers were removed from the army and given insignificant posts in parastatals.
Then came ours.
in between, there were other incidents that you cannot call coup attempts; for instance, during the ten years of independence
celebrations leaflets castigating Mwalimu were dropped at the National Stadium and in a few other regions. This was Kambona's
job, as his picture was in the leaflets. He again made the same attempt in 1973 but his timing was not good, as Mwalimu was
at the peak of his popularity.
There were a few other hiccups but, to
the best of my knowledge, it is only the three that I have mentioned that are of any significance in so far as coups are concerned.
One other item is that during Mwalimu's
era, they were very keen to conceal any news of coups, as that would indicate the truth that the regime was not all that popular.
So, there may have been other hidden ones that I never learnt about.
I thought about including the government
version of what happened but decided not to.
The High Court of Tanzania found the accused
guilty and sent them to prison. The conviction summed the government case. As Andrew Nyerere said, when we discussed the matter,
regarding the government version of the coup attempt:
"I don't see why there should be any reason
to give a different point of view. Facts can be twisted, but they cannot be changed. And besides, here are people who had
the wrong view. They though they would go to State House but, instead, they went to Ukonga Prison.
What more proof do you need to know that
these people were wrong and the government was right?"
Yet despite all the attempts to undermine
his government and oust him from power, President Julius Nyerere remained immensely popular even after he retired from the
presidency. He was even more popular than his successors, and far more popular than the people - including Oscar Kambona -
who tried to overthrow him, if they were popular at all anywhere in the country.
He was also more popular than the leaders
of the opposition parties who campaigned for the presidency, as clearly demonstrated when he campaigned for Benjamin Mkapa
in the country's first multiparty elections since multiparty democracy was re-introduced in 1992.
The leading opposition candidate Augustine
Mrema easily lost the election, and conceded that "the constitution" was against him during the campaign. And by that he meant
Nyerere. The people of Tanzania still followed him.
Nyerere's immense popularity was probably
best demonstrated in the grief millions of Tanzanians shared over his death, and whose essence was captured when hundreds
of thousands of people paid their last respects to him before his body was flown for burial in his home village of Butiama
in Mara Region on the southeastern shores of Lake Victoria.
Even some of the coup plotters, however
inadvertently, conceded that he was highly popular even when some of his colleagues and some of his policies may have been
unpopular. They never said Nyerere himself was unpopular. And if he was, untold numbers of Tanzanians would not have pleaded
with him to stay in office when he stepped down. And there would not have been such a massive outpouring of emotions among
millions of them over his death.
Many fainted. They felt as if they had
lost a close member of their family. As one of the foreigners who was close to Nyerere and who returned to Tanzania to attend
the funeral wrote about what she saw:
"It was very sad but also awesome. The
people went in their hundreds of thousands - more - wherever the coffin was. For the most part they stood in quietness. The
grief was palpable. Honestly, millions of Tanzanians were involved because they wanted to be - to have some way of expressing
The police just stood back and let them
go where they wanted to, only gently keeping a path clear when necessary.
Some people were crying but there was none
of the formal wailing. For the most part it was the quietness, the standing in sorrow and slow movements afterwards which
made me want to cry, at the same time as it stopped me from doing so.
There was no pushing or shoving.
I really cannot express their feeling or
mine resulting. It was a depth of community mourning in which there was nothing formal or forced. It was individual as well
as a coming together."
Such an outpouring of emotions, even if
in silence when the people viewed his body in the coffin, demonstrated one thing: Deep down in their hearts, millions of Tanzanians
knew that Mwalimu Nyerere cared deeply about their well-being, regardless of whatever mistakes he had made during his leadership.
It was a way of saying good-bye to him in the most profound way.
His death was even more painful for me
because he died when I was out of the country, thousands of miles away from my native land and the land of my birth, making
it impossible for me to share the grief with my fellow countrymen over the death of the founding father of our nation and
one of the most influential leaders in history.
Tragically, he also died thousands of miles
away from his homeland, a country he struggled so much to build, and which will always be the most significant monument to
his leadership. He left behind a peaceful, united, and stable country which would not be what it is today had it not been
for his dedication, sacrifice and commitment to the wellbeing of his people, the poorest of the poor, who paid him the highest
compliment by simply saying, "He was one of us."
They could not have paid him a higher tribute.
He was, indeed, one of us, and will always remain one of us because of the ideals he taught and which continue to inspire
Bureau Chief, The East African
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
It has been some 30 years since I set my
eyes on him n Ottawa, Canada, in 1974 where I was at Carleton University studying journalism. He paid me a visit. We had limited
correspondence after that.
Then my next contact came when I was in
Lusaka where I worked as Regional Delegate for the League of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies - now International
Red Cross. We exchanged a few letters in 1980, until one of them was stamped "returned to sender."
I have known Godfrey since we were youths
in the 1960s going to primary school together. He was my closest friend; a young man who was very alert and played football
(soccer) superbly in our village of Mpumbuli of Tukuyu district, Mbeya Region.
On completing Form VI,
he joined as a reporter for the Daily News working under managing
editor Benjamin Mkapa (now president) while I also started as an an in-service reporter for the Tanzania Information Services
writing for three publications, two Swahili language papers of Nchi Yetu (Our
Country) and Kwetu (Our Home), and the only English language monthly, Tanzania News Review. He
used to write with impeccable English grammar and was ever smart, always dressing up in suits and tie.
I recall my first suit was half-borrowed
from Godfrey. When the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) offered me a scholarship to study journalism at Carleton
University, Ottawa, and the Tanzania government had refused to give me an outfit allowance of 2,000 shillings - then a lot
of money - although it was my right as a civil servant, Godfrey felt pity for me and gave me his jacket. I took it across
the Dar es Salaam port channel to Kigamboni and bought suiting material that resembled Godfrey's jacket and made myself a
pair of trousers.
He left the country on a Black Panther
scholarship and I knew for sure he would do great things in life because that was a daring move. As you know, it is those
who dare to do the extra-ordinary who normally suceceed. He is now a great author.
Jeremy Swanson, an American
journalist, Minnesota, USA; James Mwakisyala, Tanzania Bureau Chief, The East African, Dar
es Salaam, Tanzania.
On anti-union sentiments
among opposition leaders and others in Zanzibar, cited in this interview, see Seif Shariff Hamad, in "Zanzibar: A Whiff of
Revolt on Spice Islands," in Time, European edition, Vol. 156, No.18, October 30,
2000; Wolfgang Dourado, Time, ibid.
For the report about the massive outpouring
of emotions, in silent mourning, at Nyerere's funeral, see Professor Cranford Pratt, first principal of the University College
of Dar es Salaam from 1961 - 1965 and at this writing (in 2003) emeritus professor of political science at the University
of Toronto, in his article, "Julius Nyerere: The Ethical Foundation of His Legacy," Political Science Department, University
of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.