Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Fall of Jumbe: Victim of His Own Ambitions or Nyerere’s Dictatorial Rule?

Seif Sharif Hamad has outlined the events that led to the fall of Jumbe in the book Race, Revolution, and the Struggle for Human Rights in Zanzibar: The Memoirs of Ali Sultan Issa and Seif Sherif by G. Thomas Burgess, Ali Sultan Issa, and Seif Sharif Hamad.  According to Hamad, Jumbe wanted to be the President of the Union.  His ambitions ended with the 1978-79 war between Tanzania and Uganda; Nyerere decided to stay for another term and Jumbe’s hopes for becoming Union President ended. (p.233)

Hamad writes: “In late 1983, for the first time the idea was raised of having three governments: one for Zanzibar, one for Tanganyika, and one for the Union. Jumbe’s pressure group, including Attorney General Wolfgango Dourado, sponsored a private member’s motion in the House of Representatives to discuss the idea of three governments.” (p.232) 

Jumbe and Nyerere were now on a collision course.  Next came decision by Jumbe to establish BAMITA (Baraza la Miskiti Tanzania).  Nyerere then accused Jumbe of mixing politics and religion.  However, the most compelling argument Hamad presents for the fall of Jumbe was the latter’s campaign to push for more power for himself in Zanzibar and for greater autonomy for the island after realizing that his presidential ambitions were over.  Hamad asserts that “Jumbe, seeing his chances to succeed Nyerere diminish by the day and failing in 1982 to remove Front-liners like myself from positions in the NEC and Central Committee, instigated demands for more Zanzibari autonomy.  If he was successful, his government could do what it wanted to the people in the islands, rather than be restrained by the mainland.  And the first to suffer from revolutionary justice would be people like me, people with education. (p.233)

Hamad continues: “We Front-liners agreed that the idea of three governments was good but that the president had sinister motives, so we should not support him.  Jumbe could have first consulted Zanzibari members of the NEC concerning the union….  We were convinced that, if Jumbe succeeded, if he won more freedom for Zanzibar or managed to break the union, people would lose their lives.  Jumbe would revert to the lawlessness of the first decade of the revolution, when innocent people just disappeared. We felt that if younger politicians like ourselves did not act in time, we would lose our lives.  I discussed these things with Salmin Amour and Salim Ahmed Salim, both from Zanzibar and high CCM officials, and the three of us went to see the secretary general of the party, Rashidi Kawawa. We explained our worries to him, and Kawawa was very sympathetic. He told us to bring our issue before the Central Committee.  The Central Committee decided that Jumbe should be temporarily restrained from taking any actions that that two subcomittees should be appointed to investigate the truth of his allegations concerning instigators’ wishing to divide the people of Zanzibar.” (p.233-234) 

According to Hamad, Jumbe was not pleased.  Jumbe hired a lawyer from Ghana to make a case for three governments before the court of law.  Hamad worked with Khatib Hassan Khatib, former member of Youth League and an agent in the Intelligence Services, and stole and photocopied a document “that described the case Jumbe wanted to make for three governments.”  Hamad and Khatib took the document to Sokoine.  “Sokoine then arranged a trip to see Nyerere in Butiama, his home village, where he was resting. We gave him the document and recommended that the Central Committee meet. Sokoine told Nyerere, ‘The lives of these young people from Zanzibar are in danger. If you don’t act and they lose their lives, you’ll be responsible.’” (p. 234)

Nyerere then called a meeting of the Central Committee. Hamad led the case against Jumbe in the meeting and Jumbe defended himself.  Jumbe did not know that Nyerere already had a copy of the plans he had made.  Hamad claims that there was a three-day session and on the final day, “Nyerere summarized all the evidence against Jumbe.  Then he dropped a bombshell. He said, “Makamo,” meaning vice president, “what is this?” showing Jumbe the document we had stolen from him. You could see Jumbe freeze, as if all the energy were draining out of him.  Nyerere looked Jumbe in the eyes and said, “Makamo, you must resign.” (p.235)

According to Hamad, Jumbe was not allowed to leave freely because “There was the fear that he might try to organize a rebellion in Zanzibar, but no one could say what was in Jumbe’s mind.” (p.235)

The case presented by Hamad here sheds light on the events that led to the fall of Jumbe in 1984.  It was clear that Hamad and others felt threatened by Jumbe, that their lives were in jeopardy.  Secondly, it is clear that there was fear that Jumbe could organize a rebellion in Zanzibar once he was asked to resign.  This narrative should dispel some of the myths circulating about why and how Jumbe fell out of favor.  It is obvious that Jumbe became a threat to the stability and security of the nation.  The fact that the most compelling case was made by Seif Sharif Hamad should not be a surprise.  Survival at all cost is a powerful motivator.  Nevertheless, it is clear that Jumbe became the victim of his own ambitions.

Azaria Mbughuni is Assistant Professor of History at Spelman College, Atlanta, USA. (azmbughuni@gmail.com).  Follow me on twitter @AzariaTZ  

© Azaria Mbughuni

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