Thursday, September 11, 2014

Back When We Were Kings and Queens: Coffins Housing Tanzania’s National Treasure

Somewhere in the coffins of the Tanzanian government archives are files about some of the world’s most well known revolutionaries of our time.  When we think of coffins, most think of big containers for dead bodies.  That is not what I have in mind.  I am talking about the countless rooms that house our national treasure, our heritage.  There are rooms containing files with documents detailing the experiences of the likes of Mandela, Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Amilcar Cabral, Samora Machel, and many others who came to Tanzania seeking assistance.  The coffins are there for one reason: it is the final resting place for lifeless bodies, in this case, national treasure that is collecting dust, deteriorating, and awaiting the ignominy of eternal void.  But this does not have to be the end of this story.  There is hope.

From Nelson Mandela, who described overwhelming feeling of happiness the moment he entered a free and independent Tanganyika for the first time in 1962, to Ernesto “Che” Guevara who made up his mind in 1965 to use Tanzania as a rear base for his operations in the Congo; both Mandela and Che had come to the conclusion that there was a struggle, a cause, that they were willing to pay the ultimate price to uphold.  Mandela dedicated his life to the struggle to uphold the principles of freedom and dignity of African people; that struggle touched all Africans, not just South Africans; it touched all humanity.  Che decided to put his life on the line to fight in the Congo against imperialism.  This was a struggle against a system that humiliated the African luminary Patrice Lumumba in 1960 and led to his assassination on January 17, 1961. It was a fight against imperial system that humiliated all of Africa and continued to exploit and dominate Africa in 1965; it is a system that continues to give the West dominance of the world’s resources and impoverish Africa today.  But then what of Tanzania?  The coffins, national treasure? Why should we care?

There is a whole new generation of Tanzanians that is in the dark; it is a generation that does not know much about the sacrifices that this young nation made for them, for Africa and for people of African descent wherever they exist.  It is a story of sacrifices that has allowed the young generation of Tanzanians to stand tall, albeit they may not know it. It is a story that is easy to overlook; a story about a nation, a people who are proud to call themselves Tanzanians; a people who are proud of their ethnicity, yet are able to transcend the confines of such identity and embrace their nationhood.  It is also a story about how and why Tanzania holds a special place in the hearts of many leaders from the older generations in southern Africa and in the African diaspora.  Sadly, it is a story that is being forgotten not just by the young generation of Tanzanians, but also by young generations of Mozambicans, Zimbabweans, Namibians, Angolans, and South Africans, people who are free today partly because Tanzania sacrificed the little it had to free them.  That story is not just disappearing quickly, it is being replaced by a narrative filled with criticism and dismissal; a new story line that says our sacrifices were to no avail.

Going back to the revolutionaries and Tanzania; both Mandela and Che, like many other revolutionaries of their times, can be linked to Tanzania in more than one ways.  Exactly how to reconstruct this story is a frustrating endeavor in and of itself.  The files containing their stories are collecting dusts and deteriorating fast; these files contain a common theme: it is a theme about commitment, dedication, and sacrifice of a young nation to uphold the principles of freedom and human dignity. It is a story about how a young nation under the leadership of a few people who could see far, people who had the wisdom, vision, and dedication to stand up for what is right, committed the resources of a nation to help their neighboring brothers and sisters.  It was this dedication that helped people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, and South Africa stand firm for the dignity of Africa and assert their right to self-determination.  No African was free until all of Africa was liberated, so they said. Like the deteriorating documents that tell this precious story, the Tanzanians who were involved in this struggle are dying away slowly, one hero at a time.  With them is lost forever their voices, their sweat, blood, tears; their sacrifices for the nation.  The stories of Tanzanian soldiers who fought in Mozambique as far back as 1964, those who fought in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, and even South Africa.  The stories of Tanzanian heroes who infiltrated South Africa in the final days of apartheid, carried out secret operations inside South Africa heroically so that we can all stand today and say we are free, is slowly disappearing into the void. 

We are free today because the first stage of the struggle for liberation has been won.  The struggle is not over yet; until the day people of all religious background, gender, atheist, are free of poverty, ignorance, until that day, the struggle will continue.  Yet, while it is undeniable that we won the important battle against colonialism and racial oppression, that story has not been fully told. This story, or the lack of information about this story, is a tragedy. It is a travesty of justice to deny Tanzanians access to their own history.  The story of revolutionaries in Tanzania and the sacrifices Tanzania made for others, belongs to all Tanzanians. It is a story that needs to be pulled out of the coffins of death and given a new life.  It is a story that must be told.

A nation that does not learn from its mistakes is bound to repeat its mistakes.  A nation that does not learn from its failures, successes, sacrifices, can never advance. Let us open the coffins of death and give a new life to the contributions the nation made to humanity. Let us honor our national icons, one hero at a time.

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

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Did Malcolm X Have Passion for Tanzania?

Here is my article that was published by Business Times

            Tanzania was the headquarters for revolutionaries from Africa and around the world in the early 1960s. Revolutionaries like Sam Nujoma, Oliver Tambo, Samora Machel, Robert Mugabe, and unknown young men and women frequented Tanzania between 1960 and 1965.  Dar es Salaam was the place to be if you were a revolutionary.   It is not surprising revolutionaries like Malcolm X and Che Guevera from the Americas were also attracted to Tanzania.  The African American leader Malcolm X and Che Guevera came to Tanganyika and Zanzibar within five months of each other in the end of 1964 and beginning of 1965. Malcolm came to Tanzania first in October of 1964.  The country was then known as Tanganyika and Zanzibar.  The new name Tanzania was adopted in November, about a month after Malcolm left the country.
To understand Malcolm’s attraction to Tanzania and learn about what he did once in Tanzania, it is important to go back to the Second OAU Summit in Cairo, Egypt held from July 17 to 21, 1964.  The conference came after Malcolm had made a pilgrimage to Mecca; this was the first of the two transformative experiences for the 39 year old African American leader.  He had just broken off with the Nation of Islam and embraced Orthodox Islam.  Malcolm made his second tour of Africa after the pilgrimage.  The tour of West Africa from April to May 1964 helped cement his Pan African convictions. Malcolm felt at home wherever he went in Ghana and Nigeria; he returned to the US in May of 1964 determined to start a new organization and forge strong links with Africans.  He founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) in June; it was modeled after the Organization of African Unity.  More importantly Malcolm had made up his mind to attend the OAU Summit in Cairo to lobby for the support of African heads of state for his campaign for the human rights of African Americans.
The Second OAU Summit met in Cairo, Egypt from July 17 to 21, 1964.  This was the Summit of African heads of state.  Malcolm left the US in July 9th determined to participate in the conference and lobby for support for his cause in America.   Malcolm was granted observer status and was allowed to present a memorandum to the delegates. The memorandum argued eloquently that African Americans were Africa’s long lost brothers and sisters; he argued that African Americans had endured hardships for more than three hundred years because of racial discrimination.  He wrote in the memorandum: “Our problem is your problem.. We beseech independent African states to help us bring our problem before the United Nations…”  The struggle to get African heads of state to support his initiative faced an uphill battle.  Some African leaders were indifferent to the plight of African Americans.  Malcolm had to lobby hard to get the support of Africans.  He faced an uphill battle trying to convince African leaders to support his resolution.  It all changed when Malcolm linked up with the delegation from Tanganyika and Zanzibar at the conference.
The Tanganyika and Zanzibar delegation to the Cairo Summit included Julius Nyerere, Abdulrahman Babu, and Salim A. Salim.  This conference became legendary in the annals of African history because Nyerere and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana clashed over the state of the liberation struggle in southern Africa and the strategy for achieving Pan African unity.  Another significant event that has often been overlooked was the passage of a resolution addressing the plight of African Americans drafted by Malcolm and supported by Tanganyika and Zanzibar.
There are scant details of exactly how Malcolm linked up with the Tanganyika and Zanzibar delegation in Cairo. It appears that Malcolm linked up with Abdurahman Babu in Cairo and the two hit it off.  Babu was a Pan Africanist and a revolutionary from Zanzibar.  He was then a Minister in the mainland.  Babu wrote later that Malcolm went to his hotel room late at night during the Summit discouraged and ready to leave.  His resolution was not going anywhere and riots had just erupted back home in Harlem. Babu was among the people who convinced Malcolm to remain in Cairo to help shed light on the struggles of African Americans and get a resolution passed.   The resolution was not passed until the last night of the Summit at 2:30 am; Babu was the one who passed the good news to Malcolm.  The OAU resolution AHG/Res. 15 (1) was entitled Racial Discrimination in the United States of America.  It expressed concerns for racial discrimination in the US and called on the government to do all it could to end discrimination based on race, color and ethnic origin. It was this support that convinced Malcolm to visit Tanganyika and Zanzibar after the Summit.  The passage of the resolution was a victory for Malcolm; it was a victory for African Americans and Africa.
Malcolm decided to take a tour of East Africa after spending about two months in Egypt.  He first stopped in Ethiopia on September 30, 1964 were he spoke to students, leaders, and diplomats.  Malcolm meet and spoke to numerous people, including Tanzanian leaders, diplomats, and students.  He spent time talking to the Tanganyika consul in Ethiopia.  He held meetings with Otini Kambona, the brother of Oscar Kambona.  Babu and Malcolm met again on October 3 and 4 in Ethiopia. The two had started forging a close friendship from the time they met at the Cairo conference.  Malcolm made up his mind to visit Tanganyika and Zanzibar. He visited the passport services on October 6th and found out that Americans did not need a passport for Tanganyika, but they did need to get ‘special permission’ for Zanzibar. 
Malcolm boarded a flight on October 9th in Nairobi for Zanzibar and then Tanganyika.  The flight flew from Nairobi to Malindi, from there to Zanzibar, and finally Dar es Salaam.  Malcolm was not allowed entry into Zanzibar because he did not have the required special permit.   He continued with the flight from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam.
Malcolm spent the first night in Dar es Salaam at the Club Hotel.  The hotel did not have private bathrooms.  He wanted to find another hotel.  He walked over to Twiga and Agip Motel on October 10, 1964 to see if he could get a room.  The hotel rooms were fully booked and he could not get a room.  Eventually, Malcolm decided to call a number to the office of Oscar Kambona in the Ministry of External Affairs.  Otini Kambona gave Malcolm the number.  Oscar Kambona was then a Minister of External Affairs. Oscar Kambona’s secretary picked up the phone and spoke to Malcolm.  She was an African American woman married to a Ghanaian.  Her named was Joyce.  Joyce and her husband drove to pick up Malcolm and took him to the Delux hotel. 
The African American community in Tanganyika in 1964 was very small.  There was a large community of African American expatriates living in Ghana when Malcolm visited the country in the beginning of 1964.  Malcolm had to find his way around Dar es Salaam and learn about the city and its people.  Dar es Salaam was burgeoning city with a small, but rising number of expatriates.  Tanganyika and Zanzibar had just united less than six months before.  The nation had undergone a tumultuous period following the January 12th revolution in Zanzibar and an army mutiny of January 20, 1964.  There were also security concerns at the borders with Congo and Mozambique; there was looming violence in the Congo that threatened to destabilize the region and there were concerns in the border between Tanganyika and Mozambique because FRELIMO had just launched their first military campaign against the Portuguese.  Malcolm came to Tanganyika at a time when the nation was going through a difficult period.  Yet the presence of revolutionaries from most of southern Africa was a welcoming site for Malcolm.  More importantly, the people of Tanganyika and Zanzibar provided great hospitality to Malcolm.
Malcolm decided to walk over to the New Africa House on the first day in Dar es Salaam.  This was one of the newest hotels in the city; it was the meeting place for the Tanganyika members of the upper class and a place where leaders of liberation movements frequented.  At New Africa hotel he met Nathanial Nakasa. Nakasa or Nat as Malcolm called him, was a South African reporter who had just escaped from apartheid South Africa and was on his way to take up a scholarship in the US.  Malcolm and Nakasa spent several evenings in the course of the next week talking about various topics.  Nakasa later wrote that he found Malcolm to be a very warm and a “great fun to be with” in Dar es Salaam.  Like many people who had learned about Malcolm from the Western media sources, he had built an image of Malcolm as unreasonable and destructive.  Nakasa was greatly impressed by Malcolm. He decided to take Malcolm with him to a birthday party given by a diplomat from the Algerian Embassy on the evening of October 10th.  It was at this birthday party that Malcolm linked up with the African American Pan Africanist and pacifist Bill Sutherland who drove him around the city for the next week.
The birthday party was attended by a variety of guests, including diplomats, government officials, expatriates, and exiles from South Africa.  Sutherland wrote later that Malcolm spent most of the time standing in the kitchen; many people went to the kitchen to get food and drinks and ended up talking to Malcolm.  He did not dance or drink, but charmed many of the guests at the party who made a stop in the kitchen.  Sutherland decided to drive Malcolm around after he learned from Malcolm that he did not have transportation.
Malcolm spent part of Sunday October 11, 1964 on the suburbs of Dar es Salaam meeting with Harvard University and Radcliffe Institute students who were teaching in Tanganyika as part of Project Tanganyika.  Malcolm had an opportunity to speak with the mostly white American students who came to teach as part of the project.  Mr. and Mrs. Ed Anderson invited Malcolm to their home.  Several African Americans came to the dinner and got a chance to speak to Malcolm.  Later that evening Malcolm met up with Nakasa for dinner at Africa House.
Malcolm woke up early on the first full business day in Dar es Salaam, Monday October 12, 1964.  He was interviewed by an Indian reporter and later by a reporter from the Tanganyika Standard and by the Tanzania Broadcast Company.  Some South African leaders stopped by to meet and speak to him. He called Babu and set up a meeting.  The two met later that day.  Malcolm wrote in his diary that Babu was “very informal and friendly.” He described Babu in his diary as “an extremely alert man, and dedicated to what he believes.”  Malcolm was impressed by Babu and came to respect him.
The Tanganyika and Zanzibar public awoke to an article on Malcolm X published by the Tanganyika Standard on October 13, 1964.  The paper reported that African Americans were beginning to see their relationship with Africans as something that could not be denied; they recognized that they were linked to Africa.  This was a message that Malcolm brought to Tanzania. The day turned out to be one of the highlights of Malcolm’s visit to Tanganyika.  Malcolm walked to Babu’s office around 1:15pm in the city center. Malcolm had asked for an audience with the President when he first arrived. This was a very busy time for government officials and Nyerere.  The government was preparing a meeting of heads of states from Kenya, Uganda, and Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) that was scheduled for October 16th.  Malcolm was told it would be impossible to meet with Nyerere. The bad news did not last very long. Babu picked up Malcolm and took him to his house.  Four government officials were there at Babu’s house to meet Malcolm.  Malcolm wrote on his diary on October 13th, 1964, that he knew he was being “weighed” for a meeting with President Nyerere.  Babu eventually informed Malcolm that he would meet President Nyerere.  
Babu treated Malcolm like a member of his family.  Malcolm went to Babu's home several times while he was in Dar es Salaam.  He met Babu’s wife and two children.  Later in December of 1964, Malcolm recalled that he had observed Babu interacting with his family in Dar es Salaam and realized that a revolutionary could also be a family man.  It was an important lesson for Malcolm who was a committed family man, but found his work and travels increasingly keeping him away from his family.
Malcolm and Babu left Babu’s house for the State House around 5:45 on October 13th.  Malcolm first met Oscar Kambona at the State House.  Nyerere did not come out until 6:15.  Malcolm and Nyerere spent the next three hours discussing various subjects.  The two talked about the major events happening around the world at the time. China had just exploded a nuclear bomb.  Nyerere told Malcolm how ironic it was for a former colony to develop a weapon equal to that of a colonial power.  Malcolm told Nyerere that he had been thinking about it.  Malcolm presented Nyerere with a gift of a booklet of one of his speeches entitled “Message to the Grassroots.”  Malcolm described Nyerere as “very shrewd, intelligent, and disarming.”  The discussions Malcolm held with Nyerere and Babu helped shift Malcolm’s views on the international component of the challenges of the struggle against racism and imperialism. 
The last two days in Dar es Salaam were spent meeting with various people.  Malcolm posed for pictures with Babu on October 14,1964; at least two of those images were published and circulated widely.  The pictures appears to have been taken by a photographer named Amini who was doing a story with another reporter named Rahina for the UPI.  The Washington Post published a short story from UPI on October 14. The article quoted Malcolm X from Dar es Salaam saying he would not return to the US until after the Presidential elections.
           Another important stop for Malcolm was at the Cuban Embassy in Upanga, Dar es Salaam.  He met an Afro-Cuban diplomat named Rodriguez.  Later that day, Otini Kambona organized a big dinner for Malcolm X.  There were many government officials in attendance, including the Director of Tanganyika Broadcast Corporation.  Malcolm was encouraged to postpone his departure from Tanzania.   Malcolm must have found his time in Dar es Salaam very productive.  He had just met President Nyerere and had spent considerable time with Babu talking about the state of the struggle and future strategies. He made a call the next day and postponed his departure until October 17th.  
Dar es Salaam was a busy city in October 15th, 1964.  Three heads of states from Kenya, Uganda, and Northern Rhodesia visited the city to hold a meeting with Nyerere.  Malcolm was in his hotel when President Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya passed by the hotel.  He pulled out his camera and took photos of Kenyatta’s motorcade.  He spent most of the day speaking with  Nakasa, some white American students and Pamela, a white South African Jewish woman at Africa House.  Nakasa was amused by how Malcolm interacted with whites.  It was clear that Malcolm’s views about race had begun to change.  His experience in Mecca sparked a shift in the way he viewed different races.  He described praying with whites in Mecca and realizing that the problem lied with the system that whites in America adopted. 
On the last day in Dar es Salaam, Friday October 16th, Malcolm met Margaret Snyder at the New Africa Hotel.  She was a white American who decided to work in East Africa after taking a sabbatical leave as the dean for women at Le Moyne College in Syracuse.  Malcolm had been “unyielding” when it came to whites' participation in the struggle when he met Snyder in New York a year before.  The Malcolm Snyder met in Dar es Salaam was different.  Snyder later wrote that Malcolm told her that Nyerere and Kenyatta were free of racial animosity.  Malcolm also told her that his conversations with Nyerere “had enriched him.”
There was at least one more important meeting that Malcolm held with Tanganyika leaders.  Bill Sutherland drove Malcolm to a meeting with TANU leaders at the home of Bibi Titi Mohamed.  Details of the meeting are not available.  However, it is clear that Malcolm had an opportunity to present his case and share ideas with TANU leaders.
Malcolm took a flight out of Dar es Salaam on October 17th, 1964.  He was on the same flight with Kenyatta and Milton Obote from Uganda.  The Zanzibar officials who had denied Malcolm entry on his way to Tanganyika, gave him VIP treatment on his way back.  He was put in the VIP room with other important dignitaries, but he did not leave the airport.  One of the Kenyan Ministers later told Kenyatta who Malcolm was during the flight. Kenyatta sent someone to ask Malcolm to move in front of the plane and sit between Kenyatta and Obote.  Such was the charm and respect that Malcolm commanded wherever he went in East Africa.  He was comfortable talking to heads of state or street peddlers in Dar es Salaam.  Malcolm was able to travel around the city, meet with high government with ease.

The trip to Dar es Salaam was not the last time Malcolm was linked to the country.  Malcolm and Babu met again for the last time in December 1964 when Babu travelled to New York to attend meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.  Babu spoke on a couple of rallies organized by Malcolm and his organization.  Babu later reported that he discovered there was tremendous interest for Tanzania after attending the rallies organized by Malcolm.  He was quoted by The Nationalist saying he had not realized before how much sympathy, understanding and support existed in the US for the struggles of Tanzania.  It was this understanding that Malcolm had sought to build with Africans before he was assassinated.  He had attempt to do so at the OAU and when he visited East Africa.  Malcolm learned from his trip to Africa that Africans were interested in the struggles of African Americans and that they were ready to offer their support.   Unfortunately, the young life of this African American giant was cut short by assassins bullets on February 21, 1965 as he spoke to an audience in New York

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