Exactly who initiated Tanganyika, Zanzibar Union?

Saturday May 02 2015

On April 26 this year, Tanzania marked 51 years of the Union between what were the Republic of Tanganyika and the Isles Republic of Zanzibar. Tanganyika was granted (political) independence on a silver platter – relatively speaking – by Her Britannic Majesty’s government on December 9, 1961.

But, the country remained a subservient member of the British Commonwealth under Sir Richard Turnbull as its governor-general. Zanzibar – which was a ‘British Protectorate’ of sorts – gained ‘independence’ on December 10, 1963, but virtually remained a sultanate under the hegemonic control of ‘Omani’ Arabs that had lasted for generations. This didn’t seem good enough for the natives, many of whom were from the mainland dating back to the slavery era and outnumbered the Arab elements on the Isles. In the event, the ‘natives’ felt they’d to wrest ‘independence’ from the sultanate, doing so by force of arms – guns, machettes, knives, knobkerries, etc. – on January 12, 1964... It’s estimated that more than 20,000 people died in that ‘Zanzibar Revolution,’ which by all disinterested accounts was initiated and spearheaded by a seemingly inconsequential Ugandan, self-styled Field Marshal John Okello. [Okello was to soon enough be erased from the story and history of Zanzibar for good – and for better of for worse... But, that’s another story...] Intriguing enough is that the Union was forged (no pun intended here) a mere 105 days after the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, led by President Abeid Amani Karume of the Afro-Shirazi Party, came to power! Then – we’re told – when Karume visited the mainland to discuss Okello’s fate with Tanganyika President Julius Nyerere, the issue of uniting the two hapless Republics was raised by the latter. Reportedly, “Nyerere stated that he casually proposed the idea of a Union to Karume when the latter visited him to discuss the fate of John Okello.

According to Nyerere, Karume immediately agreed to the idea – and suggested that Nyerere should be the president of such a Union!” [Prof Haroub Othman, © 2009 Fahamu – http://www.fahamu.org/]. On the other hand, we’re told that, fielding a question on whose initiative the Union was at a press conference in Dar es Salaam on the 34th anniversary of the Zanzibar Revolution in January 1998, former Vice-President Aboud Jumbe retorted: “Ask Nyerere, because he’s the one who went to Zanzibar. He’s the one who wanted the Union. He must have had goals. Has he achieved them?

I cannot speak for Mainlanders on the achievements of the Union...!” [Godfrey Mwakikagile, ‘Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era’, New Africa Press, 2006]. So, exactly whose idea was the Union: President Nyerere or President Karume pere?

Was it US Ambassador Frank Carlucci who feared that a footloose Zanzibar would become another Cuba off-shore Africa? Would the Union have materialised had there been no Zanzibar Revolution nearly four months earlier? This is especially considering that, without the Revolution, Zanzibar would’ve continued as an intransigent Sultanate for God knows how long!

Why was Karume not directly involved in mixing the soils of the two parts of the Union – ‘letting’ Nyerere do it alone? Why... Sorry, I’m told I’ve run out of editorial spave... Cheerio for now!