What goes on in Tanzania?
Months have elapsed since Shaikh Abeid Karume, Tanzania's first Vice-President, and absolute ruler of Zanzibar, was assassinated: the event was seen by Tanzanians and outside observers alike as marking the end of a vicious and oppressive dictatorship, comparable only to that of Dr Duvalier in Haiti — indeed Julius Nyerere, president of Tanzania, was wont to refer to his colleague as "our Papa Doc." The black joke indicates Nyerere's acknowledgment of his own failure to secure any serious measure of control over Zanzibar. And, while he has displayed little but weakness in his handling of the island, his problems have been mounting on the mainland, and his position steadily weakening. The complex of difficulties he faces can be tackled only by eliminating some of them: as he said privately recently, " The Zanzibaris can destroy themselves. I have enough on my plate."
Karume's assassination triggered off a wave of terror unprecedented even in the recent bloody history • of Zanzibar. The instruments of terror were the armed forces the Shaikh built up during his eight years of undisputed power. Aided principally by the East Germans, Karume replaced the 300-strong, British trained police unit which he inherited — along with a small para-military force — by an army of 4,000 men, a large police force, a security force — trained in Gestapo methods of interrogation — a strong irregular corps, called the Field Force Unit, and his 'volunteers,' trigger-happy, illiterate and undisciplined. Immediately after his death a purge commenced. Zanzibar's ton-tons were out in full force. Gangs of armed and ruthless men conducted a series of houseto-house searches. The population — including women and children — were brutalised and terrorised.
The arrests were arbitrary, and covered almost the whole cross-section of the community in both islands. Hundreds of men and women were taken off to the highsecurity prisons Karume had built, often for no better reason than that they were in possession of old stamps portraying the head of the former Sultan — whom Karume overthrew — or uniforms of the former political parties, all of which had been banned on the Shaikh's accession to power. More specifically, however, the arrests were directed at the minority groups on the islands — Indians, Arabs, Persians, Comorians and members of the former Umma Party, founded by Abdul Rahman Muhammed Babu, ex-Transport House research officer and, until recently, Tanzania's Minister of Economic Affairs and Development Planning. Babu was once extremely influential with Nyerere, introduced him to Peking, and was responsible for prompting the Chinese to begin their first massive venture in Africa — the building of a railway between Dar-esSalaam and Lusaka. He is a long-standing friend of the Chinese and used to run ZANEWS, a branch of the New China News Agency, which once operated in Zanzibar. On the mainland he, too, was arrested after the assassination.
Zanzibar became independent on December 10, 1963. A coalition between the Zanzibar Nationalist Party, and the Zanzibar and Pemba People's Party came to power. There were two opposition parties, the Afro-Shirazi, led by Karume, and Umma (Freedom), led by Babu. Umma was itself a splinter party from ZNP, of which Babu had once been the general secretary.
A month after Zanzibari independence members of the Afro-Shirazi Youth League and of the Umma Party organised a successful coup. The Sultan's government was overthrown, and the ruler himself fled into exile in London. Thus, under Karume and Umma Zanzibar shifted sharply to the left. Soon after the revolution diplomatic relations were established with East Germany, the USSR and China, and communists found themselves readily accepted by the Zanzibar Revolutionary Council. China gave Zanzibar a £4 million interest-free loan; East Germany sent technicians to help with new development projects and scores of Chinese arrived on the islands to help in army training. Karume dismissed Umma from his coalition and set up a oneparty — indeed, one-man — state. Sparks flew to the mainland: the armies of Tanganyika, Uganda and Kenya mutinied. Nyerere was forced to flee his capital, and the three East African governments cried to the British for help. British troops were flown out, the mutinies crushed and Nyerere, Kenyatta and Cbote saved.
Nyerere then had to consolidate his position. At the earliest opportunity he saw Karume, and the two leaders decided to federate their countries. On April 26, 1964, a new state, Tanzania, emerged. Initially, it had an ' interim ' constitution, which has remained interim, and remained in force. Under the provisions of this constitution the union government was to deal with foreign affairs, the judiciary, security and citizenship. But Zanzibar retained its internal government. It was agreed that Nyerere should be President, and Karume VicePresident. Nyerere removed all the Marxists from the island and placed them, under his own eye, on the mainland. At the same time a number of his own cadres were installed in Tanzania's People's Defence Force, some of them in senior positions. Security seemed to be re-established.
Instead of cauterising the infection Nyerere's actions spread it. He fell under the influence of the young revolutionaries and began to look eastward. On the islands Karume found himself without any organised opposition. He became drunk on power and embarked on policies at once austere and self-indulgent. Hundreds of teachers and civil servants were dismissed from their jobs and Shirazis, the indigenous island people, constituting two thirds of the population, were declared non-citizens. (Ironically, however, Karume retained their name in the title of his own Afro-Shirazi Party.) Food rationing began, as did import restrictions, and trading licences were withdrawn from Indians and Arabs who had hitherto controlled trade and commerce on the islands. Zanzibar, once, with its bazaars and exotic jewellers, a boom • town, became a desert. The object of Karume's policy appeared to be to save as much foreign exchange as possible: for what purpose, nobody knows.
Karume's oppressive policies created conflicts within the Zanzibar Revo lutionary Council. Those who opposed the Shaikh were driven out or executed. Among the latter were Abdulla Kassim Hanga, Zanzibar's own Vice-President and Karume's Prime Minister, Othman Shariff, a minister in the union government, and later Tanzania's ambassador to the US, and Saleh Sadalla, one of the leading figures in the party. Babu remained on the mainland and for seven years was a minister in Nyerere's government.
A week after Karume's assassination Babu was arrested by Nyerere, along with many other Zanzibaris living on the main land. Ex-members of Umma were most assiduously sought out during this purge, first, because three of the assassins were ex-members of Umma and second, because, Karume having seemed so invulnerable, and being nonetheless struck down, the immediate reaction to his death was one of fear and self-preservation. Nonetheless, the assassination was a distinct relief to Nyerere; Karume had advocated policies opposed to those of the President; he had pub licly denounced certain parts of Nyefere's manifesto, the Arusha Declaration, and insisted that only blacks were true Tan zanians although Nyerere had in his govern ment Amir Jamal, 'his finance Minister and later Minister of Trade and Commerce, an Asian; and Derek Bryceson, an Englishman, who was Minister of Agriculture until the recent reshuffle.
But the extent to which Karume had influenced Nyerere 'has also become appar ent since his death, and is symbolised in Nyerere's own recent declaration that only blacks can be true Tanzanians. Then, too, he had always used Karume as a shield, and made little effort to control events on the islands. When accusations were made against him about such of his practices as the forcible marriage of young Persian girls to members of Karume's council he would deplore the intractibility of his senior Vice-President and shrug his shoulders. But, though Nyerere could not inter vene on the islands, Karume could, and did, interfere on the mainland: apart from kidnappings and arrests there he once sug gested in a public speech that 'Nyerere should take a fortnight's holiday — during which time, he reckoned, he could straigh ten out the situation in Tanganyika. Likewise, while Tanganyika's foreign exchange holdings slumped to crisis level Karume amassed for his own purposes some £30 million sterling.
Why did Nyerere accept such humiliation? First, I believe, because he was a passionate pan-Africanist. He has tried for a long time to achieve an East African federation and even suggested a delay in the granting of independence to Tanganyika in order that this might be achieved. But Uganda has constantly opposed the scheme, under the successive governments of Milton Obote and General Idi Amin. Kenyatta, in Kenya, was likewise opposed: he wanted no truck with either Nyerere or Karume and when his own opposition leader Oginga Odinga was causing trouble, the Kenya patriarch grumbled, "If he wants socialism let him go to Zanzibar." As events turned out the federation between Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which Nyerere hoped would be the nucleus of a still larger state, actually impeded his dreams, because of the reaction of other governments to the power of Karume.
Karume was aware of Nyerere's passionate devotion to the union. Whenever there were major conflicts between the two men — be it over forced marriages, summary executions, or foreign reserves — Karume had only to threaten a break in the union and Nyerere would bow. For the sake of the union Nyerere has even jettisoned some major principles of human rights. Addressing the opening session of Parliament in July 1970 he said, "The people of Tanzania have and must have the right to choose their own representatives in Par
liament. . Only by exercising their recurrent rights of choosing their representatives will they rest assured that their interests are truly served." After asserting the right to elections he went on to say, " . . the elections that are suitable and desired by the people of the mainland were not appropriate for the islanders. . . . Experience has shown that elections on the islands were a sham and resulted in a government which was not truly representative of the people. . . ." With these bogus reasons he defended Karume's statement that there would never be alections in Zanzibar in his lifetime.
The second cause of Nyerere's fear of Karume was his awareness of the influence events in Zanzibar could have on the main land. As he recalled the mutinies of 1964 he went in fear of Karume. But his own prcblems did not—and do not—end with Zanzibar. For we must remember that he has himself been infected for eight years with the doctrines that came from various groups in the islands. The President now faces great internal strife on the mainland.
There are serious food shortages and an Ab sence of certain vital commodities in the markets. Prices are rising fast; Nyerere's model socialised villages have failed, in human and economic terms: only the elderly are left there. The young, who have the energy to work, are disillusioned and are leaving for the big towns in search of better prospects. Dissatisfaction becomes daily more open. Two months ago there were several explosions in the capital Dares-Salaam and the army had to be alerted.
At the same time unidentified aircraft dropped leaflets on major Tanzanian towns expressing challenge to the government.
Rumours have been circulating in Dar that there was a recent attempt to assassinate the President.
There are two major reasons for all these problems. First, the agricultural policies of Tanzania have failed; food production is well below the planned estimate. To try to remedy this the Prime Minister, Rashidi Kawawa, has recently made extensive visits throughout mainland Tanzania to impress the urgency and gravity of the situation on the people in the farmlands. Second, the State Trading Corporation, which has the sole monopoly of importing and distributing commodities, is collapsing under the force of its own bureaucracy and inefficiency.
When Nyerere re-shuffled his government recently, observers interpreted his move as an attempt to achieve compromise between different factions. By appointing a Prime Minister the President has detached himself from the day-to-day business — and failures — of government. But the reshuffle is also a part of major reforms in the structure of government itself. It is a result of a study, lasting two years, carried out — and here is a supreme and major irony about the left-orientated Tanzanian administration — by the American consultants McKinsey. They were required to recommend a government and regional structure of maximum efficiency taking into account the aims and objectives of the Arusha Declaration, the one-party system and Nyerere's philosophy of decentralisation.
But the contrast between friendly relations with McKinsey and with the Chinese People's Republic illustrates the inherent contradictions of Nyerere's regime, as, indeed, do his numerous compromises with Karume and the heritage of Karume. The consequences of these compromises include the progressive isolation of the President: his friends are increasingly disillusioned by his long indulgence in double standards. While, on the one hand, he has been taking a very strong line, in favour of the guerrilla movements, in respect of South Africa and Rhodesia, and while he condemns what, in Southern Africa, he regards as oppressive and fascist regimes, he has, on the other hand, condoned a fascist and racialist regime in Zanzibar. Africans are no longer so naive as to suppose that the two positions can go together.
The Revolutionary Council has been in power in Zanzibar for eight years. Shaikh Karume is gone. His long-standing lientenant, Aboud Jumbe, has now been appointed by Nyerere in Karume's place; and the union continues. Already Jumbe
publicly declared — on the fortieth day after his master's death — that " . . Thus we tell the world, that we the members of the Afro-Shirazi in Zanzibar and Pemba are ready to continue and move forward, and to respect the ideas, the thoughts, work and deeds and conduct of our Mzee [The Old Map], the same who has been called a dictator." .
It seems clear that the situation in Zanzibar is not going to improve. The new leadership is established, and Nyerere ensured their establishment when he sent .to Zanzibar, immediately after the assassination, Tanzanian troops to help maintain the power of the Revolutionary Council. There are strong fears about the hundreds or men and women arrested in Zanzibar during the purge, and fears as strong about the scores in Nyerere's custody on the mainland. Will he hand these over to Jumbe, as he handed others over to Karume? Remember, he once passed two ex-Zanzibari Ministers to his Vice-President, and they were promptly executed. Will he do it again? And will he manage to tackle the infection of his own country by the ideas, the ruthlessness and the sordid compromises which have marked his association with the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar? The prospects are not good.