Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Rise and Fall of Oscar Salathiel Kambona

Oscar Salathiel Kambona boarded East African Airways flight 720 in Nairobi, Kenya in the evening of July 26, 1967 for Europe. He had reached a point of no return. Earlier that day, Kambona, his wife, children, and house attendant drove from Dar es Salaam secretly and slipped through the border into Kenya. It was a scene that could have come out of a James Bond movie. Kambona had made advanced arrangements to fly out of the country sometime between July 25 and 27th; this was probably a ploy to distract officials. He was under close surveillance and an order was issued to prevent him from leaving the airport. Kambona made the decision to escape from Tanzania in the course of 1967. He had watched his grip on power and influence slip away over the course of two years. Kambona reached the pinnacle of power during the army mutiny in 1964; he helped build up TANU, fight for independence, and shape new government institutions after independence. However, change of events compelled him to tender his resignation as the Secretary General of TANU and Minister for Local Government and Rural Development on June 9, 1967 at the age of 39. He cited ill health as the reason for the resignation at the time. Many continue to blame ideological differences, particularly over the Arusha Declaration and Nyerere's tightening grip on power as the main reasons for Kambona's disillusionment and fall from political grace. There is evidence that suggests the picture was much more complex; a combination of political ambitions, struggles between factions vying for power, missteps that led to diplomatic crises, and evolving ideological differences, ultimately converged to shape Kambona’s demise. The rise and fall of Kambona provides a powerful example of the perils of politics in Africa, particularly in the tumultuous period of independence struggle and first years of post-independence era.

Kambona was born on August 13, 1928 in southern Tanganyika. He was destined to glory. Kambona was a studious young boy who excelled in English and other subjects. His academic performance guaranteed a seat among some of Tanganyika's most promising students in the prestigious Tabora Boys' Government school. At Tabora, Kambona mingled with some of Tanzania's future leaders including, Emilio Charles Mzena, Albert Nyirenda, Job Lusinde, and Julius Nyerere who was then a teacher in another school. He developed close friendships with some of his school mates in Tabora; one of them was the future Foreign Minister of Malawi, M.W. Kanyama Chiume, with whom they would become teachers at Alliance Secondary School in Dodoma. Conscious of the oppressive nature of British colonial rule and determined to fight for independence, Kambona joined the TANU and became vocal about his views. He could not refrain from political agitation even while employed by the colonial government. Kambona was involved in a student strike that led to his resignation as a teacher before going into politics full time. Kambona and his friend Chiume resigned from their positions as teachers in Dodoma around the same time. Kambona resigned in order to work for TANU to increase membership of the party without pay according to some accounts.
Kambona became the Secretary General of TANU in 1955. He would work tirelessly in the course of 1955 and 56 to increase TANU membership, travelling to different corners of Tanganyika. Kambona’s role in helping to increase TANU membership cannot be overlooked. It is reported that Kambona helped recruit over 10,000 members within a period of six months and over 100,000 in one year. Kambona was vocal and ambitious. As far back as early 1955, he challenged Nyerere on the decision to invite an interracial group of leaders for a conference to discuss UN visiting mission report. The two would work closely to organize the party and attract more supporters. Kambona travelled with Nyerere to try and convince Mangi Mkuu, Thomas Marealle, about the merits of TANU policies during one tour of the Northern Province in 1955.

An opportunity came in 1957 for Kambona to go study in Britain. There he met and became friends with people from different places. One of the people he was in contact with was the Pan Africanist George Padmore, a close friend of Kwame Nkrumah. Kambona became a roommate of Kassim Hanga from Zanzibar in London; it was the beginning of a long friendship and the two would eventually leave their mark on Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania. Kambona continued to do party work in Britain and was very active politically; he became the head of TANU branch in London. Kambona became the first to broadcast on the BBC Kiswahili Service on June 27, 1957. Kambona was heard on the radio that day saying: "This is London. Today for the first time ever, BBC London sends greetings to all the residents of East Africa, in their own language. Asalaam Aleikum." Kambona could be heard through BBC in Tanganyika, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, and Congo. 
Ghana organized the important All African People's Conference in 1958. George Padmore was the one who convinced Kambona to attend the conference. Kambona was able to travel to Accra in 1958 to attend the conference. Back in Britain, his experiences with the British were not always positive. At times Kambona felt that the British were mistreating him. He met and fell in love with a young woman from Tanganyika, Flora Moriyo. The relationship became serious by the end of 1959 and plans were made for a wedding. As for school, Kambona completed his studies, but did not pass the bar exam to become certified attorney. His heart and mind was back home during his stay in Britain. 

Nyerere went to Britain on a “vacation” between June 26th and August 7, 1959; he stayed with Oscar Kambona. Publicly the trip was supposed to be a "vacation," but Nyerere was very busy in London. Kambona was in close contact with his old friend from Tabora Boys Chiume who was also in London at the time; the two helped establish some contacts for Nyerere while he was there. Nyerere gave a key speech at a meeting that led to the establishment of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement. The main reason for the trip, however, was to campaign for an agreement for Internal Self government in Tanganyika. TANU was demanding elections and Internal Self-Government at the time and threatened to launch protest if their demands were not me. Kambona and Nyerere spent hours discussing politics and what to do next. They were particularly concerned at the time with the British plans for the constitutional reforms, elections, and upcoming TANU conference. Kambona was anxious to return home to continue with the struggle for independence. Kambona would provide details of the events of 1959 at a press conference in London in 1991; he asserted that he managed to convince Nyerere to return to Tanganyika and make a statement to the press that white settlers in East Africa were reasonable. He claimed that Nyerere convinced him to end his studies and return to Tanganyika to help him make a case within TANU and in the territory for a different approach to the struggle. Kambona returned to Tanganyika in October and went on a tour to prepare for the November TANU National Conference. Kambona and Nyerere had grown close in the course of 1959. Nyerere went back to Britain in November 1960 to attend Kambona’s wedding. Kambona asked Nyerere to be his best man. He was then based in Tanganyika and was serving as a Minister. Kambona married Flora Moriyo at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. It was a grand wedding with over 400 guests in attendance. The wedding received international attention and was published in newspapers and magazines around the world. This was the first time for a black couple to marry at St. Paul’s Cathedral. 

TANU won a major victory in the elections of August 1960; they won 70 out of the 71 elected seats. Kambona had developed into one of TANU’s spokesman in the months leading up to the elections. He made numerous important policy announcements in 1960 in the months leading up to the elections. Kambona outlined TANU policy in a major policy statement in January 1960 while talking to a large crowd. He told the audience that the party would push for Socialist policies. Socialist program was, therefore, in Kambona’s mind as far back as early 1960. He added in the same speech that the party was interested in “private enterprise.” Kambona would be linked to Communist contacts in Dar es Salaam and become an admirer of Kwame Nkrumah in the second half of the 1960s. Tanganyika won internal self-government with TANU in power. The party was positioned to take over power after independence. Kambona became the Minister for Education in September of 1960. 

Events moved fast in the period between September 1960 and December 1961. TANU was preparing to take over the government after independence. Kambona worked tirelessly as a government Minister and Secretary-General of the party. There were discussions about which model of democracy to follow after independence. Many African countries adopted the Westminster representative model. Some leaders in Tanganyika were concerned that multiparty system would impede development as far back as 1961. Kambona was involved in the many discussions about what to do with opposition parties once the country became independent. He would play an important role in stifling the opposition side. Talking to delegates of the All African Peoples’ Conference in early 1961 in Tanganyika, Kambona told the audience that political parties that menace the well being of Tanganyika would “suffer consequences.” He went on to say that TANU struggled for seven years for freedom while others did nothing. “We shall not tolerate defamation any longer; it they do not believe us, let them go ahead with what they are doing.” This was a direct threat to leaders of the opposition parties who were planning to challenge TANU. The feeling among many TANU leaders was that they led a powerful and successful movement against the British colonial rule and were not about to let few opposition leaders challenge them. On the other hand, some feared that opposition could be used as a tool by former colonialists or other foreign powers to subvert the country. Events in Congo still loomed high in their minds.

Kambona became the Minister for Home Affairs after independence. He was directly involved in silencing the opposition during the Presidential elections in the end of 1962. The African National Congress of Tanganyika was banned in 1962. The leader of ANC, Zuberi Mtemvu, and his lieutenants had become vocal critics of the new government. Kambona convinced TANU leadership to ban ANC meetings citing fear of violence. TANU and the new government was embarking on an ambitious development plan. Neither the party nor the government was in the mood to tolerate criticism from the opposition. Kambona was part and parcel of a group of leaders who set the stage for policies and actions that muzzled the opposition during the course of 1962. Many of the directives came from the Ministry of Home Affairs under Kambona. 

Tanganyika became a Republic on December 9, 1962. Kambona became one of the most powerful people in Tanganyika with his appointment as the Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs in the new Republic. The Tanganyika government and later the United Republic of Tanzania studied one-party system between 1963 and 1965. Kambona was involved in the study and setting up of a one-party system. TANU National Convention of January 1963 voted to approve a motion to adopt one-party system. When asked about the motion, Kambona replied there had been less debate on the matter when compared to other issues such as allowing non-Africans to join the party. He pointed out that some asked “practical questions” about one-party system during the deliberation and went on to defend one-party system. Kambona argued that a one-party system would create environment of less secrecy as meetings would be open to the press and the party would become an educational instrument. Lastly, Kambona asserted that one-party system would mean less chances of factions. 

One of Kambona’s first projects as the Minister with two portfolios in 1963 was to rebuild Tanganyika defense forces. New recruits had to be trained, new weapons purchased, and finally, a new intelligence organization be created. Kambona had his hands on some of the most sensitive projects for the nation in 1963. New soldiers were recruited and trained, some at home and others were sent abroad. Kambona oversaw an ambitious plan to arm the new army he was building. He also dismantled the old intelligence organization that was set up by the British after it was discovered that some of the Special Branch agents had reestablish links with former British handlers. New recruits were identified from TANU Youth League and trained by the Israelis, British, and by others. These were ambitious projects for the newly appointed Minister. Kambona had to learn on the job. 

Kambona became concerned with the President’s personal security early 1963. He learned about security breaches at the State House and started searching for a way to improve Presidential security. It was Kambona who approached the Americans with a request for training for a small selected group of men. He coordinated the efforts with Job Lusinde and the Director of Intelligence Emilio Charles Mzena, two old schoolmates from Tabora Boys. The Americans eventually agreed to provide special training for Presidential security for Peter Bwimbo and others; it was a decision that may have later saved Nyerere and Kawawa during the army mutiny of 1964. There was no question that Kambona was loyal to the President and determined to do his part to build his nation at the time.
The newly independent Tanganyika was tested in the first four months of 1964. Kambona played a critical role in diffusing a dangerous situation that erupted on January 20, 1964 when the army mutinied. While Nyerere and Kawawa went into hiding under the careful eyes of the head of Presidential security Peter Bwimbo, Kambona and Lusinde were two high government officials who kept the government going. Kambona eventually managed to convince the soldiers to return to their barracks. The troubles did not fully subside, but it gave Nyerere enough time to call British troops to disarm the army. Kambona’s grip on power and influenced peaked during the dark days of the mutiny between January 20 and 27. He managed to maintain communication with the soldiers and kept them calm. However, suspicions and questions would later emerge about his role in the mutiny. Kambona’s loyalty was questioned for the first time. It was a major blow to Kambona’s morale. The accusations were serious and it took its toll on him. Nyerere defended Kambona and dismissed suggestions that Kambona had been behind the mutiny. The damage had been done. While he managed to calm down the soldiers, failure to collect intelligence and prevent the mutiny before it took place loomed high. 

The Zanzibar Revolution in January of 1964 and the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar April 1964 were two major events that Kambona played a major role. Kambona has been linked to the Zanzibar revolution of January 1964. There is some evidence to suggest that he was aware of and may have taken part in the planning of the revolution. There is no doubt that the key organizers of the revolution were Zanzibaris themselves. TANU and ASP collaborated closely in the early 1960s. TANU sent moral and material support to ASP in the elections of 1961 and again in 1963. Zanzibar leaders worked closely with mainland leaders in the course of 1963. Kambona was spotted with Karume at a beach before the latter left on a boat with armed men to return to Zanzibar on the evening of January 11. The relationship between some leaders from Tanganyika and Zanzibar continued in February and March of 1964 as the situation in Zanzibar deteriorated. Tanganyika placed their support on Abeid Karume during the power struggle following the revolution. It became increasingly clear that Karume’s position of power was in jeopardy by beginning of April 1964. Once again, Kambona became the key leader from Tanganyika to work on a project of establishing union with Zanzibar. Kambona turned to his old roommate Abdullah Kassim Hanga and Twala to convince Karume and later Babu of the idea of a union with Tanganyika. Karume eventually caved in fearing loss of power. The union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar was made public on April 22, 1964. Kambona had performed his duties with distinction.

Kambona reached the pinnacle of power during the troubles of January 1964 when the army mutinied and shortly afterwards fell out of political grace with the powers that be. He lost the portfolio of Defense to Rashidi Kawawa in the end of April 1964. The stress of work appeared to have taken a toll on his health. Kambona was a great orator and a skilled politician; however, some questioned his administrative abilities. One of his weaknesses was his inability to delegate work; Kambona often wanted to do most of the work himself. Kambona's health deteriorated at various points in 1964. His situation was so serious that his wife expressed concerns for him towards the end of 1964 to a Ghanaian official. Kambona went to a mission hospital in Moshi where he was treated by a German Doctor; it was decided that the Doctor would follow Kambona to Dar es Salaam to continue to administer him with medications some time around October of 1964. The Doctor reported to German diplomats that Kambona was on the "verge of a nervous breakdown." He had circulatory problems, hypertension, and was physically exhausted. Kambona had worked himself to the ground. Nyerere agreed to grant Kambona weeks of leave from work at the recommendations of a doctor in the beginning of November 1964 and he would act as the Minister for External Affairs. Kambona was not to be deterred by his deteriorated health. He made an important decision on an issue that would have serious consequences for the nation; it was a disastrous decision that he would not recover from politically. 

A Tanzanian diplomat working in Congo presented Kambona with documents that purported to show plans by the Americans and Portugal to subvert the government of Tanzania early November 1964. The source of the document is not clear; at least one report names Andrew Tibandebage as the person who brought the documents to the Foreign Minister. Tibandebage was Kambona's school mate from Tabora Boys. Another source claims that the Tanzania Ambassador to Congo (L) flew to Dar es Salaam and showed the documents to Lukumbuzya, Principal Secretary in the MInistry of External Affairs. In this version, Lukumbuzya flew to Arusha on October 9, 1964 to show the documents to Nyerere who was on vacation. Nyerere showed the documents to Kambona at Arusha airport and then resumed with his vacation. One report claims that Nyerere told Kambona to "deal with it." Nyerere expected Kambona to call the US Ambassador and discuss the matter. Kambona flew back to Dar es Salaam and called a press conference on November 10, 1964. The Nationalist newspaper of November 11, 1964 devoted most of the front page on a “Western Plot” against Tanzania. The paper printed copies of the documents and a translation from French to English. Kambona accused the US of interfering with Tanzania and sent a telegram to the Secretary General of the OAU to inform him of a “Western plot” against Tanzania and the liberation movements based in the country. He asked for an emergency meeting of the African Liberation Committee. 

Kambona's handling of the "Western plot" against Tanzania was disastrous. The US government went to great length to provide "proof" that the documents were a forgery. The Americans brought a specialist with sample of the machine they use, the type of paper, and pointed out numerous errors in the documents to make a case that it was a forgery. In the meantime, the Tanzanian masses were angry; protests were organized at the American Embassy. Nyerere was caught in the middle; he called the US Ambassador and admitted that a mistake had been made. However, he refused to speak out publicly about it and acknowledge that a mistake had been made. Nyerere did not disavow the plot publicly until December 10, 1964. The incident caused a serious diplomatic crisis between Tanzania and the US. TANU National Executive meet in December 16-18, 1964 under tight security. Peter Siyovelwa presented a motion to censure Kambona. The Executive tried to discipline Kambona. When asked at the meeting if he had authorized Kambona to go to the media, Nyerere was equivocal. Nyerere had told Kambona to “deal with it;” he did not tell him to go public with it. Many of those present in the meeting concluded that Kambona acted hastily and irresponsibly. 

For the older and conservative members of the Executive, Kambona lacked respect for authority and tradition. There was a clash behind the scenes between Rashidi Kawawa and Oscar Kambona. Some sources identify Kawawa as the man who engineered Kambona’s censure behind the scenes. Kambona and Kawawa had been in collision course ever since the latter became the Prime Minister of Tanganyika. Kambona felt that the Prime Minister position should have gone to him. According to one source, Nyerere appointed Kambona shortly after becoming the President in 1962 to two powerful portfolios-Defense and Foreign Affairs-as a compromise. Since the independence in 1961, Kambona had slowly built a faction of young and dynamic leaders who posed a threat to the older members of TANU. The tension came to the forefront in the confrontations of the TANU National Executive of December 16-18, 1964. Kambona lost, he lost badly. 

Kambona and Nyerere dissagreed over approach to the brewing crisis with Malawi. Chiume, then Foreign Minister of Malawi, visited Tanganyika in August 1964 together with two other Ministers. Kambona and Chiume were close during the visit and Kambona made sure the visit received maximum publicity. Later Chiume escaped from Malawi after dissagreeing with President Kamuzu Banda and when it was clear his life was in danger. It was around this time the country name was changed from Tanganyika to Tanzania. Tanzania became embroiled in a diplomatic crisis with Malawi. Some reports claim that Nyerere and Kambona dissagreed on the approach to the crisis. Nyerere retained Kambona as the Foreign Minister early 1965 despite their increasing dissagreements over foreign policy matters. Kambona travelled to the UN to represent Tanzania where the problem of Congo was discussed. But the storm did not subside even though Kambona kept performing his duties as the Foreign Minister. Another showdown came at the TANU Annual Conference of March 5 to 8, 1965. Kambona was reprimanded at the TANU Annual Conference. The elders of the party made a recommendation for Nyerere to remove Kambona and his supporters. At a stormy and contentious Cabinet meeting of early March 1965, Kambona was supported by Lusinde, Babu, Kamaliza, and Maswanya. Most of the rest of the Cabinet sided with Nyerere and Kawawa who came down hard on Kambona. According to some sources, Nyerere decided to reshuffle the cabinet and remove Kambona. He did not go ahead with the decision at the urging of Abeid Karume who told him that it was not the time to change the cabinet. Kambona would soon loose the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The gathering storm did not prevent Kambona from performing his duties. He was part of a Presidential Commission that was tasked with studying and making recommendations for a one-party state. The Commission presented its final report to the President on March 22, 1965. The Commission was appointed on January 28, 1964 to work out recommendations for a one-party state. Kambona was a member of the Committee. Rashidi Kawawa was its Chair. Other member of the Committee were Lucy Lameck, Junior Minister for Commerce and Co-operatives, and Bhoke Munanka, Minister of State, Joseph Namata, and Chief Petro Marealle. Mtoro Rehani and other members from Zanzibar were added after the Union. The recommendations of the Commission set Tanzania on the path to a one-party state. Kambona would later claim that he had opposed the idea of a one-party state and that he refused to sign the bill claiming it would impede democracy. 

Kambona was appointed Minister for Local Government and Rural Development in 1965. He was gradually removed from sensitive ministries over the course of 1964 and 1965. The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development opened an opportunity for him to travel around the country and connect with Tanzanians from all corners of the country. He still retained the position of Secretary-General of TANU and remained Chairman of the African Liberation Committee. Kambona would later lament at the turn towards one-party state after Nyerere returned from China in 1965. He became increasingly disillusioned with the policies implemented by Nyerere. Yet he had been part of a small group of people who came up with the policies and then implement them; he eventually had a change of heart and would denounce many of the policies he helped set up. 

Nyerere held a secret meeting with members of the Parliament and Ministers in February of 1966. He informed them of a plot to overthrow his government. Nyerere said that he knew names of individuals involved in the plot, including government servants, soldiers, and police. Although Nyerere does not appear to have mentioned people by names, circumstantial evidence points to Kambona as one of those involved. Kambona and other officials had been placed under surveillance since the end of 1965. There were reasons to suspect Kambona. As far back as late 1963, there were reports that Kambona was taking money from Communist sources. Foreign diplomats reported at one point that Kambona had received $10,000 from the Chinese. There was the printing press scandal in which he was given a printing press for TANU; the printing press was held up by customs until Kambona appealed to Nyerere. The printing press ended up in the hands of Kambona’s brother who ran a printing press called Ulimwengu. The government changed laws in June 1965 requiring people to get permission to send and receive money from UK. The new law eventually gave officials a window into money transactions of government and party officials. In time officials were able to collect a treasure trove of financial transactions of people of interest. 

Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown in Ghana in February of 1966. Nkrumah and Kambona became good friends. During OAU meeting on February 1966 Kambona disregarded instructions and pledged armed support to restore Nkrumah to power in Ghana. Tanzania was willing to support Nkrumah secretly and it did eventually send money to Nkrumah; however, this was not a matter they wanted to address publicly. Kambona was going rogue and acting on his own accord. Nyerere convinced Kambona to take a sick leave once again. Nyerere sought courtesies and facilities of the Netherlands Charge d’Affaires in Dar es Salaam for Kambona to receive treatment for “heart condition” early March 1966. Kambona’s decision to disregard instructions at the OAU was problematic. Kambona stayed in the Netherlands until beginning of June 1966. Doctors in the Netherlands treated him for general “fatigue and a nervous condition.” His departure from Tanzania allowed officials to proceed with a thorough investigation of his bank accounts. Officials discovered that Kambona had £50,000 that he could not account for. Kambona’s bank accounts in Tanzania were frozen. The government would claim after Kambona escaped from Tanzania that almost one million shillings was deposited into his accounts in Tanzania and abroad between 1965 and 1966. Nyerere gave a speech at Saba Saba on July 7, 1966 warning leaders against amassing wealth at the expense of the people. He talked about dangers of remaining bastion of colonialism in southern Africa, and then proceeded to warn of the dangers of leaders turning against their own people for personal gains. Nyerere was talking about Kambona and several other government and party officials. According to one leader who had been a critic of Nyerere’s government, Chief Fundikira, then Chairman of East African Airways in 1966, the young radicals were “on their way out, and that their leader, Oscar Kambona, is finished as a political force.” 

The government moved in on some of Kambona’s close allies starting in the middle of June 1967. Eli Anangisye, MP from Rungwe North and former Secretary General of TANU Youth League, was arrested in the end of July 1966. Hamisi Salumu, bodyguard of Abdullah Kassim Hanga, former Union Affairs Minister, was also arrested. Anangisye and Salumu were accused of trying to subvert the Tanzania People’s Defense Force, TPDF. Next came the arrests of Wynn Jones Mbwambo, Juma Zangira, and K. Geugeu. Mbwambo, Zangira, and Geugeu were close associates of Kambona. Mbwambo was the Chief of Protocol under Kambona when he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mbwambo was responsible for overseeing a small intelligence unit within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that was answerable to Kambona. Mbwambo was sent to Addis Ababa to work as Embassy Counselor after Kambona left Foreign Ministry. He was later called back to Dar es Salaam from Addis Ababa after an investigation discovered that he owed the government Shs. 16,000. Zangira was supposed to be a Protocol Assistant to Mbwambo, but he was member of Mbwambo’s special intelligence unit. The arrests of some of Kambona’s associates in June 1967 signaled that the walls were slowly closing in on him.

Kambona corresponded with Nkrumah while he was in exile in Guinea. Kambona wrote to Nkrumah saying that "objectionable" events were taking place in Tanzania and he was being blamed for it in August 1966. He mentioned an incident were police stormed a slum in the poor areas were the masses were resisting "oppressions of neo-colonial government." According to Otini Kambona, Kambona’s younger brother, Kambona had concluded by the end of 1966 that his reputation was damaged because he was identified as an East-leaning radical. Kambona thought he was well positioned to take over presidency if Nyerere stepped down or was removed. He was, however, worried that the West would take measures to prevent him from taking power. The reevaluation of his international standing came at time when Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was removed from power. Kambona worked to rehabilitate his relationship with the West. Shortly after returning from Holland in June 1966, he sought to speak with numerous Western reporters and spoke well of the West. Several western reporters confirmed that Kambona was working hard to appear moderate towards the West. Kambona travelled to Guinea in November of 1966; Nkrumah was then living in exile in Guinea. 

The Arusha Declaration was announced on February 5, 1967. The government of Tanzania embarked on Socialist path. Kambona announced that TANU would adhere to Socialist policies as far back as 1960. Villagization program was one component of the Declaration. Kambona had a bird’s eye view of the program as a Minister of Local Government and Rural Development. He would later lament while in exile about the harm he observed done by villagization program and expressed dismay of the Socialist policies implemented by Nyerere. Here we see evolution in Kambona's views. Just September of 1963, he talked about the government’s intention to implement a policy of villagization in reaction to refugees entering the country from Mozambique. He became a vocal critic of villagization program and the Socialist policies after 1966.

Kambona announced his resignation on June 9, 1967. Numerous observers point to ideological differences with Nyerere as the only reason for the resignation. But the events between the end of 1964 and late 1966 reveals that there was much more to it than ideological differences. Kambona started planning his exit from Tanzania. He made open plans to fly out of the country sometime between July 25 and 27, 1967. According to some sources, an order was issued for Kambona’s arrest. Eliphase E. Akena, Police Commissioner and head of Tanzania CID, was reported to have tipped Kambona of the impending arrest. The tip gave Kambona and family enough time to escape from Tanzania. Akena was forced into early retirement by early August 1967. 

Kambona did not get along with some of the most powerful men in Tanzania. This was not just a struggle between Kambona and Nyerere. Kambona clashed with Rashid Kawawa and other leaders. Kambona led a faction of radicals within TANU against older and more conservative leaders; tension mounted between the different factions over a period of several years. Kambona’s exit from Tanzania in July 1967 marked the beginning of the end for a man who had done much to advance the country towards independence, a man who helped build the country during the early years of independence. Kambona was involved in many key policy decisions that shaped the young nation, including those related to opposition parties and one-party state. These were policies that he would later denounce once he left the country. Kambona’s many accomplishments have been overshadowed by his efforts to topple the government after his departure from Tanzania. His rise to power and subsequent fall from grace tells us something about the perils of politics in Africa.
©Azaria Mbughuni
February 7, 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

Mzee Morris Nyunyusa: A Legend in His Own Right

For many years those tuning in to listen to news on Tanzania Broadcast Corporation heard music coming from the drums of Morris Nyunyusa or Mzee Morris as he was known by many. Shortly before news was broadcasted, sounds of drums would be followed by a beeping sound exactly six seconds before the hour, six beeps each second leading up to the hour when news of the day was broadcasted. The drum beats and the beeps became a daily ritual for the hundreds of thousands of people who would tune in each day to listen to news. The legendary drummer behind the music was none other than Morris Nyunyusa, one of the most celebrated drummers ever to come out of East Africa. 
Playing seven drums could be challenging for many people with good vision. Mzee Morris was blind and he could play up to seventeen drums by the time of his death. Like many artists in Tanzania, Mzee Morris remains a distant memory for the many women and men who came of age in the 1980s. For the new generations, the name Mzee Morris, is unrecognizable, lost to the winds of time. Memory of this legendary musician, a national hero, appears to be fading away each passing day. Yet to sum up the life of this accomplished musician to the fading winds of time, abject poverty he experienced at the end of his life, or his blindness, would be to miss an important point: he was able to rise above challenges thrown his way, make significant contributions to the nation, and ultimately, guarantee his place in history.
Morris Nyunyusa was a Ngoni born in Tunduru, southern Tanzania circa 1918. He died in 1999. Morris contracted smallpox when he was a child. He lost his sight at the age of three due to complications caused by smallpox. The young boy developed love for music at a young age. He learned to play the marimba and then eventually switched to playing drums. Morris’s mother was one of the most important figures who helped mold and shape the young boy's interest in music. His mother led unyago ceremonies; the little Morris was allowed in to the secretive unyago dances because he was blind. Ever close to his teacher and mentor, Mohamed Kalesa, Morris would later learn to play three drums at first, before eventually graduating to seventeen drums. His wife moved around with him and helped arrange the drums; this task was eventually be shared with his son. 
Morris slowly gained fame as a drummer in the 1950s. Tanzania, then Tanganyika, was under British colonial rule. Sometime towards the end of 1950s, he increased the number of drums from three to seven, and eventually, increased the number to seventeen drums. Morris was brought to the attention of Tanganyika Broadcasting Corporation in 1959; his skills on the drums were unparalleled. Morris was recorded for the first time in 1959 and broadcasted on the radio. He slowly gained fame around the territory as his music could be heard on the radio. Invitations for him to play in different events would increase in time. 
The government of Tanzania moved Morris Nyunyusa from Tunduru to Dar es Salaam in 1969. He went on to represent Tanzania in cultural festivals in Tokyo, Japan in 1970. It was reported that Morris Nyunyusa had the Emperor Hirohito of Japan spellbound by the rhythm of his drums. Nyunyusa was in Japan together with the Tanzania Dance Company that included snake and stilt dancers, and the Police Band. Recognizing his unique talent, the government decided to hire Nyunyusa to work for the Ministry of Culture in 1970. Mzee Morris travelled to different parts of Africa, Europe, and Asian, often as part of Tanzania Dance Company. He became one of Tanzania’s most recognized cultural ambassadors. Mzee Morris travelled to Nairobi, Kenya to entertain at the opening of the World Council of Churches (WCC) 5th Assembly November of 1975. This was one tour among the many others done in Africa.
The Tanzania government recognized Mzee Morris with a special stamp issued in 1981. The stamp immortalized Mzee Morris as one of the most accomplished cultural ambassadors in the country. The stamp featured him playing drums. Few Tanzanians have had the honor of being featured on the national post office stamps. This was a celebration of his achievements, and at the same time, part of a campaign to bring awareness to disabled persons. 
By some accounts, Mzee Morris was abandoned and left to live a destitute life towards the end of his life. He suffered the fate that is not uncommon for many other artists who have left their mark on the nation. Yet focusing on the fact that the nation appears to have abandoned him at his time of greatest need, or focusing on his blindness as a handicap, would be doing injustice to his life and accomplishments. Mzee Morris had a long career that span well over five decades, from at least 1930s to 1990s. He entertained the nation through his music and served as a government employee for twenty-two years until he retired in 1992. 
For the few who were able to see Mzee Morris play drums, his performances were thrilling and unforgettable. He was a master drummer able to make the drums talk, his hands moved with lighting speed; he knew exactly where his seventeen drums were, never missing a beat. Mzee Morris was without a doubt a musical genius. His life and accomplishments tells us something about the human spirit, determination to achieve excellence using the very cards we have been handed and not what we have been denied. He took his art to another level, elevated his country with every drum beat. His place in the annals of history is guaranteed.

©Azaria Mbughuni 
January 15, 2018

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Did Tanzania Win Independence in 1961?

Tanzania won independence from Britain on December 9, 1961. At least that is what we are told. Is Tanzania independent today? The British ruled Tanzania, then Tanganyika, for over forty years. What did forty years of British rule do to Tanganyika and was the changing of flags in December 9th lead to independence? The British were not in Tanganyika to develop the territory and its people; they were there to develop their own people and country, not Tanganyika and Tanganyikans. Tanganyika was underdeveloped and set up by the British to be dependent on the former colonial power. The "independence" of Tanganyika was ultimately contingent upon compliance with Western demands. Steering away from the West meant a declaration of war. This, Tanzania, would learn the hard way in the course of five years after the so-called independence. The quest for an independentTanzania is far from over fifty six years later. 

Tanganyika, and later Tanzania, struggled from December 9, 1961 to assert its so-called independence. This is not just the story of Tanzania alone, it is the story of Africa in general. In the case of Tanzania, the leadership attempted to capitalize on the shifting of flags in 1961 to curve out an independent path.  Tanzania took a path that was unique in Africa.  First, much of the young nation's resources were directed in removing minority regimes in southern Africa from the beginning.  Secondly, Tanzania under the leadership of Julius Nyerere attempted to curve out a path set in the Arusha Declaration.  Both policies placed Tanzania on a collision course with the West.  

The Arusha Declaration was a remarkable statement of principles; it sought to enshrine ideals and principles and curve out an independent path for the young nation. Like the American Declaration of Independence or the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Arusha Declaration sought to declare to the world principles and objectives of Tanzania; most of the principles were grounded in the ideas of equality, liberty, and justice.  However, the Arusha Declaration sounded alarm bells in western capitals. Why would a document that starts with the principle that "all human beings are equal", that "every individual has a right to dignity and respect" a document whose first listed aims were "to consolidate and maintain the independence of this country and freedom of its people" and to "safeguard the inherent dignity of the individual in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" cause so much controversy and subsequent clandestine war? Perhaps the answer lies in the commitment to policy of Socialism, African Socialism to be exact. Or maybe it could be due to the fourth and the eleventh aims of the Declarations, namely "to cooperate with all the political parties in Africa engaged in the liberation of all Africa" and "to see that the Government co-operates with other States in Africa in bringing about African unity"? Even if the Arusha Declaration left out commitment to Socialist principle, it would still have been perceived as antagonistic to Western interests. After all, one of the key parts of the Declaration was Self-Reliance, the quest to build up Tanzania independently and set it on a path to glory. Self-reliance was one of the most important components of the Arusha Declaration. Tanzania sought to become self-reliant in order to be in position to assert its independence.

Going back to December 1961, it is clear that the colonial powers were not serious about giving Tanganyika true independence. It is telling that major Western powers were busy promising Tanganyika economic aid on the eve of "independence" and in the weeks and months after December 9th. A review of some of the western newspapers from December 1961 reveals headlines such as "Tanganyika needing aid on eve of independence," "American and German Loans to Aid Tanganyika," and "US offers Prompt Aid to Newly Independent Tanganyika." Why would Britain rush to offer aid to newly independent Tanganyika after ruling the territory for forty years? It is obvious that the country had been underdeveloped in order to develop Britain. Furthermore, it is evident that Tanganyika was being set up to become a dependent state. Such is the story of Tanzania's so-called "independence." It is a story that resonates in all corners of Africa.  The struggle for independence is far from over.  Political independence means nothing if there is no economic, and an extent, social independence.  The young nation has fell short of achieving true independence. A nation that is weak economically is bound to face political interference.  Most importantly, a nation that cannot feed and provide for its own people is bound to be caught up in a cycle of dependency, and hence, give up its independence.  

©Azaria Mbughuni 
December 9, 2017