Sunday, November 17, 2019

Shirley Graham Du Bois, Tanzania, and the World: A Giant Among Giants!


The important work and contributions of women in many societies around the world is often overlooked and ignored. The contributions made by Shirley Graham Du Bois to American history, culture, politics, and the attention she brought to the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles remains one of the many secrets left out in historical discourses. Shirley Graham, her name before she married the famed scholar and activist W.E.B. Du Bois, was a renowned author, composer, playwright, and activist long before she met her husband. Shirley Graham married the eighty-two year old Du Bois in 1951, the couple moved permanently to Ghana ten years later in 1961. Shirley Graham was born in the USA in 1896; she died a Tanzanian citizen in China in 1977.
Long before her death in Beijing, China in 1977, Shirley Graham had become an enemy of the state for the USA. Her FBI file had 1,068 pages, more than 300 pages longer than that of her husband W.E.B. Du Bois. She was a subject of FBI surveillance from the 1940s to 1970s. Shirley was versatile in Italian, German, French, and even a little Russian. She learned some Arabic and Chinese later in her life.
Shirley Graham was born in 1896 in Indianapolis, Indiana. She was the only daughter in a family of six. Her father, David Andrew Graham, was an African Methodist Episcopal minister. Her mother was Lizzie Etta Bell. The family moved around the US frequently; they lived in Indiana, Colorado, Louisiana, and her father, lived in Liberia from 1924 to 1928 where he worked as a teacher at Monrovia College. Shirley Graham travelled to France in late 1920s to pursue her education in music. She returned to the US in 1930s and became a teacher at Morgan College in Maryland. She joined Oberlin College in 1931 and earned a B.A. degree in 1934, followed by a M.A. Degree in 1935. Her M.A. thesis was entitled "Survivals of Africanism in Modern Music." Shirley Graham wrote an opera called "Tom-Tom" which she produced in Cleveland in 1932. This was the first all-black opera produced on a large scale with professional cast of about five hundred actors. It was the first opera produced by an African American woman. She moved to Tennessee in 1935 and taught at Tennessee State College in Nashville. Shirley Graham became the Director of the Chicago Negro Unit of the Federal Theater Project in 1936. She wrote and directed music, including the successful production of "Little Black Sambo." She was awarded the Julius Rosenwald Fellowship for creative writing and spent two years at Yale School of Drama between 1938 and 1940. Her three act plays "Dust to Earth" was produced in 1941. Her radio play "Track Thirteen" was played on the radio.
The 1940s was a period of prolific writing for Shirley Graham. She co-authored a biography entitled Dr. George Washington Carver in 1944. She authored several biographies for young people. She wrote Paul Robeson, Citizen of the World in 1946 followed by a novel entitled Once a Slave on the life of Frederick Douglas. Her book won the Julian Messner award for the "best book combating intolerance in America." She published Your Most Humble Servant: Benjamin Banner in 1949, and finally, three more critically acclaimed biographies of Booker T. Washington, Phillis Wheatley, and Pocahantos.
The struggle for women's rights was very important for Shirley Graham. She became involved in an organization fighting for women's rights in the 1940s called Sojourners for Truth and Justice. She worked for the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and was fired for defending two African Americans.
Shirley Graham embraced progressive leftist politics in the 1940s. She became a socialist and pushed for revolutionary changes. She joined the American Communist party in the 1940s. Her activism attracted the attention of local police and the FBI who kept her under close surveillance in the 1940s. An FBI report from 1947 states: "On February 11, 1947, Confidential Informant advised that SHIRLEY GRAHAM addressed a meeting of the George Washington Carver School, Communist Party front organization, located at 67 West 125th Street, New York City." In the era of the rising tension between the East and the West in the post World War II era and the subsequent Cold War, Shirley Graham was embracing a position that placed her in a collision course with the US establishment. Shirley Graham had made her name as a scholar and activist by the end of the 1940s.
The 1950s would prove to be a challenging period for Shirley Graham. The rise of Mccarthyism in the early 1950s was particularly difficult for those who embraced leftist politics and challenged US local and international policies. Shirley Graham married the 83 year old W.E.B. Du Bois on February 27, 1951 at Queens, New York. She was fifty-four years old at the time of the marriage. She changed her name to Shirley Graham Du Bois. Shirley Graham Du Bois devoted considerable time and efforts supporting her husband during the period they were married from 1951 to 1963 when he died. The US government made it difficult for the couple to operate freely in the 1950s in the US. The US government confiscated Shirley Graham's passport from 1950 to 1958; the government also confiscated the passport of W.E.B. Du Bois during that same period.
The US government decided to grant passports to Shirley Graham Du Bois and her husband in 1958. The couple wanted to attend the All-African Peoples' Conference (AAPC) in Accra, Ghana. Shirley Graham Du Bois presented a paper on behalf of her husband at the AAPC entitled "The Future of All-Africa Lies in Socialism." The couple travelled from Africa to USSR, Eastern Europe, and China in 1959 before returning to the US. The travel to the Communist bloc angered US government officials. The State Department revoked their passports. Shirley Graham Du Bois and her husband appealed for their passports in 1960. Shirley Graham Du Bois stated her reason for the appeal for her passport as the desire to attend the Women of Africa and African Descent conference. There was another reason the couple wanted to travel to Ghana; they had received official state invitation to attend the celebration of the founding of the Republic of Ghana. W.E.B Du Bois had a long friendship with the then President of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah. As two champions of Pan Africanism, Du Bois and Nkrumah had worked together in the 1945 Pan African Congress in Manchester, UK. Nkrumah lived in the US between 1935 and 1945; attended a historical black college-Lincoln University-where he earned a B.A. Later he joined Penn State and earned an M.A. degree. The friendship between Nkrumah and the couple grew in the end of the 1950s.
Shirley Graham Du Bois and her husband sold their house at 31 Grace Court, Brooklyn New York in the second half of 1961. The couple left the US on October 5, 1961 for the UK, and on October 10, from UK to Ghana. The couple had reached a point of no return; they renounced their US citizenship and became Ghanian citizens in 1961.
Ghana was an important destination for African Americans in the first half of the 1960s. Nkrumah opened up the doors for African Americans. Unfortunately, W.E.B. Du Bois died in Ghana in 1963 and was buried there. It was an end to one of America’s most prolific black author, scholar, activist; a long and successful career started with his PhD dissertation from Harvard University in 1895 entitled Suppression of the African Slave Trade followed by numerous seminal books on black history. For Shirley Graham Du Bois, the death marked the beginning of a new chapter. She became a trusted advisor to Nkrumah and a mother figure to many African Americans who went into exile in Ghana. Malcolm X spent time with Shirley Graham when he was in Accra in 1964. She spoke of Malcolm as her son. Stokely Carmichael or Kwame Ture as he would become known as, referred to her as "grandma."
Her work in Ghana came to an abrupt end in February 1966. Kwame Nkrumah was removed from power in coup many have come to believe was partly engineered by the US. This was a turning point for Shirley Graham Du Bois. The new government was not friendly to African Americans living in Ghana who were close to Nkrumah. Shirley Graham decided to leave Ghana. There were several places she considered to settle down permanently in the next few years, even after she decided to settle down in Cairo, Egypt. She visited Tanzania in 1966 and developed a close friendship with the President of Tanzania Julius Nyerere. She considered moving to Tanzania, and at other points, she considered Algeria, East Germany, Mexico, France, and China. However, she decided to settle down in Cairo.
Once again, Shirley Graham Du Bois turned to her pen and paper to educate the masses through her writings. She wrote numerous books, countless articles and spoke at many conferences and events. She wrote a biography of her late husband W.E.B. Du Bois entitled His Day Marching On in 1971. She published a book in 1975 on Julius Nyerere entitled Julius K. Nyerere, Teacher of Africa. During the 1970s, she wrote and presented papers on Ancient Egyptian history, more specifically, her worked centered Ancient Egyptian history in black Africa.
Shirley Graham was very concerned in the end of 1969 about her ability to travel internationally. She was traveling on a Guinea passport that was about to expire. Prior to that, she had Ghana passport and the Ghanian officials refused to renew it when it expired. She was having similar difficulties renewing her Guinea passport. The officials of United Arab Republic (Egypt) were hesitant to issue her a passport or a travel document. She was stuck. There was one country she decided to turn to: Tanzania. Shirley Graham Du Bois approached the Tanzanian Ambassador in UAR sometime in the end of 1969 and asked for a Tanzanian passport. The Ambassador inquired with Dar es Salaam and was given permission to issue a travel document for Shirley Graham Du Bois. The Tanzanian Ambassador approached the US Consulate officials in Cairo in December 1969 and asked if the US would issue Shirley Graham Du Bois a visa to travel to the US. He assured the Americans that UAR would accept the travel document when she completed her tour of the US and returned to UAR. The Americans were reluctant to issue her a visa. It would take considerable pressure from the US African American community, a threat of a legal court case, for the State Department to eventually issue her a visa to the US.
Shirley Graham Du Bois travelled to the US numerous times in the 1970s. She travelled to the US first on Tanzanian Certificate of Identity, and starting in 1972, she travelled on a Tanzanian passport number 16776. She travelled to Tanzania in 1973 to do research on a book on Nyerere. In Dar es Salaam, she attended the Saba Saba celebrations and was impressed by the multitude of people who came to hear Nyerere speak. She was impressed by the history of Tanzania's struggle for independence and the efforts by Nyerere to build and develop the new nation. Shirley Du Bois spent time with the Pan Africanist revolutionary Abdulrahman Babu; she was a frequent guest at his house during her short stay Tanzania.
The visit to Tanzania in 1973 was a successful one for Shirley Graham. Nyerere's daughter, Watiku Anna, was one of her guide when she toured one of the Ujamaa villages. But it was the audience she had with President Nyerere at his residence in Msasani that became the highlight of her visit to Tanzania. Nyerere protested to Shirley Graham about writing a book on him. Nyerere told her "I still don't see why you'd want to write a book about me.." she would write in her book on Nyerere. "Books should be written about great men and women-those who accomplish great things... what has greatness have to do with me?" The question was a testament to Nyerere’s modesty. Shirley Graham noted as she left Nyerere's residence that Nyerere and his wife were holding hands as they waved good bye to her. The observation, which she chose to end her book on, was significant. She ends the book with a last sentence that concludes on her observation of Nyerere and his wife holding hands waving goodbye to her: “Well, I thought Ujamaa really begins in that home.” Here she was in Tanzania, a Tanzanian citizen, learning about a country from one of the best minds that country had produced. Tanzania had welcomed her, granted her citizenship at time when other countries were not willing to do so. Nyerere recognized the important work she and her husband had done to advance scholarship on black history, art, socialism, Pan Africanism, and the anti-imperialist struggle. She had earned the honor of acquiring Tanzanian citizenship through her work and activism.
Shirley Graham Du Bois travelled several times to the US and other countries in the course of 1970. She died of breast cancer in China in 1977; she was a Tanzanian citizen when she died. Her work and contributions have not received the recognition they deserve. Shirley Graham Du Bois is, nevertheless, one of the greatest minds the US has produced.


© Azaria Mbughuni

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

General Siphiwe Nyanda, the First Black Chief of the South African National Defense Forces, and Tanzania


The President of South African, Cyril Ramaphosa, is in Tanzania this week for a SADC meeting. South African liberation movement had close links with Tanzania/Tanganyika going back to the period before independence. The close links and collaboration was very important during period of the struggle for South Africa. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to talk about the armed struggle against apartheid government without talking about Tanzania. The story of the struggle for South Africa is intertwined with Tanzania in so many ways. The story of General Nyanda provides one example.

Nyanda left South Africa for Botswana in 1973. He wanted to link up with members of ANC there but failed. He left Botswana in 1974 for Mozambique. Again, he tried to connect with ANC; he was unsuccessful. Eventually Nyanda was able to link up with the ANC underground in Swaziland where he was put to work. He was ordered to go to Mozambique early 1976 with an underground unit and await orders for their next mission.

Nyanda was sent to Tanzania in 1976. He was asked to lead a group of recruits going for training in East Germany (GDR). The group he led included, Johannes M. Rasegatla and others. Some members of the unit met and spoke to President of ANC, Oliver Tambo, in Tanzania before leaving for GDR. The group was made up of members who were carefully selected to travel abroad for training. Nyanda and his group left Tanzania in 1976. The men trained in East Germany for ten months before returning. They were then sent to Angola. Nyanda went back to South Africa secretly in 1977 and worked to build an underground movement.

One of his jobs was to recruit people for operations inside South Africa and to send some out for training. He organized operations carried out against police stations and other targets inside South Africa. In one operation, Nyanda and Resegatla were involved in recruiting a group, training them, and planning and carrying out an attack. The men were recruited and trained. Five AK-47s were smuggled from outside the country for the operation against a police station at Moroka.

The attack on Moroka Police station took place in May 1979. Solly Shoke (the current Chief of South African Defense Forces) led the operation. The Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) men-Nicky Sangele, Marcus Motaung, and Thelle Mogoerane- attacked the station at 9pm. The three men entered the station from the front and killed a guard at the gate. Others remained on guard outside. The men threw hand grenades inside the building, fired their AK-47s, and started a fire. Three policemen were killed in the attack. The attack was one of the first MK operation in which AK-47s were used. It was also one of the first raids ever conducted inside South Africa on an established police station.

The attack on the Moroka police station and other targets would have been difficult had some of the men not been able to travel to Tanzania in the 1960s and 70s, and from there to other places for training. Tanzania served as a transit area, provided travel documents, and had military bases for the liberation movements. The facilities provided by Tanzania were crucial for the struggle against apartheid.

Nyanda rose in rank quickly within a period of ten years and became a field commander. He continued to rise in rank during the 1980s as he coordinated MK operations against the apartheid government of South Africa.

General Nyanda became the Chief of the South African National Defense Force from 1998 to 2005.

Azaria Mbughuni
August 15, 2019

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Mtemi Kibete: Shujaa wa Kinyamwezi


Tanzania ina mashujaa wengi katika historia yake. Mashujaa wengi wanasahaulika jinsi muda unavyozidi kupita. Ingawa wakina mama walipata nafasi kubwa za kuchukua uongozi na kufanya kazi kubwa kupinga ukoloni, ni wachache sana wanakumbukwa kwa uongozi wao au jitihada zao katika harakati za kupinga utawala wa kikoloni. Mmoja ya mashujaa hao ni Mtemi Kibete wa Unyamwezi. Historia ya maisha ya Mtemi Kibete inatufundisha mengi kuhusu maisha yake na historia ya Tanzania, tunajifunza kuhusu baba yake Chifu Mirambo alikuwa ni mtu wa aina gani, na tunajifunza kuhusu ujasiri wa kina mama, nafasi waliyopata kwenye jamii na michango yao kwa taifa letu.
Mtemi Kibete alisahaulika kwa miaka mingi mpaka ilipofika mwaka 1976, wakati huo alikuwa na kama miaka tisini na nne; Mwalimu Nyerere alisafiri kwenda Tabora kumkabidhi nyumba mpya Mtemi Kibete Mwanamirambo, mmoja ya watoto wa Mtyela Kasanda, aliyejulikana zaidi kama Chifu Mirambo. Mtemi Kibete alikuwa ni mmoja ya watoto wa Chifu Mirambo waliokua hai mwaka huo.
Kibete alizaliwa mwaka 1882 na alifariki tarehe 25 mwezi was 12, mwaka 1982. Inasemekana alikuwa bado msichana mdogo wa miaka kumi na mbili baba yake, Chifu Mirambo, alipofariki mwaka 1894. Mtemi Kibete alikuwa mmoja ya watoto saba waliozaliwa na mama mmoja. Baba yake alikuwa na wake wengi walioka katika maboma yake matano, Isela, Meta, Ikonogo, Ukerebe, na Kiburuga. Kibete aliishi na mama yake katika boma la Isela homa.
Boma la Isela lilikuwa na ulinzi mkali. Chifu Mirambo aliweka askari wake hodari waliojulikana kama Warugaruga kulinda boma hilo na maboma yake mengine. Chifu Mirambo alikuwa anahama mara kwa mara kutoka sehemu moja kwenda nyingine. Alikuwa anaenda boma la Isela na kukaa hapo kwa kama mwezi mmoja kila mwaka. Chifu Mirambo alikuwa anawapenda sana watoto wake. Alikuwa anacheza na Kibete na watoto wake wengine alipoenda kwenye boma lake la Isela. Alikuwa anacheza nao na kuwapa watoto wake wote upendo mkubwa. Hili alilisema Mtemi Kibete baadae. Wavulana wote walichukuliwa walipofika umri fulani na walipelekwa kujiunga na jeshi.
Mtemi Kibete alipewa bangili za shaba alizipata kama urithi kutoka kwa baba yake. Bado alikuwa na bangili hizo mwaka ilipofika akiwa na miaka kama tisini na nne. Hizo bangili za shaba zilitengenezwa na Watusi. Mtemi Kibete alipata kuwa Chifu wa kabila lake kwa kipindi kifupi kabla hajaondolewa na Waingereza. Mtemi Kibete alisahaulika kwa miaka mingi mpaka Mwalimu Nyerere aliposikia kuhusu taabu anazopata mwaka 1976 na uamuzi ukafanywa ajengewe nyumba.
Kibete alipata shida sana kipindi cha utawala wa Wajerumani. Wajerumani walituma wanajeshi waende kuvunja ofisi ya chifu wa Wanyamwezi. Wajerumani walipofika Ulyankulu wakamkuta Chifu Katunga, kaka yake Mtemi Kibete. Chifu Katunga alikuwa anapatana sana na mmoja ya wakoloni waliemwita Bwana Mzuri. Hakupatana kabisa na mkoloni mwingine aliyejulikana kama Bwana Toronto. Mama yake Mtemi Kibete alikuwa mjasiri sana. Siku moja alitofautiana na mama mmoja alieitwa Machunija. Machunija alikuwa rafiki wa Mabruku, aliyetumwa Tabora na Sultani Said Barghash kutoka Zanzibar. Mama yake Mtemi Kibete alimpiga Machunija. Mabruku akaenda kumshitaki kwa Wajerumani.
Mama yake Mtemi Kibete alikimbia na kujificha Kwande. Wajerumani wakamuamuru Chifu Katunga amkamate mama yake Kibete. Katunga akakataa. Bwana Toronto akaja na askari wake Ulyankulu. Askari waliwapiga risasi kaka watatu wa Mtemi Kibete, Maswa, Kihana, na Kapaya na kuwaua hapo hapo. Zaidi ya Wanyampala mia nne walikamatwa. Wengine sitini wakakamatwa, wote walifungwa na minyororo na kupelekwa geraza la Wajerumani Tabora. Bwana Toronto aliamua kuwaadhibu familia yote ya Chifu Katunga. Askari walichukua bunduki zote, ng’ombe wote walioweza kuwapata, pembe za ndovo zilizomilikiwa na familia na wakachoma moto vijiji vitano. Katika heka heka hizo, Watusi walikuja na kuchukua ng’ombe wote waliobaki wakaondoka nao.
Mtemi Kibete na kaka yake Chifu Katuga na wake zake wawili walienda Uha. Askari wa Kijerumani walikuwa wanawafuata wakijaribu kumkamata Katuga mpaka walipofika Lukela. Watu wengi kwenye kundi lao waliuliwa. Safari hio ya kuwakimbia Wajerumani ilikuwa ngumu sana. Walipata shida sana kupata maji. Njia moja ya kupata maji ilikuwa ni kufuata aina fulani ya ndege waliojua wapi pa kupata maji. Walitumia bunduki moja ya Chifu Katuga kuwinda wanyama kwa chakula. Walikuwa wanaweka kambi kwa siku tatu wakitafuta maji, kama kulikuwa hamna maji, basi waliendelea na safari yao. Pia walikuwa wanakula matunda waliyopata porini. Watu wengi walikufa kwa njaa katika msafara wao.
Kibete bado alikuwa mdogo. Kuna wakati Chifu Katuga ilibidi ambebe Kibete mgongoni wakati wanasafiri. Afya ya Kibete ilikuwa imezoofika sana. Katuga alihakikisha Kibete alikuwa na maji kidogo, ingawa wengine wengi walikuwa hawana maji. Uamuzi huo ulifanya baadhi ya watu kwenye msafari kuamua kuondoka na kwenda kwingine. Walisafiri kwa mguu mpaka Mana za Mlole, sehemu iliyokuwa inatawaliwa na Watusi kipindi hicho. Chifu wa Watusi aliwakaribisha wote na kuwapa chakula na sehemu ya kukaa.
Bwana Toronto akaja na mpango mwingine wa kumkamata Chifu Katuga. Alituma ujumbe kwa Katuga kumuomba warudi Ulyankulu na kwamba atawajengea kijiji kipya. Katuga na watu wengine 80 walikamatwa na Wajerumani walipofika Bunampanda wakati wakijaribu kurudi Ulyankulu. Mama yake Kibete pia akamatwa Kwande alipokuwa amejificha. Wajerumani walipanga kumnyonga Katuga, mama yake, na wafuasi wake wengine. Kwa bahati nzuri Bwana Mzuri aliekuwa safarini akarudi. Akafanya uamuzi wasinyongwe na wapelekwe Dar es Salaam. Chifu Katuga akaishi Dar es Salaam kama mkulima wa minazi mpaka alipokufa.
Chifu Katuga alimtuma Kibete na wengine warudi Ulyankulu akiwa Dar es Salaam. Walipofika nyumbani wakamkuta Kaibuka amepewa Uchifu. Hawakupatana kabisa na Kaibuka, wakaamua kwenda Tabora na kudai haki yao kwa viongozi wa kikoloni. Walipofika Tabora walifanikiwa na Mtemi Kibete akapewa uchifu. Hili lilikuwa jambo la kijasiri sana wakati huo. Kaibuka alikuwa anasaidiwa sana na wamisionari na wakoloni walikuwa wanataka yeye awe kiongozi. Mtemi Kibete alikuwa kiongozi wa nne kushika madaraka tangu Chifu Mirambo alipofariki. Waingereza hawakutaka kabisa Mtemi Kibete awe Chifu. Wakafanya njama za kumtoa na wakafanikiwa baadae
Mtemi Kibete aliolewa na Kigao, mtoto wa Chifu Ntinginya wa Usongo na Nyawa. Alifanikiwa kupata watoto watatu, wavulana wawili na msichana mmoja. Alikuwa na wajukuu 15 na watukuu 6 mwaka 1976. Aliishi kwa miaka 6 zaidi mpaka alipofariki mwaka 1982 akiwa na kama miaka mia moja na mbili.
Maisha ya Mtemi Kibete yanatupa nafasi nzuri ya kupitia tena historia ya Tanzania. Kuna wengi wametoa mchango mkubwa wakati wa harakati za kupambana na wakoloni. Wachache sana kama Mtemi Kibete wanatambulika kwa mchango wao. Mtemi Kibete ni mfano mzuri wa kuonyesha kwamba wakina mama walipata nafasi za uongozi na walitoa mchango wao mkubwa kwa jamii.
© Azaria Mbughuni
azmbughuni@gmail.com
Mei 7, 2019
Chanzo: Kanyama Chiume, “Surviving Daughter Mtemi Kibete Speaks”

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Barua ya Mwalimu Nyerere kutoka kwa Jacqueline Kennedy / Letter from Jacqueline Kennedy to Julius Nyerere

Mwalimu alikuwa rafiki wa Raisi wa Marekani John F. Kennedy. Viongozi hawa wawili walikutana mara kadhaa; walikutana mwaka 1961 kabla Tanganyika haijapata uhuru. Mwalimu Nyerere na raisi Kennedy walifanya walikutana kwa maongezi Julai mwaka 1963. Mwalimu alisikitishwa sana na kifo cha raisi Kennedy kilichotokea Novemba 22 mwaka 1963. Alimuandikia barua ya rambirambi mkee wa raisi Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy. Mama Jacqueline Kennedy alimjibu Mwalimu Nyerere na barua hii Februari 1, 1964.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Ruge Mutahaba: A Piooner in the Entertainment Industry in Tanzania

Ruge has touched millions of Tanzanians. He was a pioneer in the entertainment industry. Ruge is many things to different people. For those of us who grew up at the University of Dar (Chuo), Ruge was a football wiz, a great DJ, a schoolmate, a neighbor, a friend. Chuo was a fantastic place for those of us who grew up there in the 1980s. Majority of us attended Mlimani primary school. There were the many football matches, a few picnics in Silver Sands, the many legendary parties, these events created memories that will last a lifetime for those of us who were there. Ruge was at the center of many of them.
Ruge and Mkopi were the DJs for many of our house parties at Chuo. There was that party at Jengo's house where the legendary break dancing competition took place; this was sometime in the mid-1980s. There was the Chacha that some of us had to learn the hard way. One of the dancers at the party was the late Marlon. We had several parties at Mwabuki's house. Ruge and other DJs played some of our favorites tunes at the time: Michael Jackson's Liberian Girl, Madonna's La Isla Bonita and other songs. We danced the night away. I was a young boy back then. It was at these parties that most of us did our first slow dance with a girl. It was a big thing back then. I remember clearly how we would all run to the dance floor when some of those songs were played. Later they organized bottle parties. Truth be told, I was too young to take part in organizing those parties. I remember begging my parents to allow me to attend the parties. The venue for most of those parties in the second half of the 1980s was at the late Biye Muganda's place. Ruge fell in love with music during that era, the 80s. I am convinced that it was at Chuo that he first became hooked to the entertainment business; it is there that a seed was planted.
Ruge was an excellent football player. He was perhaps one of the best, if not the best player at Chuo. I was never good at football, but I remember everyone wanted to be on his team. We found much joy in the many football games and matches we played against neighboring teams. I was always a spectator on the side at those games 🙁. There was the small field next to Professor Msambichaka's place; there were the many games at kidongo chekundu. There was the legendary games played between watoto wa Chuo and Makongo. Fights often broke out during those games, Ruge was not a fighter, but he sure did show his brilliance on the field.
I moved to the US in the early 1990s to go to school. Ruge was one of the few Tanzanians I knew in the US at the time. In the early 1990s, we used to correspond by letters (no email or cellphone back then for us). We spoke every once in a while on the phone (land line!). Ruge was going to school in California at the time and I was in Michigan. He was still into music. Ruge recorded a few mixed tapes and sent them to me. He was serious about the music industry. There is little doubt that a seed was planted in the 1980s in Chuo. It has been many years since I last spoke to him. But I have seen his work; there is no denying that it is the work of a genius. Few young Tanzanians have had the kind of impact he has in the entertainment industry. He is a pioneer, someone Tanzanians will be talking about for many years to come. Ruge's legacy in the entertainment industry in Tanzania is set. Rest in Peace kaka!
Azaria Mbughuni
February 26, 2019

Ruge is sitting to the right and Mkopi Jengo is the one standing to the left. One of those legendary parties at Chuo!
Photo credit: Irene Meena

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Paul Emil Von Lettow Vorbeck and East Africa During World War I: Hero or Villain?


The government of Germany set up an office in Mwanza, Tanzania in 1964 to identify World War I veterans and set up payments for the African veterans of the war. The story goes that about 350 old soldiers showed up, but only a few had a certificate given to them by the German General Lettow-Vorbeck. A German given the job of disbursing the funds came up with an idea. He would give an order in German to perform the manual of arms. All the 350 old soldiers did it without any problem. These were the few remaining African soldiers who fought on the side of the Germans in East Africa. What exactly did those soldiers do during the war is a story that has not been told. For history is often told from the top down, those in power tell their story while the majority remain silenced spectators. 
World War I was indeed a world war for those who lived in what is present day Tanzania, then German East Africa. The entire region was engulfed in a fire, a fire that burned for four years that led to the demise of innocent souls, fathers, mothers, daughters and sons. An estimated one million people perished, some were directly involved in the fight and the majority were not directly involved in the fighting. They became spoils of a war not of their making, a war that was set up in Berlin, London, Lisbon, and Brussels. 
The Germans under the command of Paul Emil Von Lettow-Vorbeck were able to outfight and outsmart a much larger army made up of British, South Africans, Belgian, and Portuguese forces. All the Europeans on both sides of the war depended on African soldiers to do the fighting and carry whatever they needed. A small German army made up of tens of thousands of Africans and several hundred Europeans, faced an army more than ten times bigger and they remained undefeated at the conclusion of the war in 1918. The war had a profound impact on the people of German East Africa. While many continue to celebrate Paul Emil Von Lettow-Vorbeck for his success in the battlefield, he must also be remembered for causing unspeakable suffering among the people who came within his path. There is little doubt that Lettow-Vorbeck was a brilliant soldier in the battlefield. His success in the battlefields during World War I places him in a category of his own. Yet success that comes with the kind of human cost and suffering witnessed in East Africa begs the questions: was the war a success to either side, who benefit from it, and are there any heroes? The military prowess of the much celebrated Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck must be investigated not just in what he achieved in military battle, but also from the perspective of the soldiers who did the fighting and the cost to African people.
World War I in the East African theater was fundamentally a fight between two groups of African soldiers led by European commanders. Unlike the battlefields in Europe that centered on trench warfare, the war in East Africa was fought and won mostly in mountains and valleys, in the forests and jungles; this was a fight between Goalith and David with no clear winner between the Europeans. Africans paid dearly with their sweat and blood. What follows here is a story from top down, a story that is told from mostly a European perspective, but one that attempts to address the human cost for the African majority who found themselves in the crossfire.
Lettow-Vorbeck was born in Saarlouis, Germany in 1870. He died in March 9, 1964 in Hamburg, Germany. Lettow-Vorbeck gained experience in China during the Boxer Rebellion. It is estimated that over 100,000 Chinese died during the rebellion. Lettow-Vorbeck worked with the Americans in China and gained valuable experience on guerilla warfare. The German government later assigned him to German South-West Africa (Namibia) when the Herero and Nama revolted in 1904. Some historians claim that the then Captain Lettow-Vorbeck did not participate in the Herero and Nama genocide. They claim he was evacuated to South Africa because of an injury he received in his eye and chest from a Herero warrior in 1906. The claim that Lettow-Vorbeck was not involved in the genocide is questionable in the big scheme of the German war against Africans in Namibia. He was an assistance to the Commander of German forces in South West Africa, General Lotha von Trotha. General von Trotha was relieved of his duties after reports of his brutality reached his superiors back home. As an assistant to the General, Lettow-Vorbeck was involved in the war against the Herero and Nama for about two years. The war turned into a genocide aimed at exterminating the two ethnic groups. Between seventy-five and eighty percent of the Herero were killed while about fifty percent of Nama perished as result of deliberate policy of extermination. An estimated 65,000 out of 80,000 Herero and 10,000 out of 20,000 Nama were killed. 
Lettow-Vorbeck cannot be cleared of responsibility in the extermination of the Herero and Nama. For he did take part in the war against the Herero and Nama from the outset. While von Trotha was relieved of his duties, Lettow-Vorbeck’s injuries appears to have saved his career. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and sent to command the German colonial forces in German Kamerun (Cameroon) in 1913. Lettow-Vorbeck was finally transferred to German East Africa in April 13, 1914. By the time Lettow-Vorbeck was transferred to East Africa, he had already mastered the art of guerilla warfare.
Building An Army
Lettow-Vorbeck arrived in German East Africa in January 1914. Lettow-Vorbeck was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel before being station in the territory. The German forces, Schutztruppe, were made up of about 2,500 African soldiers and 250 German officers, non-commissioned officers, and some doctors. He gradually increased this small army into a force to be reckoned with. Majority of the African men who joined the German army were Nyamwezi and others belonged to the many ethnic groups from the region. Eventually a good number of the Africans who joined the German army were conscripted. The African soldiers were divided into 14 field companies of Askaris. By the beginning of 1916, the Schutztruppe grew to about 12,000 Askaris and 3,000 Germans. Lettow-Vorbeck used his 12,000 African and 3,000 German soldiers to hold back 300,000 British, Portuguese, and Belgian forces for 4 years. They marched over 3,500 miles by the time they surrendered in 1918. Tens of thousand of Africans were employed as porters to carry food, weapons, and other supplies that were necessary to continue fighting. It is said that Lettow-Vorbeck was the only German Commander who invaded British colonial territory during World War I.
The Battle of Tanga
The Allied forces wanted to take of German East Africa. The plan was to attack city of Tanga in German East Africa and fight their way to other parts of the territory. This was supposed to be an easy invasion. After all, the German colonies of Togoland fell to British hands very quickly. Later German South West Africa and Cameroon would also fall to Allied forces. The British brought 8,000 Indian troops from Bombay to take part in the invasion of Tanga. British ships bombarded the German city of Dar es Salaam. Ignoring orders of the German Governor in Tanganyika, Lettow-Vorbeck decided to repel a major British amphibious attack in Tanga in November 1914. The Askaris and their German counterparts fought off the British in a battle that lasted four days in Tanga. The Schutztruppe repelled the Allied forces and acquired weapons from the enemy. The Allied forces had to wait for almost one and a half years before they launched another major campaign in German East Africa.
The strategy used by the Schutztruppe against the Allied forces was very effective. The German commanders knew that they were outnumbered and lacked resources and reinforcement. The best strategy was the use of guerrilla tactics. Lettow-Vorbeck had experience on guerilla warfare fighting the Chinese during the Boxer Rebellion and the brutal war against the Herero and Nama of South West Africa came in handy. He carefully selected his targets and his forces attacked with lighting speed. The men operated along the plains of Mount Kilimanjaro, ambushing British soldiers and capturing weapons and supplies. There they captured enough horses to start an extra cavalry company that they used to fight off British forces. The Schutztruppe targeted the four hundred miles Uganda railway, dislodging trains, and acquiring more supplies. Details of the Askaris who did the actual fighting against the British forces and their allies are hard to find. It is clear that it was the African soldiers, the Askaris with the help of countless men and women who did all the necessary supporting roles that made Lettow-Vorbeck and his officers successful.
The British were paralyzed in East Africa for almost a year. Lettow-Vorbeck knew that the British were planning a major attack after Tanga. His forces were cut off from Germany. There was no hope that Germany would send supplies and reinforcements to German East Africa. Lettow-Vorbeck set off to make the colony and his army of Askaris self-sufficient. The Germans started fabricating car tires from local rubber and sulphur; they extracted Ersatz gasoline from coconuts; women were put to work weaving cotton to make cloth. This was done in anticipation of a major British offensive. It was ultimately the work of the African men and women that allowed Lettow-Vorbeck do what he was able to do for the remainder of the war.
Lettow-Vorbeck continued his attack on the British in January 19, 1915 at Jassin. The Askaris and their German commanders defeated British forces and were able to obtain new modern rifles and other supplies that were badly needed. The German forces decided to embark on guerilla warfare against the Germans. Lettow-Vorbeck’s strategy was to attack selected targets to force the Allied forces to turn to East Africa and away from the European theater. The General and his soldiers learned to adapt and survive in difficult terrain and harsh environment. The soldiers learned to use whatever they could find to remain a force to reckon with. For example, the soldiers removed artillery from German cruise SMS Konigsberg in the Rufiji River in 1915 and modified the guns to use as land artillery. But it was ultimately, by forcing the people they come across to provide them with whatever they needed, including food and more porters, that helped sustain Lettow-Vorbeck and his Askaris.
British Offensive 
The British planned a major offensive against Lettow-Vorbeck and his forces in march 1916 near Tabora. The British General J.C. Smuts from South Africa led 45,000 men; the forces included South Africans and Belgians. General Smuts sent another General, Charles Tombeur, to the frontlines to face the Germans and their Askaris. This was to be a major offensive. General Smuts brought with him 18,700 Boers from South Africa. The over-confident South African commander had considerable guerilla warfare back home. The battle was set to take place along the slopes of the famed mount Kilimanjaro.
Lettow-Vorbeck and his commanders plotted a clever strategy to fight the much larger army. The German forces was estimated to have about 6,000 soldiers at the time, majority of whom were Africans. They only engaged the enemy at selected areas, utilizing the terrain and climate to their advantage. It was an effective strategy. The British were determined to win. British troops were reinforced and kept fighting despite loosing many soldiers. The British lost 2,700 soldiers and Germans lost 519 at the important Battle of Mahiwa in October 1917. The German forces faced increasing challenges as the war raged on. Supplies were running out and there was no way to get reinforcement from Germany. Lettow-Vorbeck made the decision to withdraw his forces south. 
The two armies faced each others in numerous other skirmishes. In each case, The Schutztruppe and their Askaris managed to fight their way out and disappear into the forest. 
The Battle of Ngomano
The German and Askaris reached the Ruvuma River in November 1917. Their target was the well-supplied Portuguese garrison. The Schutztruppe attacked the Portuguese garrison and obtain plenty of badly needed supplies. One of the most valuable raid was the capture of a river steamer carrying medical supplies. The steamer had supplies of Quinine, a medicine that could be used to treat Malaria. . The German commander used the policy of scorched Earth as his troops moved between Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique), German East Africa, and eventually Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). The Schutztruppe and their Askaris were now reduced to about 2,000 soldiers. In the end, the British, Rhodesian, and Portuguese troops pursued them closely as they moved from one place to another, but could not defeat them.
The German and Askaris learned to adapt to whatever circumstances they faced. In a period of about one year, the soldiers were able to live off the land, taking needed supplies from people they encountered. They were able to obtained weapons and ammunition by attacking British and Portuguese stations and garrisons. For example attack on Namakura in Mozambique in July 1918 yielded newer rifles, machine guns, and mortars. The Schutztruppe and their Askaris continued to evade the British and Portuguese troops. They were able to attack and disappear.
The End
British forces were in hot pursuit of the German and Askari forces by early 1918. They tried everything possible to corner and defeat the Schutztruppe. Lettow-Vorbeck outsmarted the British at every turn. The British set a trap for the Schutztruppe in Tanganyika in September 1918. Lettow-Vorbeck and his troops crossed the Ruvuma River and entered Tanganyika on September 28, 1918. Instead of moving North or East, the Schutztruppe turned west and entered Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). They captured Kasama and continued south-west towards Katanga. The soldiers reached Chambeshi River in mid-November 1918. A British Magistrate approached the Schutztruppe with a white flag to inform Lettow-Vorbeck that the war was over. The German forces were now made up of 1,168 Askaris, 125 German non-commissioned officers, 30 German officers, and 3,500 porters. Lettow-Vorbeck agreed to a seize-fire ending one of the most remarkable military battle of the First World War. This was the beginning of the end for a war that caused unimaginable suffering in East Africa.
Lettow-Vorbeck is celebrated by some as one of the best guerilla fighters in the world. Much emphasis has been placed in his ability to fight a much bigger, well-supplied forces, and survive for the whole length of the war. The human toll the war took is difficult to overestimate. An estimated one million people died in East Africa during the war. Some died as the direct result of fighting; however, majority died due to hunger and diseases brought on by the war. Tens of thousands were forced to join the armies, most as porters and some as soldiers. German military tactics disrupted farming in a wide region and the resulting famine led to the death of hundreds of thousands. The soldiers scavenged from one place to another, hunting, invading villages and forcing its people to provide food. The German commanders often ordered their soldiers to burn down houses and fields on their path after they decided to move to other areas. This scorched Earth strategy left many communities destitute. A German Doctor who worked at a hospital in Tanga and joined Lettow-Vorbeck wrote in his book after the war: “Behind us we leave destroyed fields, ransacked magazines and, for the immediate future, starvation. We are no longer the agents of culture, our track is marked by death, plundering and evacuated villages, just like the progress of our own and enemy armies in the Thirty Years’ War.” The achievements of the Schutztruppe must be weighed in and assessed against the human cost that their war brought on the African people. The Germans with their African Askaris were, without a doubt, agents of death and suffering. This reality ultimately blurs the boundaries that separate Lettow-Vorbeck the hero from Lettow-Vorbeck the villain.

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