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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Azaria Mbughuni

Friday, September 14, 2018

Kongwa: Kitovu cha Ukombozi Afrika

Hii ni makala yangu kuhusu mchango wa Tanzania katika harakati za ukombozi kusini mwa Afrika.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Mapambano Kati ya Dossa Aziz na Zuberi Mtemvu Katika Uchaguzi wa Bagamoyo Mwaka 1960 na 1962

Dossa Aziz na Zuberi Mtemvu ni watu wawili waliotoa mchango mubwa kujenga TANU tangu chama hicho kilipoanzishwa mwaka 1954. Viongozi hawa wawili walishiriki kikamilifu katika harakati za kugombania uhuru. Zuberi Mtemvu alijiuzulu TANU na akaanzisha chama chake Tanganyika African National Congress (TANC) mwaka 1958. Moja ya sababu kubwa zilizofanya Mtemvu kugongana na viongozi wa TANU ilikuwa ni sera za kushirikiana na watu wa rangi tofauti kwenye uchaguzi. Dossa Aziz na Zuberi Mtemvu walipambana kugombea jimbo la Bagamoyo mwaka 1960. Huu ulikuwa kama mtihani kuona nani alikuwa na uvutio mkubwa kwenye siasa. Wagombea wote wawili walitumia muda mwingi kufanya kampeni na kuelezea sera zao kwa wakazi wa Bagamoyo. Uchaguzi wa Bagamoyo ulifanyika mwezi wa nane mwaka 1960. Katika uchaguzi huo, Dossa Aziz alipata kura 7,498 na Zuberi Mtemvu alipata kura 67. Wakazi wa Bagamoyo waliweka msimamo wao wazi kuhusu nani walimkubali. Aziz alipata ushundi mkubwa. Huu haukuwa mwisho wa malumbano kati ya viongozi hawa wawili. Dossa Aziz alipewa nafasi ya kuwa Territorial Film Censor muda mfupi kabla ya uhuru, mnamo mwezi wa kumi na moja mwaka 1961. Aziz alikubali kazi hio kwa maelewano kwamba kazi hio haitakuwa na mshahara wa kawaida, atalipwa “honorarium.” Ikumbukwe kwamba tayari kulikuwa na sheria iliyokataza mfanyakazi yeyote wa serikali kupata zaidi ya mshahara mmoja. Kazi hio ilikuja kuleta matata na Dossa Aziz akatolewa kama mwakilishi wa Bagamoyo. Hili halikumfurahisha. Akaamua kugombania tena kitongoji cha Bagamoyo kwenye uchaguzi uliopangwa kufanyika mwezi wa pili mwaka 1962. Uchaguzi huu ulikuwa muhimu sana. Tanganyika ilikuwa imepata uhuru. Mwalimu Nyerere alishajiuzulu Uwaziri Mkuu na Rashidi Kawawa alikuwa ndio Waziri Mkuu. Kwa mara nyingine tena, Dossa Aziz na Zuberi Mtemvu walikutana tena ulingoni kupigania jimbo la Bagamoyo. TANU ilitaka kuhakikisha Dossa Aziz anashinda na Zuberi Mtemvu hashindi uchaguzi wa Bagamoyo. Chama kikaanda kampeni kubwa kumpigia debe Dossa Aziz. Waziri Mkuu Rashidi Kawawa na Mwalimu Nyerere walikwenda Bagamoyo na kuwaomba wakazi wa Bagamoyo kumpigia kura Dossa Aziz. Viongozi wengine wengi wa ngazi ya juu walienda Bagamoyo kuwaomba wakazi wake wampigie kura Aziz. Kwa mara nyingine tena wakazi wa Bagamoyo waliweka msimamo wao wazi katika kura walizopiga. Dossa Azizi alitangazwa kama mshindi kwa kupata kura 3,207 wakati Zuberi Mtemvu alipata kura 89. Wakazi wa Bagamoyo, kwa mara nyingine tena, walimpa Dossa Aziz nafasi ya kuwaongoza. Na ndio ilikuwa mwaka huo huo, 1962, muasisi mwingine wa TANU, Abbas Sykes, alipewa nafasi ya Regional Commissioner wa Pwani. TANU ilitaka kuhakikisha wenyeji wa Pwani wanashikilia maeneo hayo.

© Azaria Mbughuni

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Amir H. Jamal: The First Tanzanian Who Was Not Black to Join TANU

On January 17, 1963, the Minister of Home Affairs and TANU Secretary General, Oscar Kambona, presented Amir H. Jamal with a TANU card no. 487,382. Jamal was the first person not black to join TANU. The decision to allow people of all races to join TANU came after years of intense debate within the party. It was not until after Tanganyika won independence, not until the Tanganyika government begun to take a strong stand against apartheid and racial discrimination outside its own boundaries, that a decision to change membership policy was accepted. The contradiction could no longer be allowed to continue.
Amir Habib Jamal was born in northern Tanzania in 1922. He attended school in his home town of Mwanza first before going to Dar es Salaam to pursue secondary education. Jamal earned a degree in economics from the University of Calcutta in India. Jamal was interested in politics while attending university. He was present at a meeting of the Indian National Congress in which Mahatma Gandhi initiated the Quit India Movement in 1942. He returned to Tanganyika after earning his degree and worked in a family business. TANU needed funds to keep the struggle going. Jamal was one of the people who provided financial support to TANU as far back as mid-1950s. 
Jamal joined politics directly in 1958 when he became a candidate for the Legislative Council. TANU had worked out a scheme to support members of various races in order to have majority support in the Council. Jamal was among the candidates of different races who received TANU support. Nyerere was with Jamal and Graham Lewis when they received news of the election results in September 1958. A photographer snapped the iconic picture of jubilant Nyerere holding Lewis and Jamal's hands. The image was published by a Tanganyika newspaper in 1958 (see image attached to this post). In the picture, Nyerere can be seen holding the hand of Lewis (wearing all white) to his right and Jamal to his left.
The government of Tanganyika faced many challenges in 1962. The newly independent country had a shortage in trained and qualified experts to serve the government. Officials scrambled to find new sources of finance for the government. Nyerere resigned early 1962 and Rashidi Kawawa became the Prime Minister as Nyerere worked to reorganize the party. The newly independent government of Tanganyika opened up doors to freedom fighters from southern Africa. Tanganyika was beginning to push an aggressive policy against colonialists and racialist governments in Southern Africa. It was under this context that party leaders sat down to discuss the policy of prohibiting members of other races from joining the party. Jamal would eventually become the face of the new TANU policy of embracing members of all racial groups.
The question of allowing people of different races to join TANU had been on the table as far back as 1954. Nyerere tried to convince his colleagues in 1954 to open up TANU membership to all races. The proposal faced fierce resistance from most members of TANU. The situation changed shortly after independence. Tanganyika leaders found themselves unable to reconcile a major contradiction in their membership policy. With TANU condemning the apartheid South Africa government and other minority governments in southern Africa, how can the party deny non-blacks an opportunity to join them? How could Tanganyika leaders go to different western countries and ask for assistance while maintain a policy of discrimination within TANU? It was around this time when Nyerere was preparing to undertake a mission to western countries to get their support for an end to colonialism and racialist governments in Africa, that it became necessary to press for a change in policy within TANU. 
Nyerere decided to do this at a secret TANU executive meeting held sometime in November 25/26, 1962. A good number of TANU officials were adamantly opposed to opening up membership to all races. There was a heated debate by all accounts. Nyerere finally made a compelling case that he later referred to as the “Kennedy point.” Nyerere asked his colleagues how they expected him to face President Kennedy when they continued a policy of racialism in Tanganyika? He continued: “Kennedy called out troops in name of equal rights for all Americans. You thought he was right to do what he did. How can we look Americans in eye if we refuse to end racial discrimination in TANU? Commenting about the debate, Oscar Kambona pointed out that the meeting was “unexpectedly difficult.” A good number of the members wanted “honorary membership” of non-Africans. Kambona conceded that those opposing the policy finally relented because of the inherent contradiction in the position they were maintaining. He pointed out that Tanganyika government and TANU could not carry out a serious campaign against apartheid in South Africa and racial discrimination in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) while precluding non-Africans from the party. Nyerere won over his colleagues through persuasion, through the power of argument, not force and coercion. TANU leadership was now ready to open up doors to everyone. The final approval had to be made at the TANU Annual Conference. News of the change of policy soon leaked out. Nyerere decided to call press conferences on November 28, 1962 because of the leaks. It was at this press conference that the nation learned about the new policy.
TANU Annual Conference decided on January 17, 1963 to approve a resolution opening up party membership to all races. Amir Jamal, then Minister for Communications, Power and Works became the first non-African to become a member of TANU.
Jamal went on to serve the nation with distinction. He became the Minister of Finance from 1965 to 72, Commerce and Industries 1972-75, Minister of Finance from 1975-77 and again from 1979-1983. He served as a Minister without Portfolio 1983-84 and as the Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs from 1984-85. Jamal played an important role in the development of Tanzania’s socialist economy. He was the longest serving Minister of Finance in Tanzania’s history. Jamal later moved to Canada where he lived until his passing in 1995.
©Azaria Mbughuni
August 18, 2018

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. Nyerere gave away the bride Ms. Flora Moriyo at the wedding. Kambona 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