Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Towards 50 years of Tanzania Mainland (Tanganyika)

The history prior to independence of Tanganyika:
TAA strikes fear in colonial hearts

By Mohamed Said, Dar es Salaam

Tanganyika was handed over to Britain under sections 76 and 77 of the constitution of the United Nations after the Second World War. As the administrative authority, Britain was expected to take charge of the political, economic and social development of Tanzania until such a time as the people would be ready for self rule. 

But the British failed to do so, instead focusing on protecting their own colonial interests and those of white people as they continued to ignore the majority Africans. 

Europeans and Asians had their own exclusive community groupings—the European Association and the Indian Association—to champion the interests of their people. 

African interests were totally neglected, though they were represented on the legal committee by Father Gibbons, a missionary who worked at Minaki Mission, some distance outside Dar es Salaam. 

He had nothing to do with the Africans he was supposed to be representing. On realising that they had neither representation nor a forum to fight for their rights, Africans decided to form their own party, which they named the African Association. 

Governor Donald Cameron, who was in charge of Tanganyika from 1925 to 1929, started the first law-making committee during the period of indirect rule. Though he did not object to the launch of the African Association, he was adamant that the organisation should not engage in politics.
But how would Africans liberate their country if they were not allowed to take part in politics? Africans who had returned from the Second World War and those who had been studying at Makerere College in Uganda objected to this idea. 

Come 1950, these young men made great changes in the Tanganyika African Association (TAA), as it was known before a name change in 1948. In elections held in Dar es Salaam, Mr Vedasto Kyaruzi became president and Mr Abdulwahid Sykes the secretary. 

There are no records showing that the African Association had any plans to get involved in politics. To understand the direction of politics then, we would have to analyse the conduct of the leaders of TAA and how they dealt with issues that concerned the people. 

The first thing the new leadership did on coming to power was to form the TAA political sub-committee that had the following members: Tanganyika and Zanzibar Mufti Sheikh Hassan bin Amir, Vedasto Kyaruzi, Hamza Mwapachu, Said Chaurembo—who was the local head man in charge of cases at the Kariakoo courts—Mr John Rupia and Mr Stephen Mhando. 

The sub-committee’s work was to engage with all political issues in Tanganyika, marking the start of the nationalist struggle. 

For 21 years, The African Association’s constitution steered clear of politics. In 1950, however, the new leadership moved closer to being a political party—but by forming a political committee within the association rather than changing the constitution. 

Sheikh Hassan bin Amir of Zanzibar was the mufti of Tanganyika and represented Muslims, who led the campaign against the government. 

Mr Chaurembo represented the Zaramo of Dar es Salaam and communities in the city’s vicinity. Mr Rupia, from Mission Quarter, was a rich man and used his wealth to support the party. Mr Mhando, from Muheza, was well known for his hardline stance and represented graduates of Makerere University. There was also Mr Sykes, the benefactor of the association, whose father was the founding secretary of The African Association. 

With the committee in place, Mr Sykes wrote to TAA branches countrywide inviting them to get involved in activities. One of the major challenges of the time was Tanganyika’s status and its relationship with the United Nations. 

TAA invited Mr Earle Seaton, a lawyer from Bermuda who lived in Moshi, to become a member of the committee so he could advise on legal and constitutional matters to effectively challenge the colonial government. Mr Seaton was expected to direct TAA on how to pursue the agenda of freedom from the United Kingdom.

The Trustee Committee of the United Nations sent an initial delegation to Tanzania in 1948 to assess whether the citizens were ready for self-rule. Nothing much came out of that visit but it was evident from 1950 that TAA headquarters in Dar es Salaam, under Mr Kyaruzi and Mr Sykes and backed by the political committee, was waking up from a deep slumber and had set some targets. 

TAA’s leadership got its first challenge via the Constitutional Development Committee that was formed by Governor Edward Twining and the land dispute among the Wameru. Twining invited proposals from famous people, social development committees and native authorities on how Tanganyika should be governed. TAA sent proposals signed by all members of its political committee. 

TAA recognised that many of the problems to do with the rights of Africans had a legal basis and required advice from lawyers. With the help of Mr Seaton, TAA presented proposals that were backed by facts and figures that demonstrated oppression during the colonial era that ran contrary to the agreement with the United Nations. 

TAA’s presentation to the constitutional development committee, which was of high standard, proposed that Africans should comprise 50 percent of the membership of the Legal Committee for 12 years. Membership would subsequently be decided by the vote. 

Governor Twining rejected the proposals and the government continued with its long term plans to back the minority Whites and Asians contrary to the United Nations rules on nations under the protection of the United Nations. 

Many Africans had believed that TAA’s proposals would ultimately be the foundation of the constitution of a Tanzania that belonged to all races. Still, TAA’s proposals did not die. They were brought out again at a meeting to launch TANU on July 7, 1954. The same proposals were incorporated into the speech Julius Nyerere read to the Board of Trustees of the United Nations in New York in March 1955. 

After TAA’s proposals were rejected, the leadership at TAA headquarters shifted its efforts to strengthening the party branches and to further communication with the United Nations with a view to getting recognition. 

These efforts bore fruit because the United Nations started giving TAA information and ideas for its many committees. The government was shaken and decided to transfer TAA President Kyaruzi from Dar es Salaam to Kingolwira prison hospital near Morogoro. 

The colonial government believed that this would reduce TAA’s political influence and weaken the leadership at headquarters. But Mr Kyaruzi was not discouraged by the transfer. Every weekend, he travelled to Dar es Salaam to consult Mr Abdulwahid Sykes. When the government realised that the transfer had not had the intended impact, Mr Kyaruzi was transferred to Nzega, which was very far away from Dar es Salaam.

At the TAA general meeting of 1951, Mr Sykes told members that the going had been tough in the past year, but the party had also been able to engage Edward Seaton’s advisory services.He contributed significantly to a proposed constitution that had been sent to Governor Twining. Members were also informed that TAA branches had been given a new lease of life. 

There was news of recent communication with the United Nations and links had also been established between TAA and African representatives in the legal committee. 

Mr Sykes gave a report on his October 1950 visit to Nairobi, where he had met the Indian ambassador to East Africa. He also explained the unity pact between TAA and the Kenya African Union (KAU). The Indian government was ready to offer Tanzanians places in its universities. Mr Sykes also gave a short account of the formation of the African Parents Association with the help of one Dr Raymond and the European Parents Association. 

During his trip to Nairobi, Mr Sykes met secretly with Jomo Kenyatta and the top leadership of KAU.

The Makerere factor
The year 1950 will go down in the history of Tanganyika as a time when Makerere graduates joined TAA in large numbers. They were all very young and they wanted to do many things at once and to achieve everything there and then. Disagreements on ideas and strategies were the order of the day, but they helped improve governance in the party.

The secretary’s report explained TAA’s successes and problems. The TAA office had no power supply but there were plans to install it. A small library was to be opened and there would be adult education classes in the evenings. 

The report also addressed issues such as communism and race relations. There were concerns about the impact of communism in Tanganyika’s politics and the report stressed collaboration between TAA and people from other nations.

Hardline positions
At that time, a number of TAA leaders were known for their tough stance. Among them were Mr Mhando and Mr Mwapachu. Mr Mwapachu wrote for The Sentinel, a journal of the Fabian Society that was published in London. The Fabians were left-leaning members of the Labour Party of the United Kingdom. 

There were many chiefs in the law making council in those days, among them Chief Kidaha Makwaia of Shinyanga. Chief Kidaha had just completed his studies  in Britain. 

On returning home, he gave a speech at the council urging the colonial government to change its mind on the ban on African civil servants taking part in politics. 

Many chiefs harboured fears about the increasingly famous TAA and its leadership. They saw TAA as a threat to their own power. 

Through its indirect rule policy, the colonial government recognised chiefs as the representatives of Africans, not TAA. 

Chiefs and the struggle
Abdulwahid approached Chief Kidaha at this point, and asked him to become president of the party. He told Chief Kidaha that if he accepted the offer, he could set in motion a reforms agenda in Tanganyika since other chiefs would follow him. 

Chief Kidaha enjoyed a good relationship with the colonial government and he chose to decline the offer. Though he supported the idea of African government workers being allowed to participate in politics, which had inspired TAA’s request, he also believed in close relations with the government through the policy of indirect rule

He was not ready to risk his people’s interests by supporting a party that was opposed to colonialism. This was the state of affairs in Tanganyika at a time that TAA leaders were preparing to form TANU, the party that would go on to free Tanganyika from the yoke of colonialism.

The Citizen (Tanzania), 03.10.2011

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