18 May 2017

Tanzania: Celebrating the 53rd Anniversary of the Union - the Worrying Challenges Which Faced the Union in the 53 Years of Its Existence

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BECAUSE the event of celebrating the 53rd anniversary of the Union which took place last month was a great and historical national event, I had decided to write two articles relating to that historical event.

The first of these was published last week, which briefly presented the relatively little known category of the 'Union goals'.

This was done in response to the fact that a number of comments which were published in the News papers in commemoration of that event, had focused on the question whether or not, the Union had achieved its goals, Hence, in an attempt to answer that question, I explained what I believe were the actual goals of the Union ,which had been intended by the Union founding fathers themselves.

And because some of the published comments also referred to the 'challenges' which have been faced in this Union; this second article is focusing on the similarly 'little known' category of 'challenges', which have also faced this Union during the 53 years of its existence.

The 'little known' Union challenges. In ordinary day to day conversations, when people talk about the 'challenges' facing our Union, they usually have in mind those problem issues which are commonly referred to in Kiswahili as "kero za Muungano".

This is probably what the Minister of State, Vice-President's Office, Union and Environment, January Makamba also had in mind when he stated, in relation to the achievements made during the 53 years of the Union's existence, that "the number of issues which were providing a challenge to the Union, had been reduced to only three, from the 15 which were reported in 2006". That is, undoubtedly, a praise worthy achievement which we all acknowledge and applaud.

But "Kero za Muungano" could be fairly described in the English language as 'Management challenges', which are, generally, within the capability of the relevant authorities to resolve.

And that is why the majority of the 'management challenges' relating to our Union have been successfully resolved, as reported by the minister.

However, my point here is that apart from these 'management issues' (which are familiar and well-known to many of our readers), this Union has also, from time to time in the course of those 53 years, been faced with a variety of other, and even more serious challenges, which were much more worrying than the said 'Management issues'.

But these are, because of their nature, unfortunately much less known to many of our readers. These are what I have described in the heading of this article as the "worrying challenges", which also faced our Union at different times in the 53 years of its existence.

And that is the subject matter of my article today, mostly for the benefit of those of our readers who are particularly interested in the political history of our country. The 'worrying' challenges to the Union.

The sum total of challenges facing our Union during the past 53 years include the following: Diplomatic challenges (which emerged immediately after its inauguration in 1964).

These were soon followed by challenges emanating from the 'enemies' of the Union; and then followed the well-known internal 'management' challenges; which are actually still ongoing, simply because they are a direct product of relationships between ordinary human beings, who are all governed by ordinary human temper, which is part of human nature.

Since the 'management challenges are well known, this article will focus only on the first two categories, which I have described as the 'worrying' challenges'. The worrying Diplomatic challenges.

I have previously had the opportunity of referring to the diplomatic challenges to our Union in an earlier article in this column. But, for the benefit of our readers who might have missed the previous presentation, I will just briefly re-state the facts of the relevant cases. There were two major incidences which occurred at the diplomatic level.

The first was in relation to the country's diplomatic relations with West Germany (as it was known then); while the other incident was in respect of our diplomatic relations with the United States of America.

There were, at that time, two Germanys, known respectively as West Germany and East Germany. The diplomatic conflict with West Germany arose from that country's strict application of their 'Holstein Doctrine', which prohibited it from maintaining diplomatic relations with any country in the world which had similar relations with East Germany.

The relevant facts are as follows: Immediately after the success of the January 12th Revolution, East Germany had established its Embassy in Zanzibar; while West Germany already had its Embassy in Tanganyika.

Thus, upon Tanganyika's Union with Zanzibar in April 1964, the newly created United Republic of Tanzania found itself having Embassies of both West Germany and East Germany, a situation which clearly offended the said ' Holstein doctrine' of West Germany, which therefore immediately responded by putting pressure on President Nyerere, urging him to close the East Germany Embassy in Zanzibar, and further threatening him that failure to do so would force West Germany to withdraw its military aid which was being provided to Tanganyika.

President Nyerere refused to succumb to such threats, and West Germany announced that it was withdrawing its military aid. But President Nyerere told the government of that country to withdraw not only their military aid, but "to take away all their other aid to Tanganyika" because, he solemnly declared, "Tanzania will not accept aid with strings attached". That was indeed carried out.

This conflict obviously had a negative impact on the country's diplomatic relations with West Germany. Then, quickly followed a similar conflict with the United States of America.

In November 1965, three letters, claimed to have been stolen from the Office of the Congolese Prime Minister Moise Tshombe, were handed to Tanzania's Ambassador in Kinshasa, Andrew Tibandebage.

One of the letters revealed an alleged American secret plan "to bombard all the strategic locations being used by communist China in Tanganyika, and, as an alternative measure, to make arrangements to overthrow the Government of Mr Julius Nyerere in the manner being studied by the State Department".

Ambassador Tibandebage dutifully presented the said documents to President Nyerere and to Foreign Minister Oscar Kambona. Kambona quickly called a Press conference in Dar es Salaam to condemn the documents, and to raise alarm about the alleged American plot.

This incident also produced a very negative impact on Tanzania's diplomatic relations with the United States. But on his part, President Nyerere, who had apparently suspected that the said documents were probably forgeries, very skillfully brought the matter to a close by opening the door to a subsequent retraction, without undermining his government's credibility.

In a speech he delivered at a planned demonstration to condemn the alleged American plot, President Nyerere explained that these documents could have been forgeries.

But, he said, even if they were forgeries, the government was sufficiently frightened by their contents, and therefore had to react strongly, because there have been other such seemingly forged documents which however, on proper investigation, actually turned out to be real and authentic. He, therefore, justified his Government's strong reaction by quoting the well known Kiswahili proverb, which says (my translation) that "a person who has once been bitten by a snake, will be frightened when he encounters even a harmless dry palm leaf".

The challenges imposed by the enemies of the Union. In his article titled "Nationalism and Pan-Africanism, which was published in September 1961, (at the height of the cold war); Mwalimu Nyerere described the ' enemies' of African Unity in the following terms: "I believe the danger to African Unity is going to come from external sources which, whenever we start talking of creating larger units on the African continent (through the unification of some of our countries), we are quickly told that it cannot be done, and that such units will be 'artificial', and unworkable in practice.

And their applicable technique is very simple. One power block (among the cold war power blocks) labels any move towards African unity as a "communist plot"; but actually not because it is communist, but just because they do not like it.

Similarly, the opposing power block labels any such move towards African unity as an "imperialist plot", not really because it is so, but because this block does not like it! What annoys me is not the use of these slogans by these power blocks, for this is something we normally expect from them. What infuriates me is that they do expect us to allow ourselves to be treated like a bunch of idiots!"

In this particular case, Mwalimu Nyerere was referring specifically to the external 'enemies'. But with regard to the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar, apart from such external enemies, there were also certain internal enemies who, at the material times when they sprang to their evil actions, and created immense worries to the top Union leadership.

There was, for example, the case of some very serious disinformation which was given to Union President Julius Nyerere in 1965, by two of his Ministers, Oscar Kambona and Abdallah Kassim Hanga, who together conspired to deliberately misinform President Nyerere, that Zanzibar President Abeid Amani Karume had just expelled from Zanzibar certain Union officials, who had been posted there to carry out their duties and responsibilities.

The two Ministers further said that such action which had been taken by President Karume, was 'clear evidence' that President Karume actually did not want this Union, but had only been forced into it.

The full story of this incident is told in a book by Sheikh Thabit Kombo, titled Masimulizi ya Sheikh Thabit Kombo (Dar es Salaam University Press, 1996).

This unexpected information, which President Nyerere apparently believed, perturbed him to such a high level that he decided to call an emergency meeting of the Union cabinet, in order to inform the Ministers about this grave matter, and actually to tell them that because President Karume did not want this Union, he himself would have absolutely no reason, nor justification, for forcing him to remain within it; and continued to inform the Ministers that they should therefore expect to hear, actually very soon, a solemn official statement announcing the dissolution of this Union.

It was as bad as that! But, as luck would have it, the matter was quickly resolved when President Karume was urgently contacted on that same night, and he vehemently denied having taken any such action as was alleged by the two manifest enemies of the Union.

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