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SUNDAY 20 APRIL 2014
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Zanzibar and the Slave Trade

Having ejected the Portuguese, Oman was Swift to assert its control over East Africa. The only real threat to their sovereignty was from a rival Omani dynasty, the Mazrui family, based in Mombasa. The Mazruis Seized Pemba in 1744, but were unsuccessful in their attempt to take Unguja eleven years later. In spite of the rivalry, Zanzibar’s trade flourished, the key to its wealth being Slavery, demand for which rocketed after the establishment of sugar and clove plantations in European –owned Indian Ocean territories.

The spiraling prices for slaves, and ivory, gave Zanzibar considerable economic independence from Oman. The pivotal figure was Seyyid bin Sultan bin Ahmad bin said al-Busaidi (ruled 1804-1856), Seyyid Said for short, who at the age of fifteen assassinated his cousin to become the sole ruler of the Omani empire.

The sultan recognized the importance of Zanzibar and East Africa, and spent most of the his reign developing and consolidating it, encouraging merchants to emigrate from Oman , and continuing incursions on the African mainland .In 1811 he opened stone Town’s notorious slave market ,which during the following sixty years traded over a million lives. Shrewd diplomacy with the British –who were increasingly pushing for the trade’s abolition –allowed Seyyid Said to wrest Mombasa from the Mazrui family in 1827. The Sultan also cultivated trading relationships beyond the Indian Ocean: the United States opened their consulate in Stone Town in 1837, And European nations swiftly followed.

In 1841, with the Entire East Africa coast now under his control, and barked by the Western powers, Seyyid Said took the unusual step of moving the Omami Capital from Muscat to Zanzibar, beginning a short lived but immensely prosperous golden age, bankrolled not just by ivory and slaves, but cloves- a shrewd introduction by seyyid Said as Zanzibar accounted for four –fifths of the global output.

Explorers and Colonizers

Seyyid Said was succeeded by Sultan Majid, and after a brief power Struggle between him and his brother, the Omani empire was split into two: the Arabian half centered on Muscat, and the vastly more prosperous African one centered on Zanzibar and headed by Majid.

The African half’s control of the mainland port of Bagamoyo, Logical bases for the European exploration of the “dark continent” The first Europeans known to have travelled through Tanzania were the German missionaries Johann Ludwig Krapt and Johannes Rebmann, who in the 1840s tried to convert several tribes to Christianity without much success. In 1848, Krapf –who considered African’s the fallen man, steeped in sin, living in darkness and (the) shadow of death –moved inland to try his lack else where, and became the first European to describe Mount Kilimanjaro (to the incredulity of bigwigs back home, who ridiculed the idea of the snow-capped mountain on the Equator).

Hot on his heels came a train of other explorers and missionaries among them such Victorian heroes as Sir Richard Francis Burton, James Augustus Grant, Joseph Thompson, Samuel White Baker and John Hanning Speke. Many of them set out to locate the source of the Nile a riddle that had baffled European since Herodotus in the fifth century BC. The search for the Niles source was not just an academic exercise or vain glory seeking: whoever controlled the Niles headwaters would control Egypt and (from 1868) the Suez Canal.

The “riddle of the Nile” was finally solved by John Hanning Speke, who reached Lake Victoria in 1858, and went on to sail down the great river. The most famous explorers to have graced East Africa though are a duo whose names have become inseparable: The journalist-turned –adventure Henry Morton Stanley, and the missionary-turned-adventurer David Livingstone.

Their famous “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?” encounter took place in 1871 at Ujiji, on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika.

Although Livingstone was careful about how he went around preaching the gospel of the Lord, he was an exception among a motley bunch of missionaries who believed that Africans were primitive and inferior and therefore in need of civilizing “ But with competition heating up between European powers for new markets and natural resources, the supposedly backward nature of the Africans and the handy excuse of wanting to stamp out the slave trade (in which Europeans had freely participated) gave them the perfect excuse to begin the conquest of the continent by force .The partition of Africa was 1890 Germany took normal control of Tanganyika while Britain grabbed Kenya , Uganda and Zanzibar.

The German Conquest of Tanganyika

The mid-1880s were a time of considerable turmoil throughout Tanganyika, with arrival of the militaristic Ngoni tribe in South the Expansion of the equally warlike Maasai in the North, and increasingly bloody incursions by Zanzibar slavers right across the country from East to West. For most tribes, this period was a disaster, but a handful managed to take advantage of the situation, most famously the Nyamwezi.

Under the Wily leadership of Chief Mirambo ,they took military control of potions of the trade routes which they used to exact tributes from passing caravans .The tribute financed the purchase of arms, with which mirambo constructed a short –lived empire between central Tanganyika and what’s now Burundi , Rwanda and Uganda. This turbulent state of affairs should have eased the German conquest of Tanganyika, but their problem began the instant they arrived, in 1888, coastal slave traders-who were none too appreciative of Germany’s intention to wrest away control of the caravan routes, and Levy taxes-rose up in arms. Led initially by a slaver named Abushiri ibn salim al-Harthi-who gave the uprising its name, the Abushiri War- the conflict dragged on for over a year before the German troops headed inland. Central Tanganyika was an easy conquests as Mirambo’s empire had crumbled following the chief’s death in 1884 ,but further South the hehe tribe , under Chief Mkwawa , were a formidable adversary , which they proved in 1891 by annihilating an attacking German Force .Hehe resistance only ended in 1998 with Mkwawa’s suicide , but his death signaled a mare lull in armed resistance. In 1905, frustrated by harsh German rule, a vast swathe of Central and Southern Tanganyika rose up once in what became known as the uprising, after which colonization proper began.

Work included the construction of a railway from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma port on Lake Tanganyika, following almost exactly the route of the most infamous of nineteenth –century slave roads. The railway arrived in kigoma in February 1914, just before World War I. Although the war’s main focus was Europe ,the German troops posted in Tanganyika ,ably led by Paul Von Lettow-Vorbeck’s –chief Architect also of the genocide perpetrated against Namibias Herero tribe in 1904-08 began a guerrilla –stile conflict against the British based in Kenya and Zanzibar , and Belgians in Burundi and Rwanda . Lettow-Vorbeck’s purpose was not to defeat the numerically superior Allied forces that might have been more productivity used back in Europe. The tragedy worked, and Lettow-Vorbeck’s force remained undefeated until 1918, when the Armistic brought an end to the slaughter and forced his surrender.

The British protectorate of Zanzibar

Sultan Majid’s successor, Sultan Bargarsh (ruled 1870-88), inherited vast wealth, but also an empire on its last legs. Bargahash must have felt particularly ill-starred: his accession coincided with a devastating Cholera Epidemic that killed 10 thousand people in stone Town alone, and in April 1872, a cyclone destroyed all but one ship in stone Town’s harbour (around three hundred in all) , and leveled 85 percent of Unguja’s clove plantations. These disasters were compounded in 1873 when the British, backed by their all-powerful navy, forced the abolition of the slave trade between the mainland and Zanzibar (slavery itself only ended in 1897). Meanwhile , European plans for the partition of Africa proceeded at full clip, and Zanzibar’s mainland possessions with the exception of a six –kilometers coastal trip-were taken from it in 1886. Barghash was succeeded in 1888 by his son , Khalifa bin Said , but when he too died , just two years later , Zanzibar was declared a British Protectorate.

The Sultanate was allowed to continue in ceremonial capacity, but the real shorts were called by the British-quite literally, in August 1896. Two hours after the passing of Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini bin Said, the palace complex in stone Town was seized by Khalid, a son of Barghash, who, urged on by 2500 supporters, proclaimed himself sultan. The British, who preferred Thuwaini‘s cousin, Hamud bin Mohammed, issued an ultimatum that Khalid ignored. At precisely 9.02am on August 27, the shortest war in history began when three British had reduced two places to rubble, killed five hundred people and forced the surrender of Khalid, who took refuge in the German consulate from where he fled into exile.

The Road to Independence

At the end of the World War 1, the British were given control of Tanganyika, though the administration remained separate from that of Zanzibar, which was nominally still a sultanate. British rule in Tanganyika (1919-61) was relatively benign, and merely picked up where the Germans left off: Dar es Salaam was expanded, as were agricultural towns such as Arusha and morogoro, and the railway was extended to Mwanza on Lake Victoria. The five decade British protectorate over Zanzibar was similarly uneventful, the highlight being the installation of a much –needed sewerage system for stone Town.

World War II was a major turning point in the history of Tanzania, and Africa. Many east Africa had been conscripted as soldiers and porters for the British and expected something in return –self –rule, or even independence. Opposition to colonial rule sprang up right across the continent, and with the new world order now dominated by the United States and the Soviet Union change was inevitable. In Tanganyika the Independence movement was headed by TANU (the Tanganyika African National Union), founded as the Tanganyika African Association in 1929. From 1954 onwards, TANU was led by Julius Kambarage Nyerere, a mild-mannered school teacher from Butiama close to Lake Victoria, and graduate of Edinburgh University. Processing a peaceful path to change inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, Miserere’s open-minded and down-to-earth style won TANU widespread support, and the grudging respect of the British, who, faced with the inevitability of independence, saw in Nyerere a figure they could trust.

Following a string of rigged legislative elections, in August 1960 mounting tension finally forced free elections for 71 seats of the Tanganyika Legislative Council. TANU won all but one, Nyerere became chief minister, and in it that capacity led to move towards Tanganyika Independence, which was proclaimed on December 9, 1961.

Baba wa Taifa: Julius Nyerere

Tanzania’s first and still much-loved president, Julius Kambarage Nyerere, was born in 1922 to a chief of the small Zanaki tribe in Mwitongo village, near Butiama close to the Eastern show of Lake Victoria. Nyerere was educated at Tabora Secondary School in Central Tanzania and at Uganda’s celebrated makerere college, before going to study history and economics at Edinburgh University. One of Tanganyika first University graduates, he returned to Tanganyika in 1952 where he became leader of TANU, and succeeded in securing Tanzania’s peaceful transition to Independence in 1961 (in contrast to neighboring Kenya, whose road to freedom was long and bloody). Nyerere’s unpretentious, softly spoken and light hearted style (and wonderful smile) perfectly complemented his political vision of tolerance, courtesy, modesty and non-violence, words that could equally be applied to the nation as a whole.

Although Nyerere’s economic legacy-the decade-long Ujamaa was utterly disastrous, the one unassailable achievement over his 24-years tenure as president was as nation builder. From 129 different tribes, he forged cohesive state completely free of the divisive tribalism that has plunged many other African countries into chaos. As such, Nyerere is affectionately Known to Tanzanians as Mwalimu (“Teacher “) and Baba wa Tafaifa (“father of the Nation”).

Nyerere died of leukemia on October 14, 1999 (now a Nation holiday), and is buried in the family graveyard close to the museum in Butiama He ranks with Nelson Mandela as one of the twentieth century’s great African Statesmen.

Zanzibar Independence-and revolution

In Zanzibar the situation was more complicated, as there were effectively two Colonial Overlords: the British, who wielded political, judicial and military power and the Omani’s who owned most of the island’s resources, and whose sultans remained heads of state, in name at least.

The first rumblings of discontent came in 1948, when African Dockers and trade unionists publicly protested against British and Arab domination. Britain eventually allowed the formation of political parties to dispute elections held in 1957. Africans were represented by the Afro –Shiraz Party (ASP) , while the Arab minority supported the Zanzibar Nationalist party (ZNP) , between 1959 and 1961 a series of increasingly rigged elections gave the ZNP, in coalition with the Zanzibar and Pemba Peoples party ( ZPPP), disproportionate representation in the council , with the ASP consistently denied its right full share . Heedless of the rising tension, the British instituted limited self-government in June 1963, the Sultanate of Zanzibar came into being.

African resentment of the Arabs, who made up just twenty percent of the isles’ population, was barely contained, and on January 12, 1964, four weeks after Independence, John Okello, a Ugandan migrant labourer and self-styled “Field Marshal” led six hundred armed supporters in a bloody revolution. In one night of terror, some twelve thousand Arabs and Indians were massacred, and all but one percent of Stone Towns non-African inhabitants fled the Country. Among them was Zanzibar’s last sultan, Jamshid bin Abdullah, who ended up exiled in England.

Okello was merely the spark; the real power was wielded by the ASP leader, Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume, who declared himself Prime Minister of the Revolutionary Council of the People’s Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba.

Zanzibar was colonized by British and the Omans and it was separated from Tanganyika until in 1964 when President Nyerere signed a union that brought Tanganyika and Zanzibar together to form United Republic of Tanzania making Sheik Abeid Karume one of the vice-presidents.Indeed Zanzibar is a major tourists attraction in the world for cultural safaris,beach holidays,snorkeling & diving safaris.

Anthony Mmeri is the Editor and Tours Director at Wings Over Africa Aviation Limited. <br><a href='http://www.wingsoverafrica-aviation.com’> This is a Safari & Tour Company that specializes on Road & Air Safaris ,Filming Safaris In Tanzania|Kenya|Uganda|Rwanda|East Africa & Africa. </a> The website has guided thousands of travelers to achieve their dream holiday. For more information and guidance, visit the site at http://www.wingsoverafrica-aviation.com/index.php/safaris-east-africa/tanzania-tour-packages.html</a>