Comment by Muhammad Yussuf
“There shall be one state and you are the President. In forming this Union, there shall be one country and you are the President”.
This is what the Late Abeid Amani Karume is depicted by Makwaia wa Kuhenga to have told Mwalimu Nyerere in the wake of the establishment of the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar. In other words, Karume is said to have uttered those words according to Mwalimu Nyerere.
I have heard this quotation repeatedly time and time again in the past several years. But, there is no concrete evidence to substantiate that those very words were truly said by Karume at any time during his life time, i.e. before or after the Union’s inception. Not a single Zanzibari politician or journalist that I know of has ever corroborated Mwalimu’s now infamous quote. As a matter of fact, even Nyerere himself is believed to have ‘quoted’ Karume many years after his death; which means Nyerere himself had neither the courage nor the audacity to make that quotation at any given time during Karume’s life time. Why? Because there is a strong probability that Karume has never uttered those words to Nyerere in the first place.
On the contrary, there is strong evidence to suggest that Nyerere had only fabricated this lie or, to be more polite, misstatement, in order to portray Karume as a staunch Pan-Africanist and a strong supporter and an avid architect of the Union for the sole purpose of allaying any damaging perception that the Union that had been consummated in an unprecedented haste and without any prior consultations with members of the public from both constituent countries was nothing more than a surgical implementation of Nyerere’s long-standing political desire to annex Zanzibar into the Mainland territory as part and parcel of Tanganyika.
In other words, the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar was not established for the purpose and objective of implementing the noble ideals in support of Pan-Africanism. Rather, it was mainly established for the purpose of political expediency as exemplified by the political desires of both the so-called architects of the Union; because there is strong evidence to suggest that both Nyerere and Karume were not the kind of leaders who believed in and strongly supported the noble ideals of Pan-Africanism in the first place.
For instance, a strong believer in the ideals of Pan-Africanism, as Nyerere would have wished to make us believe, would not be at the forefront in spearheading a strong opposition against Ghanaian President Kwame Nkurmah’s famous idea for the establishment of a unitary Government for Africa during the first OAU summit conference that took place in Cairo in 1963. Importantly, a strong believer of Pan-Africanism would neither have supported the secession of Biafra from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, nor would he largely and deliberately have contributed to the demise of the East African Community in 1977 by merely refusing, for whatever reason, to sit on the same table with one of the three co-chairs of the East African Authority, a body that had the mandate of considering and approving the EAC budget, and hence the Community’s eventual collapse.
In retrospect, Nyerere’s insatiable quest to unite with Zanzibar was uniquely attributed to the fact that he wanted to annex Zanzibar so badly so that Tanganyika could be in a position to oversee the largely Muslim-inhabited independent state located just few miles away from its shores so that its considerable political and social influence over a good segment of Coastal and Mainland Muslim Tanganyikans could be effectively and permanently contained. Nyerere’s infamous statement to the effect that if he had his way he would keep Zanzibar as far away as possible from the shores of Tanganyika is a vivid testimony of Nyerere’s imagined fear of Zanzibar’s considerable political and social influence over Tanganyika.
That is why it was Nyerere (and not Karume) who travelled to Zanzibar to meet with Karume for the purpose of initiating and proposing the establishment of the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar. It was also Nyerere who had proposed the idea of merging TANU and ASP to Aboud Jumbe, the-then President of Zanzibar in 1977. And it was the very Nyerere who dumped Aboud Jumbe when he figured out that the stubborn Zanzibari politician had outlived his usefulness when he exhibited the audacity to vigorously question the supremacy of the party and called for the establishment of the three-tier system of Government for Tanzania.
Consequently, with the successful establishment of the Union and the merger of the two political parties into a much more robust and centralized political animal – CCM, Nyerere managed to seal the deal in achieving his long-standing goal of annexing Zanzibar into the so-called Union-fold. And, anyone who dared to question the Union was quickly and mercilessly labeled as an anti-Union element and a traitor who committed an act of treason.
On the other hand, Karume, too, was not a true believer of the ideals of Pan-Africanism as Makwaia wa Kuhenga would have wished to make us believe. As far as he was concerned, Karume was inclined to accept the idea of the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar for the sole purpose over the need to consolidating his political power and authority over Zanzibar after the 1964 revolution. It should be recalled here that after the revolution, Zanzibar did not have an army of its own. Karume, therefore, needed time to form one that would ensure Zanzibar’s continued political stability. Nyerere’s idea of establishing the Union between the two countries and his offer of 300 soldiers from Tanganyikan Police Force to help in the provision of Zanzibar’s security was, therefore, timely and a blessing in disguise in the eyes of politically masterful and erstwhile Karume.
Consequently, Karume viewed the Union between the two countries as a provisional political strategy that should be cautiously sustained until such point in time when Zanzibar’s security had been totally secured. He ordered his huge military arsenal, i.e. tanks, trucks, rockets and coast guard boats from the-then Communist Soviet Union and East Germany respectively. He categorically refused to deposit Zanzibar’s moneys into the Bank of Tanzania’s coffers. Instead, he established the People’s Bank of Zanzibar (PBZ) uniquely for the purpose of keeping Zanzibar Government’s moneys, both local and foreign deposits, in Zanzibar’s safe hands. In fact, just few weeks before his assassination, some concrete arrangements, at Karume’s direct urging, were already being undertaken by the Revolutionary Government towards the printing and subsequent issuance of Zanzibar’s own currency.
As if this was not enough, Karume made it quite clear that Nyerere’s famous Arusha Declaration did not concern or rule over Zanzibar. He strongly opposed any possible military intervention against Idi Amin’s Uganda and subsequently vowed that he would not allow Zanzibari soldiers to fight and die in a war that Zanzibar had nothing to do with. More significantly, he went on record to declaring that the Union was just like a leather jacket. In other words, whenever one feels hot, he can simply and freely take the jacket off.
As we celebrate the 45th Anniversary of the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar, if anything, the likes of Makwaia wa Kuhenga may wish to seriously ponder on these widely substantiated facts before embarking on a relentless campaign of trying to depict scenarios that are less reflective of what had truly transpired or motivated the founders of the Union to do what they have subsequently done in terms of satisfying their own political desires rather than implementing the noble causes and ideals of Pan-Africanism. The Makwaias should also be reminded of the fact that this is 21st Century; and long gone are the old political vagaries and expediencies of the 1960s that hardly have any bearing in shaping the thinking of today’s generation of highly educated and independent-minded Zanzibari intellectuals in the present-day Tanzania.
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