In late 1964, a 29-year-old African American journalist named Ida Lewis visited Dar es Salaam. In an article published in Life magazine, she described a city alive with grand visions of Africa’s postcolonial future. Meeting Tanzanian government ministers, she heard about plans for the liberation of southern Africa. Chinese support, she was told, would be critical in bringing down apartheid. ‘It will be our pleasure to strip Verwoerd of all his white glory and hang him from the highest pole in Johannesburg’, an unnamed minister told her. The Dar es Salaam which Lewis portrayed was also characterised by an overbearing sense of suspicion and secrecy. After a Kenyan newspaper published a recent photograph of Lewis posing next to a controversial revolutionary in Uganda, the Tanzanian authorities put her under surveillance and confiscated her passport. Lewis’ experiences reached audiences far beyond Life subscribers in the United States: an annotated photocopy of her story was filed away for reference by the South African Defence Forces in Pretoria, in a folder labelled ‘Tanzania – Terrorism’.Footnote 1
Lewis’ Life article was part of an emerging subgenre of writing on Dar es Salaam, in which Western correspondents depicted the city as a centre of revolutionary subversion in Africa. These claims were not entirely baseless. As this chapter explains, a combination of President Julius Nyerere’s principled but provocative foreign policy and a series of upheavals in East Africa turned the city into an epicentre of radical politics in the region (Map 1.1). Reading these events through the rigid frameworks of the Cold War, Western observers interpreted the organisation of anticolonial struggle as a conduit for communist intrigue, whereby the Soviet Union and China manipulated pliable African politicians to serve their ideological ends. In a political context marked by fears of superpower-sponsored coups, the Tanzanian regime became near paranoid about subversive activities in the capital. The consequence was the emergence of a ‘Cold War city’, simultaneously a concrete site of revolutionary encounters and a mental construct that captured a sense of insecurity on the part of Africans as well as outsiders.
This chapter provides an explanation of the ‘making’ of a Cold War city, followed by an examination of its political geography. The first part establishes how Nyerere developed a postcolonial foreign policy which was intended to protect Tanzania’s and Africa’s sovereignty through a remarkably enduring matrix of principles. It then argues that the outbreak of revolution in Zanzibar and a mutiny at home turned Dar es Salaam not just into a mecca for liberation movements, but also a critical site of Cold War competition. Further episodes of tension with major Western powers demonstrated just how serious the Nyerere government was about its principled foreign policy, while revealing the extent to which it had become sensitive to its own insecurity. Finally, the chapter shows how the urban fabric of Dar es Salaam became saturated in the tropes of the Cold War. From diplomatic receptions to hotel bars, the Tanzanian capital became a notorious site of rumour, propaganda, and espionage.
The Pillars of Nyerere’s Foreign Policy
Tanganyika’s (and, from 1964, Tanzania’s) foreign policy was defined by three key principles, as elaborated by Nyerere: African liberation, pan-Africanism, and non-alignment. They essentially represented different facets of the same world view, which revolved around the extension and preservation of African sovereignty, whether at the scale of the whole continent or through the unit of the nation-state. More broadly, Tanzania supported the sovereign claims of anticolonial movements from across the Third World. To this end, Nyerere remained committed to the idea of the United Nations as a forum for resolving international disputes. Yet by making Dar es Salaam a focal point for Third World liberation struggles and remaining open to no-strings-attached aid from almost any source, these foreign policy precepts pulled Tanzania more closely into the Cold War rivalries that Nyerere resisted.Footnote 2
The first pillar was an unwavering commitment to the liberation of African peoples still living under white minority rule. In Addis Ababa in May 1963, where heads of state founded the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), Nyerere emphasised the continent’s duty to free those still living under colonial oppression. African leaders, he argued, should view the endurance of colonialism elsewhere ‘with the same gravity and same seriousness’ as the continued occupation of their own territories. ‘The real and humiliating truth is that Africa is not free’, Nyerere said, ‘and therefore it is Africa which should take the necessary collective measures to free Africa’.Footnote 3 Paul Rupia, an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the time, recalled that Tanganyika’s foreign policy was ‘dictated’ from the outset by its involvement in the liberation struggle in southern Africa.Footnote 4 Initially, Nyerere encouraged peaceful negotiations with the white minority states. But as their intransigence became clear, he concluded that there was no alternative to armed struggle. As Nyerere reasoned, ‘when the door of peaceful progress to freedom is slammed shut, and bolted, then the struggle must take other forms; we cannot surrender’.Footnote 5
Dar es Salaam’s credentials as a centre for trans-territorial anticolonial mobilisation were established even before Tanganyika’s independence. The Pan-African Freedom Movement of Eastern and Central Africa (PAFMECA), founded in 1958 as a regional organisation for anticolonial leaders, set up its headquarters in the city.Footnote 6 As uhuru loomed, Tanganyika’s geographic location turned Dar es Salaam into a muster point for dissidents from the repressive settler regimes of southern Africa. Its central position in these liberation networks was confirmed after the establishment of the OAU. The organisation’s founder members decided that a body should be created to coordinate support for the exiles – ‘a bank of blood’, as Algeria’s Ahmed Ben Bella put it.Footnote 7 Dar es Salaam was an obvious home for this Liberation Committee, which was chaired by Oscar Kambona, then foreign minister of Tanganyika and secretary-general of TANU. In Dar es Salaam, the liberation movements’ offices clustered around the city centre, especially around Arab Street (later Nkrumah Street). They became central actors in the city’s revolutionary and Cold War politics, as explored in Chapter 4.
Pan-Africanism represented the second pillar of Nyerere’s foreign policy. Like many of his contemporaries, he believed that the continent’s shared ‘Africanness’ could help to form a common front against neocolonial predation. ‘Indissoluble African Unity is the stone bridge which would enable us all to walk in safety over this whirlpool of power politics’, Nyerere wrote.Footnote 8 But Africa’s leaders were hopelessly split into rival blocs. Some, like Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, called for a rapid movement towards complete African unity. Others advocated a slower approach. Events in Congo, which demonstrated the vulnerability of the continent’s states to external intervention, focused minds. The formation of the OAU represented a victory for Tanganyikan diplomacy: adopting a pragmatic role, Nyerere was instrumental in finding sufficient common ground among his fellow heads of state. Yet the intergovernmental structures of the OAU ultimately consolidated the primacy of the nation-state in Africa. By the 1970s, a disillusioned Nyerere had become fiercely critical of the OAU as a ‘trade union’ for despots, who used its charter’s principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states as cover for committing atrocities against their own people.
Unlike more radical pan-Africanists, Nyerere believed in a gradualist path to continental unity. The formation of regional blocs had to precede any immediate leap to a ‘United States of Africa’. During the independence struggle, TANU had mapped out a future East African Federation with Kenya and Uganda. However, the same problems that dogged the wider pan-African project also affected these attempts to forge regional unity. Divergent interests in Kenya and Uganda made their leaders sceptical of the idea. Critics portrayed the proposed federation as a neocolonial manoeuvre to smother national sovereignty. Ultimately, the rhetorical commitment to federate made by Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, and Milton Obote in June 1963 was never fulfilled.Footnote 9 Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda did eventually come together in 1967 to form the East African Community (EAC), an economic bloc which represented a diluted version of earlier visions. The EAC’s ten-year existence was characterised by continual disputes, as its member states set out on contrasting economic and political trajectories. In a pattern repeated elsewhere in the continent, postcolonial elites jealously guarded the fragile sovereignty of their new nation-states.Footnote 10
The final pillar of Tanganyika’s foreign policy was non-alignment. In 1961, representatives of an array of mostly Third World states met in Belgrade, where they committed themselves to remaining outside of the rival Cold War blocs. Although their own understandings of ‘non-alignment’ differed, these countries believed that it offered the possibility of maintaining an independent foreign policy and thereby preserve their sovereignty.Footnote 11 For a state like Tanganyika, short of financial capital and technical expertise, this was no easy task. Days after uhuru in December 1961, Nyerere told the UN General Assembly that Tanganyika had no ‘feelings of enmity toward any peoples in the world’. Non-alignment did not mean staying equidistant from the superpowers, but rather refraining from adopting foreign policy positions out of Cold War sympathies. ‘Internationally, we believe that we have entered a world riven by ideological dissensions’, said Nyerere. ‘We are anxious to keep out of these disputes, and anxious to see that the nations of our continent are not used as pawns in conflicts which very often do not concern them at all.’Footnote 12 Over time, the accent of Nyerere’s non-alignment shifted from the political to the economic. He saw the movement as representing a ‘trade union’ of the poor whose opponents were not the Cold War powers, but industrialised states which kept nominally independent Third World countries in a relationship of dependency.
While non-alignment remained a constant feature of Nyerere’s diplomacy, it was the most complex of these three tenets to elaborate and put into practice. The non-aligned world view was simultaneously an attempt to transcend the Cold War and an admission of its geopolitical and ideological pervasiveness. As a Tanzanian diplomat put it, ‘non-alignment is a meaningless phrase except in relation to something else; a house can only be out of alignment if there is a street with which it is non-aligned!’Footnote 13 Non-alignment represented a creative response to the Cold War – but it was a response, nonetheless. It was also difficult to implement. Whereas Nyerere could leave other junior party and government spokespersons to attack ‘imperialist’ powers and acclaim the liberation struggle, the careful calibrations involved in maintaining a non-aligned stance were less suited to such rhetoric. Indeed, interventions on questions about the global struggle against colonialism frequently elicited complaints that Tanzania was anti-Western. Tanzania had to appear non-aligned to observers of all Cold War inclinations, while also entering into aid relationships, intervening in liberation movement disputes, and setting out a socialist development strategy. As this book demonstrates, Nyerere spent years fighting rearguard actions against Western accusations which alleged that Tanzania was too close to the communist powers.
The compass constituted by these three principles – liberation, pan-Africanism, and non-alignment – was intended to navigate a complex world in the time of decolonisation and superpower rivalry. Its needle deliberately pointed Tanzania’s foreign policy in a direction that ran perpendicular to the simplified Cold War binaries through which many observers outside of Africa sought to interpret Nyerere’s approach.Footnote 14 On paper, these principles were logical counterparts to one another: full, meaningful decolonisation of the continent would only come about through a united, liberated Africa, which protected its sovereignty by avoiding entanglements with the Cold War powers. Translating this logic into practice was difficult. Although these principles were shared by most of Africa’s first generation of leaders, there were different opinions about how African unity was to be reached, how liberation struggles should be conducted, and what non-alignment actually meant. A world in flux at the height of the Cold War and the process of decolonisation threw up new geopolitical dilemmas which confounded easy resolution, as Chapter 3 shows with reference to the ‘German question’.
Africa’s newly independent states were essentially novices in the world of ‘official’ foreign policy. Struggles for liberation had certainly demanded a degree of international diplomacy. But although colonial administrations left behind the framework for various government departments, African states had to create a postcolonial foreign affairs apparatus from scratch. Under-resourced foreign ministries hastily set up embassies in key diplomatic centres, especially in Europe and the capitals of the superpowers. In Dar es Salaam, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs operated out of a former colonial administrative building on the waterfront. When Paul Rupia joined the Ministry as a civil servant in 1963, he had just one colleague in the Division of African Affairs – a young Benjamin Mkapa, later the third president of Tanzania.Footnote 15 Even though the number of officials rose from 30 in 1961 to 364 in 1967, the Ministry remained underfinanced and faced, in its own assessment, a ‘serious’ problem in recruiting trained staff.Footnote 16 This shortage of diplomatic experience led Nyerere to consolidate control of foreign policy in the presidency. ‘Mwalimu Nyerere was always the [de facto] minister for foreign affairs’, a former Tanzanian diplomat recalled. A minister ‘knew there were decisions he could not make without reference to the president’.Footnote 17
Although Nyerere may have set the guidelines for Tanzania’s foreign policy, he never had total control over it. Certainly, in terms of making high-level geopolitical decisions, his word was almost always final. However, the implementation of foreign policy involved a whole gamut of other actors, including government officials, junior ministers, and the OAU Liberation Committee secretariat. In public, Tanzanian intellectuals and journalists debated the foreign affairs issues of the day. While they did so largely within the scope of Nyerere’s own policy, the tone and accent of this discussion posed public relations problems for the government. As Chapters 5 and 6 demonstrate, party youth activists and ideologues in government newspapers expressed opinions which shared Nyerere’s overarching world view yet did so in a manner that risked diplomatic embarrassment or upsetting the public face of non-alignment. In early 1964, as the next section shows, a series of regional upheavals put these foreign policy principles to a severe test.
Revolution, Mutiny, and Union
Seventy-four kilometres north of Dar es Salaam lies the main port to the archipelago of Zanzibar.Footnote 18 Over the course of the nineteenth century, the Omani sultanate of Zanzibar become a regional superpower in Eastern Africa, through a booming clove trade and its involvement in the Indian Ocean slave trade. The imposition of European colonial rule severely diminished this status. From 1890, Zanzibar was ruled as a British Protectorate. After a fractious period of democratic elections, the islands attained independence in December 1963. Just a month later, in the early hours of 12 January 1964, the coalition government of the Zanzibar Nationalist Party (ZNP) and Zanzibar and Pemba People’s Party (ZPPP) was overthrown in a violent coup d’état. Members of the youth wing of the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP), acting in collaboration with a Ugandan migrant named John Okello, seized the police headquarters, post office, and radio station. As the ruling sultan fled into exile, the coup makers installed Abeid Karume, the leader of the ASP, as president of the revolutionary regime. Thousands of Zanzibaris, mostly of Arab descent, were killed in racial pogroms. Perhaps a third of Zanzibar’s Arab population died or were forced into exile.Footnote 19
Zanzibar had a population of just 300,000. Yet news of the revolution panicked Western onlookers beyond proportion. The United States feared that the coup had been backed by outside communist forces and offered openings for Marxist encroachment in Africa. Washington’s ambassador to Tanganyika cautioned that Zanzibar could become ‘a base for subversive and insurgency operations against [the] mainland from Kenya to the Cape’. The CIA’s reports drew on sketchy knowledge of Zanzibaris who were known to have spent time in Cuba to paint a nightmarish picture of communist penetration. The press echoed these concerns. The New York Times warned that ‘Zanzibar is on the verge of becoming the Cuba of Africa’. It suggested that the Cuban embassy in Dar es Salaam was orchestrating these communist grand designs.Footnote 20 Britain and the United States consequently delayed their recognition of the Karume regime. Washington even tried to pressure London into military intervention in the islands.Footnote 21
American diplomats and journalists were particularly troubled by the inclusion in the revolutionary government of two ‘extremists’: Kassim Hanga and Abdulrahman Mohammed ‘Babu’. Hanga was an ASP member, who had trained as a schoolteacher before heading abroad. In 1960 he travelled to Moscow, having obtained a scholarship to study at Lumumba University. Babu, who was intellectually and politically the sharper of the pair, had a similarly cosmopolitan background, although he gravitated towards China rather than the Soviet Union. From 1951 to 1957, Babu studied and worked in London, where he became immersed in overlapping political circles of British socialism and African nationalism. On his return home, Babu earned a reputation as a brilliant political organiser for the ZNP. He travelled widely on the anticolonial conference circuit around Africa and beyond. Following a visit to China, Babu became the Zanzibar correspondent for the New China News Agency. These connections created friction with the Arab patricians who led the ZNP, as well as with the British colonial administration. In May 1962, Babu was arrested on suspicion of arson and imprisoned. Shortly after his release in June 1963, he broke with the ZNP leadership to form the self-styled revolutionary Umma Party. A handful of Umma cadres received guerrilla training in Cuba. After the seizure of power, Hanga became Zanzibar’s vice-president and Babu its foreign minister.Footnote 22
In Western eyes, the presence of Babu and Hanga at the prow of the revolution was evidence that the forces of global communism were at work in Zanzibar. This misunderstood the pair’s role in the uprising and its underlying causes. Babu was not even present in Zanzibar during the coup itself, which was primarily the work of the ASP Youth League. Moreover, Western onlookers’ fixation on the Cold War dimensions of events led them to overlook the deeper communal tensions which precipitated the violent revolution. As Jonathon Glassman has shown, the legacies of slavery and socio-economic disparities between the archipelago’s ethno-racial groups shaped the fraught years of democratic politics which preceded independence. While the generally wealthier Arab minority tended to support the ZNP, the ASP drew most of its members from the poorer African and ‘Shirazi’ populations. These racial tensions were exacerbated by the rhetoric of Zanzibari intellectuals and politicians as they searched for votes. In the June 1963 elections, a ZNP-ZPPP coalition gained a majority of seats in the legislature, despite the ASP winning the popular vote. After independence in December, the ZNP-ZPPP government cracked down on opposition parties, restricted press freedoms, and dismissed African members of the bureaucracy and police force. Both the ASP and ZNP did employ transnational political languages to mobilise support and attack their rivals: the ASP, for example, presented itself as part of a pan-African movement, while red-baiting the ZNP by drawing attention to its connections with Nasser’s Cairo and the socialist world. But this was largely a means of translating older, local cleavages into the political discourse of the day. The ASP revolutionaries fundamentally acted to overthrow what they felt was an unjust, undemocratic continuation of Arab domination.Footnote 23
After the seizure of power, the new regime set about consolidating its control over the islands. Babu believed that he and his Umma followers transformed a ‘lumpen uprising’ into a ‘popular, anti-imperialist revolution’. This might overplay Umma’s influence, but certainly Babu, Hanga, and other leading socialist thinkers in the ASP steered Zanzibar towards social revolution.Footnote 24 The government created a thirty-man Revolutionary Council as the supreme authority in Zanzibar. Umma was dissolved and Zanzibar became a one-party state. The regime began implementing a range of redistributive reforms, announcing the nationalisation of land and seizing housing from Arabs and Asians.Footnote 25 But it was the West’s prevarication over recognising the revolutionary regime, based on suspicions that it was a communist proxy, which opened the space for the socialist powers to increase their presence in Zanzibar. China offered a $518,000 grant. The Soviet Union agreed to purchase $318,000 in stockpiled cloves. Babu became the first foreign minister of a non-communist Third World regime to recognise the GDR, which made an ambitious commitment to build apartment blocks to house 40,000 Zanzibaris. This financial support was complemented by an influx of communist aid workers.Footnote 26
A violent uprising with a long, complex genealogy in Zanzibar’s cosmopolitan but unequal society thereby became a major Cold War flashpoint in Africa. The revolution’s origins lay in a history of slave labour and racial stratification, which became foundational narratives for political parties in the series of tense elections that preceded independence. Yet figures like Babu and Hanga were also part of a new generation of well-travelled, well-educated organisers who had close connections in socialist Cold War capitals. The American response to the coup focused overwhelmingly on this handful of revolutionaries, at the expense of the broader context. This was the outcome of poor intelligence, but also representative of a mentality in Washington which interpreted developments in Africa primarily through the prism of the Cold War. However, by delaying recognition of Karume’s government, the United States abetted the emergence of the very spectre of Third World communism of which it was so afraid.
One week after the outbreak of revolution in Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam was convulsed with its own bout of political turmoil. On the morning of 20 January, residents woke to the sight of soldiers on the city’s streets. In an apparent echo of events in Zanzibar, the askaris of the Tanganyika Rifles had set up roadblocks around the city, and seized the radio station, post office, and police headquarters. They locked up senior officers in storerooms at the Colito Barracks. Troops surrounded State House and demanded an audience with Nyerere. To demonstrate their seriousness, they trained a mortar on the building. An army mutiny was under way, which quickly spread: first to Tabora in central Tanganyika, then in the following days to troops in Kenya and Uganda.Footnote 27
Nyerere had already fled Dar es Salaam to a beach house several kilometres away. Unable to locate the president, the troops entered the National Assembly at the nearby Karimjee Hall. Amid the confusion, rioting broke out in the commercial district of Dar es Salaam, as Africans attacked Asian-owned shops: as many as thirty people may have died, with hundreds injured. Rumours swirled around the city, including the suggestion that Oscar Kambona, whom Nyerere had left to negotiate with the askaris, had himself been plotting a coup. Events across the Zanzibar Channel heightened tensions. But although they certainly alerted troops to the possibilities of armed insurrection, the mutiny had very different causes from the revolution. The mutineers were dissatisfied with their low pay, poor living conditions, and the government’s decision to retain white European officers within the army rather than fully embrace a policy of Africanisation.
On 21 January, Nyerere slipped back into Dar es Salaam. In a radio broadcast, he said that there had been ‘minor troubles’ in the capital. Yet just as the government seemed to be regaining its authority, events took a critical turn. Tanganyikan intelligence reported the discovery at a trade unionist’s house of a list of opposition figures who would purportedly form a new government following a seizure of power that would take place on 25 or 26 January. Fearing that mutiny was about to mutate into a trade union-backed coup, Nyerere requested British military assistance. The following morning, British commandos took control of the barracks, to minimal resistance. The mutiny was over. But the resort to military intervention from the former colonial power was a major embarrassment to Nyerere, who described ‘a week of most grievous shame for our nation’.Footnote 28
On the continental stage, Nyerere faced accusations of double standards. Since independence, he had talked of the need to escape the shackles of postcolonial dependency. But in its time of need, Tanganyika had fallen back on its imperial connections with Britain. To explain his actions, Nyerere hastily convened an emergency meeting of OAU foreign ministers in Dar es Salaam in mid-February. Nyerere partly justified the recourse to British intervention by drawing attention to Tanganyika’s position as a ‘border-state’ and the home of the Liberation Committee. He argued that any situation in Tanganyika that interfered with the ‘effectiveness’ or ‘psychological comfort’ of the liberation movements was ‘the concern of the whole of Africa’. On 20 March, a contingent of Nigerian troops arrived to replace the British forces.Footnote 29 In light of Nyerere’s embarrassment, it seems fanciful, as one historian has done, to describe the British intervention as ‘a spectacle of power by a sovereign head of state, exercising authority both within the nation and as a member of the international community’.Footnote 30 More accurately, the mutiny laid bare the fragility of the Tanganyikan government.
The events of early 1964 enhanced Dar es Salaam’s reputation as a revolutionary node in Eastern Africa, at a time when the liberation movements had established themselves as central actors in the city’s political life. However, just as Nyerere used their presence in Dar es Salaam to justify his decision to recall colonial troops, he was aware that the movements themselves were bound up in the challenges of urban control. Just before the outbreak of the Zanzibar Revolution, an Algerian ship had docked in the port, carrying a cargo of arms. Speculation was rife that they were destined for Mozambican guerrillas, or even Zanzibari rebels. To silence the rumours, Kambona asserted that they were intended for the Tanganyika Rifles.Footnote 31 Although the liberation movements played no role in the mutiny, the government became increasingly anxious about their activities. In February, two members of the African National Congress (ANC) were arrested after they were overheard making remarks in a bar that the government had shown signs of weakness during the mutiny, especially in calling in the British troops.Footnote 32 In October, the government announced that the liberation movements would be limited to four official representatives in Dar es Salaam. Surplus officials, the British high commission reported, were to move to ‘a more remote place than the capital, where they would be less able to stir up trouble’ or be subverted by ‘foreign diplomats’.Footnote 33 In response, the ANC relocated its headquarters from Dar es Salaam to the provincial town of Morogoro, though it maintained an office in the capital. This allowed the ANC to operate with a larger staff but came at the cost of reducing its contact-work among Dar es Salaam’s international networks.Footnote 34
The government responded to the mutiny by undertaking a major overhaul of key state institutions and strengthening TANU’s control over them. First, the Tanganyika Rifles was replaced with a new Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF), which was closely tied to the ruling party. To minimise the potential for the army to develop into a rival power bloc, service was limited to three years. Mrisho Sarakikya, who had demonstrated his loyalty to the government during the Tabora mutiny, was appointed head of this new force.Footnote 35 Second, following the discovery of trade union involvement in the mutiny, the government dissolved the Tanganyika Federation of Labour and established the National Union of Tanganyika Workers (NUTA), a state-affiliated umbrella organisation.Footnote 36 Third, TANU introduced a system which grouped communities into ten-house ‘cells’, each led by a party activist. Already mooted in 1963, the cell block system was a means of popular mobilisation and conduit for communication between the party leadership and the people. But it also sought to extend surveillance over the general population, justified by reference to the international threat posed to the country. Cell leaders in Dar es Salaam were told they must be ‘the eyes of the nation’ and ‘expose dangerous characters like thieves and other infiltrators who may poison our nation and put its safety at stake’.Footnote 37
Against this backdrop of institutional change, the country became a de jure one-party state. These plans were already afoot before the events of early 1964: a year earlier, TANU’s National Executive Committee determined to abolish the multiparty system. This decision did not emerge solely from an authoritarian attempt by TANU leaders to crush their remaining rivals, although there was certainly an element of this involved. Rather, as Emma Hunter has shown, the ending of multiparty politics represented the culmination of a vibrant conversation about the meaning, purpose, and value of democracy which had begun during the late colonial era. Nyerere weighed in on these debates himself, arguing that multipartyism was unhelpful and even inimical to the practices of democracy and the pursuit of development in a situation where TANU already commanded such mass support. After the mutiny, he established a presidential commission which canvassed views about a new system. This process received a sense of urgency from the upheavals of January. A system of ‘one-party democracy’ was formally introduced with the 1965 constitution. Subsequent years witnessed intense debates about the ideological substance which would flesh out this institutional apparatus, as we will see. But the political space for challenging TANU’s authority became increasingly limited.Footnote 38
On 23 April 1964, Tanganyikan radio suddenly announced that Nyerere and Karume had signed an act of union. This brought together the mainland with Zanzibar to form the state that became the United Republic of Tanzania. Under the new constitutional arrangements, Zanzibar ceded certain powers, including its foreign and defence policy, to a new union government based in Dar es Salaam, while retaining control over most of its internal affairs.Footnote 39 Nyerere explained that the union was motivated by pan-African sentiment alone. He described it as a stepping-stone to African unity. ‘There is no other reason’, he told parliament. ‘It is insult to Africa to read cold war into every move towards African unity … We do not propose the Union to support any of the ‘isms of this world.’Footnote 40 Two days later, Nyerere announced the first union cabinet. Five portfolios were awarded to members of Zanzibar’s Revolutionary Council. They included Hanga, who became minister of industries, mines, and power, and Babu, who was appointed minister of state in the Directorate of Development and Planning.Footnote 41
No other episode in Tanzanian history has attracted such heated debate as the union.Footnote 42 Some portray it as a constitutional coup, orchestrated by mainlanders, that deprived Zanzibar of its independence.Footnote 43 Another viewpoint maintains that Nyerere was forced into the union by the imperialist machinations of the United States.Footnote 44 Accepting Nyerere’s rhetoric at face value, others continue to see it as a lasting success of the pan-African moment.Footnote 45 Certainly, the pan-African spirit invoked by both mainland and island governments to justify the union over the following years was not pure gloss. In 1958, TANU and the ASP had announced their commitment to unite their states after both had gained independence. TANU had supported the ASP during Zanzibar’s pre-uhuru elections and the ASP had joined other liberation movements in opening an office in Dar es Salaam. Yet Nyerere’s soaring pan-Africanist rhetoric in parliament elided the geopolitical realities which brought the two leaders into their secretive deal.
Instead, the union was the product of Nyerere’s pragmatic response to a situation which threatened to destabilise East Africa and submerge the region in Cold War conflict. Nyerere had long regarded Zanzibar, with its toxic racial politics, as a problem on the horizon. ‘If I could tow the island out into the middle of the Indian Ocean, I’d do it’, he had once said in private.Footnote 46 The growing communist presence in Zanzibar exacerbated these concerns. However, instead of trying to distance Tanganyika from this offshore crisis, Nyerere decided to pull Zanzibar closer to the mainland. After talks over an East African Federation with Kenya and Uganda fell through, Nyerere pushed forward with plans for a bilateral union with Zanzibar. Although American and British diplomats encouraged the Tanganyikan government to intervene, the driving forces behind the negotiations were Nyerere and Kambona. Karume was less committed to the idea of a union, but his power in Zanzibar had been slipping away to the socialists on the Revolutionary Council, led by Hanga and Babu. Anxious to maintain his grasp on power, Karume exchanged Zanzibar’s autonomy for security.
The union bill sailed through the Tanganyikan parliament, but its passage in Zanzibar was mired in legal opacity. The articles were only discussed by the Revolutionary Council and never formally ratified. Some of its members were unwilling to forfeit the islands’ autonomy.Footnote 47 When the act of union was signed on 22 April, Babu was in Indonesia, negotiating a triangular trade agreement that also involved the GDR. In his later writings and following personal fall outs with both Karume and Nyerere, Babu was deeply critical of the union. He believed that Nyerere had caved into American pressure to derail the Zanzibar Revolution.Footnote 48 Other accounts claim that Babu was initially supportive of the union, since it would give him a wider arena to realise his socialist goals.Footnote 49 Yet the coincidence of the signing of the union with the absence of Zanzibar’s foreign minister suggests that negotiators felt that Babu was a likely obstacle.Footnote 50 The transfer of Babu and Hanga into the mainland government had the intended effect of taking the heat out of Zanzibari politics. Socialist aid workers and technicians continued to arrive in Zanzibar from Eastern Europe and especially China into the 1970s. But Western fears of Zanzibar becoming a ‘Cuba in Africa’ faded away as media attention died down. Instead, the kleptocratic state ruled by Karume and the Revolutionary Council became a source of embarrassment for Nyerere, as explained in Chapter 7.
Cold War Plots and Broken Relations
If Nyerere hoped the union with Zanzibar would insulate the new country against Cold War threats, events over the course of the next twelve months proved otherwise. A dispute with West Germany over the question of East German diplomatic representation in Dar es Salaam ended with Nyerere rejecting all capital aid from Bonn – events which are covered in detail in Chapter 3. This was an argument about the sticky details of diplomatic protocol, however. More dramatic were the disputes that jolted Tanzania’s relationship with the United States and the break in diplomatic relations with Britain over Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI).
On 9 November 1964, the Tanzanian ambassador to Congo-Leopoldville brought a clutch of photocopies to Dar es Salaam. These documents were supposedly obtained from the office of Moïse Tshombe, the Congolese prime minister. They indicated that the United States was plotting a coup against the Tanzanian government. Nyerere was on holiday at the time and so entrusted the issue to Oscar Kambona, his foreign minister. Rather than first summoning the American ambassador, as Nyerere might have done, Kambona chose to make the matter public. He had the incendiary text printed in the TANU newspaper, the Nationalist and then made the accusations against the United States official at a press conference. The American ambassador, William Leonhart, quickly concluded that the letters were clumsy forgeries. At a rally in Dar es Salaam on 15 November, Nyerere attempted to defuse the situation without conceding ground. He challenged the Americans to show that the letters were forged and asked for sympathy. What other reaction, Nyerere pointed out, could be expected from Tanzania? Washington had been hostile towards his country since the Zanzibar Revolution. After FRELIMO began its liberation struggle in Mozambique in September, there was now a serious military threat to Tanzania from Portugal. ‘A man who has once been bitten by a snake starts if he sees even a palm leaf’, Nyerere said, quoting a Swahili proverb.Footnote 51 In December, he announced that he had accepted an American statement that the letters were fakes. But he did not offer a full apology. The letters’ origins remain shrouded in mystery. Claims that they were produced by the Czechoslovakian or Portuguese secret services rest on thin evidence.Footnote 52
The situation was aggravated by events across Tanzania’s western border. Tanzania had been providing concealed support for the ‘Simba’ rebel forces in eastern Congo, where followers of the assassinated Lumumba had established their capital in Stanleyville. Fearing the disintegration of the pro-Western regime in Leopoldville, Belgium and the United States colluded to recruit a force of mercenaries, mainly drawn from Rhodesia and South Africa. When these troops closed in on Stanleyville, the Simbas took hundreds of white hostages. On 24 November, Belgian paratroopers jumped from American aeroplanes to seize control of the city. This news was met with outrage in Dar es Salaam. The Nationalist described Stanleyville as ‘a ruthless, crushing intervention supported by the full blast of malevolent propaganda and protestations of sickening hypocrisy to cover the exercise of naked power’.Footnote 53 University students demonstrated outside the American embassy.Footnote 54 Nyerere gave his permission for Cuba to use Tanzania as a base for aiding the remaining Congolese rebels. In April 1965, Che Guevara launched an armed expedition across Lake Tanganyika, which ultimately ended in failure. Guevara returned to Dar es Salaam, disillusioned with the prospects of revolutionary war in Africa. He spent the next few months secretly living in the Cuban embassy, writing his memoirs of the Congo expedition.Footnote 55
Just two months after the ‘letter plot’, the United States found itself at the centre of another scandal in Tanzania. On 15 January 1965, the Tanzanian authorities announced the expulsion of two American diplomats: Frank Carlucci, consul in Zanzibar, and Robert Gordon, deputy chief-of-mission in Dar es Salaam. The origins of the affair were innocuous. Discussing the appropriate American response to the first anniversary of the Zanzibar Revolution over the telephone, the pair felt that a simple statement of congratulations would be insufficient, and that ‘bigger guns’ were required – a reference to a potential visit to Zanzibar by the under-secretary of state for Africa, G. Mennen Williams. A Stasi-trained Zanzibari intelligence officer was listening in on the conversation. He interpreted the phrase ‘bigger guns’ literally and believed that he had uncovered an American plot against the Karume regime. Both Carlucci and his assistant in Zanzibar at the time have alleged that the tape was doctored by the East Germans. On this occasion, Nyerere seemed convinced that the threat was real. He made clear that this was a private matter involving two rogue officials and that neither the State Department nor ambassador Leonhart were implicated. Yet if his aim was to prevent the deterioration of relations with Washington, Nyerere failed. The Tanzanian ambassador was swiftly expelled from the United States.Footnote 56
The passage of time renders the level of misunderstanding in these incidents almost farcical. But it cannot obscure the genuine sense of fear of outside intervention that preoccupied the Tanzanian elite following events in Zanzibar and Congo. Regardless of their exact origins and circumstances, the Congo letters and Zanzibar phone tap exhibited the nervousness – even paranoia – about external plotting against the new Tanzanian state. ‘We should look at history and watch out’, Nyerere told a rally. ‘What happened in Congo could happen here.’Footnote 57 The letters from Leopoldville represented the tip of the iceberg of a culture of textual forgery and misinformation that became characteristic of Cold War politics in Dar es Salaam. Equally, the ‘phone tap’ served as a warning about the insecurity of communications systems, as the city became a centre for espionage. Dar es Salaam’s public sphere was replete with anti-American sentiment. While the United States rebuilt its relationship with Tanzania, it remained the subject of continuous talk about ‘imperialist’ plots and a common target of attacks from TANU’s radicals, as subsequent chapters demonstrate.
Whereas neither the ‘letter plot’ or the ‘phone tap’ brought about a breach in Tanzania’s relations with the United States, Rhodesia’s UDI led Nyerere to take this ultimate diplomatic step. The crisis of Rhodesian decolonisation had been brewing for several years. Leaders of the two banned opposition parties, ZAPU and its breakaway faction ZANU, were already familiar faces in Dar es Salaam’s exile scene. Tensions reached their height in 1965, when Ian Smith’s Rhodesian Front became deadlocked in negotiations with Harold Wilson’s Labour government in London. Nyerere expressed his strength of feeling in June, when he refused to sign the final communiqué at a Commonwealth conference after Wilson failed to provide assurance that Britain would not give independence to Rhodesia without majority rule.Footnote 58
Like Stanleyville a year earlier, Rhodesia’s UDI of 11 November 1965 provoked outrage in Dar es Salaam. Having been denied permission to hold a protest involving thousands of schoolchildren, university students pushed ahead with a demonstration outside the British high commission. The protest quickly turned violent: students tore down and burned the union flag, wrecked the high commissioner’s car, and smashed windows. The police dispersed the crowd using tear gas. Around one hundred protesters were rounded up and driven to State House, where they were admonished by Nyerere for this ill-discipline. The students then returned to the high commission to apologise for their actions.Footnote 59 The Ministry of Information warned that the police would deal severely with any repeat of this ‘unfortunate incident’.Footnote 60 As this episode showed, Nyerere’s foreign policy struggles were inward- as well as outward-looking. This sort of violent protest embarrassed the Tanzanian leadership, which was sensitive to the risks it posed to its own moral authority. The government’s response to the protest was a precursor to future interventions in both street demonstrations and the press, as later chapters show.
Meanwhile, a meeting of OAU foreign ministers in Addis Ababa on 3 December called on African states to sever diplomatic relations with Britain if it did not ‘crush’ the Rhodesian rebellion within two weeks. When the OAU ultimatum expired, Tanzania was one of nine African states to break relations with London. The decision came at significant cost, as Britain froze a £7.5 million development aid loan.Footnote 61 However, three-quarters of African states failed to follow through on the OAU’s resolution, to Nyerere’s dismay. ‘Do African states meet in solemn conclave to make a noise? Or do they mean what they say?’, he asked parliament.Footnote 62 Nyerere remained steadfast to the principle of ‘no independence before majority African rule’ in Rhodesia. Diplomatic relations between Britain and Tanzania were not restored until July 1968. To avoid the appearance of having caved into British pressure, Nyerere’s volte face was accompanied by a refusal to turn back on a decision to cancel pensions to British expatriates who had worked for the colonial government. Britain responded by terminating all aid and technical assistance to Tanzania.Footnote 63 The new high commissioner in Dar es Salaam urged London that any concession to Smith’s regime would be inimical to Britain’s broader interests in Africa. He warned that a Rhodesian settlement ‘unfavourable to African opinion’ would create ‘a situation which Communist Governments (particularly Peking) would relish as a success scored by them without effort on their part’.Footnote 64 The question of Zimbabwean liberation, bound up in the politics of the global Cold War, thereby became a mainstay of Britain’s relations with Tanzania.
Tanzania and the Socialist World
While Tanzania became embroiled in disputes with Western powers, it attempted to strengthen its connections with communist China and the Soviet Union. The United Republic was keen to diversify its sources of aid, including by approaching the socialist superpowers. This meant, as Nyerere stressed time and time again, that Tanzania was following a genuinely non-aligned course. In the zero-sum calculations of Western diplomats, it represented something more dangerous altogether. From Nyerere’s point of view, the transfer of the Zanzibari revolutionaries to his cabinet was therefore both an asset and a problem. On the positive side, their connections with Moscow and Beijing represented potential conduits for deepening relationships with the communist world. At the same time, the presence of Hanga and Babu at the centre of government increased the fearmongering in the West about Tanzania’s geopolitical tilt. They provided grist to the mill for journalists whose sensationalised articles talked up communist subversion in Dar es Salaam.
The communist powers were disappointed at the turn of events since the Zanzibar Revolution. They believed that the union with the mainland had extinguished the flame of a promising revolutionary moment in the islands. The Chinese ambassador to Zanzibar sounded his concern that the Nyerere government ‘wanted the revolution to stop’ and was ‘pulling it back’.Footnote 65 In November 1964, Soviet and East German intelligence officials described the union as ‘a victory of the Western powers and Nyerere’, who had ‘played an extraordinarily negative role’. As we will see in Chapter 3, the East Germans were unhappy at losing their embassy in Zanzibar, as Dar es Salaam became the diplomatic capital of the new republic. Nonetheless, they sought to make the best of the new circumstances. The KGB and Stasi resolved that Zanzibar still had to be supported as a ‘base for progress’ and a ‘fist within Tanzania’. They agreed that they should continue to look to Babu and Hanga in order to influence the situation in the country.Footnote 66
Nyerere had similar thoughts. He sought to use the Zanzibari revolutionaries in the mainland government to build bridges with the socialist world. The president initially tried to draw on Hanga’s influence to push for aid agreements from the Eastern Bloc. In August 1964, Hanga supported a delegation led by second vice-president Rashidi Kawawa on a tour of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Soviet Union. However, the Tanzanians received a cold reception in Moscow. The Soviet authorities declined to invest in any major development projects and told the Tanzanians to focus on expanding light industries that would yield immediate returns. The loan they proposed to fund these initiatives came with a high interest rate of 2.5 per cent, plus a requirement for Tanzania to purchase Soviet equipment and pay the costs of any technical expertise. Hanga was dismayed that Moscow ‘should be saying things that would normally be expected of a capitalist country’.Footnote 67 The Soviet response to Tanzanian overtures reflected its disillusionment with sub-Saharan Africa in the early 1960s, as postcolonial leaders proved wary of Moscow’s intrusive approach and narrow conceptions of revolutionary development, which offered little space for local forms of African socialism.Footnote 68
This icy encounter with the Soviet Union contrasted sharply with Tanzania’s experience of the other communist superpower, China. In the early 1960s, Beijing was on the offensive in the Third World. The acrimonious rift with Moscow meant that it sought to counter Soviet as much as Western influence. As Jeremy Friedman argues, China’s own historical trajectory offered an advantage here. Whereas Moscow presented itself as the vanguard of anti-capitalist global struggles, China emphasised its anticolonial revolutionary credentials. The experience of China – a poor, non-white, Third World state which had suffered at the hands of imperialism – chimed with many leaders in postcolonial Africa. After Mao Tse-tung abandoned the disastrous industrialisation policies of the ‘Great Leap Forward’, China’s renewed attention to rural development and strategy of mass mobilisation appealed to African governments.Footnote 69 Although disappointed by its setbacks in Zanzibar, China saw the union as an opportunity to spread its influence on the mainland, especially given Dar es Salaam’s growing reputation as a centre for revolutionary activity in Africa.
Babu played a leading role in the strengthening of relations between Tanzania and China. In June 1964, he accompanied Kawawa to Beijing, where the Tanzanian delegation received a warm welcome. They returned home with a £16 million aid package, including an interest-free £10 million loan. A trade agreement, negotiated by an economic delegation led by Babu, preceded Nyerere’s own highly successful tour of China in February 1965.Footnote 70 In June, the Chinese premier Zhou Enlai made a return visit to Dar es Salaam, to a rapturous reception. The most consequential outcome of these exchanges was Beijing’s verbal agreement to support the construction of a railway between the port of Dar es Salaam and the Zambian Copperbelt. Landlocked Zambia, which became independent in 1964, was dependent on railway arteries passing through Rhodesia, South Africa, and the Portuguese colonies for transporting copper to the coast for export. This problem was exacerbated by Rhodesia’s UDI. Nyerere’s initial meeting paved the way for the signing of a tripartite agreement between China, Tanzania, and Zambia in September 1967, under which Beijing pledged an interest-free £150 million loan to fund the 1,860-kilometre TAZARA railway. Work began in 1970 and was completed in 1974, with the assistance of 30–40,000 Chinese workers. Blending a major modernisation scheme with the spirit of anticolonialism, this epic infrastructure project was part of China’s drive to become a superpower while remaining a member of the Third World, as Jamie Monson has shown.Footnote 71
The deepening Sino-Tanzanian relationship sent alarm bells ringing in the West. Recognising both the appeal of Beijing’s anticolonial credentials and Nyerere’s desire to diversify the sources of foreign aid, the British high commissioner noted that the Chinese were ‘batting on almost a perfect wicket’ in Tanzania. The nightmarish images of communist penetration which had accompanied the Zanzibar Revolution were conjured up again. The British surmised that Chinese policy was to use Dar es Salaam in the east and Brazzaville in the west ‘for subversion across the waist of Africa’.Footnote 72 The United States drew similar conclusions. In June 1966, the National Security Council classified Tanzania as a ‘steady nuisance in Africa’. It judged that ‘under the mercurial and fiercely independent leadership of Nyerere, Tanzania is the bastion of radicalism in East Africa. Soviet and Chinese influence is considerable, especially in Zanzibar.’Footnote 73 These sentiments were also to be found in the media. Visiting Western correspondents built up a caricature of Dar es Salaam as a centre of subversion and communist penetration, often drawing a tired contrast with the meaning of its Arabic name, ‘the haven of peace’.Footnote 74 Britain’s Daily Telegraph dubbed Dar es Salaam ‘the arsenal for the Communist arms build-up in East Africa’.Footnote 75 The Wall Street Journal called the city ‘a focal point for African extremists of every type’.Footnote 76 The West German newspaper Die Zeit described Tanzania as a Chinese ‘corridor of revolution’.Footnote 77
Nyerere sought to maintain his non-aligned credentials in the face of this hyperbolic Western commentary. He tried to assuage his critics by emphasising the dilemmas facing Tanzania, a poor country faced by powerful white minority enemies, in a world dominated by superpower money and weapons. In January 1966, Nyerere gave an interview to American radio. He faced a barrage of hostile questions about armed liberation struggles and China’s presence in Tanzania. ‘I hope that before you go back to the United States you will try to move around either in Dar es Salaam or Tanzania to verify the idea that we are part of Peking or a springboard of Peking’, he told his interviewers. ‘But let me say that if we have to fight we are not going to fight with bows and arrows. We have to fight with modern arms. There is not an [arms] factory in Dar es Salaam.’ Nyerere admitted that he was ‘willing to get those arms from Washington, from London, from Paris’. However, he concluded, ‘if I can’t get them from there, I will get them from Moscow or from Peking’.Footnote 78 The Tanzanian press shared his frustration. ‘The snakes have sung their usual song that Tanzania is heading towards communism’, complained the popular Swahili tabloid Ngurumo. ‘Enough, we’ll have no more of it! If those who are insulting the people and leaders of this country think that one day we will listen to them, they are wrong.’Footnote 79
Inside the Cold War City
Nyerere’s bold foreign policy, the regional concatenations, and especially the presence of the exiles turned Dar es Salaam into a major hive of revolutionary politics in Africa. The encounters which resulted were not simply confined to the spheres of formal diplomacy and official policymaking which are the typical focus of international histories. The city’s public sphere became engrained with the insecurities of what Priya Lal has dubbed a ‘global Cold War political culture’ in Tanzania.Footnote 80 The belief that the nation’s sovereignty was under constant threat from imperialist intervention, working with stooges inside the country, formed a rationale which justified the gradual militarisation of society and a vocabulary which cast dissenters as reactionary traitors, as subsequent chapters show. These same anxieties also influenced elite political behaviour in the capital. Dar es Salaam’s spaces and places were believed to pose security risks through the spreading of rumour, the subversion of individuals, and the leaking of sensitive knowledge. Read from an alternative angle, of course, the city’s transnational political networks also provided interested parties with channels for disseminating information and gathering intelligence.
By 1968, forty-seven foreign states had some form of diplomatic representation in Dar es Salaam. The political geography of this diplomatic scene mapped onto Cold War divisions. Western representations were clustered around the city centre. The American, Australian, French, and West German missions were all located in the National Bank of Commerce Building, near the Askari Monument, the city’s central landmark. The Canadian high commission, which also housed the British Interests Section after Tanzania severed relations with London, was nearby on Independence Avenue, the main commercial thoroughfare. North of the centre, the communist embassies were scattered along Upanga Road, earning it the nom de guerre of ‘Red Boulevard’.Footnote 81 They were joined by a smattering of representations from radical non-aligned states, like Algeria and Indonesia.
Diplomats mixed freely on the circuit of embassy and government receptions, where they brushed shoulders with Tanzanian officials and members of Dar es Salaam’s liberation movements. These social opportunities helped to break down Cold War rivalries, yet they were far from devoid of tensions. The French ambassador expressed his concern that Western diplomats became ‘submerged’ at receptions by representatives of the ‘revolutionary’ countries.Footnote 82 The Tanzanian government also worried about subversion of its employees at diplomatic gatherings. In December 1964, it informed officials that they required permission from their head of department before accepting invitations and must submit a report immediately after the event.Footnote 83 Diplomats from across the Cold War spectrum sought to gain the ear of the liberation movement leaders, whose faces were a common sight on this circuit. The ANC’s Ben Turok recalled that, on these social occasions, ‘there was some personal corruption’ and that ‘it was extremely difficult to maintain a sense of integrity in the face of this pressure’. The presence of the guerrilla leaders in these salubrious surroundings was also a regular issue of grievance for their Tanzanian hosts and the movement’s rank-and-file, as Chapter 4 shows.Footnote 84
The diplomatic reception was the official manifestation of the vibrant social scene that characterised Dar es Salaam’s clubs, restaurants, and bars. The New Africa, Kilimanjaro, and Twiga hotels were upmarket venues which attracted a cosmopolitan clientele, including liberation movement leaders, foreign correspondents, and Western diplomats.Footnote 85 A radical crowd propped up the bar at the Palm Beach Hotel, next to the Cuban embassy on Upanga Road. Babu and his followers met there, where they were often joined by communist diplomats who dropped by for a beer after finishing work nearby.Footnote 86 The liberation movement leaders took their lunch in restaurants near to their offices, including the New Zahir Restaurant on Mosque Street or the Canton Restaurant on Nkrumah Street. According to Portuguese intelligence and the Rhodesian press, the Canton and its adjacent Tanganyika Bookshop were run by a Chinese agent in Dar es Salaam, Ho Lin.Footnote 87 The Canton, the American embassy reported, was ‘an excellent meeting place outside of the official Chinese mission’.Footnote 88 All of these spaces simultaneously provided places for socialising and opportunities for intelligence gathering.
Another key locus of politics in Dar es Salaam was the university, set in rolling green hills to the northwest of the city. University College (renamed the University of Dar es Salaam in 1970, when it became independent from the University of East Africa) was far removed from the noise of the city centre but became a site of confrontation between TANU’s nation-building imperatives and students’ own expectations of the future. By the late 1960s, the ‘Hill’ had emerged as a hotbed of radical politics in Africa of international renown. A permissive academic culture and the allure of Nyerere’s philosophy attracted left-wing intellectuals from across the world.Footnote 89 As Chapter 5 explains, the organisation of students into a far-left revolutionary group which criticised ujamaa socialism ultimately led to a government crackdown. Even then, however, the university continued to sit at the centre of transnational networks that formed a radical Dar es Salaam counterculture, comprising Marxist politicians, communist diplomats, guerrilla leaders, anti-apartheid activists, and members of the African American diaspora.Footnote 90
Dar es Salaam’s cosmopolitan political scene, containing so many competing ideological and geopolitical agendas, produced a vibrant and complex information ecology. Chapter 6 explores the complicated and multilayered relationship between the government, TANU, and the press in developing a revolutionary newspaper sector. But at times it felt like Tanzanian voices were struggling to be heard through the welter of propaganda issued by foreign powers in Dar es Salaam. This material was situated at various points on a spectrum between subtle, ‘soft’ propaganda to unapologetic attacks against other states or ideologies. A kaleidoscopic range of newspapers, magazines, and books were available for purchase. Swahili translations of Mao’s Little Red Book and the Communist Manifesto were commonplace. The major embassies produced regular information bulletins, which were distributed to ministries and the press.
The more eye-catching publications came from the communist powers. In 1964, the Chinese embassy published a pilot issue of Vigilance Africa, which could be purchased for a pittance from the Tanganyika Bookshop. Proclaiming ‘a relentless war on COLONIALISM, IMPERIALISM and NEO-COLONIALISM’, it vowed that it would ‘not spare a moment in exposing fearlessly colonialist intrigues, manoeuvres and any puppetish accomplices in monstrous schemes designed to negate the independence and freedom of the African peoples’.Footnote 91 In 1968, the Soviet Union began to produce a similar Swahili newspaper, Urusi Leo (‘Russia Today’). Reflecting the acrimonious state of Sino-Soviet relations, it was directly arraigned against China rather than the West. ‘We have much Chinese political literature here condemning Moscow’, wrote its Tanzanian reporter. ‘We want to give the public the true picture of what the Soviets stand for and what is the real picture of what Peking stands for in Africa.’Footnote 92 However, the socialist world did not have a monopoly on foreign propaganda material. In 1971, the British reported that their policy of supplying around two hundred newspapers and periodicals to senior Tanzanians was a ‘highly worthwhile means of orientating the “ruling few” towards things British’, to the ‘envy’ of less well-resourced diplomatic missions.Footnote 93 Cultural institutions like the British Council, West Germany’s Goethe Institute, and the United States Information Service maintained public libraries, stocked with literature friendly to the Western cause. Propaganda also took forms beyond the written word. Photographic exhibitions, dance troupes, and football teams all travelled to Dar es Salaam in an attempt to foster cultural relations. Film was an especially powerful medium of mass communication in the urban sphere.
This suffusion of propaganda also dismayed the Tanzanian government. In 1967, the Nationalist bemoaned the ‘bundles of foreign literature’ in government offices, including BBC Listener, Korea Today, the Economist, Time Magazine, Moscow News, and Peking Review. The editorial called on receptionists to stock up on Tanzanian publications to end this ‘humiliation’ (although its suggestion of copies of the country’s Five-Year Plan was unlikely to have been particularly absorbing competition).Footnote 94 Government attempts to control the softer elements of foreign cultural propaganda were conjoined with ujamaa’s campaign against forms of moral decadence. TANU was particularly concerned about the corrupting influence of Hollywood film on its nation-building efforts. In non-aligned Tanzania, the Cold War content of these films also risked offending potential donor countries. Government censors banned a string of Western espionage movies.Footnote 95 The authorities’ opposition to the development of television was rooted in similar concerns about moral corruption. A report submitted to cabinet in 1962 by the Tanganyika Broadcasting Corporation emphasised the ‘morally degraded’ character of American television. ‘The early foreign traders in Africa bought our land and our birth-right with coloured beads, gin and firearms’, the report concluded. ‘Are we going to sell our minds in the same innocent way to their descendants, the cheap-jacks who dazzle us with their gaudy television goods?’Footnote 96
But there were limits to the measures to which the Tanzanian government was prepared to resort to insulate the country against this foreign material. In August 1967, Nyerere stated that although he would not tolerate any attempts by outsiders to influence the country’s policies, he would not ‘draw an iron curtain around Tanzania to prevent foreign propaganda’.Footnote 97 Echoing this sentiment, a former bureaucrat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled that Tanzania ‘did not want to become like a police state’ with ‘the culture that was part and parcel of Eastern European countries’.Footnote 98 The Tanzanian government’s policing of such activities was inconsistent, and often contingent on the political alignment of the officials directly responsible. Chinese, North Korean, and North Vietnamese representations appeared free to attack the United States and its allies with few restrictions. Gauging the actual impact of any propaganda is difficult. African audiences were certainly neither passive nor uncritical absorbers of this material. Nevertheless, the cumulative effect of this steady drip was the suffusion of Tanzanian political discourse with the language and tropes of the Cold War, as the genre of rumour shows.
On 15 November 1964, Nyerere addressed a rally at the Jangwani grounds in Dar es Salaam. He aimed to dampen the foment which Kambona had whipped up through his ‘exposure’ of the American ‘letter plot’. In his speech, Nyerere drew attention to the problem of rumour in the capital.
Someone has told me that we should now call Dar es Salaam ‘Rumorville’. Rumors are always rife in Dar es Salaam to the extent that not three days pass without rumors being spread, especially in the shopping areas. … The difficulty is that there are rumor experts and professors here in Dar es Salaam. … Someone has whispered to me that some of your leaders thoughtlessly talk in bars about government affairs. This is a very bad thing. … There are already enough troubles in our country. We are surrounded by enough dangers, and we do not want to have more trouble from among ourselves.Footnote 99
The ‘Rumourville’ tag stuck. Even by the standards of a Third World capital during the Cold War, the Tanzanian capital developed a reputation as a hotbed of rumour, which was routinely decried by local politicians and journalists. The idea of ‘Rumourville’ captured the sense in which rumour became associated with Dar es Salaam’s urban fabric of bars, cafés, hotels, and marketplaces.Footnote 100
Controversy about rumour was not a new phenomenon to East Africa, of course. Late colonial Dar es Salaam, for example, had witnessed riots in response to rumours of mumiani, people who supposedly killed Africans for medicinal purposes.Footnote 101 Less dramatically, after independence gossiping became associated with the stereotypical idle urbanite, who hung around on Dar es Salaam’s streets rather than working to build the nation. Nyerere compared the gossipy behaviour of the capital’s residents to the productive agricultural conversations which took place in provincial market towns. ‘If you are in Tabora you talk about tobacco and its price, if you are in Mwanza you talk about cotton and what its price will be, if you are in Mtwara you talk about cashew nuts’, he told a rally, ‘but in Dar es Salaam they talk about people’.Footnote 102 Nyerere’s example reflected a broader anti-urban sentiment which ran through the political language and practice of ujamaa. Although immediately after uhuru the government celebrated the modernising potential of urban life, it gradually abandoned these visions in favour of a development project oriented economically and rhetorically towards the countryside. Someone who gossiped away while drinking in the bars of the capital was the stereotype of what a Tanzanian nationalist should not be.Footnote 103
In Dar es Salaam, the global Cold War imbued rumour with a more subversive quality. Gossiping was not just a waste of human time and energy, but also represented a serious threat to Tanzania’s political stability by sowing misinformation. Regardless of their veracity, the study of rumours sheds light on prevalent attitudes and insecurities, as historians of Africa have shown. ‘Rumors cannot be fed to a crowd as one force-feeds a goose’, as Jonathon Glassman reminds us, here in the case of late colonial politics in Zanzibar. Rather, they ‘will take hold only if they echo fears and convictions already in place’.Footnote 104 Luise White has shown how rumour can ‘offer historians a way to see the world the way the storytellers did, as a world of vulnerability and unreasonable relationships’.Footnote 105 The talk of coups and plots in Dar es Salaam, as well as the Tanzanian state’s public response to them, reflected a pervasive sense of insecurity, especially when connections were drawn between local figures and foreign powers. Reports and crackdowns on rumour tended to occur during times of political uncertainty, in Tanzania or elsewhere in Africa. Allegations that Tanzanian politicians, guerrilla leaders, bureaucrats, journalists, and other individuals in positions of authority were in the pay of the superpowers also represented a powerful means of smearing opponents. They demonstrated the degree to which Dar es Salaam’s political culture was saturated in the tropes of the global Cold War.
Condemnations of oral rumourmongering and the circulation of libellous ‘black literature’ became a common refrain in the party newspapers and political speeches. They denounced rumour as a deliberate tactic to destabilise the state. Nyerere himself alleged that there were organisations committed to spreading gossip in Dar es Salaam. He described ‘rumour committees’, with their own ‘chairmen’ and ‘secretaries’.Footnote 106 In private, Nyerere spoke about ‘deliberate rumour factories’.Footnote 107 While these included Tanzanian citizens, they were also believed to be run by outsiders, pursuing imperialist or Cold War ends. In his pseudonymous column in the Nationalist, A. M. Babu instructed Tanzanians to treat rumour as ‘an instrument of the imperialists’, and trust only official news sources. ‘We must never repeat [rumour] or if we do we shall be playing into our enemy’s hands.’Footnote 108 Yet Babu himself was subject to accusations of the same practices which he decried. Babu recalled that he had asked a friend at a party about a rumour he had heard regarding a coup in Uganda. The following day, Babu was summoned to State House and asked why he was circulating such ‘dangerous rumours’. He explained that ‘this was something I had heard, and in order to know what to think, I merely wanted to find out whether others had heard it’.Footnote 109
Where, though, were residents of Dar es Salaam to find out reliable information about political events? The workings of the upper echelons of the party and government were shrouded in secrecy. The government papered over divisions and power struggles in the name of national unity and development. As we will see in Chapter 6, it also extended its control over the production and dissemination of information. By the mid-1970s, Tanzania’s domestic media was essentially in the hands of the party-state. Though it was not devoid of criticism of the government, the press steered clear of political controversy. This secrecy and top-down control opened avenues for spreading rumour. ‘When everything is done transparently and openly, the rumourmongers don’t have much to benefit’, recalled Salim Ahmed Salim, a diplomat who held top positions in the Tanzanian government, the OAU, and the UN. ‘But when things are done in a clandestine manner, however genuine, it gives them ammunition to create stories, to fabricate stories.’Footnote 110
The boundary between rumour and news was always unclear. The ‘noise’ created by the former complicated the production of the latter. ‘Dar-es-Salaam remains one of the most difficult capitals in Africa in which to get firmly based information’, admitted the London newsletter Africa Confidential in 1967. ‘We have ourselves run the gauntlet of rumour-mongering charges, while attempting to reflect what was being said in Dar.’Footnote 111 Similarly, British diplomats bemoaned the problem of having to ‘sift the minimal amount of hard fact out of the welter of rumour which abounds in this city’.Footnote 112 These grievances serve as important reminders for the historian. Diplomats and journalists wrote with an eye on the interests and expectations of their audiences, whether they were ministerial superiors or editors and readers. Rumour which conformed to Cold War logics and assumptive world views was probably more likely to find its way into their telegrams and copy. Foreign actors tended to overplay the international dimensions of Tanzanian developments or liberation movement politics at the expense of a local context which they all too often misunderstood. Nonetheless, their complaints also draw attention to Dar es Salaam’s reputation as a particularly rumour-filled city, even compared to other postcolonial capitals at the height of the Cold War. In turn, this does not necessarily indicate that rumour was any more prevalent than elsewhere but reflects how the Tanzanian government perceived itself to be exposed to subversion, and therefore sought tighter control over Dar es Salaam’s information economy.
Like rumour and propaganda, espionage was central to the making of the Cold War city. As superpower rivalry turned global, the CIA, KGB, and the intelligence agencies of their allies extended their espionage networks into the Third World. Dar es Salaam’s position on the frontline of Africa’s liberation struggles and Cold War politics turned it into a centre of intelligence gathering on the continent. In 1965, the CIA briefed a new American ambassador that increasing the number of intelligence operatives in Tanzania was among ‘their top priorities in Africa’.Footnote 113 Any attempt to appreciate the extent and influence of this intelligence activity runs into the perennial problem of access to documents. This book does draw on material produced by various intelligence agencies, including the CIA, the Stasi, and Portuguese organisations, but these collections shed little light on their day-to-day activities and nature of their networks in Dar es Salaam. The operations of Tanzania’s own intelligence services are even more obscure.
We can draw firmer conclusions about the extent of the Tanzanian state’s anxiety about the threat to Africa’s liberation struggles from foreign intelligence agencies. Nyerere and his government feared that agents working for the Portuguese, Rhodesians, and South Africans had infiltrated the guerrilla movements and were working to destabilise Tanzania. In 1963, Nyerere broke up the Special Branch (the intelligence services Tanganyika had inherited from the colonial government) having realised that the post-independence arrangements left his country with intelligence links to not just the British MI5, but also to the Southern Rhodesian government. The decision was preceded by the expulsion from Tanganyika of a number of South Africans and Rhodesians, including several ZAPU members, who were accused of spying for Salisbury.Footnote 114 Suspicions about Europeans with links to the forces of white minority rule and neocolonialism in Africa remained paramount in the city. In 1968, a Belgian national working as a pastry chef in a Dar es Salaam hotel was given forty-eight hours to leave Tanzania after it emerged that he had previously been a mercenary commander in Congo.Footnote 115
The government’s fears about clandestine activity in Dar es Salaam led to the establishment of a massive counter-subversion apparatus. In 1965, the American embassy discovered from a technician working at the central post office that there were more than two hundred tapped telephone lines in the city, including those belonging to diplomats and cabinet ministers.Footnote 116 The Tanzanian intelligence services were not solely concerned with eavesdropping on their known enemies. When Gamal Abdel Nasser visited Tanzania in 1966, a British telephone engineer discovered some ‘stray wires’ in the vicinity of the hotel where the Egyptian delegation was staying. After tying these up, he was later hauled in front of the security services and told that he had destroyed connections laid for the purpose of listening in on the visitors’ telephone conversations.Footnote 117 Foreign diplomats became attuned to these operations: the Australian ambassador unplugged his telephone before beginning any sensitive discussion. His American counterpart held team meetings at his residence, rather than the embassy, which was ‘a security nightmare’.Footnote 118
These efforts to monitor foreign activity on Tanzanian soil went hand in hand with attempts to clamp down on sensitive information leaking out to the country’s enemies. The burden assumed in housing the continent’s liberation movements imbued the otherwise mundane work of typists and clerks in government departments or the Liberation Committee secretariat with serious responsibilities. Tanzanians were warned against careless talk in bars and cafés. Introducing an Official Secrets Act in parliament in 1963, the home minister, Job Lusinde, regretted that ‘our people are not security conscious, they don’t know that there are spies everywhere, you find people sat in bars talking about themselves about their work and their meetings and other meetings with ministers who have been in government’.Footnote 119 A culture of secrecy developed among the Tanzanian bureaucracy. When one Western researcher visited a civil servant’s office in the mid-1960s, he found a typed note on the desk:
1. Beware of spies, love, bar gossip.
2. Beware, spies are everywhere.
3. Personal security comes first.Footnote 120
In this context, relationships between government employees and foreigners were viewed as potentially dangerous. Just as in Nkrumah’s Ghana, women who served in secretarial roles were perceived as prone to gossip and susceptible to manipulation.Footnote 121 A Tanzanian civil servant told an Australian diplomat a story about a Soviet representative who brought sweets for a female receptionist in the Second Vice-President’s Office, which was responsible for the liberation movements’ security. The civil servant reminded the receptionist that she must not divulge any official information. Shortly afterwards, she was transferred to a different office.Footnote 122 Similar sentiments appeared in the press, mixing anxieties about security with social commentary on young people who pursued relationships with foreigners. For example, Ngurumo warned that young people who dated outsiders risked divulging secret information. ‘The time has come for our youths to be told to bite their lips [kuchungua midomo yao]’, it warned.Footnote 123
Dar es Salaam thereby earned a reputation as a city paranoid about leaks of rumour-spreading, information leaks, and espionage. One American writer described scenes at ‘cocktail parties and embassy receptions … which make the average spy film seemed like a kindergarten vaudeville’.Footnote 124 A correspondent for Time magazine, who became Nyerere’s biographer, noted that ‘a sort of free-flowing paranoia sometimes seems to hang suspended in Dar es Salaam’s heavy air’.Footnote 125 This tone reflected the broader genre of Western commentary on the city’s radical politics and its links, exaggerated though they were, with the communist world. But even more sober observers, such as the perceptive French ambassador André Naudy, identified that the city’s information politics were characterised by ‘an atmosphere often devoid of trust … Suspicion is the rule’.Footnote 126 Tanzanian elites preferred to tout Dar es Salaam’s credentials as a spearhead in the anticolonial struggle, and justifiably so. But the constant admonitions about rumourmongering and calls for vigilance against subversion demonstrated an insecurity about the risks which the country had assumed in shouldering this revolutionary burden.
In 1965, Tanzanians went to the polls in the country’s first exercise in ‘one-party democracy’. Nyerere, as the sole candidate, was returned as president with 96 per cent of the vote. The parliamentary elections were much more hotly contested. Several high-profile figures, including government ministers, lost their seats. Derek Bryceson, the only European member of cabinet, fared better. He successfully defended his Dar es Salaam North constituency. However, his convincing win followed a controversial candidate selection process, which sheds light on the extent to which even the capital’s domestic politics was immersed in the Cold War. Sam Kajunjumele was overlooked by TANU’s National Executive Committee as one of the constituency’s two candidates to face the electorate, despite coming second in a local party caucus. The NEC’s decision was rumoured to have been a consequence of Kajunjumele’s links to China. He was the editor of Vigilance Africa and had led a delegation of Tanzanian journalists to Beijing the previous May. Another rumour alleged that he had misappropriated funds from the Tanganyika Bookshop, a distributor of Chinese propaganda.Footnote 127 We will encounter Kajunjumele again in his capacity as a journalist in Chapter 6.
Kajunjumele’s failed attempt to get his name on the ballot paper exemplified the degree to which Dar es Salaam’s political life had become embedded in superpower rivalry and Third World revolution. TANU’s commitment to the cause of African liberation turned the city into a cosmopolitan staging ground for the organisation of armed struggles against white minority rule. A chain of dramatic events in early 1964 – the revolution in Zanzibar, the army mutiny, and the act of union – propelled the region into global headlines. Western onlookers portrayed Nyerere’s pursuit of a non-aligned foreign policy as a step towards communism. In an African political environment marked by a sense of insecurity, the Tanzanian government felt especially vulnerable to outside subversion. These anxieties became imbricated into daily political life in Dar es Salaam. The state urged Tanzanians to stay vigilant against neo-imperialist subversion and avoid careless gossip, or even worse, rumourmongering.
Paul Bjerk brings his history of mainland Tanzania’s early years of independence to a close at the end of 1964. By then, he writes, ‘Nyerere had established overarching authority’ in the country.Footnote 128 But Bjerk’s focus on the words and actions of the president masks a much more unsettled picture. While TANU dominated the country’s public life, its institutional strength alone could not deliver the economic development which many had hoped that uhuru promised. The reality was that the trappings of statehood meant little as long as Tanzania remained a poor, dependent Third World state. On the international front, Tanzania had fallen out with its three largest bilateral donor partners: Britain, the United States, and West Germany. The union was an emergency solution to a Cold War crisis, which developed into a painful headache for the mainland government. Superpower rivalry encroached further on political life, even as Nyerere attempted to distance his country from it. It was this connection between Tanzania’s continued economic dependence and its fragile political sovereignty – in other words, the incomplete state of decolonisation – which paved the road to the Arusha Declaration, which forms the subject of the next chapter.