There are several reasons for declaring that this book is bigger than all of us. One of the best things about the post-Mwalimu Nyerere period, with due respect to the great man, is freedom of speech. Thirty years ago, it would have been unthinkable for any Tanzanian writer to even consider penning an article let alone a book of such magnitude.
Zanzibar produces scary literature. A few years ago, while reviewing Haini (Traitor), by Swahili novelist Adam Shafi, which charts the aftermath of Sheikh Abeid Karume’s assassination in 1972, I discovered that local publishers were too wary to print the manuscript and Mr Shafi had to resort to Longhorn in Nairobi.
But this does not mean Kenya itself is a paradise.
Novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o was detained in 1978 for daring to question founding President Jomo Kenyatta’s rule, through fiction.
Dr Harith Ghassany’s Kwaheri Ukoloni, Kwaheri Uhuru (Goodbye Colonialism, Goodbye Freedom) deals with Tanzania as a name and as a country.
Dr Ghassany, who is Harvard-educated, says of the 2,000 copies printed, half have already been sold in just three months. Speaking from the United States, early this week, he told me he wrote the Kiswahili book “to try and correct the misinterpretation of history so that old relations amongst Zanzibaris and between Zanzibar and Mainland Tanzania or Africans and Arabs flow peacefully so as to benefit future generations.”
In other words, Dr Ghassany’s research into what happened in Zanzibar during the 1964 Revolution is about peace, not war. Ironically, the October 31 proved that even Zanzibar could hold peaceful elections.
Kwaheri Ukoloni, Kwaheri Uhuru is, therefore, a very large manual with over 500 pages; more than 70 unseen photographs plus hundreds of classified material.
Zanzibar has always been a sensitive issue. In the past 50 years, thousands of Zanzibaris have spent their entire lives, in exile, many making Europe, the Middle East and the US their homes.
Probably, Dr Ghassany’s background as an associate professor in medical science may give us the answer. His book is littered with loads of material evidence. Notable personalities we have almost forgotten such as Kassim Hanga and the late Algerian President Ben Bella are here.
Hanga was hanged few years after the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964; while Ben Bella, who is still alive, was amongst keenest supporters of African liberation movements.
Research for Kwaheri Ukoloni, Kwaheri Uhuru; was equally assisted by Mohamed Said, a keen historian and writer whose recent publications, include biography of unforgotten founders of Tanu, Abdulwahid Sykes, (Minerva, 1998).
Ever brutally honest, Dr Ghassany reproduces classified materials from several official sources, that is, intelligence, ex-British colonial officials, the United Nations, the Afro Shiraz Party, Tanu, CCM, etc. To avoid any political misunderstandings he let top party officials in both Mainland and Zanzibar read his manuscript before publication. How more genuine can one be?
Crucial unknown, hidden stories are laid bare.
What happened during the 1964 military coup attempt in Tanzania? Who was Oscar Kambona? Why was he so important in the Union? Why did he eventually break away from Mwalimu and bolt to London? Do any Tanzanians over 40 know how the subject of Oscar Kambona was taboo for decades. This book reveals his role in the Zanzibar and Tanganyika governments, the inner circle, so to speak.
And to substantiate his well dug up research, Dr Ghassany has let the main players, many now old and frail, to tell us what happened. Why was Kassim Hanga killed? What was the role of Abdulrahman Babu and the Umma Party? Who really was the legendary Colonel Ali Mahfoudh, the most revered Tanzanian soldier?
Why was CIA wary of the triumph of the Zanzibar Revolution? Were Cubans (through the legendary Che Guevera and Fidel Castro) involved in Zanzibar?
On page 23, the author warns readers:
“The chief leaders of Afro Shiraz Party like Mzee Abeid Amani Karume, Mzee Thabit Kombo Jecha or Sheikh Aboud Jumbe did not really participate in the actual preparations of the Zanzibar Revolution…” Who then were the real heroes of this historic uprising?
Why is such a question significant to us all? Why don’t Zanzibaris accept the Union?
Hate or love it, this is an uncomfortable book to read and, according to the author, to write, too.
It is available in several bookshops in Dar es Salaam: Tanzania Publishing House and Ibn Hazim Bookshop; Kase Bookshop Arusha, Masomo Bookshop in Zanzibar. It can also be bought online through Amazon and Lulu websites.
More info: http://www.kwaherikwaheri.com
SOURCE: The Citizen, Freddy Macha, Friday, 19 November 2010