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Tanganyika: Africa’s mecca for liberation movements

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    By JOHN NYOKA, 28th November 2011 @ 16:00, Total Comments: 0, Hits: 996

    The Namibian President, Hifikepunye Pohamba like other Southern Africa leaders lived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, during the liberation struggle. More specific for Pohamba, Tanganyika’s Independence Day, December 9, 1961 is reminiscent to his arrival in Dar es Salaam through Sumbawanga, Mpanda, and Tabora to Dar es Salaam by train.

    As a freedom fighter, Pohamba and his predecessor Dr Sam Nujoma would not talk of their country’s liberation without mentioning the role Tanganyika played during the struggle. Even after independence, Namibia continued to cooperate with Tanganyika in capacity building and in the provision of necessary services to that country.

    I will not be surprised to see the Namibian Head of State take part in the celebrations of our independence come December 9, 2011, in Dar es Salaam. Talk to Mzee Nujoma, he will tell you how he escaped from Windhoek through Botswana, (then Bechuanaland), Zambia to Mbeya in Tanganyika. With photographic memory he would mention all those who helped him from Mbeya to Njombe where he went hiding before coming to Dar es Salaam.

    When Nujoma came to Tanzania in 2004 to bid farewell to Tanzanians as Head of State of Namibia giving way to President Pohamba, he flew from Dar es Salaam to Mbeya accompanied by the then Tanzania Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Jakaya Kikwete (now the President of the United Republic of Tanzania). President Nujoma used the occasion to thank Mbeya residents for receiving him when he made his first entry to Tanganyika in 1960.

    In reciprocal, Mbeya residents accorded him an elder’s status of the Wanyakyusa as he narrated to them how he had made it to Mbeya in those difficult days and mentioned by name the people from Mbeya who helped him on his way to Dar es Salaam. In his book, “How others wavered” Dr Nujoma tells a story on how he travelled to other countries using the Tanganyika Passport.

    Tanganyika’s independence was pivotal to the liberation of several countries particularly the South African countries. We used to see by then Kilimanjaro Hotel being a beehive of activities related to liberation struggle meetings. It is only freedom fighters who can testify this because we lived with them here as freedom fighters. They included Mozambicans, Zimbabweans, Namibians, Angolans, and South Africans.

    I was fortunate to live with Namibians for over ten years in Windhoek after the liberation of their country. I know how they feel when you talk of Dar es Salaam or Nyerere. No wonder there are several young Nyereres in Namibia. The current Namibians who include those known as born free (born after independence) have indeed been what we call vibrant democratic freedom of talking.

    The kind of chart show you hear now in our FM radios had been in Namibia way back in the early 1990s and people talk of everything. I remember the late Abdallah Ngororo in 1996 by then working with Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam, was surprised when he visited Namibia to hear from the National Radio critical phone calls in a programme known as Chart Show by then. At one time Mwalimu Nyerere visited Namibia and toured the whole country.

    Unfortunately on his way back, he was late for his flight and Nujoma provided him with government plane back to Tanzania. That caused a flurry of angry calls in the National Radio Programme demanding explanation why the government had acted in a manner likely to cause loss to the government by providing a plane to a visitor. President Pohamba came in forcefully and reminded his people that if it were not for Nyerere, Namibians would not have even had that freedom of speaking.

    He stopped them and that was the end of it. The second time was when Mwalimu Nyerere died in October 1999. The Tanzania Community leaving in Namibia organised a Requiem Mass for Mwalimu, but the event was promptly taken over by the government and President Nujoma was the guest speaker where he described how Dar es Salaam used to be the mecca for freedom fighters.

    That is how the leaders of the liberation struggles look at Tanzania and its leaders. And what does President Pohamba say about Tanzania and its people? He says, “It is a great country with great people.” Sam Nujoma and President Pohamba have great trust in Tanzanians and this has been proved by the kind of experts they have worked with in the reconstruction of their country. There are several Tanzanian engineers, doctors and lecturers working in Namibia.

    Professor Keto Mshigeni, once the Pro-Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs and Research of the University of Namibia, was instrumental in the establishment of the National University in Windhoek. Dr Nujoma as the Chancellor and Prof Mshigeni extended the university jurisdictions, by opening other campuses like the Neudam Agricultural College, Oshakati Agriculture wing, a Faculty of Engineering in Ongwadiva and Medical School at the Windhoek Central Hospital.

    Despite the Unam’s late inauguration however within this short period it has shot up to be among the top 20 prestigious universities in Africa. It has so far attracted students
    from afar including Tanzania which has a good number of students. In his honour, the Sam Nujoma’s Coastal Research Centre’s complex in Hantiesbay has been named after him as Prof. Keto Mshigeni Mariculture Research Complex.

    And for Pohamba, he was the first Namibian Minister for Home Affairs responsible for Police, Prisons and Immigration. As the minister for Home Affairs in 1990 he requested the Tanzanian government to assist him in restructuring the apartheid prison system he had inherited. Tanzania government sent two senior prison officers who were engaged in revamping the Namibian Prison system which currently is one the best prison institutions in Africa.

    With the assistance of these officers, Namibian Correctional Service has been able to come up with National Prison Policy that is reflected in the country’s Vision 2030 aimed at managing crime trends in a more scientific way through rehabilitation and social reintegration. To this extent, Tanzanian community living in Namibia has found another home away from home. They do share the pride of solidarity which was built many years back during the liberation struggle.

    The first contingent of the Peoples Liberation Army that shot the first salvos of ammunition against the enemy at Ogurambashi in the Northern part of the country on August 26, 1966, had arrived by marching from Kongwa. That short started the liberation wars
    against Boers in 1966. That date is Namibia’s Heroes Day, which is linked to Tanzania as the first Namibian combatant, John Ya Otto, who was in charge of the group had led his comrades, who walked all the way to Namibia from Central Tanzania.

    During the 20th anniversary of Namibia’s independence, the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation TV displayed documentaries of the war of liberation and what happened during those difficult years. The most interesting part was that of Kongwa in Dodoma where SWAPO combatants were trained. One of the guides, White Zuberi who claimed to have been there during those times showed what appeared to be ruins of the former camp.

    SWAPO has promised to rebuild the camp as an historic site. In the documentary, Zuberi showed the houses which used to be the houses of Samora Machel and Sam Nujoma who occasionally used to go to Kongwa to brief the combatants on the progress of the war. In the same documentary, the respected politburo member of the SWAPO Party, Ben Amadhila explained to the audience how Dar es Salaam was referred to as the mecca of freedom fighters.

    He said all the liberation movements, SWAPO, FRELIMO, ANC, ZANU, ZAPU and MPLA were based in Tanzania. He reminded his audience that after the death of Edward Mondolane, the leader of the Frelimo in Dar es Salaam in 1969 through a postal letter bomb sent by the Portuguese, the Tanzanian government became concerned on the safety of the freedom fighters in the country.

    And for SWAPO, Amadhila said, that was the time when they organised the party’s first ever Consultative Congress in Tanga to work out a political programme that would see them through in their liberation struggle. That was in December/ January 1969/70. In recognition of Mwalimu Nyerere’s role in the liberation of Southern Africa particularly Namibia, on the occasion to mark the 20th anniversary of its independence, Mwalimu was posthumously bestowed with the highest national honour, the Most Ancient Order of the Welwitschia, which was received by Mama Maria Nyerere.

    Tanganyika’s independence is on record for championing the liberation of several African countries as well as providing the necessary capacity building to those needy countries after they became independence. Namibians have never forgotten that great debt they owe the people of Tanzania, much as Mwalimu’s Nyerere did everything under the spirit of Pan-American and never wanted or least expected to be paid a dime.
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