Re-Naming GEA

Have you ever wondered about how places got their name? Thanks to proofing a book on Tanzanian co-operative movements I discovered this little gem in The National Archives, Kew. Of all the German colonies in Africa to be taken over as Mandates under the League of Nations, only German East Africa (GEA) was to see a radical name change. German South West Africa simply (GSWA) became South West Africa (SWA, and then in 1990 Namibia), Kamerun became Cameroon, and Togoland changed to Togo. So how was it that GEA, excluding (Ruanda) Rwanda and Urundi (Burundi), became Tanganyika (until it became Tanzania on uniting with Zanzibar in 1964)?

CO 691/29 29530 contains the discussion. Possibilities ranged from Azania for both British and German East Africa, to New Georgia  and New Maryland, Lululand after Colonial Secretary at the outbreak of war, Louis Harcourt. North and South Kingland were other potentials, as was Eburnea by Horace Byatt in honour of the largest ivory tusks and the economic link with the ivory trade. Bantuland in recognition of the majority population was a further consideration in attempts to describe the territory in a name rather than name it after someone.

Amongst the immediately discounted were Smutsia, Balfouria, Lloyd Georgia…

On 24 June 1919, it was noted that the present title – GEA – had about 48 hours of existence left and no replacement had been decided.

In response to a prompt, Leo Amery suggested Victoria after the British victories but also Lake Victoria. His other thoughts were geographic related pending a reorganisation of the management of the British territories in East Africa.

It’s not clear who made the final decision, but it was Tanganyika – after the largest lake in the area which ran the length of the newly acquired British territory. But it appears as Tanganyika Protectorate in a later discussion on the design of the territory’s flag (CO 691/29 43245).

The giraffe on the flag – that was the suggestion of Horace Byatt, an elephant being on various other African territory flags aready.

The name Tanganyika apparently derives from the Swahili word Tanga – sail and Nyika – uninhabited plain or wilderness; although in 1877 Stanley thought it meant ‘collection of water vegetation’ (Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London). Perhaps a reader knows more specifically?

As a related aside, I remember being told at school in the 1980s that Azania would be the new name for South Africa but also Africa at some point in the future. It became caught up in the politics of the day. According to a note in the CO file, the name Azania was ‘Derived from Ancient Geographers who gave the name to all East Africa south of Cape Guardafui’.

Review: Promoting Agricultural Export Crops & Co-operative Societies in Tanzania – Somo ML Seimu

I have a confession (or more) to make regarding Promoting Agricultural Export Crops and Co-operative Societies in Tanzania during the British and Post Colonial Era, c 1914-2014. The book appealed to me for a number of reasons:

1. It took me back to Tanzania, and one of my favourite towns – Moshi – which is where the main coffee co-operative is based. The KNCU coffee shop was a good place to meet and have a coffee. Discovering how it fits into the wider co-operative movement and its influence on the rest of the country was fascinating. Little had I realised its national significance.

2. I love coffee so gaining a better understanding of how it came to be a dominant part of the Kilimanjaro economy has been a bonus.

3. World War 1 features – this is a longitudinal look, over a century, at the development of export commodities, mainly coffee, but also cotton and rice. Seimu traces the start of mass production under the short German colonial rule and the consequence of the 1914-1918 war leading to the British taking over. How they built on, and further developed, the German system making it British, until the Africanisation from post-WW2 is the main focus of the book. In dealing with what could be rather politically sensitive matters, Seimu has maintained an objective view by keeping the focus on primary source material. Gaining an idea of what is held in the Tanzanian archives (also referred to as TNA – the same as The [British] National Archives] has been great. Returning to World War 1, from as early as 1916, civil administration was being re-introduced in the Kilimanjaro area with colonial officials working with the Chagga community to improve their lot and to give them an opportunity to hold their own against the white and Asian settler communities. It’s a reinforcement of the importance of having the right people in place to enable collaboration, irrespective of background.

4. I worked closely with the author to get the book published – through the GWAA.

So, yes, I am biased, but for anyone wanting to discover how coffee and other co-operatives developed and changed over time in Tanzania, as well as getting an insight into Tanzanian economic policy and how politics influences such, then this is a book worth reading. All due to the legacy of World War One, but more significantly Africans taking the initiative.

Frog encounters

One of the striking features of researching individuals who participated in the East Africa campaign is their interest in nature. This is particularly so amongst the doctors and vets although some like Frederick Selous and Richard Meinertzhagen, as well as Jan Smuts, had interests in butterflies, birds, and grasses respectively. Dr Carpenter who served in Uganda during the war recorded in his memoirs that he spent the war years collecting bugs hardly seeing any military action at all. One or two were natural scientists. So it was with some interest that I discovered, thanks to Simon Loader, this publication on amphibians in Tanzania.

While the war of 1914-1918 is not mentioned in the publication, it has some incredible photos of places the forces found themselves in, particularly forests. Most travellers today through East Africa seldom see forests, the area around Tsavo is better known for its dust than forests, yet talk to the older generation on Kilimanjaro and they’ll tell you the area below used to be forest. The trees were removed for firewood – no doubt to service the railways and camps in the vicinity. Not too far away in the TPC sugar plantations, there is a spot or two which has been left to nature – I wasn’t able to get a photograph of it which clearly shows its density. But having seen it, I fully understood the diary accounts of men trying to find a way through thick forest. It’s hard to believe the whole area from Moshi to Voi could have been covered like that.

Back to the frogs. Encountering lions and hippo, having giraffe pull down the telegraph wires and shooting the odd buck for the pot are regular diary features from the war years. Few write about smaller creatures, unless they’re talking of the jigger and the soldier ant, or are a collector. But could you imagine coming across one of the little (or even larger) creatures caught on camera in this publication? The frogs in my garden and I take turns at frightening each other – and that’s on a calm day. Just think how much worse it must be if one is already tense from not knowing what is in the thick bush ahead only to have a little critter jump away in disgust at having their rest disturbed. Oh, and don’t forget the earthworm like creatures at the end of the book. Some look to be as big as small snakes…

Apart from the scenery and the amphibians, this publication is written in both English and Kiswahili – enabling a wider range of people to engage. It’s the second I’ve encountered of this kind and I look forward to more in the future.

And I just can’t resist adding my discovery of Paddafontein (literally frog fountain) in KwaZulu-Natal which I came across when reading about the Bambata/Zulu/1906 rebellion. There is another Paddafontein in the Karoo (well at least in ebook novel form: It never rains in Paddafontein by Clive Cooke; and a farm in Limpopo Province). The earliest online mention of the KZN Paddafontein is page 48 of the 1890 Natal Departmental Record.

Engaging Africa in remembrance

Does having a list of African High Commissioners due to attend a remembrance event prove inclusivity? I’m not sure. It shows engagement at a basic level. I put my theory to the test, again and introduced myself to various of the High Commissioners and/or their Military Attachés. As expected, they were [pick your term] polite, politically correct, giving lip service, saying what they expected others to want to hear. And of course, wearing a poppy. They were present but not engaged in any meaningful way.

This war which was being portrayed as inclusive still had/has no direct resonance with many from the African continent. How do I know? Well, in my encounter at this particular event, as with others, I’ve got to know the signs of polite tolerance, until you hit with a snippet that says, ‘I am serious, this is about YOUR country, how you can start engaging with the commemoration at a local level. It’s about people, not Empire.’

For Zambia, it was realising there was a black Zambian who served on the Western Front in an armed capacity. He was not just a name but a person with a history; not all positive, but that’s life. We won’t know why Samson Jackson (aka Bulaya) really enlisted, and the military records are no longer available, but he served and stayed until 1921.

Tanzania’s moment came when it was realised that the whole territory had been caught up in the war and that everyone was affected in some way, not least the local population having their homesteads overrun and having to supply food and manpower to the various forces. Added to this were the Askari and King’s African Rifles which forms the basis of the present military system. And the fact that their first President, Julius Nyerere’s policies around land were no doubt influenced by his early life experiences in the 1920s.

Kenya is an interesting one. A look at Wikipedia for Jomo Kenyatta shows he joined Masaai family members to avoid enlistment whilst Geoffrey Hodges in Kariokor notes Kenyatta worked for the British administration learning the value of organisation to achieve a goal.

I can go on, but what difference will this engagement make? In the big scheme of things, I don’t know, but it might well help fill in gaps and give confidence to a people told they should remember but who can’t see why. At a more altruistic level, it should create a more level playing field to overcome divisions as greater understanding of the past is understood for what it was.

Of one thing I’m clear, remembrance as it is currently practised in Britain and other British-influenced communities is not (yet) inclusive. This will take time – Hew Strachan points out in an essay on remembrance: ‘[The] 1914-18 [war] drew a clear distinction between the theory and practice of war in their own [European] continent and wars waged outside it.’ It’s taken Britain a century to reconcile these two points at an intellectual level. The challenge now is for Britain and others to explain this at national and local level, and develop an understanding of the African context of the war.

The impetus to remember does not rest with Britain and the European powers alone, Africans can, by looking outside the traditional European narrative, create their own remembrance as witnessed in Zambia in November 2018.

God Bless Africa

A little while ago I looked up the English translation (God Bless Africa) of N’kosi Sikelele, the national anthem of South Africa and Mungi ibariki Afrika, the national anthem of Tanzania. At independence it was also the anthems of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia until they adopted new ones: Zambia Stand and sing of Zambia; Zimbabwe Blessed be the land of Zimbabwe; Namibia Land of the Brave

The history of this hymn and its use as a national anthem seems to have raised interesting questions over copyright.

All the anthems seem to have been translated into multiple languages, the Zambian noted has having been written in English first and then translated. The South African anthem is currently sung in four languages (Xhosa, Zulu, English and Afrikaans), the first part Nkosi Sikelele having been written in Xhosa and then translated, the second part originating in Afrikaans and the third being an English variation of the original Afrikaans.

This raises some interesting questions with its banning by the Apartheid government: was it a hymn or a political statement? Siemon Allen challenges the banning in a fascinating summary of the use of the hymn. It is claimed that the hymn was first used as a protest song in 1919 with additional verses being added in 1927 by Samuel Mqhayi. Coplan and Jules-Rosette discuss its use in the liberation struggle.

What intrigued me were the topics covered by N’kosi Sikelele – they provide an insight into what was important to the authors and their communities at the time and surprisingly, these are still big topics today: Chiefs (leadership), public men, youth, land, wives, women, ministers (religious), agriculture, stock, land, education, unity.

Another interesting aspect links with wider discussions on the value of African languages and their being subordinated to English and French. Where there are multiple translations of the anthem, which is used at official national occasions and what is the reason for this? With so many language groups, how is unity developed? Or is it through the common tune that unity is achieved? One of my highlights was approaching a Tanzanian primary school during assembly when the children started singing the anthem. I might not have been able to join them in Swahili but I could in Xhosa and Zulu. And in solidarity we asked that ‘God Bless Africa’.