Tanzania 50 years old? Not yet, it's a cover-up By Kalundi Serumaga THE EAST AFRICAN Posted Sunday, December 4 2011 at 16:47 Questions must be asked as to why Tanzania seeks to have a birthday party to which it is not quite yet entitled, through it claiming to be older that it actually is. In so doing, Africans will be able to further educate themselves on the vexed question of why Pan Africanism and African Independence ended up as the proverbial movement that "began with a prophet and ended up with a policeman," and why the impending failure of global neo-liberalism may be the thing that finally finishes it off. The mis-named United Republic of Tanzania is a concept descended from the territory of German design that the British victors of the First World War took over, then eventually handed to a new African elite at independence. Over the next half century and certainly in the first 25 years, the country became the test laboratory and reference point for the entire question that so exercised the minds of those who elected to be the thinkers of the post-colonial African question. Africans, diaspora and non-African alike looked to the land of the vast savannah for possible answers to the vagaries of Pan-Africanist political ambitions, especially the fight against lingering white rule, to matters of how to accelerate human development and build "national" unities. In a classical case of "seeing only what you were looking for," many found the answers. Up to today, despite the official retreat by the country itself from the higher reaches of state socialism, many defenders of the Tanzanian concept can still point to the seeming homogenous nature of the country, its clean bill of health as far as internal wars are concerned, and its equal opportunity poverty as signs that the legacy of its founders has let a sound record. It was not to be until October 29, 1964, that this entity was then declared - to the dissatisfaction of many - Tanzania. Arguments remain to this day about the status of the Zanzibar National Assembly in relation to the Tanzanian "super-government," as "Tanganyika" has no similar counterpart. More worrisome disputes revolve around the ownership of the fishing waters and potential offshore oilfields in the Indian Ocean. Are they Zanzibari, Tanganyikan, or Tanzanian? And how will Tanganyika stake its claim with no government of its own to speak for it? The much vaunted one language policy - which is actually of German colonial design - came at the cost of whatever indigenous knowledge was lost through the degradation of native languages. A number of Ugandan educators today earn a quiet income from the children of the Tanzanian elite, buoyed by the emerging liberal economy, who choose to send their children to Uganda so that they may learn English, the more successful of the two colonial languages. This attempt, therefore, to celebrate the half-century anniversary of a country that did not exist 50 years a ago is a result of a need to cover up the murky details of how yet another set of native identities are being suppressed, on the mainland and elsewhere, by this wholly suspect Pan Africanist project. That however, is the question: Which founders, and which record? But first, we must clear up some dates: It is actually too early by a few years to celebrate the 50th Independence Anniversary of Tanzania, as that country only came into existence in 1964. Fifty years ago, a number of countries in the region did come into political existence, but none of them were what we call Tanzania today. Like much of the creation of post-colonial Africa, the story is not an entirely honourable one. This may explain why it today would perhaps try to pretend now to be the thing it was not then, and celebrate it three years too early. A country called Tanganyika was granted independence in early December 1961. In December 1963, its island neighbour of Zanzibar also achieved independence and also took up its seat at the United Nations. Zanzibar was then convulsed by a bloody left-wing revolution in early 1964 that left thousands of property owners dead and the Western world very worried that another Cuba had cropped up, this time in the Indian Ocean. A quiet US-led diplomatic campaign began to see how to get the friendly country of Tanganyika to swallow up the radical island on their behalf, before the Soviet bloc did. American-inspired Union As Tanganyika's Independence leader and hero, Julius Nyerere was happy to oblige. Perhaps having himself been recently shaken by military mutinies that plagued the region in the wake of the granting of independence (in his case, he had been obliged to seek refuge in the British embassy), he understood the value of Western benevolence. This is how the movement towards Union began. A Pan Africanism born in an American boardroom and often mistakenly held up as an example of workable African unity was launched. But Tanzania was still not yet born. After a period of Nyerere-led inveigling of the political forces on the island, what emerged was a polity officially known as The United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, in late April 1964, with Zanzibar retaining its own national assembly, but losing its UN seat.