By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
I often went to Zanzibar as a child, with my mother, who was born in Dar es Salaam. We would take a crowded ferry and stay at a hostel for poor women and their kids, who wanted a subsidised break by the sea.
The women in the local mosque provided lunch and we had a wonderful time.
The island, a fabulous mix of Arab, African, Indian and Persian cultures and peoples, was utterly unlike my racially-divided hometown, Kampala, in Uganda.
Then, one day, my mother told me about the thousands of black slaves who had been captured in the hinterlands and brought to the island to be sold.
She took me to Bagamoyo, the slave port on the mainland: the word means “lay down your heart”.
That trade went on from the Seventh Century until – it is claimed – the beginning of the 20th Century. Throughout early history, enslavement was common around the world, and East Africa was just one more lucrative location.
But here, the abomination went on longer than at any other time or place. The traders were mostly Arab, though some Indian merchants were actively involved. Those who captured and sold humans to the businessmen were local African chiefs and henchmen.
A febrile young child, I was distraught when I learned that Muslims had perpetuated this evil. How could it be? The Prophet Mohammed had freed Bilal, a black slave, and asked him to make the first-ever call to prayer. Surely that meant something?
And, as the years went on and we learned to look back with abhorrence at the practice of owning and exploiting humans, how come there was no acknowledgement of this injustice in Zanzibar? The questions circled around in my head obsessively when I was a young teen.
Then came 1964, and the island detonated. A revolution led by African soldiers deposed the constitutional monarch, Sultan Jamshid Bin Abdullah.
It was, in part, retaliation for slavery – by people, and upon people, who were not responsible. It felt as if some ancient God of vengeance had risen from the sea.
They slaughtered anyone who looked Arab, and some Indians too. They took their daughters to rape, confiscated their properties and banished many.
To this day there is no list of the dead – those tortured and dumped into the sea – the disappeared and the exiles. My mother and I never went back to our favourite place, but for years I have wanted to reveal these veiled stories.
Returning for the first time in more than 40 years for the BBC World Service’s Heart and Soul strand, I interviewed Leila, 99, whose grandparents were enslaved.
“My grandmother had a baby, and the baby was still feeding – but the traders said this would delay the journey so they just threw the baby away,” she said.
“My father was also thrown away but the missionaries took him in and looked after him here.”
Leila became very emotional. “It is very painful – so many cruel people,” she said. “It’s very hard because we can’t remember our home, can’t see or know our relatives. We are cut off from our history.”
When we turned the tape recorder off, her eyes glazed over and she threw up blood all over her lovely satin dress – and me.
Then there were those I talked to about the revolution in 1964. Those who knew the violated and stolen girls cried as they spoke. They were taking risks talking to us, but it was time to do so, they said.
On a secluded beach away from the main town, Suleman Hamed told me how his uncle, sister and brother-in-law were killed. “People were killed in the streets and houses, and the revolutionaries take your wife and daughters – for raping. That was a horrible time. We think as if it was yesterday. And all because their ancestors were Arabs. We are called Arabs, but I don’t even speak a word of Arabic.”
The historian Maalim Idris says he witnessed the gutters running with Arab and Indian blood. He showed me photographs of mass graves and of trucks piled high with corpses being driven through the main street.
He believes no fewer than 3,000 Arabs and Indians were killed during the revolution, but there is no official figure.
Going back to Zanzibar was a life lesson in the potency of the whole historical truth. Those of Arab descent feel too defensive about the slave trade and focus on the revolution; Africans dwell on the trade and expect no mention of the barbaric acts of the revolutionaries.
There will not be real, deep healing between the citizens of various ethnicities until everyone talks more honestly about past injustices.
Without that, paradise is but an illusion.
An earlier version of this piece appeared in Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s column in the Independent newspaper. Her radio documentaries can be heard via the Heart and Soul website.
Going back was a life lesson in the potency of the whole historical truth
By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
Monday, 20 July 2009
I went to Zanzibar in June to make two radio documentaries. Oh lucky me, you might think, how wonderful. Increasingly popular with holidaymakers, it offers emerald forests and azure seas, blue skies with playful clouds, palm trees, coffee scented with cardamom, golden beaches, delectable food. They know not the bloodshed and agony that shaped this place. Nothing is as it has been made to seem. There is no innocence here, no easy forgetfulness – not for the inhabitants. They smile and laugh with visitors and try to please them (and because they are naturally hospitable, it has authenticity) but all the while unsettled scores and untold stories pulsate and throb through the veins of this part of the Tanzanian nation.
History has been buried here, deep in the sands, but never washed away. I often went to Zanzibar as a child, with my mum, who was born in Dar es Salaam. We would take a crowded ferry and stay at a hostel for poor women and their kids who wanted a subsidised break by the sea. The women in the local mosque provided l unch and we had a wonderful time. The island, a fabulous mix of Arab, African, Indian and Persian cultures and peoples, was utterly unlike my racially divided hometown, Kampala, Uganda. Then one day my mum told me about the thousands of black slaves who had been captured in the hinterlands and brought to the island to be sold. She took me to Bagamoyo, the slave port on the mainland: the word means “lay down your heart”. That trade went on from the seventh century to, it is claimed, the beginning of the 20th century.
Through early history, enslavement was common around the world and East Africa was just one more lucrative location. But here the abomination went on longer than at any other time or place. The traders were mostly Arab, though some Indian merchants were actively involved. Those who captured and sold the humans to the businessmen were local African chiefs and henchmen.
A febrile young child, I was distraught when I learned that Muslims had perpetuated this evil. How could it be? The Prophet Mohammed had freed Bilal, a black slave, and asked him to make the first-ever call to prayer. Surely that meant something? And as the years went on and we learned to look back with abhorrence at the practice of owning and exploiting humans, how come there was no acknowledgement of this systemic injustice in Zanzibar?
The questions circled around in my head obsessively when I was a young teen. Then came 1964, and the island detonated. A revolution led by African soldiers depose d the constitutional monarch, Sultan Seyyid Bin Abdullah. It was, in part, retaliation for slavery by people and upon people who were not responsible. It felt as if some ancient God of vengeance had risen from the sea. They slaughtered anyone who looked Arab and some Indians too, took their daughters to rape and use, confiscated their properties and banished many. To this day there is no list of the dead – those tortured and dumped into the sea – the disappeared and the exiles. A few years on, the coup leaders went for Zanzibari Persians, plucked several beautiful young girls of the most affluent families – some as young as 14 – and forced them into marriage with brutish military men.
Mum and I never went back to our favourite place. Terror spread among Asians in all East African countries. In 1972 Idi Amin threw us out of Uganda, but we were not subjected to the bloody ethnic massacres of Zanzibaris. Tanzanians celebrate the revolution every year and the important transformations it brought in education and health, but there is no mention of the murders and rapes.
For years I have wanted to reveal these veiled stories. And I was finally given that opportunity by the Heart and Soul strand on BBC World Service. Even before we left, there was nervousness among academics, writers, fixers and exiles. I could understand the anxiety. Politicians use bad history for worse politics and they had done so for decades in Zanzibar.
I’m glad we had the courage t o overcome the reservations. I interviewed Leila, 99, whose grandparents were enslaved. She spoke of babies, her father’s siblings, who were thrown into the forests. When we turned the tape off, her eyes glazed over and she threw up blood all over her lovely satin dress and me. There is a memorial to the slaves now, near the church built by Christians who raise praise for the anti-slavery campaigner David Livingstone. We saw holding caves near a beach where, it is alleged, human cargo was smuggled until the 1920s. I discovered that people in my own Shia community made huge profits selling and buying people, and also that the richest, Sir Tharia Topan, became a passionate abolitionist. Europeans were also involved and Africans were suppliers. Yet they blame only Arabs –a travesty. There were fascinating differences between Atlantic and East African slavery. The latter allowed the children of master and slave to become part of the family and to rise to power. But the bitterness is the same.
The revolution was, some said, payback. But when we met the victims, some of whom had lost so many relatives, that justification felt like an excuse. Those who knew the violated and stolen girls cried as they spoke. They were taking risks talking to us, but “it was time”, they said. I spoke to many in Swahili. One witnessed the gutters running with Arab and Indian blood, “like that of chickens slaughtered for Eid festivities”.
Going back was a life lesson in the potency of the whole historical truth. Those of Arab descent feel too defensive about the slave trade and focus on the revolution; Africans dwell on the trade and expect no mention of the barbaric acts of the revolutionaries.
Zanzibar is picking up – our leader, the Ismaili Aga Khan, has just spent millions restoring the old Arab garden and main square. Zanzibaris are taking pride in their island once more. But I am apprehensive that it could all go wrong again because too much is unresolved. There will not be real, deep healing between the citizens of various ethnicities until everyone talks more honestly about past injustices. Without that, paradise is but an illusion.
Return to Zanzibar is broadcast on the BBC World Service, 25 and 26 of July
Lopsided Synopsis: A Rebuttal to Zanzibar and the Darkness in Paradise
By Professor Abdul Sheriff
I was approached by the BBC to assist in the making of the slavery documentary. The synopsis that I received was so lopsided that I decided not to collaborate, because I did not want to be used in documentary to give it credibility. Below, I give what I wrote:
I must say that I was dismayed by your synopsis. I consider myself a serious historian of Zanzibar. So the words I am going to use below do not come easy for me, but they need to be said. Your synopsis, quite frankly, sounds like a British and Christian self-congratulatory apologetics, and at the same time unabashedly part of ‘Islam- and Arab-bashing.’
To start with, have you ever asked yourself why you have called slavery in Zanzibar ‘Islamic’, when you do not call the Atlantic slavery Christian? Because of the people involved in it? Because of the religion used to justify in each case? You are right in not calling it Christian, because it is not the religion that explains why it arose in 17-18th centuries, but the mode of production that was coming into being, as Marx put it, ‘the rosy dawn of capitalism.’
You have also congratulated yourself by saying that although the Christian church ‘may have justified and defended’ it, ‘it also became the main instigator of its demise.’ Nobody would want to belittle the intense humanitarianism of people like Wilberforce and Livingstone, but you do not ask why that humanitarianism welled up or came to fruition only in the 19th century and not before. There is another historical interpretation about the abolition of slavery, the Eric Williams thesis – abolition of slavery and substitution of free labour and free consumers was more profitable for the capitalist mode of production. Livingstone himself pushed this as ‘humanitarianism plus five per cent.’
If both the rise and demise of slavery are due to forces other than the religions, although they may have played both positive and negative roles in them, then your question as to why Islam did not do what Christianity did at that particular time in calling for its abolition needs to be thought again and framed differently. I do not wish to get into this debate which you can follow up, if you wish, in SOAS’s William Clarence-Smith’s recent book on the subject.
You have also described the East African slave trade as ‘Arab.’ I am not an Arab, and do not have to apologize for Arabs, but that is irrelevant. They were undoubtedly involved; but so were British Indians who owned more than 6,000 slaves in Zanzibar in the 1860s; the indigenous peoples of Zanzibar who also owned slaves and used them on their plantations and farms; the Africans on the mainland who hunted each other and supplied the market at the coast; the European and American traders who could not legally own slaves but had no hesitation in employing slaves to transport their goods; some European consuls had slave concubines, and treated them worse than the Arabs did; a former British naval officer wanted to start a joint venture with the Sultan of Zanzibar in which he would supply capital and machinery, and the Sultan would supply land and (slave) labour. So why focus so single-mindedly on the Arabs? Let us be honest, and not try to clean up our own dirty backyards by throwing our rubbish across the religious or national fences.
Finally, you try to link the question of slavery with ethnic violence in Zanzibar in the 1960s. You say ‘many Arabs were forced to flee’, but perhaps it is unpalatable for you to say that thousands of Arabs were massacred in what we would now have had little hesitation in describing it as ethnic cleansing and genocide. A very small number of big Arab landowners, who were mostly living in Zanzibar town, were killed; but whole families of poor Arab shopkeepers in the countryside, recent immigrants with no stain of slavery on them, were surrounded and massacred, including women and children, not forgetting equally innocent civilian men. That the ‘Revolutionaries’ may use the old slavery question to camouflage their pogrom should not blind us in the 21st century. We would not dare use the same argument if we were dealing with the holocaust.
Yasmin Alibhai Brown, you say, will visit ‘the last remaining cells beneath the old slave market in Zanzibar,’ and she will be told that 140 slaves used to be kept in that underground chamber. When she does that, she should ask how long they will have survived in the hot climate of Zanzibar with only the narrow slits in the walls for windows. By the way, the slits look remarkably similar to the Gothic windows of the Church of Christ as a whole. An American researcher has concluded that the underground chamber under St. Monica was built in 1905, eight years after the total abolition of slavery in Zanzibar, by Anglican missionaries, and was probably used by them for a more humanitarian purpose of storing medicines in cooler underground chamber if nor heated up body heat of 140 humans). She will also be told that a slave was buried under each of the pillars of the House of Wonders, which was built in the 1880s in full view of the all the Western consuls who did not even notice it; she may even be taken to Mangapwani and shown the underground ‘slave chambers’ cut through solid rock, but there is another version that an Arab keeper of the spirits (Majini) used it for his profession.
This is absolutely not to deny that slavery existed in Zanzibar, and it was horrible. I myself have fully documented that in fact an even larger number of slaves (23,000) than you state, were passing through Zanzibar by the mid 1860s – although this is still less than half the annual average of the Atlantic slave trade over 200 years, hardly a rival that you imply. The beautiful Anglican Cathedral was built on the site of the last slave market in Zanzibar, on land donated by a Hindu owner, and the Muslim Sultan of Zanzibar donated the clock in its tower. To me (a Muslim) it is a house of God, and part of our national heritage. Yasmin Alibhai Brown would do well to look at the signboard to the Cathedral – I was surprised to see the name of the Cathedral Church of Christ written in small letters, while ‘The Last Slave Market’ is written in letters twice the size. I cannot but regret that slavery has become a new ‘product’ to sell to the tourists, still to make money out of the dead bones of slaves.
To conclude on the question of ‘Islamic slavery’, this is indeed a serious question, and I would have thought especially for your ‘Heart and Soul’ programme. Islam, and as Bernard Lewis has shown, all the monotheistic religions, found and did not abolish slavery at their birth and long thereafter. Islam found domestic slavery in Arabia, and it tried to ameliorate the condition of slaves. It did not consider them as chattel but as human beings with certain rights and responsibilities. Out of 19 references to slavery in the Qur’an, 10 of them relate to their manumission – strange for a religion that has become almost synonymous with slavery in the Western mind. It is also true that certain Muslims in 9th century Basra or 19th century Zanzibar developed plantation slavery, and used the excuse of saving the souls of the heathens by hunting for slaves. All of this you are prepared to put under one label, ‘Islamic slavery.’ I do not think justice can be done to the subject with your synopsis, which does not depart too much from numerous tourist documentaries on the subject.’
Zanzibar and the Darkness in Paradise: A Progressive Reaction
By Muhammad Yussuf
Yasmin Alibhai Brown’s visit to “the last remaining cells beneath the old slave market in Zanzibar” and her presentation on what he saw and experienced has provoked enormous criticisms from a good number of Zanzibaris and like-minded non Zanzibaris. In her article entitled: “Zanzibar and the Darkness in Paradise”, she talked about slavery, the massacres of innocent Zanzibaris of Arab and Indian descent and described the East African slave trade as ‘Arab.’ But, as Prof. Abdul Sheriff correctly put it, “there is no doubt that the Arabs were involved in the slave trade; but so were British Indians; the indigenous peoples of Zanzibar; the Africans on the Mainland; the European and American traders; some European consuls who had slave concubines and who were treated worse than the Arabs did; a former British naval officer wanted to start a joint venture with the Sultan of Zanzibar in which he would supply capital and machinery, and the Sultan would supply land and (slave) labour…”
This is absolutely not to deny that slavery existed in Zanzibar, and it was horrible. But, centuries have elapsed and Zanzibar has long become an independent state; ruled, not by the Arabs or British people, but by the indigenous Zanzibari Africans themselves. We should not, therefore, try to attribute our present failures, i.e. economic mismanagement, rampant corruption, political instability, poverty, etc, to other than ourselves.
While it is true that the 1964 revolution deposed the constitutional monarch, certainly its motivation was not, in any part, “retaliation for slavery by people and upon people who were not responsible” as Yasmin would have wished to make us believe. In other words, it is not proper to link the question of slavery with ethnic violence in Zanzibar in the 1960s as Professor Sheriff eloquently contended.
However, as what happened in most of the revolutions worldwide, in Zanzibar many Zanzibaris were also killed, raped and tortured, most of whom for no apparent reason. But, it is not true that “To this day, there is no list of the dead – those tortured and dumped into the sea – the disappeared and the exiles”. Given the smallness of Zanzibar where almost everybody knows somebody else, all those who lost their lives, disappeared and/or exiled are known.
As a matter of fact, from the late 1990s through early 2000s, I initiated a heated debate in which many Zanzibaris via Zanzinet Forum contributed actively in the discussion that had ensued by providing names of those Zanzibaris that had lost their lives during the revolution and its aftermath. It should be recalled that John Okello, in his infamous book, claimed that a total of 25,000 Zanzibaris were killed during the Revolution, most of whom were Zanzibaris of Arab descent. Ali Muhsin Al-Barwany, in his book entitled: “Conflict and Harmony in Zanzibar” also contended that “according to John Okello, 25,000 Arabs were killed during the popular uprising”.
But, on the other hand, Abdulrahaman Mohamed Babu authoritatively remarked that those killed during the revolution were not more than 200 Zanzibaris; given the fact that there were 35,000 people residing in the Municipality of Zanzibar in 1964. In other words, imagine the sudden and abrupt loss of 25,000 Arab Zanzibaris in a population of 35,000… I am, therefore, more inclined to take the word of Babu, a well educated Zanzibari, who knew his way around Zanzibar; more than the word of Okello, an ignorant immigrant from Uganda who believed that, as Field Marshall, he needed to be seen to have killed as many Zanzibaris as possible as a stupid way of demonstrating his military credentials befitting his self-imposed status.
In consequent, the principal motive for initiating this important exercise was to trying to come up with the correct number of people killed during the infamous revolution. As an incentive, I offered to pay Tshs. 1,000,000/00 to anyone who would provide 500 names only of those killed during the revolution. After, almost three months of deliberations, only 270 names were produced and recorded via the active participation and coordination of Dr. Yussuf Salim of Denmark. So, a complete list of Zanzibaris who lost their lives during the revolution can be accessed in Zanzinet Archives and/or by requesting Dr. Yussuf Salim, who prepared the list for the record purposes, to provide a copy for anyone interested.
In retrospect, for someone, like Professor Abdul Sheriff who considers himself “a serious historian of Zanzibar”, I would have expected him to put matters in the right perspective when discussing such a sensitive and increasingly volatile issue as the so-called massacre of “thousands of Arabs in what we would now have had little hesitation in describing it as ethnic cleansing and genocide”. In other words, equating the murder of 270 innocent Zanzibari men, women and children to ethnic-cleansing and genocide is way too much in interpreting the true and correct definition of these two terminologies in the eyes of international law.
In conclusion, I tend to agree with Professor Sheriff in his assertion that “the ‘Revolutionaries’ may use the old slavery question to camouflage their pogrom should not blind us in the 21st century. We should not, therefore, dare use the same argument if we were dealing with the Holocaust”. Well said. But, I would add, though, that we also need to be rational, sober and increasingly sensitive to one another if we want to avoid bringing the old wounds back to light that, unfortunately, continue to haunt the fabric of Zanzibari national life for generations now. Increasingly, it is high time to change the old mindset, bigotry and move forward.
Diehard Diatribes: A Counterpunch
By Ibrahim Noor
Muhammad Yussuf’s justification for the invasion of Zanzibar and his downplaying of the death toll of innocent men, women, and children in the so-called Zanzibar revolution is well known to all those who have been reading his diehard diatribes for the last ten years.
The said arguments are well imprinted in the minds of those who debated him in his baseless and non-scientific endeavor in Zanzinet forum that attempted to come up with a “scientific” compilation of the names of the victims of the ethnic cleansing and genocide.
The thrust of his arguments were based solely on the assumption that Zanzibaris know each other well, therefore, a few of them could easily produce names of people who were massacred during and after the so-called revolution. I challenged him then, to come up with five names of people he knew in Tumbatu or Makunduchi and their families but he could not do so on his own without consulting his associates who lived in those places.
The point I was making is that individuals may know well only a limited number of people and that is why, to ensure accuracy, population censuses are conducted even in small islands such as Zanzibar where he claims that the inhabitants know each other very well.
It is worth noting that only a small group of much less than 50 Zanzibaris (less than 10% of the Zanzinet audience) participated in the Zanzinet debates and fewer still wrote down the names of those they knew who were murdered in the “revolution.” The list was compiled by a very small group of people whose time was limited, sitting in front of their computers and relying almost entirely on their own memories of the people they knew who were killed in the invasion. No fieldwork of any kind was carried out; no interviews of eye witnesses, no unearthing of mass graves and no forensic examinations conducted – The predictable result was a gross under estimation of the actual figures. Any serious researcher can attest that the experiment was unscientific and extremely limited in scope and, therefore, exceedingly unreliable. It was an invalid impressionistic and sensationalist exercise aimed at lowering the number of massacred souls at whatever cost in order to give legitimacy to one of the most violent genocides of the second half of the 20th Century.
The Zanzinet forum had about 800 members many of whom, including myself, refused to participate in this frivolous exercise which was not only unscientific but grossly bizarre, that attempted to belittle the shameful ethnic cleansing of an innocent people, the rapes that took place, the plunder of property and the mass expulsion of Zanzibaris of particular ethnic origins.. We refused to participate because it was clear from the start that, to the instigator of the farce, it was the preconceived result and not the methodology to arrive at actual facts and figures that was important, and consequently truth became the casualty as intended.
Hence I am very much shocked that to this day, and especially given his position as Interim Executive Director of the Zanzibar Institute for Research and Public Policy (ZIRPP), he should so proudly present the same invalid estimate of the massacred victims obtained from a narrow and scientifically unacceptable base which disregards the importance of research norms based on a rigorous methodology. It is even more saddening to witness one taking himself so seriously and actually believing that the Zanzinet exercise has compelling merit and that it was all that was needed to prove that only 270 people were killed in the genocide. In his indefatigable spirit to prove that there were just a few people who were massacred in Zanzibar he writes approvingly that:
“[…] Abdulrahaman Mohamed Babu authoritatively remarked that those killed during the revolution were not more than 200 Zanzibaris; given the fact that there were 35,000 people residing in the Municipality of Zanzibar in 1964. In other words, imagine the sudden and abrupt loss of 25,000 Arab Zanzibaris in a population of 35,000…” Incidentally, the same Abdulrahman Babu that he quotes so approvingly, when confronted by some of us in private, after his imprisonment in Tanganyika, admitted that thousands of people were killed in the revolution but he had to give a smaller figure “for political reasons…” Babu retorted: “Surrounded by so many enemies of the revolution, what did you want me to say? To admit that thousands of people were killed! Would that not have given them more ammunition against us?”
People were massacred not just in the Municipality of Zanzibar, in fact a lot more were slaughtered in the rural areas where the scattered populations were butchered by the machetes of imported angels of death. The world renowned photographer, the late Mohamed Amin describes in the book The Man Who Shook the World about the pictures he took of dhow funerals where loads of the dead were thrown into the sea to squadrons of attacking sharks. And who said that there were only Arabs who were massacred in Zanzibar in 1964? There were many non-Arab members of the ZNP and ZPPP who met the same fate as the Arabs, including Arab supporters of the ASP! There are also whole families of recent emigrants from Oman most of whom lived in rural areas who were butchered Rwanda-style with axes and machetes by canoe-loads of men who were sent from Tanganyika to take part in the pogroms. It was not until I visited Oman did I came to know of the magnitude of Omanis killed in the 1964 ethnic cleansing/genocide.
Over three thousand five hundred adults, children and infants from Zanzibar were registered by the International Red Cross and embarked on dhows (such as Hari Sagar, Nasrul Mulk, Nasri and many more led by master captains such as Musa Dada, Saleh Said, Mohamed Ahmed, who ended up in Yemen, Muscat and Dubai) with horror stories and permanent traumas of the killing fields of the Zanzibar invasion. Obviously, these poor souls in the killing fields do not belong to some people’s list of dead souls. Therefore, any meaningful research of the atrocities must be conducted in Zanzibar as well as in other countries such as Oman where relatives lost their kinsmen in a barbaric and collective ritual of mass murder.
If anyone is really interested in finding out the truth about the number of human beings – men, women and children – who were butchered during and after the invasion “kwa mapanga na mashoka” (i.e. by machetes and axes), as it is proudly sung by the “victors” – the genocide perpetrators – then, perhaps now is the perfect opportunity to conduct a proper and real scientific research under the auspices of ZIRPP. The research should allow independent and objective scientific bodies to conduct a count through a survey that would cover Zanzibaris wherever they are, and also unearth the mass graves and begin the counting process so as to arrive at the truth. But, to objectively do so, first, all must be impartial (a difficult undertaking given some individuals’ obstinacy, partisanship and deep pathological anti-Arab sentiments). There are many people still alive who know the locations of these mass-graves. There are also many experts who can be called upon to assist in this process and these include forensic experts who investigated the recent massacres in the Balkans and Rwanda.
Parenthetically, typically in Muhammad Yussuf’s predictable standard of operating procedures, whenever he has no substantiated argument, he enters into an ad hominem mode of sarcasm and ridiculing the messenger instead of addressing the issue at hand. Notice how he tried, in vain, to demean Professor Abdul Sheriff – a serious world-class and respectable historian. He attempted his well-known sarcastic signature to invalidate Professor Sheriff’s proposition not because the acclaimed research Professor said anything that is invalid. He simply wanted to disparage the number of innocent people murdered during and after the “revolution” and soar with his own figures obtained through a narrow and pathetically unsound method to new heights of scientific attention-seeking.
The art of distracting and manipulating audiences so as to force one’s own egoistic arguments through and away from the kernel of the most pressing political and ethical issues dealing with human life is not only immoral but gravely dangerous. Having said the foregoing one can only anticipate his spiteful rebuttal and lose sight and insight of the research methodological thrust of his Zanzinet magnus opus on the victims of the invasion of the State of Zanzibar which today he pauses as its defender. It is the conviction of many that the best way of reconciling Zanzibaris – those who consider themselves the victors with the victims of the bloody invasion – is to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But the bigots and those who have things to hide will do everything in their power to oppose such a move. Why? Because, they do not wish the world to know the truth about the massacres; instead, they advocate “peace without justice.”
In an interesting twist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a victim of this unsettled “peace without justice” phenomenon. Oh yes, indeed there were some things she said that were not historically correct. But, had it not been for the torment most living Zanzibari victims of the so called “revolution” were carrying in their psyche over the years without reconciliation with their tormentors, Alibhai-Brown and the BBC would not have received such scrutiny and angry responses to her brief personal documentary.
In my humble opinion, most of these victims of the invasion failed to address the real issues as most of them do not know how to, and Alibhai-Brown failed to hear their cries when she thought that the victims of the cruel and racist invasion from Tanganyika (inappropriately referred to as the “revolution”), were attacking her personally. The howl had little to do with her short documentary and everything to do with the victims’ own intense psychological pain intensified over years by neglect and double standards in the justice system from the so called “civilized” world.
Most surviving victims of the genocide believe that they were abandoned at their hour of desperate need by the British Government when they could have easily prevented the genocide as they did avert a bloodbath in Tanganyika a few days later and reinstated President Julius Nyerere after an attempted coup by his own military. Many Zanibaris also believe that the British allowed their relatives to be slaughtered because they were Muslims – but this is a topic of another discourse – and since the BBC is British, hence the reaction we have witnessed.
The Nazi mass murderers were hunted down, caught and tried in Nuremburg, Milosevic and cohorts at The Hague, Rwandan mass murderers at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Arusha, and more recently a warrant of arrest was issued by the “civilized” world’s ICC for President Bashir of the Sudan to be arrested, but the racist genocidal maniacs who slaughtered so many thousands of innocent Muslim men, women and children in Zanzibar are applauded every year by representatives of various governments, including ambassadors of most “civilized” countries when they join in the celebrations commemorating the so called “revolution.” That is why surviving victims of ethic cleansing genocide in Zanzibar cry foul!