Zanzibar History: Independence (1963)

Figure 1.--Arabs countries and leaders in colonies about to become independent were very concerned with the United Nations Charter and the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The twin issues of religious liberty and rights for women as well asother matters conflicted with both the Koran and Islamic religious teaching. Most Arab countries as they achieved independence were dubious about women participating in the political process. This was not the case in Zanzibar, even though it had a very traditional Arab culture. This was because the Arabs were a minoriy on Zanzibar and as independence approched, they needed every vote they could get. Here is a meeting designed to get out the Arab women's vote. The press caption read, "It's a Woman's World: An industrious young Arab boy continues to sell coffee as Moslem women quickly draw veils over their fces as they spot a phitographeraproaching. The ladies were attending an outdoor meeting of the Zanzibar Nationalist Party, called to whip up enthusiasm for local political candidates. The young coffee vendor, though a male, had specil privileges to attend the women's assembly." The photigraph was dated July 19, 1963.

The decolonization process reached East Africa including Znzibar in the 1950s. Britain granted neighborimg Tanganyika independence (1961), Uganda (1962), and Kenya (1963). Zanzibar conducted elections and was granted indepencence (1963). The broad-based, predominantly African 'Afro-Shirazi Party' (ASP) won a majority of the popular vote. Britain was, however, concerned ith the ASP's radical leanings. A coalition of two parties favored by the Arabs and supported by the British, however, maintained power. Sultan Jamshid ibn Abdullah was head of state and Prime Minister Muhammad Shamte Hamadi, like the Sultan an Arab, became the leader of government. This resulted in political agitation leading to rioting as Africans and the ASP demanded to end the Arab monopoly on power. Virtually out of nowhere, a John Okello arrived in Zanzibar and entered the political scene (1963). He contacted the leaders of the Afro-Shirazi Youth League--the ASP youth organization. He began to plan to overrthrow Arab power. While a house painter, he had a charismatic personliy and remarkable political skills. He attracted determined followers. He suceded in building a small army, They were poorly armed, but deeply committed nationalists. Okello insisted on strict rules: sexual abstinence, no raw meat, and no alcohol. Okello's group managed to overthriw the Zanzibar police despite being poorly armed. They forced the Sultan into exile. Other Zanzibar Arabs were less fortnate. Okello's men conducted a reign of terror, brutally murdering and imprisoning thousands of Arab men. Okello gave strict orders to spare women, children and the elderly. Arabs and Indians fled the island in large numbers.


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Created: 11:34 PM 2/16/2015
Last updated: 11:34 PM 2/16/2015