The Culture of Colonialism: The Cultural Subjection of Ukaguru

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What did it mean to be an African subject living in remote areas of Tanganyika at the end of the colonial era? For the Kaguru of Tanganyika, it meant daily confrontation with the black and white governmental officials tasked with bringing this rural people into the mainstream of colonial African life. T. O. Beidelman's detailed narrative links this administrative world to the Kaguru's wider social, cultural, and geographical milieu, and to the political history, ideas of indirect rule, and the white institutions that loomed just beyond their world. Beidelman unveils the colonial system's problems as it extended its authority into rural areas and shows how these problems persisted even after African independence.

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1 Kaguru and Colonial History: The Rise and Fall of Indirect Rule

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Ukaguru has a special colonial history in that it embodies a number of firsts.1 Ukaguru is the site of some of the earliest European settlements in mainland Tanzania and is where the first white child was born on the mainland. These settlements involved Church Missionary Society people (CMS), who founded one of the earliest missions in East Africa in Ukaguru. This mission station was founded because it lay on the caravan route that the missionaries took to reach their main goal for conversion, the great African kingdoms far to the west in what is now Uganda. For similar reasons Ukaguru was the site of the first major Arab inland fort set up to protect the caravan trade going westward. Obviously the early precolonial history of Ukaguru was above all determined by the caravan trade. During the era of the great East African caravans in the second half of the nineteenth century, Ukaguru lay along what became the main central route for those setting out from the ports of Zanzibar, Bagamoyo, and Sadani to the great and rich, populous areas around the distant great inland lakes. Most famous early European travelers inland passed through Ukaguru—Stanley, Burton, Speke, and many others. Stanley described the Kaguru as amiable, at least where they had not been frequently raided by Arabs or by other Africans, and provided one of the best accounts of the Kaguru’s early appearance (1872:247–249). Misleadingly, the early CMS missionary Roger Price wrote home in 1877 to his supervisors: “If there is anywhere a country so near the equator as this where Europeans can live and enjoy health—this must be it” (quoted in A. Smith 1955:8). The frequent deaths of early missionaries to this area proved him wrong. Early travelers’ accounts dwelled on how green and beautiful the Kaguru mountain area was. Stanley called it “picturesque and sublime,” comparing it to the Alleghanies (1879, I:91). None of these visitors except the missionaries stayed, so that there are few early accounts of any true sociological value.

 

2 Ukaguru 1957–58

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This volume is an account of political life in Ukaguru, Kilosa district, during the years prior to the end of British colonial rule. To make this political account convincing I preface it with information on the general social and economic life within. In this chapter I briefly describe local African settlement and social organization and the ways Africans made a living, the markets, roads, climate, and terrain. I also briefly describe Kaguru beliefs and values, and the Christian mission and government schools, which changed traditional thinking. My study mainly involves the Kaguru, but it also involves the Baraguyu, Kamba, and Ngulu ethnic minorities; African outsiders working for the Native Authority, for the mission, and in the Asian shops; and the few Asian and Somali merchants and white missionaries. I therefore briefly remark on them as well.

The main east-west road of central Tanganyika ran through the center of Ukaguru. At the time of my major fieldwork even this road was unpaved and consequently sometimes difficult during the peak of the rains, when upgrades were very difficult to climb even for vehicles with four-wheel drive or tire-chains. I often saw vehicles bogged down for many hours or even days, even though drivers had come with shovels and ropes. This main road passed by only one important Kaguru settlement, the sub-chief headquarters at Geiro on the western border of Eastern Province. To reach other Kaguru settlements one had to travel three to fifteen miles over minor, more difficult roads leading off from the main road. The roads to these more distant sites were sometimes very difficult during the height of the rains, so sometimes messages and packets had to be sent out on foot. Sometimes rivers crossing the roads were not fordable for several days, even by trucks. (There were no bridges in the upland area of the chiefdom.) There were small African and sometimes Asian shops at these sites. Native Authority trucks brought supplies and carried messages every week or so to many of these areas. Africans sometimes paid money to hitch rides on these vehicles. Asian-owned trucks, usually driven by Africans, brought in merchandise to many of these shops about once a month. Missionaries and some European administrators visited these areas, though often only once or twice a year. Only settlements such as Berega (because of the mission and its middle school and small hospital), Chakwale (because of the cattle market), and Geiro (being on the main road and with a petrol station) were visited more often. The Protestant CMS Mission ran the only postal service in the chiefdom. Native Authority trucks brought mail in and out of this area almost every week. Anyone wanting to send or receive mail had to hike or bike to Berega, often a day’s round trip from much of the chiefdom even for a strong biker, since the chiefdom was so hilly. Traffic greatly increased after the rainy season ended, both because then roads were more traversable and because that was the time when crops were harvested and taxes due, so that markets and courthouses had to be visited. It was then too that Kaguru and other Africans had plentiful grain for beer to celebrate marriages and initiations. Then Asian trucks came weekly to government-run markets to purchase produce, tax-collectors came to collect from Africans attending markets, and sales at the cattle market increased on account of the need to pay taxes. Many Kaguru and Ngulu sold metal goods, tobacco, mats, beads, and pottery to Baraguyu flush with ready cash from livestock sales. The rainy season was the time for intensive agricultural labor and little travel in Ukaguru, and the dry season the time for travel, when cultivation tapered off and visiting, marketing, and celebration of initiation and marriages led to a stream of Africans trekking and bicycling over the roads and paths. It was also the time for Kaguru to do road work in lieu of paying cash for taxes.

 

3 The Kaguru Native Authority

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The Kaguru Native Authority is the official governing body of Ukaguru. It was the outcome of British policy to rule their African possessions through Indirect Rule, allowing the British to govern with minimal staff and funds while claiming to encourage natives both to oversee themselves and to gain experience in modernization at a slow pace that would supposedly accommodate local African values and needs. I have already discussed the pros and cons of Indirect Rule as well as the ways that policy was initiated and pursued in Tanganyika. I sketched out the ties between the local British administration and the Native Authority. Here I describe the organization and general workings of the Native Authority itself. In the next chapter, I discuss how the Native Authority worked in Kaguru courts, the most prominent and significant feature of this system.

To understand political affairs in Ukaguru, one must remember a few basic facts about the British administration of this area. Ukaguru was an administrative unit within a much larger system. It was the largest and most important Native Authority within Kilosa district, which had three other smaller Native Authorities to the south as well as large areas of ethnically mixed peoples in the huge lowland sisal estates on lands alienated from African ownership.1 There were also the towns of Kilosa (the district headquarters) and Kimamba (a smaller town serving the estates). These estates and towns were not subjected to any Native Authority. Kilosa district was the most westerly of eight districts in the Eastern Province, about two hours drive from the provincial headquarters at Morogoro and about four hours drive (in the same direction) from the territorial capital of Dar es Salaam. The Kilosa district administration was responsible to the provincial administration, but local district officers were given great leeway in making on-the-spot decisions, so long as they justified such decisions in their written reports to the provincial commissioner. The Kilosa district administration had many responsibilities besides overseeing Native Authorities, and we must keep this in mind to understand why the Kaguru Native Authority was not as closely supervised as one might expect. The power of the Kaguru Native Authority in influencing social life in Ukaguru rested on the fact that it was so poorly supervised, allowing Kaguru chiefs and headmen to take a free hand in how they enforced law and order.

 

4 Court Cases: Order and Disorder

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A Kaguru chief’s court was ordinarily held every Saturday at the Native Authority courthouse, usually starting about nine or ten in the morning and continuing nonstop until about four or five in the afternoon. Occasionally court was held on additional days as well. Very rarely a chief might hold an open-air court in an outlying area if he thought the cases and people involved merited this.1 Applicants with cases registered their suits a few days to several weeks ahead, paying three shillings registration fee (uda) in civil cases, a fee later paid by the defendant if he was found liable. Criminal cases did not require a fee.2 The length of time taken for a case to reach a hearing and settlement after its registration depended on many factors. Weeks might be lost trying to trace an unwilling defendant or witness who had fled, or in seeking someone living in another court district. Sometimes delays were made by the court itself in order to increase chances of securing a particular judgment or to avoid hearing a case at all. Sometimes an accused, especially if he was a Baraguyu or Maasai who would be hard to recapture, was kept in the lockup for many days.3

 

5 Subversions and Diversions: 1957–58

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This chapter is about discontent, about Kaguru striving to change their social world. In 1957–58 Indirect Rule and the Kaguru Native Authority were presented by those in power as manifestations of a social order redolent of Kaguru tradition, an order legitimized by its supposed ties to the past and to Kaguru ethnic identity. These constructions were, at best, half-truths. At worst, the system was oppressive and frustrating, resented by many Africans who lived under it. For many decades the Kaguru colonial world continued against little opposition. Yet the foundation supporting this seeming stability was the fact that Africans knew the British would use force if necessary to impose their will, whatever Kaguru thought. In 1957–58 this ugly fact was recognized by all fifty thousand Africans living in the chiefdom, though the only times Kaguru were openly confronted with British armed might were during the monthly forays of Tanganyika territorial police who came up to maintain order at the Chakwale cattle market. Otherwise, a Kaguru had to venture to the lowland estates during a labor riot or perhaps to Dar es Salaam to see armed police or soldiers guarding important public buildings. Yet, as John Iliffe observes: “Behind the whole structure, latent and rarely visible, was the underlying violence of colonial government” (1979:326).

 

6 The World Beyond: Kaguru Marginality in a Plural World, 1957–61

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Ukaguru is the main subject of this book, but it needs to be seen within the larger context of the colonial system in which it was set, however insignificantly. For this reason, I here consider the chiefdom within the broader context of Kilosa district and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Province. Broader concerns of the district and provincial administrations, the nature of the British colonial civil service, the everyday worlds of the Europeans, Asians, and non-Kaguru Africans who lived outside Ukaguru must be understood to grasp what went on in Ukaguru itself. I began this consideration earlier with a study of the CMS (Beidelman 1982a, 1982b, 1999), so I do not discuss here again the important aspect of outside Christian missionary influence upon Kaguru and their land. Ironically, while the concerns and attitudes of outsiders often determined how Ukaguru was treated politically and economically, most of the time these strangers thought little about Ukaguru and Kaguru.

In 1957–61 the Kaguru chiefdom occupied the northern portion of Kilosa district, the westernmost district in Eastern Province.1 Eastern Province was about 40,000 square miles in size (like Ohio or a bit larger than Indiana) and had a population of slightly over a million people.2 This population was overwhelmingly African, although a large number were transient, ethnic outsiders employed on the many Greek- and Indian-owned sisal estates scattered throughout the region. There were about 6,000 Europeans in Eastern Province, but over 4,500 of these resided in the territorial capital of Dar es Salaam.3 The rest, most of them Greeks, were scattered thinly over the remaining area. The large Asian population, mainly Indians, Goans, and Pakistanis, numbered over 32,000, but over 27,000 of these resided in Dar es Salaam. The other 5,000 were scattered fairly evenly through the towns of Eastern Province as traders, shopkeepers, clerks, and artisans. In smaller trading centers they were replaced by Arab, Somali, or African merchants. The administrative headquarters for Eastern Province was Morogoro, an attractive town of over 14,000. It was a major transportation hub lying on the main east-west railway as well as at the intersection of major roads going north-south and east-west. The beautiful mountains south and west of the town were extremely densely populated.

 

Epilogue: Independence and After

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This book is about the colonial experience in Ukaguru, and therefore by strict standards it should not consider events after December 1961, the beginning of Tanganyikan (Tanzanian) national independence. Yet the end of colonialism was not sharply defined. It lingered for at least two more years. The colonial world of Ukaguru truly ceased when the Kaguru chiefships and Native Authority were dissolved in early 1963 (Tordoff 1965:80).1 Yet other aspects of colonialism lingered on even after the end of Indirect Rule. Many of the changes that eventually took place can best be understood as outcomes of the earlier colonial system. I briefly mention here a few of the changes that Ukaguru and the Kaguru subsequently underwent.

Tanganyika’s transition from colonial territory to African nation-state has often been wrongly described as a great success, a model of painless and constructive social planning (Pratt 1982:249). The transition probably appeared successful to some European and American writers because it was peaceful, and because it provided so little initial independence to local Africans. For the first year it was difficult for many, including me, to believe much had changed. British ran nearly all senior administration. At independence, a few high-level posts in the central administration in Dar es Salaam were held by Africans. All provincial commissioners were British, as were 55 out of the 57 district commissioners (Pratt 1982:272–273; Dryden 1968:6).

 

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