Sunday, 28 February 2016

African Socialism and Refugees - The Political Lessons of Tanzania and Uganda in the 70s!


The Teacher (Mwalimu), The African Socialist
Ruled Tanzania from 1961 to 1985

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the first President of Tanzania was a man who lived very simply and believed that all the resources in his country should be shared amongst all the people. He started on the road to African Socialism as soon as he became President in 1962.  The Tanzanian government took away peoples' businesses and homes without notice. People could only own the home they lived in and once you left the country, they had to leave whatever property you owned to the state.

In 1974, there were severe shortages of cooking oil and gasoline.  I remember going to Arusha to see our grandparents over the holidays for many holidays and we couldn't go anywhere that required a car because they had banned the driving of cars on Sundays in order to save gas!. The only way you could drive is if you had a special permit for a specific reason and apparently they were difficult to get.

I'm not sure what this has to do with Socialism, but you also had to dress modestly. You couldn't wear anything sleeveless or short.  We were only children then, but it also applied to us!

During this time of African Socialism, Swahili became the national language of Tanzania. This is the reason all my cousins who went to school in Tanzania in the 70s, speak excellent Swahili and they laugh at the way we speak a version of some sort of Swahili! Literacy, life expectancy and rural health services improved but the social experiment proved to be a failure and Nyerere abandoned it in the mid 80s but the damage had been done.

For my grandfather and his siblings who were business people and who had invested everything in Tanzania, it was devastating. They lost most of their wealth and were left with the home they lived in and the shop they ran. This began the mass exodus of people from Tanzania, looking for more stability and a place to start their lives again. This is how many Tanzanians have ended up in the U.K and Canada.

My mum's entire family and extended family who had lived mostly in Arusha left Tanzania mostly in the 70s and 80s. The only person who never left Tanzania is my cousin Aafeez Jivraj.  He lives in Arusha, runs a successful travel business and has two beautiful children.

Aafeez, my cousin and his two adorable children below are the last of our family in Arusha.
Arman Junior (almost 5) and Karimaaliya (almost 1)

A lot of my husband's family has also moved back to Tanzania over the last 30 years, and live mostly in Dar-es-Salaam. They run a variety of businesses. Here are some of them;

Farida Mami with her grandson Ethan & our Kahzmir 

Hassan Mama (Farida mami above's husband) who passed away in December 2014 lived in Dar.  
Afraaz lives in Dar but studies on the East coast of Canada.

Us with Fatima, Scott and Ethan who live in Dar as expatriates 
Nafisha, Sara, Hussein and Gulshan Mami
Abdul mama, Yasmin Auntie & Alnoor Uncle with Imaan 
Imaan studies in Toronto.

Gulshan Mami and Sadru Mama


In neighbouring Uganda, other things were brewing in 1972. A crazy man called Idi Amin Dada who fought with the British against the Mau Mau in the 1950s, overthrew the Ugandan president, Milton Obote in a coup and appointed himself President. He then demanded that 75,000 Asians leave the country for good in 90 days. They could take nothing with them. My in-laws were part of this exodus.

"The Butcher of Uganda". Thought to have killed about 300,000 people.
Ruled Uganda from 1971 to 1979
My mother-in-law, Rashida was pregnant with my husband Karim. They had to leave in a hurry and lived in the U.K. till their son was born in on November 18, 1972 (for those of you calculating, he is 6 1/2 years younger than me!). They moved to Canada a few months later.

Since those dark days of the Idi Amin's rule, the government has invited people back. Karim's cousin, Gula and her husband live in Entebbe with their two children.

Karim's Cousin Gula who now lives in Entebbe.
Gula's husband, Mohamed Awad with Karim.

My mother-in-law with Gula and Mohamed's beautiful daughter, Amirah (almost 2).
They also have a baby son, Sami.

Thank you for sharing Day 9 of 50 with me!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Karima! It's crazy to think that our families lived through those times and now thriving again!

  2. Thank you for sharing that picture of my dad. Once I wipe the tears away, I'll continue reading.

    1. So sorry Tima, wasn't meant to make you cry, but doesn't he look like he's right there and you can just reach out and touch him? Doesn't it make you appreciate the time you shared with him in Dar?

  3. Beautiful MINAZ.I am just crying as I write this.Thanks for the beautiful pictures!

    1. Thanks Rashida. I thought you might like the lovely pictures of your family. They're all from when we were in Dar and Entebbe in 2010.

  4. So amazing how big and small our world can seem in a matter of moments. This is a really important piece of our history. I am so happy that you wrote about it.

    I think it would be interesting to write about "being khoja" and what that might mean.

    1. You beat me to it Faiza! I have been meaning to write about 'being khoja' and also about how we ended up in Africa. I wish I had my grandparents here to talk to about that though, I feel like I don't have all the information I need for that and keep putting it off!