Revolutions in Africa: The Zanzibar Revolution and the End of Arab Rule.

The Zanzibar Revolution occurred in 1964 and led to the overthrow of the Sultan of Zanzibar and his mainly Arab government by local African revolutionaries.

Objective of the Revolution: To bring an end to the Arab Rule of the Island of Zanzibar and install black rule.

Leader of the Revolution: Gideon Okello. (1937 – 1971)

Geography of Zanzibar: Zanzibar which is now a part of Tanzania was an East African Island on the Indian Ocean East of Tanganyika. was an ethnically diverse state consisting of a number of islands.

Politics: Zanzibar was formerly an overseas territory Oman and gained independence from Britain in 1963. In a series of parliamentary elections preceding independence, the Arab minority succeeded in retaining the hold on power it had inherited from Zanzibar’s former existence as an overseas territory of Oman.

Origin of the Revolution: Frustrated by under-representation in Parliament despite winning 54% of the vote in the July 1963 election, the mainly African Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) allied itself with the left-wing Umma Party, and early on the morning of 12 January 1964 ASP member John Okello mobilised around 600–800 revolutionaries on the main island of Unguja (Zanzibar Island). Having overrun the country’s police force and appropriated their weaponry, the insurgents proceeded to Zanzibar Town where they overthrew the Sultan and his government. Reprisals against Arab and South Asian civilians on the island followed; the resulting death toll is disputed, with estimates ranging from several hundred to 20,000. The moderate ASP leader Abeid Karume became the country’s new president and head of state, and positions of power were granted to Umma party members.

In 1959, a charismatic Ugandan named John Okello arrived in Pemba, working as a bricklayer and in February 1963 moved to Zanzibar. Working as an official in the Zanzibar and Pemba Paint Workers’ Union and as an activist in the ASP, Okello had built himself a following and almost from the moment that he arrived on Zanzibar had been organizing a revolution that he planned to take place shortly after independence.

Okello himself led the attack on the Ziwani police HQ, which also happened to be the largest armory on the island. Several of the rebels were shot down, but the police were overwhelmed by sheer numbers, with Okello impressing his men with his courage by personally attacking a police sentry and having wrestled his rifle from him, used it to bayonet the policeman to death. Arming themselves with hundreds of captured automatic rifles, submachine guns and Bren guns, the insurgents took control of strategic buildings in the capital, Zanzibar Town. At about 7:00 am, Okello made his first radio broadcast from a local radio station his followers had captured two hours earlier, calling upon the Africans to rise up and overthrow the “imperialists”. At the time, Okello only referred to himself as “the field marshal”, which prompted much speculation on Zanzibar about just who was this mysterious figure leading the revolution who spoke his Swahili with a thick Acholi accent, which sounded very strange on Zanzibar.

The attackers had no arms, being equipped only with spears, knives, machetes, and tire irons, having only the advantage of numbers and surprise. The Arab police replacements had received almost no training and, despite responding with a mobile force, were soon overcome.

Idi Amin

Death: Gideon Okello was Killed President Idi Amin of Uganda. He was equally referred to Field Marshal by Idi Amin.


Categories: Africa, News, Politics

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