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Africa's Freedom Railway

How a Chinese Development Project Changed Lives and Livelihoods in Tanzania

Jamie Monson

Publication Year: 2009

The TAZARA (Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority), or Freedom Railway, from Dar es Salaam on the Tanzanian coast to the Copperbelt region of Zambia, was instrumental in fostering one of the most sweeping development transitions in postcolonial Africa. Built during the height of the Cold War, the railway was intended to redirect the mineral wealth of the interior away from routes through South Africa and Rhodesia. Rebuffed by Western aid agencies, newly independent Tanzania and Zambia accepted help from China to construct what would become one of Africa's most vital transportation corridors. The book follows the railroad from design and construction to its daily use as a vital means for moving villagers and goods. It tells a story of how transnational interests contributed to environmental change, population movements, and the rise of local and regional enterprise.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

It may not “take a village” to produce and publish many kinds of books. This one, however, could not have come into being without the assistance, collaboration, and support of many colleagues and friends from three continents. The project began through my relationship with my friend and colleague, James Giblin, and his wife Blandina. ...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-12

On a hot afternoon in the early 1970s, an historic encounter took place near the town of Chimala in the southern highlands of Tanzania. A team of Chinese railway workers and their Tanzanian counterparts came face-to-face with a rival team of American-led road workers advancing across the same rural landscape. ...

Part 1. Freedom Railway

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pp. 13

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2. Railway Visions

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pp. 15-34

During the transition to independence in the early 1960s, Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda and Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere began to talk in earnest about constructing a railway that would link the Zambian copper belt with the Indian Ocean. The two leaders envisioned a post-colonial transportation infrastructure ...

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3. Building the People’s Railway

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pp. 35-70

At the end of the dry month of August in 1965, a small team of Chinese surveyors and their African guides set off on foot from the town of Kidatu into the southern interior of Tanzania, heading southwestward toward the Zambian border. Carrying their supplies and equipment on their backs, this group would cover a distance of over four hundred miles ...

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4. Living along the Railway

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pp. 71-90

By the end of 1973, the TAZARA railway was nearing completion on the Tanzanian side, and construction was proceeding westwards into Zambia. For the thousands of Tanzanian workers who had been working on the project, it was a time of dispersal—around a third of them would stay on to continue working into Zambia, ...

Part 2. Ordinary Train

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pp. 91

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5. The Ordinary Train

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pp. 93-123

The TAZARA passenger station in Dar es Salaam was designed to be an imposing landmark. A visitor to the station in 1976 described the station as “bigger and more splendid than any other building” in Dar es Salaam at the time.1 The starkness of the station’s concrete exterior was softened by the installation of graceful five-lantern Chinese street lamps ...

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6. Landscape Visions

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pp. 124-146

A visitor to the outskirts of Mngeta village in the year 1999 would have found there an unlikely cluster of grey industrial buildings, most of them in disrepair and inhabited by fruit bats. This was the former headquarters of KOTACO, a large-scale mechanized rice project established by North Koreans in 1988 and then abruptly abandoned in 1994. ...

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7. Conclusion

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pp. 147-154

From the colonial period onward, successive regimes in East Africa imagined a southern railway that would link the Indian Ocean with the regions to the west beyond Lake Nyasa. Railway visions in colonial East Africa were connected to territorial rivalries and pan-territorial ambitions, whether these involved the German aspiration to span Mittelafrika ...

Appendix 1. Eight Principles Governing China’s Economic and Technical Aid to Other Countries

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pp. 155-156

Appendix 2. Parcel Shipments to and from Selected Rail Stations, 1998–2000

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pp. 157-160

Appendix 3. Land Cover Change, Kilombero Valley Study Area

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pp. 161-164


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pp. 165-182


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pp. 183-192


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pp. 193-199

E-ISBN-13: 9780253002815
E-ISBN-10: 0253002818
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253352712

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 21 b&w illus., 2 maps
Publication Year: 2009