- The Dar Mutiny of 1964, and the Armed Intervention That Ended It
This book deals with the 1964 mutiny of the Tanganyika Rifles soldiers against their predominantly white officers, a mutiny repressed by British military forces. The history of mutinies in East Africa is certainly an important subject, for such actions often triggered important political changes. In this case (as noted by the authors at the end of the book), the Dar crisis contributed to the union of Tanganyika with Zanzibar to create Tanzania. The rebellion also highlights the role of the British military (and the will of Her Majesty's Government) in engaging in armed intervention in recently independent African states.
Although the book meets a high standard of precision, it focuses more on British military history than on African history. The sources used by the authors are all from the British military: documents from the Public Record Office, as well as letters and interviews with former British officers who took part in the intervention. The authors adopt a politically conservative position in their appraisal of events, with Africa appearing almost as a contingency; occasional references to comments by African actors are offered primarily to show the inconsistency of the African policymakers—whom the authors criticize as providing a weak and inefficient leadership. In this account Nyerere appears as a nice puppet who flits in and out of the events described; or as a jokey friend of the British; or as a coward with his own family, whom he abandons to its own fate during the dramatic events. It is only at the end of the book that the authors' assessment of Nyerere's true character is revealed: not as a "man of action" but rather as a "philosopher-king." This epithet smacks of condescension; his socialism is presented as a necessary evil in view of the problems of the country, rather than as a vision based on legitimate political conviction.
The underlying message in the book seems to be that Great Britain should be absolved from any criminal responsibility for its policy of intervention in internal African affairs. After having read the book one is left with a strange sensation that the British Royal Navy were the "goodies" and the African mutineers were the "baddies." This seems at best an oversimplification [End Page 192] of a very complex period in Tanzania's history. The relationship between Europeans and Africans during decolonization and in the postindependence period is a difficult theme, not least because the events are relatively recent. But the events are also complicated: when the authors write in terms of a "descent into Congo-style chaos" (92), this raises the question of whether the authors are aware that the "Congo-style chaos" was in part orchestrated by the West. While every author is clearly at liberty to adopt whatever view he or she chooses, consideration of the "counterarguments" should also be part of the equation; in this book the lack of balance is all the more apparent because the current received wisdom on the value and worth of colonialism is not invariably positive. The armed intervention of Great Britain in 1964 was in real terms a continuation of British imperial foreign policy.
In chapter 11, entitled "The Decisive Request," the authors talk more specifically of the British military intervention in Tanganyika, describing how rebellions in Zanzibar, Tanganyika, Uganda, and Kenya were seen in London as being orchestrated by the Communist bloc (135). To consider whether this is true or false does not seem to matter; the Communist threat justified military intervention even if that meant subjecting the civilian population to violence. The fact remains that at the end of what Laurence and MacRae see as the superlative operations of the British—"only rarely have [mutinies and coups] been quickly and successfully reversed by prompt intervention of foreign force. The mutiny of the Tanganyika Rifles in 1964 was one such case" (19)—a British military force remained in the former British...