On Tour - but in London!

Courtesy of OSPA

by Charles Cullimore, CMG
(Administrative Officer, Tanganyika 1958-61)
The Cattle-Raiders' Blessing
Kenya Castle Passing Through Suez Canal
In August 1958, together with my wife and 17-month old daughter, I disembarked from the Union Castle liner "Kenya Castle" in Dar es Salaam. We left the ship with some relief for it had been a very hot passage through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea with no air conditioning in the cabin. After a week in Dar for briefings and a round of calls on officials including the Governor I was posted to Kondoa Irangi in the Central Province. We took the weekly train on the old German-built railway line as far as Dodoma and then travelled on by Land Rover over a hundred miles of dirt road to Kondoa, with all our belongings following in an open government truck.

The Cattle-Raiders' Blessing
Kondoa from the River
Kondoa at that time consisted of a small trading centre on the far side of a sand river partly inhabited by descendants of Arab slave traders. On the near side stood the District Office or boma, a magnificent white Beau Geste style fort with a crenellated tower built by the Germans. The two sides were linked by a somewhat precarious suspension footbridge. On the same side as the boma there was a scattering of a few European style houses.

As a very junior District Officer cadet I was allocated a simple mud brick house with three inter-connecting rooms and a corrugated iron roof. We later added a concrete platform to walk out on. The kitchen was in a separate thatched hut with a wood-burning "Dover" stove. We had the luxury of piped water from a tank further up the hill. The water could be heated by firewood in a "Tanganyika boiler" - an open 44 gallon drum attached to the outside of the house. There was no electricity and the only communication with the outside world was via a radio transmitter in the boma for half an hour a day. But we had pressurised oil lamps for light and a very efficient paraffin fridge. We also had a Deccalian record player powered by the car battery for entertainment, plus a young orphan Rhesus monkey and a large chameleon.

The Cattle-Raiders' Blessing
Kondoa Boma
Shortly after my arrival the District Commissioner asked me to go and arrest five Masai warriors who had rustled some cattle from their local Warangi owners. Such events were not uncommon as the Masai had the convenient belief that God had given all the cattle in the world to them, and Kondoa was on the edge of Masai country. Accordingly I set out in the government Land Rover pick-up with a local messenger from the boma. The borehole where the Masai were reported to be watering the cattle was about 40 miles east of Kondoa. As this was only a one day safari I decided to take my wife and daughter along for the ride.

On arriving at the borehole we found five tall Masai warriors standing near it with their spears and the cattle. As we approached them they formed a circle around our tiny blonde-haired daughter and, to our horror, began spitting on to her head. Our concern was allayed somewhat when the messenger explained that this was a traditional form of blessing. We later discovered that she was the first white child these Masai had ever seen.

Despite their gesture of goodwill, I then had to tell the messenger to explain to them that they were being arrested for stealing cattle and that they should get into the back of the pick-up. It never occurred to me that they might simply have refused or indeed that they might have disputed the allegation that the cattle were in fact stolen. More importantly, and fortunately for us, it never occurred to them either. Had it occurred to them to resist arrest there was absolutely no plan B. They could simply have disappeared into the Serengeti and our tiny African police force in the district could not have found them even if they had tried. In the event they climbed happily into the back for the journey to Kondoa where they subsequently spent a few weeks in "Her Majesty's Hoteli" as the local prison was known in Swahili.

Looking back it seems to me that this small episode illustrates how, in Tanganyika at any rate, British rule was dependent on the willing support, or at least acquiescence, of most of the people. Without that it would not have survived.

1950s map of London
Central Tanganyika Map, 1949
Colony Profile
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 113 (April, 2017)


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