The British Empire Library

Tanzania, Journey to Republic

by Randal Sadleir

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Andrew Stuart (Uganda 1929-65)
Randal Sadleir's Tanzania: Journey to Republic is a good example of the memoir as a historical document, intended to inform as much as entertain. This is more than the rebuttal of a general myth. Sadleir had a pivotal role in the manoeuvres and negotiations leading up to Tanzania's Independence and he uses his knowledge particularly of Julius Nyerere to illuminate the motivation and actions of the leading players on both sides. I take it that this account must be accurate, or at least as Nyerere himself wished his version of the truth to be known, otherwise the Mwalimu of Tanzania would hardly have contributed the admiring foreword that he has done to this book by a former colonial civil servant. Nor is Sadleir's tribute to Nyerere confined solely to sycophantic praise. He records faithfully how the leader made himself scarce when the army mutinied soon after independence.

The difficulty for all of us who have been involved in seminal events, even in a small field, is the temptation to make ourselves appear more important than we really were. It seems that Sadleir's usefulness at a time of change sprang very largely from his fluency in Swahili and therefore his value as an interpreter. His actual responsibilities seem to have been more peripheral. At times, indeed, his frequent references to his own linguistic skills can be faintly irritating, not least because his less gifted colleagues may appear dense by comparison. Also rather intrusive is his tendency to total recall. It is impressive but not enthralling that he can remember the name of the cricket captain of an opposing team at his prep school. Moreover, (a return to the theme of the differences between commercial and vanity publishing), a profit-orientated editor, aiming to attract the page-turning public, would surely have talked him out of a purple passage on the very first page; "it was the garden, girt by the river and pierced by the tranquil waters of the millrace, that we loved the most".

Having said all that, however, I hope that the rather atypical readers of this journal will buy both this book. It is the stuff of our lives and the memories of our service. Besides, if we don't encourage each other to support the writers of colonial memoirs, then who will buy ours?

British Empire Book
Randal Sadleir
The Radcliffe Press


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