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TANZANIA AT 60 :Untold Chief Fundikira role in Uhuru struggles

TANZANIA AT 60 :Untold Chief Fundikira role in Uhuru struggles

AS Tanzania today marks 60th independence anniversary, fresh revelations have emerged over role that the 19th Chief of Unyanyembe, Abdallah Fundikira, had played to enable the country acquire freedom from the British colonialists.  

Little was told of how Chief Fundikira helped Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) party to achieve the goal, according to the current Chief of Unyanyembe, Msagata Fundikira, who spoke during an interview with the ‘Daily News’ recently at his Itetemia historic State House in Tabora region.

Narrating the history, Msagata Fundikira, who is the 20th Chief of Unyanyembe, said his predecessor studied at Makerere University in 1950s before he was crowned 19th Chief of Unyanyembe.

Fundikira was a college mate of Mwalimu Nyerere, as both studied at Makerere University but Fundikira enrolled earlier than Mwalimu Nyerere.

Upon completing Makerere University, Fundikira left for Cambridge University for further studies, returning to Tanganyika in 1957 and the colonial government employed him as an agricultural officer in Mtwara region.

When he returned, the country was in liberation struggles led by Mwalimu Nyerere under TANU that was only three years old.

When Mwalimu Nyerere went to Mtwara to promote the party he met Fundikira. The latter received Mwalimu Nyerere and hosted him at his house. He helped him to promote TANU and its objective of fighting for independence. He wheeled Mwalimu Nyerere in a Land Rover all over the region to spread awareness about TANU party.

In 1957, Fundikira’s brother, the 18th Chief of Unyanyembe died. The death forced Fundikira to go back to Tabora, at Itetemia State House, to take over the helm of the chiefdom. He was then crowed as 19th Chief of Unyanyembe.

Meanwhile, TANU sent Mwalimu Nyerere to the United Nations Organisation (UNO) to demand independence of the country that was under the British.

However, the UNO told Mwalimu Nyerere that the British Government was not giving independence to individuals or small groups but rather to leaders who had many people behind them.

When he returned, Mwalimu Nyerere convened his fellow leaders of TANU at the party’s office at Lumumba Street in Dar es Salaam. The meeting was meant to give them a feedback of what transpired in his trip to UNO to demand independence.

Mwalimu Nyerere told his colleagues that he managed to address the UNO Council in quest for freedom, but the UNO told him that the British Government was giving independence to leaders who led many people.

During that era, leaders who had many people behind them were traditional chiefs, therefore the party resolved to engage chiefs. To start with, the party sent Mwalimu Nyerere to Tabora, which by then was known as Unyanyembe Province, to meet Chief Abdallah Fundikira..

Therefore, Mwalimu Nyerere’s first leg to engage with the chiefs during liberation struggle was in Tabora – starting with his college mate. He went to Tabora to get a letter from Chief Fundikira so as to submit it to the UNO, explaining that Tanganyika was ready for independence.

However, Chief Fundikira advised Mwalimu Nyerere that before doing that, the party had to form a taskforce that could travel across the country to strengthen the party at least for two years. Leaders of TANU bought Fundikira’s idea, and they decided to do so, something that made the party powerful.

By the year 1959, many people had become aware of the party and its objective of demanding independence.  Thereafter, the party leaders convened a second meeting for doing evaluation of the countrywide awareness campaigns to market it. The meeting realized that the exercise was successful as many people knew the party.

Then, they did fundraising to acquire money for Mwalimu Nyerere to return to Chief Fundikira to ask him again to write a letter to present to the British Government to prove that he had blessings from the Chief; that people of Tanganyika were ready for independence. 

Mwalimu Nyerere wente to Tabora by a train, where he met Chief Fundikira and asked him to write the letter.

However, Chief Fundikira said since he only ruled Unyanyembe province, there was a need to organize other chiefs in other places also to write such letters to British Government so as to add weight to the matter.

Chief Fundikira wrote to his fellow chiefs in different areas, including Chief Adam Sapi Mkwawa of Northern Highlands Province and Chief Kunambi of Morogoro, to introduce Mwalimu Nyerere and ask them also to write letters to confirm that people were ready for independence.

All those three Chiefs studied with Mwalimu Nyerere at Makerere University, something that smoothened coordination among them. After he obtained the letters, Mwalimu Nyerere went back to Dar es Salaam to chart a way forward with his fellow TANU leaders over going to Britain for demanding independence.

He then travelled back to UNO to hand over the letters from the chiefs, upon which the British Government believed that the people of Tanganyika were really ready for liberation.

As a result, in 1961, the British Government decided to give independence to Tanganyika.

That did not end there; during the independence celebrations at the State House in Dar es Salaam Chief Fundikira was asked to deliver a speech whereby he proposed a new name for State House to be called ‘Ikulu’ in order to replace the English name.

Today, the word ‘Ikulu’ is regarded as Swahili name for State House. The word ‘Ikulu originated from Unyanyembe language, which means a place where a top leader stays and does his or her official duties.

As Tanzania marks 60 years of independence, the current Chief of Unyanyembe, Msagata Fundikira, says there is a high need of remembering those chiefs who got involved in bringing independence.

“If there are issues to remember during these celebrations, the contribution of traditional chiefs is something very vital. If the government organizes celebrations should invite chiefs to narrate these stories so that the young generation could understand where the nation came from,” Chief Fundikira 20th says.

He asks the government to help in repairing the old Ikulu of Itetemia (State House) for Chief of Unyanyembe in order to preserve such historic site for future generation.

He says that currently, through their Union of the Traditional Chiefs, they plan to embark on special awareness campaigns in schools to educate children and youth about various traditions and cultures, a move that would help in restoring, conserving and inheriting such traditions to new generation.

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Author: BERNARD LUGONGO in Tabora

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