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Race, Revolution, and the Struggle for Human Rights in Zanzibar: The Memoirs of Ali Sultan Issa and Seif Sharif Hamad
by G. Thomas Burgess
Ohio University Press, 2009
Paper: 978-0-8214-1852-9 | Cloth: 978-0-8214-1851-2
Library of Congress Classification DT449.Z273B87 2009
Dewey Decimal Classification 967.810410922

Zanzibar has had the most turbulent postcolonial history of any part of the United Republic of Tanzania, yet few sources have emerged that explain the reasons why. The current political impasse in the islands is a contest primarily over the question of whether to accept and sustain the Zanzibari Revolution of 1964. Defenders of the revolution speak the language of African nationalism and aspire to unify the majority of Zanzibar through the politics of race. Their opponents claim, instead, that the revolution undermined the islands’ cosmopolitan cultural heritage and espouse the language of human rights.

Ali Sultan Issa was an early Zanzibari nationalist. As a minister in the first revolutionary government he became one of Zanzibar’s most controversial figures, responsible for some of the government’s most radical policies. Later imprisoned, he has reemerged as one of Zanzibar’s most successful property developers. Seif Shariff Hamad came of age during the revolution, becoming disenchanted with its broken promises and excesses. Having served in Tanzania’s ruling party, he is now a leading figure in Zanzibar’s opposition. Together these two memoirs trace Zanzibar’s postindependence trajectory and reveal how Zanzibaris continue to dispute their revolutionary heritage and remain divided over issues of ethnic identity.

These memoirs, edited with an introduction by G. Thomas Burgess, will provide scholars and teachers with highly readable first-person narratives in which two African postindependence leaders describe their public and personal achievements, conflicts, failures, and tragedies. They will give students and scholars unique access to life, culture, and politics of Zanzibar.

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