Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Islanders’ mistaken reverence for Kenya


By Joe Ombuor

To many Zanzibaris of African origin, Kenya produced their most revered liberator from Arab yoke, Field Marshall John Okello.

This is the notion I walked straight into and basked in the high regard that Kenya commands in the archipelago while on a brief trip on the semi autonomous Island recently.

Yet Okello, the ex-policeman who led poorly armed unemployed youth of the defunct Afro Shirazi party in a bloody revolution against the reign of Sultan Jamshi bin Abdulla on the night of January 12, 1964, was an Acholi from Uganda, and not a Kenyan Luo as is widely believed on the Island.

Records at the archives in Zanzibar say the self-styled revolutionary entered Zanzibar from Kenya through the northern Island of Pemba in 1958, claiming to have been a field marshal during Kenya’s Mau Mau uprising.

The Revolution

Older Zanzibaris who spoke to The Standard on Saturday on condition of anonymity said it was Okello, and not first President Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume late father to the current president as is officially claimed, who planned and executed the revolution with the Afro Shirazi Youth League.

Records have it that the young revolutionaries overcame the largely Arab police, taking automatic rifles, submachine and bren guns, with which they swiftly armed themselves to take control of strategic buildings such as the Sultan’s palace and other installations.

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