Friday, 30 January 2015 14:23

Bibi Titi Mohamed and the historical context of the time in Tanzania

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In Africa, very little treatment has been accorded to women who gallantly fought for their nation's independence. The contribution of these women has largely been ignored by pre - independent Africa. In some instances, it is dealt with in a very casual manner. This, notwithstanding the fact that quite a number of them were auspicious in the movement and fought like trojans alongside men with the sole objective of securing independence for their nations.

Bibi Titi Mohammed is one such heroine. Born to Muslim parents in June 1926 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, she distinguished herself as a women freedom fighter leader whose life's trajectory paralleled that of the thousands of women she recruited to join the Tanganyika Africa National Union (TANU ), the party that fought for independence. As a girl from the Mmatumbi tribe, her political ambitions,, and the significant public exposures that she enjoyed assisted her quest in militancy against the colonialists.

Bibi Titi's father, a livestock trader and devoted Muslim refused to take her to school for fear of alienating her from the Muslim faith. The advent of Christian missionaries in Tanganyika around this time had created a marked wedge between these two faiths spewing mistrust, discord and antagonism.

Upon her father's demise, her mother took her to school. Bibi Titi's mother had seen the value of education much earlier, and later, this became instrumental in propelling Bibi Titi's crusade in emanicipating the women of Tanganyika and preparing them for the independence struggle. Even when she got married at the age of 13 and bore an only daughter, Halima, she still ensured that her campaign to promote women literacy was still on course. On Bibi Titi's initiative, Halima went to school before she got married.

Upon discovering that women were discriminated against, Bibi Titi decided to venture into politics in order to fight for women's rights. This, she realised, was the only avenue available and which would strengthen them to meaningfully contribute to the fight for uhuru.

TANU, the vehicle for this fight, was born on 7th July 1954. It had re - branded from the Tanganyika African Association ( T.A.A ) that was a product of Chief Kidaha Makoiya and Abu Sett, two renowned nationalists.However, it was Sheneda Platan, a long - time political activist, who was instrumental in introducing Bibi Titi to TANU.Bibi Titi and her husband, Boi Seleman, became members upon the payment of the statutory fee of six shillings.

Having thus catapulted herself into politics, Bibi Titi started off by forging alliances,friendships and collaborations across Tanganyika.Tanganyika was a creation of the colonialists and represented a mosaic of more than 120 different ethnic communities. Bibi Titi launched membership drives countrywide and the funds collected were used to finance the trip of the leader of TANU, Mwalimu Julius Kabarage Nyerere who was headed to the United States of America to drum up support for Tanganyika's independence at the United Nations.She and her husband contributed five shillings each for this trip.

Bibi Titi's debut in politics thus characterized her efforts that subsequently became manifest in Tanganyika and her pursuits transcended across the vast ethnic divide. She was instrumental in mobilizing women to join TANU. Committed to her ideals, values and beliefs, Bibi Titi was very consistent in her approach to politics, an area dominated by men. She opened up an extensive platform that created space for women unity in Tanganyika. These sterling efforts did not pass unnoticed. The Governing Council of TANU nominated her as the women leader.

Her nomination was acknowledged and lauded by Mr. John Hitch, a member of the UK Labour Party who visited Tanganyika in 1955 and who expressed his views on gender parity. Mr. Hitch pointed out that Bibi Titi's nomination to the Governing Council would strongly enhance Tanganyika's chances of obtaining independence faster than expected.

Having thus planted the seed of women unity and diversity in TANU, Bibi Titi blazed the trail of political consciousness by creating a sphere where women could express and articulate their thoughts and beliefs on their political future. She toured the beer - selling hideouts in Dar es salaam, marshalling and enrolling these women beer entrepreneurs. Her perpetual slogan was : " Education, Income - generation and Uhuru ". Bibi Titi symbolized true patriotism by embracing one agenda - the transformation of the Tanganyikan woman through fighting for independence. Strongly believing in herself, she knew of the painful sacrifices she had to make to realize her dreams.Even the unprintable insults and abuses aimed at her by her detractors hardly derailed her mission.

When Mwalimu Nyerere returned from the US, he headed straight to Musoma where he launched a vicious campaign against the colonialists.On the other hand, Bibi Titi found new company in the person of Mr. Oscar Kambona, a renowned nationalist. In a letter to Mwalimu Nyerere, Mr. Kambona suggested to Mwalimu to return to Dar es Salaam. This would enable he ( Kambona ) and Bibi Titi to traverse the vast inland areas of Kisiju, Mkata, Njianne and Mkamba, launching a twin - pronged campaign in these inland areas. Bibi Titi had politically matured into a formidable and versatile woman activist.

By now Bibi Titi's exploits had become a subject of discussion among the Muslim sheikhs who questioned her family and advised that she be admonished for her unrestricted and unbecoming sojourns. However, these threats only served to re - charge and re - invigorate her spirit even further. As a firebrand and radical leader of the women's wing of TANU, she fired blistering salvos and rhetorics towards the colonialists. Tearing into their agenda, she stood her ground and these endeared her to Mwalimu Nyerere, Oscar Kambona and other male nationalists.In addition, it shot her to instant national limelight.

Being mindful of transforming the lives of the Tanganyikan woman, she continued with her door - to - door crusades and political gatherings. At one such meeting, Bibi Titi remarked, " My single most purpose is to awaken the dormant spirit of the woman of Tanganyika, change her mind set and attitude and believe that independence can and will be achieved through her generous contribution". And in order to realize this dream, she requested from the women two forms of assistances - one, for men to allow their wives to attend Adult Education classes and likewise allow their children attend and continue with regular education; and two, for the overall assistance in form of of cash and kind.

Having been a victim of male chauvinism and patriarchal discrimination, Bibi Titi was only too ready and keen to tip the gender scales. However, she wanted their total participation and unreserved loyalty to the independence cause. The number of women who heeded her exhortations rose markedly. Dress - making and tailoring classes in Dar es salaam, Tanga and Lindi enjoyed increasing numbers, a clear indication that her efforts were not in vain.

When Mwalimu Nyerere returned to Dar from Musoma, Bibi Titi organized a mammoth rally at Mnazi Moja and the turnout immensely impressed Mwalimu. He appreciated Bibi Titi's charismatic, eloquent and powerful personality.

In 1957, before Mwalimu left for US for another tour, he recommended that Bibi Titi tour Musoma to continue the propagation of TANU's ideals. Her popularity spread like wild fire. At this point, she realized that pursuing further studies in the English Language would stand her in good stead especially in the forthcoming elections. She enrolled the services of two teachers - Mrs. Joan Wicken and Mrs. Hopper. After an initial course in English Language, she left for UK for ten weeks and returned to Tanganyika after successfully completing her studies.

In the ensuing elections of 1961, Bibi Titi was elected unopposed as the leader of two districts - Mafia and Rufiji. Prior to this, she had served as the President of the Union of Women of Tanganyika. Upon attaining independence, Mwalimu Nyerere appointed her Assistant Minister in the Ministry Of National and Cultural Development.

Unfortunately, her relationship with Mwalimu deteriorated and in 1965, she and the Minister for Defence, Hon. Michael Kamaliza were arraigned in court on treason. After a lengthy hearing, the duo were found guilty and each handed a life imprisonment sentence.

The spectacular and gallant contribution of Bibi Titi to Tanganyika's, ( now Tanzania's ) independence had evaporated in a flash.

As characteristic with other African nations in the post - independence era, identified critics and dissidents were silenced with detention and imprisonment. The emerging African states were not tolerant to radicalism and divergent views.

Bibi Titi paid the price of her militancy in a regime that, then, was a persona for gagging the jaws of any real or imagined opposition, totally paralyzing and immobilizing the tongue and lips of the perceived enemy...

Upon her release from prison (through presidential clemency ), she kept a low profile. Later, she was to be admitted to a hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, due to heart complications. She was now a pale shadow of her former self. Haggard, worn out and in desperation, she succumbed to the heart ailment.

Today, the only living memorial of Bibi Titi Mohammed in Tanzania is a street in Dar es Salaam bearing her name.
Kindly please slot in this information on Bibi Titi's incarceration :
"The relationship between Bibi Titi and Mwalimu became strained over time. By now Mwalimu had realized that Bibi Titi had a "larger than life" persona. Here was a visionary Muslim woman with strong leadership qualities and a clear and sharp focus for Tanzania's future as a capitalist democracy. Mwalimu was a devout Catholic who strongly believed in the ideals of Christianity and Socialism. This difference in their faiths and political inclinations led to a vicious power struggle in TANU that tore the party right in the middle. Hon. Michael Kamaliza, then the Labour Minister, sided with Bibi Titi.
It was therefore not a surprise that in October 1969, Bibi Titi, Hon. Kamaliza along with four army officers were charged with a plot to overthrow the government. The trial took a record 127 days and it demonstrated the executive's partiality and control of the post - independent courts in Tanzania.
Bibi Titi was sentenced to life imprisonment.
However, two years later, she received presidential clemency. All her friends abandoned her upon her release. Earlier on, her husband had deserted her during trial. She led a life of complete isolation. Even her most trusted political associates deserted her.
Bibi Titi died at Net Care Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa, where she was being treated."

 Joseph Lwannia

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