Oman-Zanzibar post trip reflection

So for our post trip assignment, we had to reflect on the topics we talked about, discussed and were constantly listening to for an entire semester as well as our trip. You can find my reflection on this website:

My friends have also contributed to the blog and written up a bunch of interesting, fun stuff we found out about at the trip. Make sure to check it out on the website but I’m also posting it here because laziness prevents a lot of things. But please try to check it out!

Revolution or Genocide?

The Zones of Conflict, Zones of Peace Program classes led me to try and comprehend the events of 1964. I was part of a group of people selected for the Zones program who were involved in discussions, research and debates regarding the Oman-Zanzibar conflict. We read literature that professed it as a genocide as well heard narratives that presented it as a revolution. We even watched a documentary titled Africa Addio that was the only surviving footage of the events. Therefore, I wasn’t sure of what I thought. I would oscillate between the two arguments because I was influenced by the powerful narratives.

After visiting Oman and Zanzibar, I believe that I was partly right. At Oman, I was able to attend the last meeting with Dr. Harith Ghassani, Mr. Riyad Al-Busaidi and Hakim Al Maameri. They were able to give me an insight into what they thought of Zanzibar. All of them were extremely knowledgeable either through personal experience or through intense amounts of research on the topic. They all mentioned Zanzibar in the highest regard- complimenting its scenic nature and expressing their admiration for how the people lived together in peace and harmony. According to them, the entire conflict was based solely on a tangled wed of race and politics. The Africans did not wish for the Arabs to be in power on an island where the Zanzibaris were in majority. The horrific 1964 conflict was caused due to this reclamation of the land among other factors. One interesting point that I noted was that Mr. Riyad referenced one of the places that we would later visit in Zanzibar called the Anglican Church and told us that although the tour guides would refer to the basement of the church as a “slave chamber”, it was just a place where spices were stored. Just like Mr. Riyad, many other Omanis, as my group members told me, had family members or people they knew affected by the 1964 events causing them to regard it as a gruesome genocide.

Surely enough, when we went to the Anglican Church at Zanzibar, the tour guide led us to the slave chambers and also showed us the “slave chains” that were used in one of the statues placed near the church as representation of the cruelty of slavery. Hearing such stark contrasting views bought into forefront something to think about. These contrasting views were narratives and views that had been passed down to the people of the countries. However, when we attended Mr. Abdul Sheriff as well as Ms. Salma Maoulidi’s meetings in Zanzibar, I realized that they weren’t as reminiscent of the past as the Omanis. They recognized the events as tragic and horrific, but they dealt with the scenario as a learning point. Mr. Abdul Sheriff helped us understand the complex politics of Zanzibar and how precautions were being taken and can be taken in the future to prevent future political clashes and unrests. Even Mr. Awadh Ali Said talked about how important it was to not dwell on the past and move forward which is what Zanzibar was focused on. Zanzibar had entered into a Tanzanian union with Tanganyika and they wanted to rework a lot of agreements and terms that were mentioned in the union- the trade terms as well as the tourism industry.

I think it was very insightful to have visited both Oman and Zanzibar in order to understand the perspectives and hear the narratives from both sides. Everything that was said by our contacts, by the texts, by the authors of scholarly articles all tell a different story because the events of 1964 are viewed through different angles. At the end of the day, I don’t believe it can be classified or categorized as a genocide or a revolution as doing would simplify a complex set of events that involve groups of people. In fact, most of the facts regarding the event seem hazy and statistics are not even given attention to. The number of deaths has been exaggerated by some sources whereas it has been minimized by the others depending on the agenda they wish to achieve. The trauma of the events that had taken place in 1964 affects the Omani Arabs till today and to label it as a revolution would be disregarding their ideologies and the memory of so many lives lost. Similarly, the 1964 event was definitely regarded as an unfortunate event but the Zanzibaris don’t focus on it as much as earlier, instead taking lessons from it and applying them to the future.


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