Dar es Salaam Becomes Center of Refugee Intrigue; Nine Exiled Regimes Have Headquarters in City

Dar es Salaam in Arabic means "haven of peace," but since Tanganyika became an independent country in 1961, the title of its capital has taken on a dramatic new meaning. The city has become a "haven" for refugees from the European-controlled countries of southern Africa and the main base of operations for the independence of the African states.

A port city on the Indian Ocean, Dar es Salaam is a quiet, lazy place with coconut palms and white sandy beaches. It seems an unlikely setting for high-pressure politics and international intrigue. But because of its geographical position as the southern-most independent African capital, it is the logical gateway to the south. Today at least nine exile political parties have headquarters there, representing refugees from South Africa, Mozambique, Southern Rhodesia, Southwest Africa, and the British protectorates of Swaziland and Bechuanaland. Other refugees from as far away as Angola, Rwanda, Mauritius, the Sudan, and the Comorro Islands help fill the city with exotic names and languages.

The refugees come looking for asylum, scholarships, political support, and finances for their operations. Help is usually forthcoming, though seldom the exact quantity or type desired. Most of the refugees are political exiles, forced to flee in order to escape banning orders or arrest. Many are students, who have come north looking for scholarships because higher education is denied them in ther own countries. Others are school teachers, nurses, journalists, or musicians seeking an opportunity to follow their professions free from enforced discrimination and apartheid.

A Haven For Lovers

Some of the refugees come to Tanganyika for strictly personal reasons rather than political or professional ones. For example, because interracial marriages are prohibited in South Africa, Dar es Salaam also provides a "haven" for lovers, an escape from the racism of their home country. Thus, the refugee community contains people of all races, Europeans and Indians as well as Africans and Coloreds. Many of the nonpolitical refugees in fact take little part in the activities of the independence movements. A few hold passports from their home countries and would be able to return without difficulty if they wanted to.


The life of the refugee is hard. He usually has left a family behind in Johannesburg or Windhoek or Lourenco Marques and has travelled a long and dangerous journey to reach an unknown land. He does not speak the local language; he has no money, no clothes, and often little hope. If he comes from a great city like Johannesburg or Cape Town, he invariably finds Dar es Salaam unattractive and longs for the music and night life and friendship of home. He is often quick to tell others that he wants to go back, and equally swift to admit to himself that returning is impossible.

John Gerhart, a CRIMSON editor, worked in Dar es Salaam last year as a member of PBH's Project Tanganyika.

But though going back is probably impossible, Dar es Sallaam is not necessarily the end of the road for the refugee. If he is intelligent, the refugee can enter the school being run in Dar by the African American Institute and staffed by members of the Phillips Brooks House-sponsored Project Tanganyika. If he has a secondary school education, he can qualify in a few months for a scholarship, either to the U.S., to another African country, or to a nation of the Communist bloc, especially China, Czechoslovakia, or the Soviet Usion. A number of the refugees become "freedom fighters" and go off for military training, usually to Algeria or to one of several guerilla training camps located in remote parts of Tanganyika.

Prefer U.S. Study

There is naturally competition for the scholarships available, and it is particularly keen for scholarships to the United States. Regardless of what a refugee or his party may think of U.S. policy toward the liberation movements, the great majority of refugee students prefer to go to the U.S. and many have a strong aversion toward study in China or the Soviet Union. Numerous students have refused (against their party's wishes) to go to Communist countries and some have even switched political parties to avoid being sent. But because the American scholarship program, which is run by the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, is invariably more selective than the Communists, many students who have been rejected for U.S. scholarships end up journeying to Eastern Bloc countries.

The real problem is that there is not enough qualified refugees to fill the scholarships available, and therefore, many of the African students, upon arrival in the U.S., find they are not yet ready to enter a university. They then have to spend from a few months to two years improving their English and finishing basic courses. This work is usually done at Lincoln University in Philadelphia, which receives most of the government-sponsored refugee students. Others go to Rochester University in New York, and some are placed in Temple University High School in Philadelphia. Others who are able to enter a university immediately go to various places, from the University of Arizona to Columbia.

For the refugee student who enters the U.S. expecting to start at once in a university, this academic delay can be both tiresome and disheartening. Even if he admits that the delay is necessary, which some of the students do not, the refugee feels that once again he has been placed in a position of insecurity and doubt. One Southern Rhodesian wrote several times that he was "just about to enter regular classes" but has not yet done so. A Mozambican said he felt those students who were sent directly to high school for a definite period of time were "better off," even though they faced the problem of being considerably older than their classmates.

Refugee students in the U.S. are not the only ones to have troubles, however. Some refugees, unable or unwilling to stay in school in Moscow, have returned to Dar es Salaam loudly denouncing the Russians as "bigots and hyprocrites." One secondary school student was promised a scholarship to Poland and given an airplane ticket to Cairo to "finalize arrangements." After three months of being told by the Polish Embassy to "come back next week," he found a scholarship to an Egyptian technical school where he plans to start this fall.

Although many refugee students do obtain scholarships, the majority have not had sufficient secondary school training for college scholarships and do not know enough English to qualify for the handful of secondary school places available. Most of these students are too young to become freedom fighters, and they are not allowed to attend the overcrowded Tanganyikan schools. Hence there is a genuine need for special educational help for the refugee students.

This help is provided by the African American Institute school. Known as the Kurasini Special Training Center it is located in two large houses in a residential suburb three miles south of the city.

Recommended Articles