By the time Sultan Said bin Sultan of Zanzibar and Oman died, it was already an open secret that the Europeans had already planned to take over all his territories in East Africa. They would do that step by step, but roughly and – of course – brutally.
But they were not to be having an easy ride. Nationalists, especially those in Zanzibar archipelago, vowed to defend the sultanate. One of them is Salim bin Bashir bin Salim Al Harthi (1833-1889). He would later be famously knonwn as Abushiri.
Sultan Said died in 1856 when Salim was just 23 years old, but already very rich and successful merchant. He was the one who built the Mambo Msiige Building (now Park Hyatt Hotel) in Zanzibar, an icon of economic advancement at his time.
Apart from being rich and successful, Salim was a young man with political ideas. For him, the Europeans were not to be trusted at any level. That is why he joined Sayyid Barghash bin Said in his struggle to take power from his brother Majid, because they both believed Majid was so much influenced by the Europeans that he would sell out the sultanate.
The fight-for-power erupted. British favoured and helped Majid. They won and, as a result, Sayyid Barghash, Salim and other supporters were sent to exile after their properties seized. Barghash was sent to Bombay and Salim to Dar es Salaam. He later moved to Pangani, where he started anew in everything and in no time, he was again rich, powerful and, of course, very bitter to Europeans.
It is there where he started his war against European occupation, especially the so-called Deutsch Ostafrika that soon spread all over Tanganyikan territories and costed Germans, in particular, hundreds of their soldiers. He would apparently betrayed by one of the tribal chiefs, who was promised 10,000 rupees by the Germans, in which case he handed him over and was executed on 15 December 1889 at Pangani.
But the movement he had started did not there. Soon Germans were to witness the uprising in Heheland, Yaoland, Makualand, Nyamweziland, and almost all over Tanganyika.
Surely, Abushiri is one of Zanzibaris who make us proud.