Home Features: Railway building is difficuly work but manageable
Railway building is difficuly work but manageable PDF Print E-mail
Written by MUHARRAM MACATTA   
Friday, 19 August 2011 06:03

MUHARRAM MACATTA   

We were told by our elders that about 150 years ago, our country was completely an unexplored wilderness. Then explorers like Dr. David Livingstone came as a missionaries and discovered what our fore-fathers knew were in existence.  It was soon after the Berlin Conference in 1884-5 when Tanganyika was petitioned to the German rule.

Tanganyika was by then sparsely populated with over few millions inhabitants who lived in comparative isolation on small villages or chiefdoms. The situation of infrastructure was almost               nonexistent; while the condition of roads or paths made travelling extensively nearly impossible. 

People were hostile and travels on sea, lake and rivers was limited too, since the means of transportation was also looking dangerous. They could not withstand the stormy condition of the rough sea, lake or the rapid movement of the meandering rivers.

Faced with these natural challenges, the partition of Africa that involved the big nations in Europe such as British, Germans, Italians, Portuguese  and Spain succeeded to rule Africa, and Tanganyika fell under the rule of Germans that was known as the Germany East Africa including Ruanda and Burundi from 1985 to 1919 when the Germans were defeated in the World War I.

During the reign of the Germans, they proposed a railway to connect the hinterland from the sea. Thus a railway was constructed from Tanga to Arusha so as to enable them to exploit raw materials and conveyed them by ship to their motherland for processing.

The railway enabled to develop many large sisal estates and coffee estates in the Kilimanjaro areas, tea estates in Tanga,  Usambara Mountains and other minerals that were also exploited, loaded in special wagons and shipped via Tanga port to Europe.

Then the German rule in East Africa did not last long when the First World War I in 1914 to 1918 the British defeated the Germans and took over Tanganyika Territory from them as a trusteeship country under the supervision of the United Nations.

Under the British Empire, Tanganyika was also privileged to obtain the Central Line with a branch from Tabora to Mwanza via Shinyanga.  This means those two colonial powers introduced to Tanganyika a durable, new method of sustainable transportation that would cost the modern government of Tanzania today a large amount of money that could not manage to pay for. Of course, under Mwalimu Nyerere a new railway was built by Chinese from Dar es Salaam to Zambia.

Otherwise, it is a fact that investors would also be unwilling to embark on such an expensive, risky project today. Unless a high powered, competent and shrewdly composed delegation to be appointed by the president is assigned to approach almost every nation that would be agreeable to offer their support to perform and accomplish this multifaceted project lucratively and satisfactorily as what the Chinese did for Mwalimu Nyerere and Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, the former President of Zambia.

Initially it is important to note that it was possible in the past to obtain cheap labour and only through dint of hard work the central railway was constructed non-stop though the workforce,  which encountered numerous construction problems; many tunnels and bridges needed to be dug out and built. 

12-hour workdays were the norm with shovels of dirt for the construction of its present main line.  For almost seven or so years later the work was carried out until it was completed, and never was in danger of coming to a complete stop despite heavy rains, mud or the merciless sun.

Finally, the last spike was driven at both Kigoma and later in Mwanza marking the completion of the presently the worse for wear or non-used Central Line in Tanzania.  All one could say is that the work has been well done in every way.

With the advent of the railwy, industry and commerce flourished in the hinterland and especially wherever the rail passed through, signs of prosperity were significantly noticed; with well established cotton farms including food production profitably affected the former traditional ways of life.

Villages that expanded to be towns were re-established, and some of the natives moved from    areas which could not be infiltrated to more accessible places or reservations. Along the railroad, small businesses, such as roadside tavern, dukawalla, inns or shopping centres and markets sprang up.

The rail, however, released society from the bondage of dirt and mud roads.  Additionally food items that arrived from different stations reached those once unknown areas thereafter. Those were the days when serious people could accomplish their goals easily with very cheap labour.

People were willing to work hard without staging a strike or protesting. Hence the majority were employed because the imperialist threatened them so as to force and make them work for the development of their own country.

Otherwise, Tanganyika would have no rail road of that great importance that  served the country for years before it collapsed due to natural causes or lack of adequate funds including negligence, to keep it up to date and conform or match with modern rail road in Europe, United States, Japan and China where fast moving trains are now in use.

Although trains  continue to play a large role in  carrying freight and passengers across the Central Line and probably along the Tanga/Kilimanjaro Line at a very small scale, yet increased use of  the automobile and the airplane have led to a decline in passenger travel by rail.

Hence, the landlocked countries find it difficult to convey their freight or passengers by incompetent old Central Line.  Kenya and Uganda railway system has considerably improved since then. We have to catch up and outshine in improving the existing railway network in Tanzania.

Since our railway system is known to be as old as described above; being a narrow gauge. It is high time the system was updated; expanded to the standard gauge that would capture and accommodate the high velocity locomotives to facilitate the flexible movement of goods to the landlocked countries that depend on the Dar es Salaam congested port for their freight to reach them in time.

Rather than speed up the pace of life, as it once did, the train thus makes it possible for passengers to relax and reflect on the railways colourful history while travelling on that proposed improved line from one corner of the country to the opposite one in the interior. But surely while best memories are the sceneries of green landscape, flora and fauna or the people you meet by boarding a modern comfortable high velocity train in an independent, peaceful and a politically stable country where investments of this nature are always welcome!

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