Revolution in Zanzibar: An American¿s Cold War Tale

Overview

The Cold War exploded in Zanzibar in 1964 when African rebels slaughtered one of every ten Arabs. Led by a strange, messianic Ugandan, Cuban-trained factions headed the rebels, making Zanzibar (in the eyes of Washington) a potentially cancerous base for the communist subversion of mainland Africa. Exotic Zanzibar – fabled island of spices, former slave-trading entrepôt, and stepping-off point for 19th century expeditions into the vast interior of the Dark Continent – had succumbed to the terror of 20th century ...

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Overview

The Cold War exploded in Zanzibar in 1964 when African rebels slaughtered one of every ten Arabs. Led by a strange, messianic Ugandan, Cuban-trained factions headed the rebels, making Zanzibar (in the eyes of Washington) a potentially cancerous base for the communist subversion of mainland Africa. Exotic Zanzibar – fabled island of spices, former slave-trading entrepôt, and stepping-off point for 19th century expeditions into the vast interior of the Dark Continent – had succumbed to the terror of 20th century revolution and Cold War intrigue.In the vivid, eyewitness tradition of The Bang Bang Club and The Skull beneath the Skin, Donald Petterson weaves an engrossing tale of human drama played out against a background of violence and horror. As the only American in Zanzibar throughout the revolution, Petterson reports with the inside authority of a highly placed diplomatic observer, illuminating how the current troubles in Zanzibar are rooted in the Cold War and the revolution of 1964.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Now a seasoned Foreign Service officer, Petterson (Inside Sudan) began his career in Zanzibar from 1963 to 1965. During this extremely tumultuous time the island became independent of Great Britain, experienced a coup d' tat, undertook a Marxist path, switched to the nonaligned movement, expelled two U.S. Chiefs of Mission, agreed to unite with Tanganyika, and worked to find its proper place in the balance of world powers. Recent memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Kennedy assassination made Washington officials very worried about rumors of Cuba-trained agents behind the revolution and new government. During part of the early 1964 revolution, the author was the only American diplomat to remain on post, representing the concerns of Washington to the competing factions and looking after property, including a NASA tracking station, left empty when Americans were evacuated. The literature on this revolution is quite sparse; this eyewitness account will add to understanding it. The lively and engaging writing style holds the reader's interest throughout and conveys much of the uncertain nature of diplomacy at a remote post during turbulent times. Recommended for most collections. Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A comprehensive account of events surrounding the 1964 revolution in Zanzibar as experienced by American vice consul Petterson. At the time a young man with a new wife and child, Petterson was looking forward to working on his Swahili and getting to know the island when he was posted to Zanzibar, directly off the coast of East Africa. What no one knew was that a revolutionary named John Okello was about to tap deep-seated "ethnic and class hatreds" in order to overthrow the country's entrenched Arabic leadership, install an all-African government, and lead a massacre of about ten percent of the island's Arab population. Petterson gives an almost hour-by-hour account of the insurgency's first confusing days, recounting how mobs of locals roamed the streets, raping and killing Arab citizens but, almost miraculously, obeying their leader's instructions not to harm the Americans or Europeans, all of whom were evacuated in short order. The instability of his boss, the senior consular official, meant that Petterson was the only US representative on the island in those early days; he spent his time delivering censored reports of events, trying to protect American property, and slowly burning sensitive documents in a small hand-cranked stove. The US and Britain recognized the new government, and Petterson moves on to document the Cold War machinations that informed all of his official actions in the months that followed, the many players involved in local government, and the almost comical relations among the various diplomatic factions-American, English, Cuban, Chinese, Czech, Bulgarian-that showed up to make their presence felt in the new and malleable republic. Petterson's beautifully lucidprose teases out the numerous characters, loyalties, and motivations, and his eye for the amusing makes for an engaging tale. Required reading for those interested in Zanzibar history and the African theater of the Cold War.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813339498
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 4/1/2002
  • Pages: 286
  • Lexile: 1190L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.29 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

In thirty-five years with the Foreign Service, Donald Petterson has served as U.S. ambassador to Sudan, Somalia, and Tanzania. After his retirement in 1995, he was called back into the Foreign Service to take over the US embassy in Liberia. His previous books include Inside Sudan: Political Islam, Conflict, and Catastrophe. He lives in New Hampshire.

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