Why the Name: Dodoma ?

Tanzania_Dodoma city center
Dodoma city center (Source: The East African)

I always loved the sound of the name Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania: the way it rolls off your tongue like a dearly beloved, like something or someone so sweet and precious… DO-DO-MA, almost like musical notes! So what do you think Dodoma means?

Well, the name Dodoma is derived from Idodomya, a word in the Chigogo (Gogo) language, which means, “it has sunk.” Tradition says that, an elephant once came to drink at a nearby creek, and got stuck in the mud, and gradually sank. It was then that the villagers exclaimed in amazement, “idodomya!” And from that moment, the place was known as Idodomya, the place where the elephant “has sunk.” It later became Dodoma in 1907 when the Germans colonists, who were probably struggling to pronounce Idodomya, came for the construction of the Tanzanian central railway. The layout followed the typical colonial planning of the time with a European quarter segregated from a native village (European-Only Neighborhoods in African Cities before Independence).

Tanzania_Dodoma 1912
Dodoma in 1912 (Source: Museum of World Cultures)

In 1967, following independence, the Tanzanian government made plans to reorganize its then capital Dar es Salaam, which was undergoing rapid urbanization and population growth. In 1974, after a nationwide party referendum, the capital was moved from Dar es Salaam to a more central location to create significant social and economic improvements for the central region and to centralize the capital within the country. With an already-established town at a major crossroads, the Dodoma region had an agreeable climate, room for development and was located in the geographic centre of the nation. Its location in a rural environment was seen as the ujamaa (family-hood) heartland. The ujamaa concept was a concept championed by the first president of Tanzania Julius Nyerere as part of his social and economic development policies: it was to serve as the basis for an African model of development, or African socialism.

Tanzania_Dodoma Julius Nyerere Square1
Julius Nyerere Square in Dodoma

However, over the past 40 years, much of the initial design, and intents never came to fruition, and to this day many government offices and embassies have remained in Dar es Salaam, which remains the economic and the de facto capital of Tanzania.

The story of Dodoma and Dar es Salaam is similar to that of Abuja and Lagos in Nigeria, of Brasília and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and even Washington, D.C. and New York City in the United States, to name just a few. In many of these cities, there is always an economic capital which is the lung of the country, which dwarfs the political capital in size and energy. Nonetheless these political capitals are still special and unique.

Well, if you ever visit Dodoma, remember that elephant who sank there, try and visit them in all the national parks of the country, but most importantly remember to take with you the ujamaa spirit!

The African Crow: The Crow with a Nike Collar

Nike Crow_1
A crow snacking on some bread

A few years back, my father was visiting Melbourne in Australia, when he heard a bird crowing around. So he asked an Australian lady nearby what bird that was, and she answered the crow… and my dad went on to tell her that in his country, the crow had a white collar, and sounded just like that… so the lady chuckled and said, “so you have a Nike-collar crow in your country.” So meet the Nike-collared Crow.

Nike Crow_Rwanda_1
Crows in Rwanda

When I first moved to the West, I never understood why people taught of the crow as a bad bird, or rather a bird of bad omen. When I asked, they told me because of its black coat, and black feathers, and because of its cry. This sounded totally weird to me… why? Because in African culture, the crow is not a bad bird, or a bird bringing ominous news. It is actually a good bird. Not only that, but the crow is not an all-black bird, but it has a white collar. I was surprised to find this white-collared bird in Cameroon, in Rwanda, and in other places, thus telling me that the white-collared crow is indigenous to Africa.

With the white collar, isn’t your perception of the crow changed?

Nike Crow_Cameroon_2
Crows in Cameroon

Why the Name: Annaba ?

Annaba_Ancient city of Hippo Regius
Ruins of the Ancient city of Hippo Regius, modern-day Annaba (Source: Wikipedia)

I always loved the name of the city Annaba in Algeria. From the name, one could think that we are talking about a city in subsaharan Africa. I used to think that the origin of its name would be Berber or from somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa.

Annaba is the 4th largest city of Algeria, after AlgiersOran, and Constantine. It is a coastal city which has grown tremendously, like most cities around the globe, in the 20th century. Present-day Annaba grew up on the site of Aphrodisium, the seaport of the Roman city Hippo Regius. The modern city has since expanded south over Hippo’s ruins as well. Its former names Bône and Bona derived from “Ubbo“, a local form of the name Hippo. Its informal name “Land of the Jujubes” derives from that abundance of that fruit in the region.

Algeria_Annaba
Bona, Algeria in 1899 (modern-day Annaba)

Annaba, as one of the most ancient cities of Algeria, founded in 1295 BC, has had different names during her life: Ubbo, Hippo Regius, Hippone, Bona, Bled El Aneb, Bône, and nowadays Annaba. It was known as Balad al-Unnab or the “Land of the jujubes” from which the name Annaba is derived, because of the abundance of that fruit in the region.

During the rule of France (empire and republics), the city was called Bône. It was one of the main French settlements, and it still has a sizeable minority of the “Pied-Noir” to this day. During World War II in 1943, Bône was a crucial highway and sea location for the invasion of Tunisia, and thence the driving of the Axis Powers (Germany and Italy) out of Africa in May 1943. Bône remained in Allied hands until the end of the war in 1945, and then it remained a part of French Algeria until the independence of Algeria in 1962.

Annaba_Bone Hotel de ville epoque coloniale
Bone, Hotel de Ville during the colonial period

The city is an important hub of the world steel industry with the steel complex of El Hadjar, eight kilometres south of the city. It is the largest in Africa. Phosphate and metal industries are also prominent in the area. Other industrial sectors, private, focus on agri-food, metal processing, wood products, and construction.

Annaba is an important centre for tourism, and is one of the major tourist attractions in the western Mediterranean. It is located in the north east of the country, at 536 km east of Algiers and 105 km from the Tunisian border.

Annaba_panorama sea front
Panoramic view of Annaba’s sea front (Source: Wikipedia)

The downtown district of Annaba is on the sea-front, and includes the promenade called the Concours de la Revolution (previously called Le Cours Bertagna) which is a lively area, brimming with arcades and all kinds of covered restaurants, terraced cafes and kiosks. If you visit Annaba, remember to taste the Jujubes and enjoy the sea!!!

 

German Colonies in Africa: Togoland – Protectorate in Little Popo March 5, 1884

Togoland - flag
Flag of the German colony of Togoland

Below is the translation of a letter in which the Kings and Chiefs of Little Popo and Grigi in Togoland (actual Togo) are asking for their lands to be placed under the protection of the German Imperial Majesty the Kaiser, i.e. to be placed under German protection, or rather placing (not knowing the full extent) their lands under German protectorate. This was signed on March 5th of 1884. Remember that Little Popo is now known as Aného in Togo. Grigi might have been the town of Glidji.

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Togoland_Map of Togoland in 1885
Map of Togoland in 1885

I. We, the signatories, Kings and chiefs of Little Popo and Grigi, express our gratitude to Your Majesty for having assisted us in upholding peace in our land.

II. There would be no threat and no uncertainty, if the British government would refrain from interference in the affairs of our lands, which it desires, while we desire her not to have it.

III. We ask Your Majesty to provide us with protection and to avoid such an annexion.

IV. We implore Your Majesty to come to our aid, as we have placed ourselves fully under your protection.

V. We humbly request to take quick action.

signed
King Aiaushi Agbanor of Little Popo and Grigi,
Caboceer Quadjovi,
chief Pedro Quadjo
and 11 other signatures

to His Majesty, the Kaiser of Germany

German Colonial Treaties in Africa: Togoland July 5th 1884

Togoland - flag
Flag of the German colony Togoland

Today, I present to you the text of the treaty signed between King Mlapa – the King of Togo, or rather his representative Chief Plakko or Plakkou, and the Consul General Gustav Nachtigal thereby placing his land under German protectorate. This is the famous July 5th 1884 treaty which marks the beginning of the German protectorate in Togoland and the birth of this German colony in West Africa. As you read it, remember that Porto Seguro is now Agbodrafo and Bagida is Baguida in Togo. Note also that when it is said ‘King of Togo,’ Togo in this case refers to the area around Togoville, the village which gave its name to the entire country. As always, European colonizers used one main treaty in one area of the country (mostly coastal) to claim ownership over the rest of the country. The original in German can be found in Geschichte der deutschen kolonien by Horst Gründer, UTB (2018) p. 91-92

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Nachtigal
Gustav Nachtigal

Bagida, July 5th 1884

The Consul General for the German Reich, Dr.  Gustav Nachtigal, in the name of His Majesty the Kaiser of Germany, and Mlapa, King of Togo, represented for himself, his heirs and his chiefs by Plakkou, carrier of King Mlapa’s stick, have come to the following agreement :

Article 1
King Mlapa, desiring to protect legitimate trade, which mostly is carried out by Germans, and to grant the German merchants full security for their lives and property, requests the protection of His Majesty the German Kaiser, so that he is enabled to uphold the independence of his territory, which stretches from Porto Seguro‘s eastern border to the western border of Lomé or Bey Beach. His Imperial Majesty grants such protection, with the reservation of legitimately acquired rights of third parties.

Article 2
King Mlapa will cede no part of his lands and sovereignty rights to any foreign country of person, and he will not sign any treaty with any foreign power without the previously given approval of His Imperial Majesty.

Togo, Lome, Verladen von Baumwollballen
Lome, Togo: loading of cotton bales, early 1900s

Article 3
King Mlapa grants protection and free trade to all German subjects who live in his land, and promises never to grant merchants of other nations privileges, preferential treatment or protection beyond what is granted to the Germans. King Mlapa, without His Imperial Majesty’s approval, will refrain from collecting tariffs other than those presently collected, which are
1 Shilling for every ton of palm kernels
1 Shilling for every barrel of palm oil
which are to be paid to the chief of the respective location.

Article 4
His Majesty the German Kaiser will respect all trade treaties previously signed by King Mlapa and others, and will in no way place burdens upon free trade in King Mlapa‘s land.

Togoland_Map of Togoland in 1885
Map of Togoland in 1885

Article 5
His Majesty the German Kaiser will not interfere in the manner the tariff so far has been collected by King Mlapa and his chiefs

Article 6
The signatory parties reserve matters of mutual interest, not included in this treaty, for future agreements.

Article 7
This treaty takes force immediately, reserved ratification by the German government.
In order to testify, we have signed in the presence of the witnesses which have signed

Witnesses

Togoland_1908
Painting of Togoland in 1908 (R. Hellgrewe)

J.J. Gacher, J.B. Ahpevon, interpreters
H. Randad 
Josua Lenze
Mandt, Lt. at sea
Dr. Max Buchner
Chief Plakko 
Chief Adey of Lomé or Bey
Coodaycee 
Hadji, 2nd chief of Bey 
Okkoo
Nukoo
King Garsa of Bagida

signed Dr.  Nachtigal

1 Translator’s footnote : Here a text originally written in English, and printed in German translation in the RTA, has been re-translated into English. Thus it might differ slightly in diction from the original text. 

Why the Name: Togo?

Map of Togo
Map of Togo

A few years back, a Malagasy friend of mine was telling me how upset he had been to find out that his name’s short version, Togo, had been made by Americans to sound like ‘to-go‘ as in ‘to-go containers‘ as opposed to ‘Togo‘ (pronounce ‘Tow – go’ or ‘Taw -go’) as it was supposed to be. This got me thinking about the name of one of the smallest countries in Africa, Togo, which had undoubtedly also gone through that transformation to sound like ‘to-go containers.’ Well, do you think the meaning of Togo could in some way be related to leftover containers or food-on-the-run?

 

Togoland_1908
Togoland in 1908

Togo lies in the Bight of Benin, surrounded by Ghana in the west; Benin in the east; and Burkina Faso in the north. To many, the name Togo stands for “land where lagoons lie“. In reality, the name Togo was the name of a small village Togodo which means in the Ewe language, “the land (or city) beyond the cliff” or “land on the other side of the shore.” This became Togoville, a town and canton in southern Togo, lying on the northern shore of Lake Togo; it was originally known as Togo. The country took its name from the town of Togoville when Gustav Nachtigal signed a treaty with the town’s chief, Mlapa III, on 5 July 1884, from which Germany claimed ownership over what became Togo. Togoland, a  German colony, was born. The village which gave its name to the country, mean originally “city or land beyond the cliff” and not “city beyond the river.” It is in reality located on the edge of a very shallow lagoon, whose name is Lake Togo, which had the effect of misleading many people about the origin of the word.

 

Sylvanus Olympio
Sylvanus Olympio

Archaeological finds indicate that ancient tribes which inhabited the area were able to produce pottery and process iron. From the 11th to the 16th century, various tribes entered the region from all directions. From the 16th century to the 18th century, the coastal region was a major trading center for Europeans to search for slaves, earning Togo and the surrounding region the name “The Slave Coast“. In 1884, a treaty was signed at Togoville with King Mlapa III, whereby Germany claimed a protectorate over a stretch of territory along the coast and gradually extended its control inland; its borders were defined after the capture of hinterland by German forces and signing agreements with France and Britain. In 1905, it officially became the German colony of Togoland. After Germany lost the First World War, the land was divided between France and Great Britain to be ruled as mandates. After World War II, these mandates became UN Trust Territories. In 1957, the residents of British Togoland voted to join the Gold Coast as part of the new independent nation of Ghana; while French Togoland became an autonomous republic within the French Union in 1959, as France (as always) retained the right to control the defense, foreign relations and finances. The Togolese Republic was proclaimed on 27 April 1960. In the first presidential elections in 1961Sylvanus Olympio became the first president of the country. Since the coup that led to his assassination in 1963, Togo has been ruled 3 presidents, the most notorious being Olympio’s murderer Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who ruled Togo for 38 years, and after his passing, his son Faure Gnassingbé has now been president.

Togo_Beach in Lome
Beach in Lome, Togo (Wikipedia)

The coast of Togo in the Gulf of Guinea is 56 km long and consists of lagoons with sandy beaches; thus the reason why people think its name is associated with lagoons and mean “land where lagoons lie“. If you ever visit Togo, do not forget to check out its lagoons, its sandy beaches, and above all its people.

Why the Name: Douala?

cameroon_kamerun-12-juillet-1884
German flag on the Joss plateau in Cameroons Town (Douala) on 14 July 1884

Have you ever wondered about the meaning of the name of the largest city of Cameroon, Douala? For the longest time, I always wondered why it was named after the people of the locality, the Douala people, and it seemed odd that a people arriving somewhere would name the locality after themselves as a group, not the king, not something to do with the environment, but themselves… I wondered if the name was not a heritage of the European colonization instead.

Before falling under German rule in 1884, the town was known as Cameroons Town, and later became Kamerunstadt (Cameroon city), the capital of German Kamerun. On January 1st 1901, the city was renamed Douala by decree of the German governor of the colony, and the original name Kamerunstadt was transfered to the entire territory of Kamerun.

douala_sous prefecture
Old German Government Headquarters in Douala

For many of the indigenous inhabitants of the city of Douala, the name comes from a phonetic change of the name of their ancestor Ewalé, who upon arriving on the shores of the Wouri River around the 16th century called it Madu M’Ewalé or the mouth of the watercourse of Ewalé. Madu M’Ewalé is the plural form of Dul’Ewalé which later became Duala. Yet others believe that Duala comes from the exclamation “Dua, Ala!” (“Start, go!”) which has nothing to do with the arrival of Ewalé.

On 12 July 1884, the Germano – Duala Treaty was signed between the Douala kings and a representative of the German firm Woermann. On 14 July 1884, Gustav Nachtigal landed in Cameroons Town to take possession of the territory. The city then became known as Kamerunstadt, the capital of the territory from 1885 to 1901.

douala_vue des airs
View of the city of Douala, its port, and the Wouri Bridge

Today, Douala is the largest city of the country, and its economic capital; it is in essence the economic lung of the entire country, and is one of the major cities of the CEMAC zone. If you ever visit Douala, do not forget to go by the port, and visit Bonanjo with all its relics from colonial times, a blend from German, French, and modern architectures. Also, on a clear day, one can catch a glimpse of  Mt Cameroon, Africa’s 3rd tallest mountain.

douala_mt cameroun
View of Mt Cameroon from the Port of Douala

 

 

Why the Name: Johannesburg ?

Johannesburg_South_Africa_in_1896
Johannesburg in 1896

If you are like me, you have probably thought that the city of Johannesburg, the largest city of South Africa, was named after some dude named Johannes, and that Johannesburg translates to something like “the town or city of Johannes.” How far are we from the truth?

 

Johannesburg-c1910 Pritchard St
Pritchard St in Johannesburg, ca 1910

Not too far actually! There are some controversies around the naming, i.e. whose name it was. After all, the name Johannes was quite common in the Dutch community in the 19th century, and simply translates to ‘John’ in English; in this day and age, think of how many Johns there are…, then think about 19th century: numerous, not to say ubiquitous!  To get back to Johannesburg, there were quite a few people with the name ‘Johannes‘ involved in the early history of the city. Among them was Christiaan Johannes Joubert who was a member of the Volksraad and was Republic’s chief of mining. Another was Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger (better known as Paul Kruger), president of the South African Republic (ZAR) from 18831900. Johannes Meyer, the first government official in the area is another possibility. Precise records for the choice of the name for the city have been ‘conveniently’ lost. Most likely it came from Johannes Rissik and Christiaan Johannes Joubert who were members of a delegation sent to England to obtain mining rights for the area. Joubert had a park in the city named after him and Rissik had his name on one of the main streets in the city. So it was probably a joint appeal between these 2 Johanneses, Joubert and Rissik, that gave rise to the name of the city of Johannesburg.

 

San (Basarwa/Bushmen) hunters
San (Basarwa/Bushmen) hunters

The region surrounding Johannesburg was originally inhabited by San people. By the 13th century, groups of Bantu-speaking people started moving southwards from central Africa and encroached on the indigenous San population. By the mid-18th century, the broader region was largely settled by various Sotho–Tswana communities, whose villages, towns and kingdoms stretched from what is now Botswana in the west, to present day Lesotho in the south, to the present day Pedi areas of the Northern Province. More specifically, the stone-walled ruins of Sotho–Tswana towns and villages are scattered around the parts of the former Transvaal province in which Johannesburg is situated.

Johannesburg 1911
Aerial view of Johannesburg in 1911

The Witwatersrand Gold Rush triggered the founding of Johannesburg in 1886. As everywhere in the world, the discovery of gold rapidly attracted people to the area. Within ten years, the city of Johannesburg included 100,000 people; in that sense, it is quite similar to the California gold rush which saw the boom of the city of San Francisco. In 1917, Johannesburg became the headquarters of the Anglo-American Corporation, which ultimately became one of the world’s largest corporations, dominating both gold-mining and diamond-mining in South Africa. Major building developments took place in the 1930s, after South Africa went off the gold standard. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the apartheid government constructed the massive agglomeration of townships that became known as Soweto to house their cheap black labor.

 

Johannesburg 2008
Aerial view of Johannesburg in 2008

Locals have several names for their city: Jozi, Joburg, and eGoli (“the city of gold” in Zulu). Located in the Witwatersrand (“white waters ridge” in Afrikaans) hills at the center of the large-scale gold and diamond trade, Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa and one of the 50 largest urban areas in the world. It is the capital city of South Africa’s wealthiest province, Gauteng. So as you visit Johannesburg, and enjoy its popular museums, theme parks, and rich history. Enjoy the gold hills, or rather those mounds covered with gold dusts scattered around the city. Enjoy eGoli!

 

Why the Name: Seychelles?

Seychelles_flag
Flag of Seychelles

Have you ever wondered about the meaning for the name of the country Seychelles? Somehow to me, it has always felt like it should be a derivative of ‘sea shells’, especially given that it is an island country located in the middle of the Indian ocean. I picture sandy beaches, blue waters, coconuts, and then ‘sea shells‘ seems like a perfect name for such a beautiful place. How far am I from the truth?

 

Seychelles_Victoria_1900s
Victoria, capital of Seychelles, in the 1900s

Well, it turns out that the Seychelles islands were named after Jean Moreau de Séchelles, Louis XV‘s Minister of Finance, in 1756 when the French set a Stone of Possession on the islands Mahé. Before then, it was a transit point for trade between Africa and Asia. The first visitors to the island were probably Arab traders, but the earliest recorded sighting by Europeans took place in 1502 by the Portuguese Admiral Vasco da Gama, who passed through the Amirantes and named them after himself (islands of the Admiral). The earliest recorded landing was in January 1609, by the crew of the “Ascension” under Captain Alexander Sharpeigh during the fourth voyage of the British East India Company.

 

The islands went under British control in 1814 after the Napoleonic wars. Seychelles became a crown colony separate from Mauritius in 1903. In 1976, Seychelles became independent from the United Kingdom as a republic within the Commonwealth.

Seychelles_Black parrot
Seychelles national bird: The Seychelles black parrot

Seychelles is located in the Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar and about 1,600 km (994 mi) east of Kenya. The capital of the 115island countryVictoria, lies 1,500 km (932 mi) east of mainland East Africa. The majority of its islands are uninhabited with many dedicated as nature reserves. With a population of roughly 94,228, it has the smallest population of any sovereign African country.  Its population is a melting pot of African, French, Indian, and Chinese, where the largest group is of African descent. The food and music duly reflect this fusion of cultures.

 

Seychelles_Victoria_1
Victoria, Seychelles, today

After proclamation of independence from the United Kingdom in 1976, Seychelles has developed from a largely agricultural society (main exports were cinnamon, vanilla, and copra) to a market-based diversified economy, with agriculture being supplanted by rapidly rising service and public sectors as well as tourism. Seychelles is among the world’s leading countries to protect lands for threatened species, allocating 42% of its territory for conservation. Seychelles today is known for success stories in protecting its flora and fauna.

 

Thus, if you visit Seychelles today, be amazed by its ‘sea shells’, sandy beaches, beautiful fauna, and flora. Enjoy!