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Bibi Titi Mohamed: Tanzania’s "Mother of the Nation"

April 18, 2020

When Tanzania became an independent state, it was Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who was hailed as its founding father. But without Bibi Titi Mohamed, he would have lacked an important mobilizing force that secured his success.

DW African Roots | Bibi Titi Mohamed

Bibi Titi Mohamed: Tanzania’s "Mother of the Nation"

When did Bibi Titi Mohamed live?

Bibi Titi Mohamed was born in 1926 in central Dar es Salaam to a Muslim family. Like many of her peers who didn't receive formal education, she learned a lot from her parents and family. In the 1950s, she was one of those pushing for Tanganyika's independence from British rule alongside Julius Nyerere, under the umbrella of the Tanganyika African Nation Union, TANU.

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What was Bibi Titi Mohamed renowned for?

Bibi Titi Mohamed was a pioneer of women participation in the struggle for independence in Tanganyika. At the beginning of her political career she convinced a large number of women to join the struggle. As leader of TANU's women wing, she was responsible for recruiting women and convincing them to endorse the ideas and policies of TANU. 

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Tell us about the rise and fall of Bibi Titi Mohamed!

After Tanganyika's independence and in the early years of Tanzania, the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, Bibi Titi held different ministerial positions under President Julius Nyerere. But her career came to an abrupt end when she disagreed with Nyerere's socialist ideology. In 1969, together with six others, amongst them Labor Minister Michael Kamaliza and several army officers, Bibi Titi Mohamed was arrested and charged with plotting to overthrow the government. She and her co-accused became the first Tanzanians to face treason charges. After 127 days of trial, Bibi Mohamed was sentenced to life imprisonment. However, she was released several years later, in 1977, after receiving a presidential pardon. Thereafter she lived a life of isolation from her family and her former party friends.

Tanzania's Bibi Titi Mohamed

How is Bibi Titi Mohamed remembered?

After she parted ways with Julius Nyerere, it became difficult to gather information about Bibi Titi Mohamed. For a long time, the government was silent about her achievements. This lack of recognition of Bibi Titi Mohamed's contribution to Tanganyika's liberation struggle resonates with a lack of recognition of women's contribution, particularly to political events in historiography in general.

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However, things changed slightly in 1991. In a party publication celebrating 30 years of independence, Bibi Titi was mentioned as "a heroine of the freedom struggle". Today, one of the major streets in Dar es Salaam bears her name. Many Tanzanians remember her as the "Mother of the Nation".

Scientific advice on this article was provided by historians Professor Doulaye Konaté, Lily Mafela, Ph.D., and Professor Christopher Ogbogbo. African Roots is supported by the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

This article has been updated. An earlier version included some information that could not be proven.