About 7 kms from Kigoma town, is the oldest town in western Tanzania, Ujiji that houses a cultural educational backdrop.
Stretching for nearly one kilometer in Ujiji, is a ‘stone’ paved road named after Dr. David Livingstone. The street leads to the Dr. Livingstone memorial museum, one of the popular museums in Tanzania. It was home to Dr. Livingstone from the year 1869, when he established his temporary home in the area.
On arrival I met Miriam Mkonya, head of the site, Kulwa Mathias an assistant conservator and Mzee Kassim Govola, the assistant conservator. After exchanging the pleasantries Mzee Kassim offered to guide me around the museum.
Kassim soon gave me a detailed description. Dr. Livingstone was a medical doctor and preacher, who chose to stay in Ujiji. Ujiji was then a major slave port for slaves captured from Zaire (now DRC). The slaves crossed Lake Tanganyika via Ujiji enroute to Bagamoyo where they were shipped to various captive destinations.
The former slave’s route near the local market at Ujiji is where the slaves started their long journey from Ujiji. Today, the path is lined with gigantic, old trees.
In the museum visitors are shown photos slave trade era and the life of Dr. Livingstone. A popular illutration in the museum is the life-size papier-mâché of Dr. Livingstone and Henry Stanley greeting each other.
According to the tale, Stanley said: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume”, as he met Dr. Livingstone on November 10, 1871 at Ujiji. Stanley was a journalist reporting for the New York Herald magazine at the time.
It is believed Dr. Livingstone was in his tent under a mango tree resting when he heard one of his servants shouting, “A Muzungu is coming.”
Livingstone was curious and got out to meet the visitor who was approaching ahead of a long caravan with porters, a huge collection of supplies and medicine.
The mango tree which survived until in the 1920s, according to Mzee Kassim, is now replaced by a memorial tower.
Before the meeting, Dr. Livingstone had been thought dead as no news had been heard of him for years. He only arrived back in Ujiji the day before he met Stanley, wrote in his journal “When my spirits were at their lowest ebb, the good Samaritan was close at hand, for one morning [my servant] Susi came running at the top of his speed and gasped out, ‘An Englishman! I see him!’
How Stanley began the search mission:
In 1869, James Gordon Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald, dispatched Stanley to attend the opening of the Suez Canal and then to visit the Middle East. His final assignment was to look for Livingstone. “If he is dead, bring back every possible proof of his death,” Bennett ordered.
Stanley was a Welsh adventurer who became a naturalized American. He fought on both sides in the American Civil War.
Livingstone was thrilled to meet Stanley. The two spent several months together exploring Lake Tanganyika.
Later, Stanley returned to Europe, got rich and famous, and later became an extraordinary African explorer in his own right. Unlike Livingstone, who traveled alone and befriended Africans, Stanley was a ruthless adventurer who often used a weapon (a gun) to command respect.
Less than two years after meeting Stanley, Livingstone caught malaria in a swamp now in northern Zambia. He died on May 1, 1873.
Livingstone’s four stewards, took his body home. They buried the explorer’s heart and intestines in Zambia. They rubbed the corpse with salt, dried it in the sun for two weeks and then carried Livingstone, wrapped in cloth, more than 1,000 miles to Zanzibar, on the Tanzanian coast.
Eleven months after Livingstone died; his body arrived in London, where it was interred in Westminster Abbey.