The Tamsen Chronicles

Cairo Radio – Part 2

In the first part of this article on Cairo Radio’s clandestine –and internationally hunted — “down Africa” propaganda broadcasting network in the middle 1950s, Oscar Tamsen described how President Abdel Gamal Nasser, of Suez Canal War fame, set out to become the “King of the Whole of Africa.” Nasser had the determined ambition of controlling the politically troubled continent by using the U.S.S.R. Communist- inspired and terrorist-aiding Cairo Radio and its re-broadcasting repeater station hidden somewhere unknown in or around Africa. Oscar’s news-finding task was to try to find and pinpoint this propaganda machine — and then he met by sheer coincidence a well-spoken Arab lady….

This person’s name was Sharifa Lemke and we met over dinner in the old historic Zanzibar Hotel which had amazingly accommodated the African explorer,  David Livingstone, before he ventured for the first time in the 1800s into the interior of a then unknown Tanganyika. On that particular day, I had spoken to a Zanzibar Arab school teacher who, during conversation, heard I had been in Cairo and wanted me to meet a male friend who also had some Cairo experience. In those days, Cairo was the centre of the universe for most Zanzibaris and they were all too eager to hear anything about the place of their dreams.

When I subsequently arrived that night as an invitee to the dinner, Sharifa and her brother, Ahmed, somehow became involved in our small party. I was introduced to the couple as a holidaymaker interested in the island’s history from it’s notorious slaving days. 

For obvious reasons, I did not disclose my identity or profession as a foreign correspondent and journalist to either Sharifa or Ahmed, of to anyone else for that matter. My nose for news suddenly became somewhat acute, however, when Sharifa innocently mentioned during conversation on her close family connection to the Sultan of Zanzibar that she had visited a special restaurant in Cairo where I had spent some time when previously plying my trade in that city.

From my Cairo experience, I knew that this restaurant was the place where Cairo Radio journalists used to hang out and where Western foreign correspondents sometimes collected during the Suez War days. On hearing this information,  I immediately knew I was quite miraculously right in the middle of a Zanzibar based Cairo Radio hotspot connection as Sharifa’s knowledge of the restaurant meant only one thing — that she, too, was allied in some way to my profession as a writer and broadcaster.

From this point, I devised a plan to keep her in close contact and under surveillance  — and she unknowingly led me right to the political broadcasting honeypot run in conjunction with an underground firm of publishers who produced serious pro-Communust terrorist propaganda sent illegally into nearby Tanganyika, Kenya and Uganda. My subsequent news story on how Cairo Radio’s notorious programmes were often being devised, supported and re-broadcast into Africa ended with the station’s words of hate and war eventually being jammed on the local African airwaves.

I never could find out exactly how this was done.My later enquiries revealed that the broadcasts to Cyprus from Cairo were abruptly brought to an end by official British intelligence sources on instructions from the House of Commons. But just how the down-Africa radio propaganda was reportedly brought to a halt in Zanzibar was a complete mystery. Suggestions were made to me by official sources that Western intelligence operatives posing as missionaries had taken possession of the repeater equipment and had silenced Colonel  Nasser’s pan-African propaganda pride and joy.

To my amazement when I later attended Nelson Mandela’s trial on charges of terrorism in South Africa, evidence was given that Sharifa had been the principal Cairo Radio broadcaster and the leading initiator of its notorious African propaganda service.

Her brother, Ahmed, was described as the Communist Arab specialist who had enhanced Cold War Russia’s use of Zanzibar as a pivot for instability through the airwaves of Nasser’s Cairo Radio and by the supply of aids to leading terrorist groups. From those days on, I have come to the conclusion that, even casual remarks on a Zanzabari street corner and over dinner in a far-away foreign hotel, can lead us all to yet another of life’s big and interesting adventures.