- Published on Sunday, 29 July 2012 02:59
- Written by TONY ZAKARIA
- Hits: 1675
When I was growing up life resembled something you see on Discovery channel. There were leopards in many forests on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Mothers cowed naughty little boys into submission by scary stories of hyenas that snatched kids with bad behaviour. I saw antelopes in bushes a few hundred metres from Kibosho mission hospital on my way to school. Where there are herbivores, there are bound to be carnivores. I was asked by some Yankee ignoramus a few years later whether there were lions in my village, I readily said yes.
There are lions alright, the most dangerous carnivore, the human kind. Those born in July are called lions and lionesses, right? The king of the jungle is nowadays mostly confined to Serengeti and Ngorongoro national parks where meat is plentiful. Wild animals that used to roam and terrorise village populations have all but disappeared. Man-eaters in Nachingwea and Pugu areas only exist in tales told during cultural dances.
In the 1970s the mere mention of the word ‘Simba’ made local inhabitants tremble with fear, knowing the real danger were a lion to appear at night, ready to break down doors before snatching a human for its evening snack. The roar of lions and the hunting and killing of prey in the wild expanse of our many tropical grass plains still attract thousands of tourists every year. Tanzania is home to the largest animals in their thousands.
Elephants, leopards, cheetahs, lions and buffalo are not difficult to see on a two-day safari to Mikumi, Manyara or Tarangire national parks. Tanzania has major tourism attractions but has done a pitiful job of selling itself to potential visitors. The country should have been host to hundreds of thousands of Chinese and tourists from other Asian nations from India, Indonesia, Korea and Japan. Egyptians and Sudanese would enjoy something other than pyramids and the Nile; Nigerians would find comfort in Tanzania’s relative peace and obvious similarities in people and climate.
I want to sing the many praises of this beautiful land that is home to the greatest wildebeest migration on planet Earth. All Tanzanians should promote the good in the country to the whole world to attract tourist dollars. Maybe tourism in Tanzania is like golden goose dead in the water. Is 5% annual growth of tourists acceptable? Not really given the 1,000 miles of beaches and the many budget hotels that have come up in recent years. Tanzanians would love to visit major game parks especially in the northern circuit.
However, the cost is a major hindrance. Government should remove park fees for citizens and facilitate the construction of guest houses to encourage local tourism. If Tanapa expects me to pay a fee to see animals that are part of our national heritage, they will wait a long time. Tanzania is full of gas, so much we can stop using petrol and diesel as fuel within a few years. No one is cooking with local gas yet, years after it was piped to Dar es Salaam.
We have so much gas if Al Queda was to drop a large bomb somewhere in Mtwara, we could all go up in smoke in the ensuing explosion. I heard some two years back that Dar motorists were already using Compressed Natural Gas in cars. I figured by 2015 there would be CNG stations in Moshi. So far it is still that lone CNG gas station somewhere in Ubungo.
A country that loves its people would allow many investors who know enough about setting up and running the CNG business to come in and invest their two pennies or billions into gas kits, CNG gas stations, gas transport trucks. Natural gas is safe and more affordable than the liquid petroleum gas being sold in steel bottles.
After the turmoil living and working in red zones ranging from Papua New Guinea to South Sudan and Afghanistan I came back home so that I could wake up every morning with no fear of being caught in the crossfire of warring factions. East or west, home is best. We have more domestic animals than most African countries save for Ethiopia and Botswana.
Breastfeeding is still popular here and honey from Tabora beats any you can buy in a fancy supermarket, imported from European sources to impress gullible middle-class Tanzanians. This is the land of milk and honey that pulled me away from dollars and bullets. Today there are many more all-weather roads than when 10 years ago. I can drive from Bukoba to Dar on tarmac and then catch a bus to Mtwara in time to attend the wedding of a friend, all within two days or so.
Unheard of in the history of the country that was formerly German Ostafrika. Will I be safe taking such a trip? Perhaps. Violent incidents in Mwanza and Mtwara in recent months have damaged property, lives and livelihoods. Walking along Nyerere road on the way to Bugando hospital isn’t safe like it used to be in the 1980s when I was training to be a barefoot doctor. Vigilante youth wanting to know if I was CCM or Chadema card-carrying member might stop me on the way.
Or I could be abducted by unidentified copycat criminals using mafia tactics they see on DVDs. Or shot accidentally by police in the process of quelling street demonstrations. Is Mwanza the hotbed of resistance to law and order in the land of the Kilimanjaro? Not by a long chalk. A dozen people were sent to the creator in sleepy Singida recently after a political rally went awfully wrong. Masses whipped into frenzy can burn churches and government property even in a friendly country like Tanzania. What is happening in this land we all love? Is it still love for country and its people?