Identifying causes of violence in Rufiji: Was the one-party political system the solution?


MY urge to write this article was prompted by Makwaia wa Kuhenga’s presentation, which appeared in the Daily News of Friday, July 14th, 2017; in which he implored all of us “to nip in the bud” what he describes as the “seeds of violence, which are completely alien to our culture as a people”; and helpfully elaborated as follows:- “There has been another armed attack in one of our country’s largest Regions, Mwanza, which took place last week, subsequent to other reports of sporadic killings which had taken place earlier in the Coast Region’s districts of Kibiti, Mkuranga, and Rufiji, by armed gangs. . .

The attack in Mwanza, according to the police, appeared to be similar to those that have sporadically been happening in the Coast Region, where mysterious gangsters have killed 37 persons, including 13 policemen”.

Then, further down the line in his presentation, Makwaia wa Kuhenga presents his conclusion or, in his own words, ‘the way he sees it’, in the following words:- “We should not sit on our laurels, dance and clap as if all is well.. . We seem to be dancing and clapping with our Western style of “democracy”; but I think we were much better off, in terms of national security, and were well grounded in national unity, as a One-Party Democracy in the old good days, than we are today”.

The former One-Party system had its benefits.

Makwaia wa Kuhenga appears to be of the settled view, that “we were much better off, in terms of national security, as a One-Party Democracy in the good old days, than we are today”. This is basically true. Indeed, the former One-Party system had its benefits to the community. But such statement is essentially like the proverbial ‘crying over spilt milk’. This is so because the multi-party political system is here to stay, and there is no way we can go back to the single- Party political system. My submission here is that the insecurity situation in which we now find ourselves, is rooted elsewhere, and certainly not in the multi-party political system itself. In my humble opinion, it is rooted in what I shall describe as “the unintended by-products” of the multiparty system, as I will endeavour to elaborate later in the paragraphs below.

Defining the words ‘national security’.

In the context of this presentation, the words ‘national security’ are used to mean the security of the country’s ordinary citizens, in their individual, as well as in their collective capacity. These words therefore refer to the presence of a conducive environment, or general state of affair, which gives the people of Tanzania complete peace of mind. That is to say, gives them a feeling of being safe, confident, and free from any worries about their personal, as well as their families’ lives and properties. Thus, in this particular context, the meaning of the words “safety and security” extends beyond the current worrying ‘sporadic killings’ referred to by Makwaia wa Kuhenga. Indeed, measured or judged by comparing the previous and the current security situation, many Tanzanians would probably readily agree with Makwaia wa Kuhenga’s assessment. But the point which I wish to make here, is that apart from the vastly changed political landscape, there are many other, and equally important, contributory factors (which I will describe as fault lines) which, apart from the political environment itself, have also contributed significantly in producing the alleged ‘seeds of violence’, which have led not only to those ‘sporadic killings’ of innocent persons in the Coast and Mwanza Regions, but have also led to a general lack of peace of mind within the community. And that, precisely, is the purpose of my article today, in which I wish to draw attention to those other contributory factors, which are menacingly present in the current sociopolitical environment, and which should similarly be addressed, with a view to their also being “nipped in the bud” .

The political fault lines.

There is one major obstacle, or political fault line, which appears to be the root cause for the emergence of those ‘unintended’ by-products, which is, basically, the absence of the requisite multi-party political culture in our community.

It has always been my contention that multi-party democracy is, essentially, a product of a culture which is deeply rooted in the Western countries of Europe and North America, and is based on certain unique factors, such as their long established systems of social justice, and their long experience in working effectively with elected bodies.

But experience has shown that in some of the non Western countries which do not have this kind of culture, the multi-party political system has not always produced the ‘perfect democracy’ which is commonly implied in that system.

There are many examples which show that in such countries, where this Western-based political culture does not exist, operating the multi-party governance system has become undesirably problematic.

One such example is the Caribbean country called Grenada, whose Prime Minister, Dr Kenneth Mitchell, lamented in his comments published in the October 2000 edition of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Journal, as follows :- “The Caribbean people have long had a reputation for passionate partisan debate in the adversarial form of Parliamentary democracy inherited from Westminster.

But they also enjoyed the reputation for playing by the rules: the winners of the argument took office, while the losers continued the debate from the opposition benches in Parliament, and prepared for the next election.

But today, passionate political debates are being continued, in an alarming number of cases, not in Parliament, but in the streets. And they are being pressed no by debate, but by demonstrations.

Our acceptance of the Parliamentary system is being seriously eroded”. Another example is that of Lesotho in Southern Africa, from where it was reported, in the same Journal in 2003, as follows:- “Ever since the independence of Lesotho, political activity in this country has been partisan in form, and exclusionary in character.

Society has been balkanised into new groupings which call themselves political parties, dedicated to vying for, and excluding one another from, control of state power. Political parties in Lesotho are the antithesis of nation building.

They are the origin of the mutual disdain and repugnance that members of different political parties feel for each other, and this attitude has produced a basis for political instability that has become a permanent feature of politics in the country”.

I believe it is common knowledge that Tanzania also has, from time to time, experienced similar behavioural tactics by the Opposition camp: an unintended by-product of multi-party politics, and mainly due to this deficiency of not having the requisite multi-party political culture. Other political fault lines.

There are several other political fault lines in our current socio-political environment, which are contributing significantly to the creation of the undesirable feelings of insecurity among the people of Tanzania. These are what I have described above as ‘the unintended by-products’ of the multiparty political system.

They are ‘unintended’ because they were not actually planned to be part of the multiparty system; they just ‘emerged’, in the vacuum created by the absence of the requisite multi-party political culture. The said unplanned by-products, include the following :-

(a) the general lack of leadership ethics among our leaders. (b) Perceived weaknesses in the governance system; (c) the lack of patriotism, particularly among sections of the youth; and (c) the rather strange ‘culture of impunity’, which appears to have rapidly developed among certain politicians and other actors in the governance system.

The lack of leadership ethics.

This is a fundamental fault line. The large number of public officials who have been served with orders of suspension or dismissal from office by President John Magufuli since he assumed office in November 2015, mainly due to their unethical conduct; is clear testimony, and gives sufficient credence to the claim that the lack of leadership ethics is a widespread fault line in our country’s governance system.

Weaknesses in the governance system.

Such weaknesses have been manifested in two specific areas. One is in the decision- making process; and the other is in the lack of proper supervision, which leads directly to what we shall call “the culture of impunity”.

Weaknesses in the process of decision making by the relevant players in the governance system, have created problems either of indecision, where no decisions are made at all when they were obviously required; or of making inappropriate decisions of a nuisance nature, which greatly irritate the public, and thus create feelings of dissatisfaction, or even outright anger, among the affected sections of the community, thus creating a negative impact on national security.

The second area of such weaknesses is the lack of proper supervision within the governance system, which inevitably leads to the emergence of “the culture of impunity” among the actors .

Lack of proper supervision is what leads to the rampant acts of impunity which are widely committed by public officials. Such acts include offences like abuse of office, and the misappropriation or embezzlement of public funds by public officials.

It also includes other unethical acts such as tax evasion, salary payments made to ghost workers, and the ‘get-rich-quick’ mentality, which fuels corruption, plus other evils which, obviously, produce negative impacts on national security.


It should however be noted, that many of these factors (such as tax evasion, get-rich-quick mentality, and weaknesses in the governance system), which are clearly based primarily on human nature, will always exist in the governance system, irrespective of the nature of its political system.

Hence, as was asserted by Makwaia wa Kuhenga in his lines quoted above, we may indeed “have been much better off in terms of national security as a One-party democracy in the good old days, than we are today”; but that system alone cannot be wholly credited with the robust national security situation which existed at the material time.

And, similarly, the current lack of it cannot be wholly blamed on the present multi-party system. In the final analysis, it all depends on the governance strength of the man who is at the helm.

And in the relevant case, greater credit must be given to the father of the nation, Tanzania’s founder President, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

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