THE heading of this perspective today may appear alarmist in the eyes of some circles, but one need not consult a witchdoctor or intelligence officer to predict what may befall this country come 2015 when next General Elections are due.Oh! My God! Looking at events in the immediate future, an impression is steadily building up that a culture of violence has begun to permeate the Tanzanian society, a culture quite alien to the people of this country.
I can bet almost with certitude that diplomatic cables from most embassies based here to their respective countries are full of urgent information about escalating violence in this country which does not augur well for sustained peace and stability which this country has been singled out remarkably compared to the rest of Africa.
If this country wrestled independence from Britain 50 years ago without a drop of blood, why should this be happening today? What should, therefore, be done to arrest this trend before the situation gets worse and the country starts spurting out refugees both internally and externally as has happened in some neighbouring countries?This perspective is an attempt to contribute suggestions that may be helpful to the powers that be in this country.
Tanzania is as fragile as Somalia!
One factor that comes immediately to mind is the factor of the apparent failure by those whose destiny has been placed in their hands to lead this country, their inability to develop and sustain a culture of Unity in Diversity. Translated in Kiswahili, ‘Unity in Diversity’ simply means ‘Utengamano ndani ya Umoja’ or ‘Upinzani ndani ya Umoja wa Kitaifa’.
Nurturing a multi-party state is a huge culture, which must be inculcated in the polity and the population of a given developing country like ours. It must be inculcated seriously and consistently. Since political competition evokes in its wake negative elements that may tend to divide the people on sectarian grounds, political leaders must, at all time, work to fix those cracks that may develop which may ultimately wreck the country altogether.
It was again the founder President of this country who, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, in what would appear as his last words to Tanzanians before he was gone that Tanzania “must never deceive themselves that they are any different to fratricidal countries like Somalia…” “You are as fragile as Somalia or any other country in Africa…”, Nyerere had willed, adding that national peace and unity is always worked for, never comes on its own and should never be taken for granted.
A hard look at the Tanzanian society today would reveal that the country is perilously more disunited than ever before, the religious divide is there and even getting wider, not to speak of discreet tribal and sectarian tendencies. Is there any visible and consistent political work to cement national unity in this country in the face of the tug of war as we have witnessed in the last census exercise? Is it not true that some political leaders invite themselves in religious functions just to gain political capital and there is nobody to censure them?
Political work necessary
In the past, Mwalimu Nyerere who had always his ears on the ground, always picking his intelligence from ordinary members of the public who would tell him the reality on the ground, would most often than not, call for a meeting of elders at the Diamond Jubilee Hall in Dar es Salaam to tell it as it is, to share his information with the people, consequently fixing the “cracks” on the wall of the Tanzanian house in that process.
But leading a country is the same like leadership in a household where the head of the family would discipline his erratic children immediately, would not wait for Xmas or Eid or end of the month! Tanzania is a young multi-party state, just turned 20 in multi-partyism and is yet to develop a sophisticated multi-party state like that of the United States of America.
We are all watching on television today the politicking in the USA between the two major political parties, the Democrats and Republicans. Nobody’s balls are being pulled up there, is there?If my good friend, Saidi Mwema, the Inspector-General of Police is reading these lines, he must be grinning loudly, because he always teases me with these words mentioned above when I say Hello to him on the phone!
In the intervening period, IGP Mwema has come into the spotlight following those spates of ugly scenes of violence between his force and the public. But at personal level, he is a very well qualified man and professionally sophisticated for his job, given his career background, which has had a little stint with Interpol in the past before his current office.But he needs assistance by, above all, policy and decision makers that must, as I alluded in this perspective, inculcate a culture of running multi-party state -- in the first place.
Demos are normal anywhere!
Multi-partyism is a process. Had everybody in the power structure been conscious of the fact that demos are quite normal anywhere there are competing political voices, and that the role of the police was not to prevent demos, but to ensure that they are peacefully conducted, I am sure the situation would have not been as ugly as it is today.
I am not quite sure that there has been any executive order on this aspect on the norm of demos in competitive politics. If there is none up to today, please let it be there urgently and should be made public if only to avert further ugly incidents in the future. We all saw on Friday last week when that demo by a Muslim crowd was allowed to proceed unhindered right to the headquarters of the Ministry of Home Affairs in the city when the police just stood-by, ensuring nobody threw a stone at another. This is as it should be!
This brings us to the words of Mwalimu Nyerere at the launch of this perspective. When multi-partyism began here, there were similar incidents of tear gas bombing and so forth. People then used to carry shoulder high one of the opposition leaders, Augustine Mrema. Contextually, what Nyerere was saying then, carrying people on shoulders and demos were quite normal in competitive politics! Leave them alone!
So those who succeeded Mwalimu Nyerere, should have taken leaf from his quip and let demos and rallies unhindered. Today, even if the opposition party considered the strongest today was to call huge meetings attracting thousands of people, even quarter a million at one go, what would that mean?
If I were an official of the government or the ruling party, I would not be denied of sleep because those attending such demos and rallies would not necessarily translate the actual voting pattern!What would deny me of sleep would be if there were frequent reports of blood shedding and deaths at rallies and demos. That would be a curse to me and the party I belong and an ominous indicator for the future of the country.
Unity in Diversity
For once people get accustomed to bloodletting and deaths -- that is a terribly bad precedent – a bad omen for the future, peace and stability of the country as a whole. Therefore, those who find the heading of this perspective too alarmist to be believed, then let them reflect on what happened at Igunga during the last by-election there, what happened in Arusha, Morogoro and other places and the incident at Iringa most recently. If these were just by-elections and normal politicking, what will actually happen to this country come General Elections 2015?
I am afraid, we may have our share of what happened in Kenya in their last elections and what is happening in the Congo today. Once upon a time, we were a sanctuary for refugees from elsewhere in Africa. Are we ready today to become refugees in some neighbouring countries? God Forbid. So, it is Unity in Diversity! Let us inculcate the culture of unity in diversity – that we are one people although we belong to opposing political parties. This is a process that must involve all of us -- from the top political leadership to the civil society.