Sunday, 4 September 2016

Tanzanians don’t want guns in the streets

  • Polisi wakijiandaa kuzuia vurugu

  • The paramilitary training is being done in public so citizens can admire the competence with which they intend to break our bones.
  • What can we do and what should we do to create, refresh, maintain the Tanzania we want to live in. I hope a month is enough time to deliberate about it.And so it begins. The escalation of tensions between the government and the Ukuta movement has been painted as a clash of political parties. If only it were that simple.
    This is more of a... conversation... between a variety of entities about how to maintain a manageable peace and stability in the wake of 2015. If the powers that be don’t get it right, we are all in for a long winter of discontent.
    It has been a tense week, filled with unseasonal rain and gibbering idiots proclaiming that the solar eclipse was a sign that Magufuli’s presidency was meant to be/not meant to be. That we’re still at this level of superstition in 2016 exhausts me, and is an irrefutable indicator that the public education system is failing us.Interestingly, just last Sunday, the Worthies of this Town come together to celebrate a retired president’s private event at his church. Tanzanian convention was observed and political rivalries set aside, smiles and handshakes exchanged, a denouement seemed possible. And then the next couple of days saw some strategic arrests of opposition leaders and ultimately the calling off of the Ukuta demonstrations slated for September 1.
    So, the week has ended peaceably, if a little loudly for residents of Dar es Salaam. We have been treated to two days of Air Force fly-bys. The threat implicit in this gesture was a bit of overkill, after all for months now the media has been flooded with images of paramilitary units being trained to keep the peace.This training is being done in public where we citizens can admire the discipline and competence with which these people, whom we pay from our tax monies, intend to break our bones.
    How did it come to this? The mechanisms of Tanzanian peace and stability are intricate, and retaining the balance through our various stages of growth is always challenging. I like to say that we cycle through phases characterised by the incumbents we choose.Mwinyi was seen as having been a touch too laissez-faire so his successor Mkapa provided just the right touch of pedantry and discipline to appeal. After a decade of his dyspeptic guidance, we ran happily into the warm and charming embrace of Kikwete. We were in need of fun and relaxation and hope and modernity, what can I say. And after too large a serving of his brand of leadership, well. It was time for discipline again.
    So we swing between the poles. Sometimes we are more open, sometimes we are more conservative. Sometimes we are channelling a very masculine energy, sometimes it is a very feminine energy.Always, it is Tanzania first: that’s the “tax” we pay to be so lucky as to be her citizens. Our incumbents usually come to understand, accept and sometimes even be defeated by the fact that our complex society believes in the social contract between the state and the people.
    Until now. I can’t really stress how unnatural it is for Tanzanians to be subjected so directly to military threat. We like our women and men in service and the pact to only see each other at Independence Day festivities has served us all well. This is not a country where we cross the road when we see a uniform; in fact, if you’re having some kind of trouble in a public space, the uniform is the first person you should run to for help.
    But somebody, somewhere, and quite recently, thought it would be a good idea to ask the people bearing arms to look at citizenry as though we are the enemies of the United Republic of Tanzania.This has created a situation that clerics – of all people – will be tasked to mediate. It is an encounter between all groupings of Tanzanians; it goes beyond religion, race, parties, gender, occupation, ideology, you name it.
    I have decided to consider this a positive step in our political trajectory, if only because the past few months have made us all think about what we mean by, and what we want out of, leadership.As well as the resulting challenge – which is, what can we do and what should we do to create, refresh, maintain the Tanzania we want to live in. I hope a month is enough time to deliberate about it.I hope those who cockblocked the proposed Warioba Constitution feel as bad as they should, because they are the reason we are here to begin with.
    Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report, 

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