45 years. A technically independent country for 45 years. A free country. Yet in those 45 years, we have been deficient in the main tenet of an independent, autonomous country; freedom of expression. Freedom of speech. Freedom of the press. Our society is nothing but a primitive social structure, a euphemism for a puppet democracy without these human freedoms. These freedoms which we all as individuals have a human right to act upon. So in expressing my personal freedoms I introduce UJAMAA. The voice.
We as thoughtful, conscious individuals need a platform to express our honest views and feelings about government policy, social structure, public opinion, culture, the arts; a medium in which we can confidently state anything we desire to say, without fear of censorship. UJAMAA is a forum for activists, writers, and citizens who feel that honest expression should be intertwined with and an essential part of the media. UJAMAA hopes to initiate a wave of expression that will spread throughout the country, allowing everyone to be listened to, not just heard (often we’re not even granted this privilege).
UJAMAA is born out of the frustration of having to filter thoughts and views just because there we have an obtuse government. It is born out of the need to recreate the social fabric of Tanzania, born out of a desire for better. It is born out of peace, not out of hatred, it is born out of a need for evolution, not revolution, it is born out of the suffocation we all feel when we have been subjected to be irrelevant voices.
As a writer, I have always thought of it as my duty to ensure truth is a key element of my work. However, I believe truth cannot be fully explored and projected without the allowance of alternative opinion. Tanzanian media has suffered the burden of one-dimensional dictators for far too long, it is time for the whole truth to be told. Many may see this as reactionary, yet this is not so, the mere fact of the matter is that one persons truth is not necessarily another’s. UJAMAA hopes to facilitate this in whatever minute way it can.
The determined production of this first issue was sparked by the rejection of one my recent feature articles for the mainstream print-media giant in the country: The Guardian. The article was a feature piece about a connection of events that led me to draw some provocative conclusions. It was to be my fourth article for the paper (the said article is printed in this issue). The reasons I was given for this blatant suppression of free expression was that “When going through final screening, the editor of the paper felt that the article would be problematic for many high-ranking members of The Guardian staff, as many are staunch government supporters, and others feared backlash from government officials”- an editor of The Guardian who for the sake of safety will remain anonymous. This reason, although disgusting, did not surprise me, yet half-jokingly I asked “What about freedom of press” to be dealt with hysterical laughter and the sad answer of “This is Africa”.
We cannot allow our self-image to be tarnished and degraded in such a fashion, we must make it clear, that as Africans, we will not remain silent and suppressed. We will Speak.