Monday, July 30, 2007

Journalistic Responsibility

For those of you who are familiar with the weekly news program aired on THE continent-wide pay channel (m-net) 'Carte Blanche', will also be aware that the show prides itself in its investigative stories and the breakthroughs they seem to make in fields of journalism. I myself find myself watching at every chance I get, and sometimes they really do have stories that intrigue me.

There program that aired on the 29th July 2007, was one of these shows, however for the wrong reasons. The show recounted some sad and horrendous abductions of 6 young girls by a pedophile in the early nineties. The girls or their bodies have not been recovered until this day. I am sure you will agree that must be devastating for the girls' families and friends. The show, purported some breakthrough in the recovery of the girls that they have been investigating for months, that they said they were going to reveal.

There breakthrough was a fraudster named Danie Krugel who claimed that he invented some new technology that allows him to trace people by only having a genetic sample like a strand of hair. He claims that with this sample, a process of quantum physics (vague isn't it) and GPS technology he can track the source of the genetic material. He said he was going to find the bodies or these young girls.

As the story went on, he pointed out a piece of land where he said the girls were buried. The girls were not uncovered. Carte Blanche then called in a psychic to help them out. Once again the bodies were not found. (click here for the full transcript of the story).

What my problem, (maybe due to my ignorance) is that a supposedly impartial investigative team would put up and actually support such a farce. I can understand doing a story on this guy, who claims to have the invention of the millennium yet refuses to publish his findings in any scientific journal (he should have one the Nobel Prize by now)or patent his work. But to actually work together with this man on a absurdly ridiculous crusade on such a sensitive issue, surely that is unethical isn't it?

I have come across a very interesting blog that delves much deeper into the topic. Click here to visit it.

I would really like to hear what you think about the story and the 'inventor' Danie Krugel. Let me know if you think my judgments are unfair or harsh.

This post deviates slightly from my usual topics, but I found this story very intriguing as well as infuriating and thought it was relevant to UJAMAA readers.

Any expression of freedom, activism, the Arts or anything you would like to say is welcome here. Speak.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Where's the love?

I truly love Tanzania, really I do, even though my posts tend to paint a negative picture of the goings-on within the country. Through some recent discussions I have had, the same question keeps popping into my head, am I being to harsh? The whole purpose of UJAMAA and the evolution of our consciousness is to be an inclusive forum for activism and free expression. I in know way want to impose my views on people as gospel, I simply would like to state my views and engage discussion to develop solutions to these problems. I must admit however, that I am quite disillusioned with the political state in the country, continent and world. I feel activist mentality and civil society is non-existent in this country is virtually non-existent. Yet once again I am forced to ask, am I too negative?

A article in the Los Angeles Times that someone recently brought to my intention discusses how Western celebrities like Bono and Angelina Jolie like "to portray Africa as a basket case, but ignore very real progress". It examines what these people don't say about Africa. Click here to read the full article.

I am not, or would not like to be compared to a Western celebrity, however am I doing the same thing? Do you feel that I may be focusing too much on the problems we face then the greatness and beauty that are?

Please let me know your views and comments.

I won't pretend that my criticism about the goings-on in the continent will stop, but your thoughts may encourage me to diversify my focus a little bit.

Show some love.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A place we call home

There is a lot about Tanzania people do not understand. There is a lot that people choose to disregard. And even more devastating, there are a lot of people that are being disregarded in recent times. Whether it is the Begging Somali, the Grieving Burundian, The enterprising Kenyan or the shameless Muhindi, Tanzania has slowly but surely evolved into xenophobic society. If there is one aspect of our social development and growth that I could influence, I would choose this one; for it is my firm belief that a nation is built on humans and not nationals.

For the purpose of clarity, it is important to firstly define the term. What is the meaning behind the cryptic term of being a ‘national’ or a ‘citizen’? Where do these arbitrary labels and designations stem from, especially in a country and continent so rich in diversity as ours?

To take our contemporary model of society and our ‘nation-state’ into full perspective one must look back at how this model came into existence. In 1884, leaders of the Imperialist European powers called a conference; this conference was to epitomize the colonization and the ‘scramble for Africa’. At the 1884 Berlin Conference, the European powers sat in front of a blown up map of the African continent, and quite literally started dividing it up amongst themselves. The divisions and borders established in this forum were not based upon the natural boundaries which already existed in the continent, nor the rational categorization based upon tribal affiliations, but rather was based upon the individual powers these European countries had at this time. The continent was divided according to personal whims and declarations of authority on a sycophantic scale. The powers-that-be were basing their accruing of these large portions of African land under the fa├žade of being saviors for the savage natives that populate them. I do not wish to dwell to deep in to the historical interpretations of the act, this can be done on personal desire for further inquiry, I would just like to lay the context of how our current African countries came into existence.

Fast-forward 78 years and you will be at the height of Tanzania’s and much of the continent’s plight for independence. Led by the intelligent and progressive leader, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere we gained our independence and developed our personal trajectory for the future. Nyerere, took it upon himself to ensure that our country would not be thrown into chaotic disaccord due to the irrational borders established at the Berlin Conference of 1884. He tried to diffuse as much as possible the affiliation of the individual to his community and tribe and replaced it with affiliation to the nation and continent. Again I am not going to establish a detailed historical discourse, but rather set the tone of my primary point. Nyerere ensured that Tanzania wouldn’t suffer from tribal irritations by making all tribal leaders major parts of the national government, as well as by his Pan-Africanist policies and adopting Kiswahili as the national language of the country. In turn Tanzania has been safe from the violent tribal outbursts seen and still going on in many in fact most African countries.

Technically if one looks at the Ancestral origins of ‘Tanzanians’ you see a hodgepodge of different cultures, tribal backgrounds and heritage. Many of our leaders can in fact trace their lineage to Northern Mozambique, Zulu South Africa as well as landlocked countries Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. In essence the relevance of the populace’s ethnic origins is none and that is the view of which I wish to propose and establish in this piece.

Maintaining Nyerere’s strong Pan-Africanist views is essential to the long-term development of the nation. Historians, Politicians and those involved with public policy will all recognize the immense influence Nyerere’s approaches to the nation-state contribute to the abolition of the said state. He in essence believed that arbitrary borders and national divisions were a detriment to the overall development and well being of people, and took the view that to build on the common humanity shared between all would create a positive outlook for all. The clearest example of Nyerere’s views put into practice is the 1978 humanitarian intervention that he led in Uganda. Obviously there are critics and those who will choose to disregard the reality of the intervention, and I myself will in no way pretend that I have any scholarly qualification in the matter, however in my view and in the view of the collective majority, the reason behind the 1978 invasion into Uganda was solely to depose the despotic regime of Idi Amin Dada and his gross human rights violations in the country. Tanzania’s invasion into Uganda was not pre-emptive and was initiated only after Amin called for the mass exodus of all Ugandans of Asian descent and the Ugandan army breaching state lines and entering into Tanzania’s national territory. Regardless, Nyerere’s reasons for intervening in the Ugandan crisis were solely of a humanitarian motive and based on the ideal of helping your fellow man. Nyerere was also an advocate for African intervention in conflict zones such as Rwanda and Burundi, Sudan and other areas around the continent. This view is best illustrated in a statement Nyerere once made, this is not an exact quote but only what I can recall “How anyone can expel a certain group of people and say you are no longer part of this country baffles me. Tomorrow someone can say I must go because I don’t belong, and then you must go and eventually we will all go”.

So I believe it is quite safe to assume that at least part of the reason for the Ugandan invasion was humanitarian and to embrace and help our fellow humans. Nyerere was also instrumental in establishing the commissions for peace in Arusha; he also welcomed refugees from other African nations with open arms. Once again I do not intend to delve into specifics and engage a debate into the reasons behind his actions, rather I believe his action themselves are adequate enough to emphasize my overall point.

So with all this contextual information I have highlighted, what does this really have to do with my initial question of “what is a national?” Well everything in fact, our history is laden with persecution and oppression, but it is also filled with hope and love for our common humanity, no better expressed than through the actions of the Father of our Nation. Yet if one was to look at Tanzania today it would be very difficult to find traces of this fraternal bond with the continent and the globe as a whole, rather we are instead becoming more exclusive and un-accommodating. If you ask many Tanzanians today they will tell you, ‘The Kenyans must go (highlighted in Tanzania’s lack of education and opposition to the East African Federation), The refugees must go, The Congolese must go, The Somalis must go, The Indians must go, The Burundian must go, The Rwandese must go, The South Africans must go, The Ugandans must go, with all these people that must go, who in essence will be left?
We are a country built on the bonds of brotherhood; we are irrefutably a country of immense beauty and lovely people. Please, don’t ostracize and discriminate; please do not send Tanzanians away. Where will we go?

I believe it is possible and in fact essential for one to not limit where there national allegiances lie because of their race, religion, country of origin or even where they were born! A national is someone who has laid there heart on the land, and is willing to leave it there long after he or she leaves.

Fellow countrymen, fell continent-men, fellow humans I ask you, I plead for you to stop your xenophobic actions, for in the end, my land is our land.

To answer the initial question of what is a National, or what is a citizen I respond with the simple word: Us.

The enchanted dream, the true dream, the real dream is the collective dream.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Burqavaganza

When truth and conviction and having the stalwart character to stand up for it become sparse and almost non-existent in a country, I think there is due reason to be afraid. It is no longer even a case of fighting for the truth; that battle has been lost for now, but rather just practicing the truth, this is what is imperative to our evolution and sustainability.

It is a widely accepted fact that the media is ‘somewhat’ suppressed in Tanzania. It is rare that the government will allow public critical opinion to reign unregulated; and we all know the methods of ‘regulation’ that are the favorite of our myopic leaders. Blackmail, corruption, imprisonment and blacklisting to name a few. It has not been a common sight for me to see a well established daily publication, openly criticizing the government, or elucidating the public on some controversial matter, even when the said story is fully sourced and verifiable. Those stories just don’t go into print, they are not allowed to be told, according to public spokespeople, they are detrimental to the moral fabric of the country; they are insulting, unverifiable, unpatriotic, unnecessary and therefore untold.

The great political scandals that we have had just over the past year are enough to make minds swirl. The saviors of our power crisis, the ever so ‘commendable’ “Richmond Development Company” made sure they stifled all forms of public outrage against there heavily overpriced airplane engines that were supposedly going to power our nation. They stamped the large authoritative foot of wealth and power to make sure that no one would reveal that rather then being angelic saviors, they were ruthless crooks. There golden boot ensured that the numerous government officials and businesspeople that were ‘intimately’ involved with the company would be unnamed and untouched. One should also not forget the lack of journalistic thrust on issues concerning the BAE Radar deal and the city ‘clean-up’ project. Needless to mention; the recent allegations made against the Bank of Tanzania governor, the immense amount of dirty paws and corrupt businessmen that have infiltrated the public vaults for personal gain, or the slaughter of an innocent dala dala driver by the President’s best man.

The way the government has demonized Haki Elimu and the potent message they stand for is not only disgusting but cruel. The Minister of Education is easily able to vilify Haki Elimu for insulting government policy and supposedly misrepresenting facts, yet none of these same government officials feel the need to regulate certain mainstream tabloids that run rampant amongst the population.

There are a large number of monthly, weekly and daily publications that have a total distribution and readership in the millions that blatantly misrepresent facts, and inseminate hateful and destructive themes into the minds of millions. Papers like Risasi openly incriminate individuals without any basis; publicize guilt of many an innocent victim, while wholeheartedly and destructively playing with racial and ethnic devices to incite public hate of large groups of people for no reason at all. Yet the government still finds the need to censor an article on emergency services, or ban private watchdog groups, citing security and protection of rights as reasons while other print publications (some owned by government officials) openly vandalize the truth and use discriminatory language and images to drown the public in pools of ignorant, vile, putrid garbage, supposedly reported by sound-minded journalists whose only wish is to ‘tell the truth’.
Let alone the wrongful allegations and racist denotations of these ‘popular papers’, what is even more criminal are the ‘candid’ photos of scantily clad women and girls, taken with questionable consent that are plastered throughout the murky pages of these papers. Some pictures have been clearly taken after torturous coercion, yet these papers are still allowed to be printed unchecked while verifiable criticism is squashed. How many of the women on the pages of these trashy-zines were sexually violated? How many of the stories ‘exposed’ have caused irreparable damage to the victims’ lives? How many millions of children did Haki Elimu educate on their rights, yet who is suppressed?

Why we as a country even read the trash that these papers print is difficult for me to understand. Why we allow these undeniable falsities to penetrate our collective consciousness and become truth is beyond my comprehension. Why the government feels the need to silence their law-abiding critics yet let these blatant criminals miseducate our people is something I fail to even begin to grasp. Maybe they are following the ancient axiom that an ignorant populace is easy to control, and with one you just have to be able to mimic the sounds and mannerisms of someone who makes sense.

It is up to us to tell our leaders to change their double standard. To tell the government that we want freedom not ignorance, to tell them we want to be educated not have our intelligence insulted. I think many of our government officials are intelligent enough to understand this. It is my hope that with the collective will we can make the government happy to hear our voices and that with a boycott of the criminal papers that violate our human rights and spoil our plight for freedom we shall overcome.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Wild Life

The amazing diversity of the flora and fauna in Tanzania has been the object of mystical beauty for so many around the world. When one thinks of the beautiful array of wildlife in the country images of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater and the numerous other National parks and game reserves come to mind. This immense biodiversity has also become a major selling point of the country. Tourist numbers are increasing annually with more and more focus being put on the wonders within the country.

The Minster of Tourism and Natural Resources has realized the immense selling point of this array of wildlife, and to promote the tourist attractions in the country he decided to showcase these treasures at the Annual Dar-es-salaam International Trade Fair, more commonly known as Saba Saba.

Oh, what an idea it was! With numerous species of animals caged up in the crowded and congested fair, in clearly adverse conditions, the “Zoo” area of the Trade Fair became a highlight of the sheer inanity of our government officials. Once again we have an example of how some of our leaders will simply disregard ethical and humane values in exchange for money. The animals were kept under inhumane conditions, which were clearly a violation of their rights, for the viewing pleasure of the thousands that visited the fair.

What I feel is the most disgraceful element of the whole exhibition, is the fact that the media, the visitors and the public at large seemed to have no problem at all! In fact, the animal exhibition was lauded for its uniqueness and supposed thrill. Unfortunately, I don’t think the captive creatures felt the same way.

Below are some clippings to illustrate the reality of the cruelty these animals have been victims of.





Monday, July 9, 2007

Who do you believe in?

Although Tanzania is officially a secular nation, religion still guides an enormous amount of political and governmental policy. Tanzania’s population has an approximately equal number of Christians versus Muslims, thus the religious motivation used by the government is not necessarily sectarian or partisan, but rather a motivation of a higher power; God. I believe this is the most detrimental factor in our country’s development. Religious respect usually involves the disregard and disrespect of human rights and choices. No matter what religious convictions the leadership of the country has, this does not give it the right to limit citizens’ freedom just to appease their God. My, and every other Tanzanian’s rights should come before those of the lord, after all, the President is the servant of the nation.

A huge debate in the country is on the issue of abortion. There are supporters of the legalization as well as opposers within the populous; however government officials seem to take only their personal views into account. I believe the government’s views are based largely on fear of controversy; therefore should we leave every controversial issue untouched?

Presently, Tanzanian standpoint on abortion is based on the English Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 and the Infant Life (Preservation) Act of 1929. This states:

“Any person who, with intent to procure the miscarriage of a woman, whether she is pregnant or not, unlawfully uses any means upon her is subject to 14 years’ imprisonment. A pregnant woman who undertakes the same act with respect to her own pregnancy or permits it to be undertaken is subject to seven years’ imprisonment. Any person who supplies anything whatsoever knowing that it is intended to be unlawfully used to procure the miscarriage of a woman is subject to three years’ imprisonment.”

As a developing nation, it is fascinating that the abortion law has not been ‘developed’ for close to 100 years. This is a clear indicator of how social issues are very often neglected by the government. There are some exceptions to this law however, the English case of 1938 (which Tanzania follows as common law) of Rex vs. Bourne set precedent when the physician in the Bourne ruling was “acquitted of the offence of performing an abortion on a woman who had been raped”. This ruling was made on the grounds that the abortion was done to preserve the woman’s mental and physical health. Thus Tanzania still abides by this rule today allowing abortion in cases of mental and physical health preservation and if the woman’s life is at risk. Contrary to this allowance however, Tanzanian law still does not grant abortions in cases of rape and incest unless there is a clinical prognosis, which is rarely given. Practitioners saying that to predict the likelihood of mental or physical illness if the child is born is subjective, thus unscientific. Once again, a law full of contradictions, purposely done I’m sure.

The Tanzanian government admits that there is a crisis in levels of fertility being too high. The government admits that population huge population increases are damaging to the country. The government admits that the mortality rate of ‘backyard’ abortions is out of control. The government still refuses to legalize abortion.

If the argument is from a religious point of view, I fail to understand how legalizing abortion conflicts with religious convictions. According to both Christianity and Islam (the two largest religions in the country), free will is the greatest gift god has endowed on humanity. Why is it then that religious practitioners try and limit this god-given freedom as much as they can? Being pro-choice satisfies both factions of the country, those who are for abortion and those who are against it. Pro-choice emphasizes on giving choice to the individual. If your personal convictions do not allow you to have an abortion then you have the choice to not have one, just as if you have no conflict with the act then you have the choice to have one. It is not a very complex concept to grasp, choice works in everybody’s favor, why are so many against it?

The biggest reasons why people oppose freedom of choice are: restriction is a method of control, and control is a method of power. I ask those who are pro-life where does your overwhelming love for man go when women are dying in the thousands by unsafe methods of abortion? Where does your love for man go when children are abandoned daily, when the streets are full of homeless youth begging for scraps, when HIV is being passed on to future generations (this is also due to the limited access to ARV’s)? Where does your love go when you turn away from the repercussions of your views?

I more than agree that focus should be put upon family planning and contraception, that sexual education should become a larger part of schools curricula, access to medicine should be a priority, that microfinance initiatives should be in the forefront of our economic development, however, abortion should be a safe and legal option for our women.

Much of the stigma that goes along with abortion has to do with misconceptions and prejudice. Some argue that legalized abortion leads to an increase in sexual promiscuity; this claim is entirely unfounded. Sexual promiscuity is a figment of our prejudicial, patriarchal society. The term for some reason mostly used in reference towards women and rarely men. Why? Is it because our women have been cursed with the responsibility to bear children? When did that choice to bear, become an obligation? If this is what many Tanzanians think, then it is education that is the problem, not abortion.

I believe that in the specific case of abortion that choice is the most important factor, choice to abort an unborn, non-living (life starts when you are born not before that) fetus should be granted. By doing that, the government is valuing life much more then it is by restricting this choice. After all it is the government’s obligation to protect its citizens and their lives; it is the government’s obligation to value life. In theory government does respect these obligations; the constitution of Tanzania states that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure its citizens and those within the confines of its borders are protected. However, as with abortion, and with various other government principles, this one to is racked with contradictions.

Tanzania is one of many countries that have still not abolished capital punishment. Although we have not exercised the death penalty as often as many, the fact remains that the law still exists. It perplexes that one of the most influential women in the world Ms. Asha-Rose Magiro, a Tanzanian minister just until last week, first statement as the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations was that capital punishment should be abolished in all UN member states, yet while being part of the Tanzanian leadership she never once publicly questioned the country’s death penalty policy. Maybe it was going to come but she was called away before it could happen, or maybe she is just jumping on the bandwagon of outrage after the high-profile execution of former Iraqi dictator Sadaam Hussein. Personally I hope the latter is false.

While the government still has the right to execute, it seems friends of the government also now have that right. I am talking about the infamous best man/murderer Ditopile Mzuzuri. It is nice to know that next time a dala dala driver cuts me off and I go into a bout of road rage I will be protected by the best and most powerful in the country if I decide that Mr. Dala Dala needs to be killed. Ditopile has been excused by many with the popular Swahili expression bahati mbaya!

So while the government adopts principles and policies and makes statements that completely contradict each other, and while citizens of this ‘peaceful’ nation sit back and watch in silence as injustices are being carried out in their names, and while God or the belief in him is destroying us, I say NO! Not in my name will you depreciate the value of truth and justice. Yet I know my no is powerless without yours. Speak up! Let them know that you know!

I urge you to break your vows of silence, knowing that many of you completely disagree with my point of view. Then make sure your point of view is listened to. I don’t want what I want; I want what the people want.

So I ask you to think about this, while our country of people is being ruled by person, and our president is strolling down the red carpet in London, who do you believe in? What do you believe in? Say it.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The New Mandela

DISCLAIMER: The following post was sparked by my frustration with the recent AU Summit. It is a rant of my disappointment. My personal views are pro African-Unity, however in light of the recent summit, I was feeling a bit cynical and wrote this. My hope is to spark some form of discussion on the issue.

I have great admiration for our Former President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. He laid the foundation for the relative peace we have in the country today. Nyerere was also, instrumental in advocating a united Africa. He and Nkrumah, and to an extent Toure were largely responsible for re-activating the Pan African Debate.

However, that said, Tanzania and Africa as a whole have moved a long way from the unity-filled thoughts of yesteryear. The East African Community (EAC) which is now being fast tracked as is not as grand in practice as it is in theory. Although the East African leaders are pushing to ensure that the community will be established, this is largely based on selfish motive. Kenya knows that they will be able to encroach on Tanzanian and Ugandan jobs as they have more skilled labor. The free trading bloc will benefit the countries which are either rich in resources or manufacturing ability. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the countries in East Africa which feel they are unable to compete will have to adapt and likewise fast-track their progress in terms of education and commercial production.

The difficulty arises when one examines the reality on the ground. The majority of the Tanzanian people do not have concrete information on what the EAC will entail, and those that do are skeptical about its potential for success and the possibility of failure. Just as the initial EAC fell to pieces when Kenyatta went on the opposite road; more traveled; then Nyerere i.e. capitalism vs socialism, a rift grew. This was the same time Idi Amin Dada came into power, and shortly after Tanzania decided to invade the country to depose the despotic leader.

So the reality behind African unity is much more complex for anyone to be able to hold a stance one way or another. Although it is ideally what Africa needs, it is not as easy to be put into practice. There is immense tribal difference in much of Africa, and where it is not conflict it is just a dislike, in fact, apart from Tanzania, I don't think there is any African country which has not suffered negatively from tribal tension.

The past in which Nyerere was hailed as a hero is also starting to fade. It is so painful and disappointing to hear my fellow countrymen saying that Nyerere is the cause of the problems they face today. It is unfortunate that these people are unable to grasp the political and cultural context in which Nyerere made his decisions, and how beneficial they actually were to the country. Nyerere was also humble enough to know that, when the political context changed, he had to step down and admit his failure and inability to persist with his current political ideology. The frequently quoted ‘failure’ of Ujamaa, was in fact brought about by external factors, the chief being: The Cold war (which Tanzania tried to stay out of), the oil crisis of the 70's, the crash in the price of coffee and sisal and the Uganda problem.

So as you can see, the ideal of a united Africa, or even in smaller terms a united East Africa is minimal, at least in the current continental framework.

The ideals of Nyerere, Nkrumah, and Toure, have been replaced with the mimicking of western pop culture. The African heroes of today are no longer our homegrown advocates for peace, but rather the violence-promoting figures of urban America.

50 cent is the new Mandela!!

Ironically, the only real prospect of having a united Africa is actually dependant on a complete cultural intrusion by the West and its proxy's. It has already started, and will persist until and unless we speak up. Once the African culture has been diluted and disbanded for the more hip western culture, we will have the perfect cultural milieu for a United Africa to persist. With single mind and single thought and no room for alternative ideas, a united Africa will flourish in the congruent stupidity of popular western invasive culture.

At the end of the three day AU summit recently held, the African leaders agreed to shelf the United African Government indefinitely.

Where do we go from here?

One Party State?

According to a poll recently conducted by the Research for Education and Democracy (Redet) in Dar-es-salaam, 41% of Tanzanians favor reverting back to a single party system. According to Dr Ndumbaro, the Researcher involved, the reason for these results is the lack of people in the country who have secondary or post-secondary education, as 90% of university graduates favored a multi-party system.

For personal clarification, I have decided to hold the same poll on this blog. I urge you all to vote, and feel free too make a comment relating to the issue.

Make your choice.