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 façade 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.