Monday, January 28, 2008

Rorya HQ Decision: Say What…?

I try to objective in all my reflections, but I would ask to be allowed to exercise at least a tad of biasness on today’s reflection. That is because my reflection is a bit close to heart. I am stakeholder in this. This is where I hail from.

My reflection is based on the story published online by Daily News. Apparently, the president has directed a fresh determination of where the newly established Rorya district’s headquarters should be. The driving force behind this directive is the accusation of corruption in the previous council members’ voting. The council members had initially elected Utegi as the district’s headquarters.

Election of Utegi as the district’s headquarters was a stupid choice in the first place. I don’t have a problem with Utegi being the new district headquarters, as that alone would not stop other areas within the district from developing. I just hated the fact that the headquarters’ determination process was marred by corruption accusations. In addition, Utegi is just a few kilometers from Tarime, which was the initial district’s headquarters. This was probably one the decisions that highlights the very best folks in Tanzania do – act stupidly.

You know what though? I am not that disappointed with the people of Rorya. The fact of the matter is the Rorya’s story is not any different from the rest of Tanzania. The majority of the population is uneducated and asking them to make a logical, informed decision as to most appropriate place for a district’s headquarter is way too much. They are the victim of their circumstance. As such, in the very end, people resort to emotions as the basis for making decisions. That is why strong ethnic allegiance has trumped logical analysis in deciding where the Rorya headquarters should be.

But the government knew that.

I am not convinced that government officials, including the president himself, are unaware of social dynamics in Tanzania, particularly in Rorya. That being said, it is stupid, in my mind, to resort to “voting” as a way of determining where any district’s headquarters should be. For one, I don’t know of any place in Tanzania where a district’s headquarters have been deciding through a ballot. Why this time around in Rorya? I know that change happens and we should not be bound by fear of change, but deviation from the “norm” should be logically explained. Trying to politically please the people is not good enough, especially if such an act turns out to be time consuming and financially costly to the government.

My second argument for concluding that the government’s call for balloting is stupid is my presumption that the establishment of Rorya’s district was strategic. My expectation is that this decision was made to achieve a specified vision and particular strategic goals. As such, the government, which ideally owns this vision, was expected to know where the district’s headquarters should be. Furthermore, it is my expectation that any district’s headquarters in Tanzania is established based on known technical criteria, and not based on feelings and ethnical influences. Unless the decision to divide Tarime district into two, like many other crazy decisions in Tanzania, was made on a whim without any logical thought process.

And I wouldn’t be surprised that this was the case, as anything is possible in Bongoland.

I am not calling for the central government to just impose on local people. My contention is that the decision to divide Tarime into Rorya district is not only strategic, but also a change in itself. As this decision involves bringing change into the lives of Rorya people, the government should have exercised good change management techniques. That involves identifying potential roadblocks to the implementation of the idea, which in this case tribal and ethnic influences.

Getting around the ethnic tensions could have been achieved by impartially making the decision from Dar-es-Salaam, then educating Rorya folks as to the technical and logical reasons for the decision. Any feedback from the constituents could have been implemented in the final cut. I don’t think that is rocket science.

I get surprised at how even very simple things in Bongoland becomes too complicated. And that frustrates the heck out of me.

I really don’t know how this whole thing will come out in the end, but this much I know, this was another proof of how ineffective our president and his cabinet is. I can't really undersand why Mr. Mizengo Pinda, the Minister for Regional Administration and Local Governments, could not advise his boss. Obviously, it appears that the Rorya folks are against this balloting crap. And I believe they are justified.

I am not that good, but I honestly think I can make a very good Tanzanian president. If this is the best Kikwete can offer, I have plenty of hope that Tanzanians can do better with me. Vote Pedro…err…me for President!

Photo Credit: Mjengwa

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hasheem and UConn Rocking

I was just relaxing at home, flipping TV channels, when I bumped into the UConn and Indiana game. Surprisingly, UConn, which is unranked team, beat Indiana which is ranked #7 in the country.

I don't have sophisticated video equipment, but I was able to catch a few shots of Hasheem in action. Watch out for the UConn #34 and enjoy. UConn are in dark colors...

Action 1 -

Action 2 -

Action 3-

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Living In Yesterdays

I am a firm believer in equality. Well, I also understand that equality could be relative, based on what you are referring to. Regardless, I believe that all of us should be given an opportunity to express our thoughts and feelings. I have a little son and I can tell you that the boy is trying so much to express himself. Though what I hear from the little fella is gibberish, he is always trying to say something. He is trying to express himself just like the rest of human beings.

Because we are all wired differently, human beings don't typically agree on all things. Though the judgment of whether what we say is meaningful could be agreed upon by all human beings. That standard is called common sense. Sometimes, I come across articles and thoughts from my fellow human beings and I can't just help but wonder, what was this fellow human thinking? Is this all he or she can see? What about the other side of the coin?

I recently came across this article written by a fellow Tanzanian, Simon Mkina. In a nutshell, the guy was bemoaning the departure of Mwalimu Nyerere. You can definitely feast on the article yourself, lest you accuse of me making stuff up.

One of the things I hate is being stuck in the past. That is not to say that I undermine and belittle the past. I am far from doing that, because there are cases where the past is actually better than the present or even the future. My contention is that we must have a very compelling reason to long for the past. We can't just be nostalgic of the past just for the sake of it. My humble opinion is this – Mr. Mkina's article is a typical example of being stuck in the past.

On the other hand, I can't blame the guy that much. That is because most folks in Tanzania tremble at the very mention of the name Nyerere. We all can't deny the fact that Nyerere's name is very much connected to the Tanzanian history. Honestly, at times it seems like Nyerere is the Tanzanian history. And that is why it becomes difficult for people to differentiate between Nyerere the person, Nyerere the former president and Nyerere the ideals.

Obviously, Mr. Mkina's article demonstrated the failure to dissect those three Nyerere personas.

As I pointed out, it is Simon's prerogative to articulate life as he sees it. That includes his cry for Nyerere. However, my assessment is that this article is overly glorifying Nyerere. This article also prompts to question whether Tanzanians have really come to grips with the fact that Nyerere was just as human as we are, and that the ideals he preached were not new. King Solomon, who lived ions before Nyerere, had already alluded to the fact that there is nothing new under the sun. We just go over the same concepts, though in different forms or times. So Nyerere didn't invent anything new.

I wonder also, whether Tanzanians have come to terms with the fact that Nyerere lost his influence, not after his death, but even before his death. How many times did Nyerere speak against the boys he left in power while still alive? That definitely is a sure sign that the man lost his influence long before he died. Therefore, such a line as "If you (Nyerere) would emerge now, tears would roll down your cheeks over fate of your people" is missing the timing of when Nyerere became less of a factor in the Tanzanian experience.

What breaks my heart is the fact most Tanzanians don't realize that leadership is not endowed on just an elite group of people or a chosen few. The Tanzania of today has just a larger pool of potential great leaders as it was in the early 1950s. That potential could not be realized if we keep on gluing ourselves to Nyerere. That is because is hanging on to Nyerere we miss the fact that there will be no other Nyerere. Also, we miss the fact that Nyerere was fitting his time.

Even more, gluing ourselves to Nyerere is an insult to those folks who, in the present Tanzania, are boldly standing up for the Tanzanian people. Furthermore, it undermines the contribution and greatness of those wonderful folks at Haki Elimu, or even some opposition leaders such as Zitto Kabwe and Dr. Wilboard Slaa. Even worse, gluing ourselves to Nyerere gives an opportunity to outdated folks (like John Malecela and Kingunge Ngombale Mwiru) who cling to Nyerere's rhetoric to fool the regular folks who have no clue of changing times.

And speaking of changing times, with all these new the global forces, how do we know how Nyerere would have fared? As we don't know that, I wouldn't cry for Nyerere in 2008. It is disastrous when leaders go past their times. Just look down under in Zimbabwe and you can understand my point. What we are doing with clinging to Nyerere is creating a fear that Tanzanian without Nyerere is impossible. The effect of that is silencing those with a new vision for Tanzania, just like Nyerere had his.

Every society gets a great leader who influences his generation. The question, therefore, is not what Nyerere did for his generation, but rather who will influence (positively) our current and future generation. As a pointed out earlier, I am not bashing the past, but I think it is stupid to drive your car through a rear view mirror.

And who says a great leader, other than Nyerere, can't arise out of the 35 million folks in Tanzania?


Photo Credit:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

That's Moving Forward...(3)

I am not going to hold back giving praise when praise is definitely due. I recently put up a post, highlighting the fact that it only one office in Dar-Es-Salaam was charged with birth and death registration. From my perspective, that wasn’t only stupid given the population statistics of Tanzanians, but also was a nice way of creating a corruption breeding environment.

Well, I just come across this story, and I was definitely thrilled to learn that there is a Registration Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (RITA), which is charged with the responsibility of birth and death registration at a ward level. I think that is brilliant and it makes perfect sense.
For that, I commend the government for doing what is sensible. Above all, that's moving forward...
Photo Credit: Mjengwa

Friday, January 18, 2008

RTF: Sometimes, You Got To Lead Up

It is another week, another dollar…err…shilling…or whatever. Well, what I really wanted to say is that I am glad to be back for another week. You know what; sometimes we take life for granted. Would you kindly kiss your spouse and children, or just call loved ones? Put life into the right perspective now and then, would you? This political stuff that we talk about won’t go away anytime soon, but loved ones can pass on before you know it.

Sounds preachy don’t it?

Let me just throw in this caveat, I am not a genius by any imagination. So don’t take it that whatever I say is because I know it all. As a matter of fact, I’m still learning. Probably a lot. I couldn’t tell you how they make a pencil, or even how this very computer I am using came to being. So I’m just sharing the little I know.

I love Tanzania, but I have to be honest with you. That country stinks sometimes. You have educated people who are acting (on a world class) as little kids. I recently came across this story on the Internet, where the Tanzania Revenue Authority’s Commissioner-General, Harry Kitilya, admitted that there were major weaknesses in mining tax management and that TRA lacked capacity in handling mining tax management.

Read the original story for yourself right here.

From my perspective, that is a scary thought. But in Bongoland, everything is possible, even dumb things.

So if you want to know what I think of Mr. Harry Kitilya as a TRA’s Commissioner-General, I think he stinks. I don’t know the man personally, so this is just an assessment of his managerial and strategic planning abilities.

I honestly believe that all facets of our life follow certain universal principles. There are physical principles, for instance. If you want to buff up your biceps, you have to hit the gym. From a spiritual standpoint, spiritual growth also depends on spiritual exercises such as prayer, fasting and delving into the word of God, for instance.

I believe that one of the universal principles that separate the average Joe from a super Joe is the ability to study and modify one’s approach as the environment changes. The ability to view life from a prospective as opposed to a retrospective alone could easily tell who is living in yesteryears’ glory and who’s chasing the next big wave.

This is my conviction, and I would not argue if I am corrected – tax systems are not static. Tax systems are dynamic, being influenced constantly by political, social and economic forces. On the other hand, tax systems also could influence social and economic aspects of citizens’ experience. That being said, why would a tax commissioner not be in tune with the changing economic policies in his own country, given that the economic policies and even administrative directives from the government very much influence daily activities of a tax authority?

Mr. Kitilya can’t argue against being out of touch with the changing factors that influence the tax system, particularly the capacity to enforce tax laws. That is because the Tanzanian government’s decision to solicit foreign investors, particularly in the mining sector, was bound to bring in a requirement of a different tax experience and skill sets. As a tax Commissioner, Mr. Kitilya is and was supposed to know this. As a Commissioner, Mr. Kitilya is and was supposed to have the ability to assess the impact of all policy changes in the country on the TRA.

Surprisingly, TRA's own website lists principles of a good tax administration, which includes Managing and Adapting to Change. So what good does it do to have theoretical principles on the website that TRA couldn’t put into practice?

Remember I talked about having a retrospective versus prospective view? While I commend Mr. Kitilya for acknowledging that TRA weaknesses when it came to complex mining tax issues, that does not take away the fact that this assessment should have been done prospectively and not retroactively. We can all agree that the cost of Mr. Kitilya’s incompetence in prospective assessment of the impact of policy change on the tax system has been in terms of billions of shillings.

I know some of you are thinking that sacking Mr. Kitilya would be unjust. It is not. That is because I believe in the concept of leading up. The president, AG, or ministers of finance are not tax experts. As such, they depend on the expertise and recommendations of this tax guru. I know that things don’t run as they should in Tanzania, and that it isn’t surprising that the minister of finance could very much ignore the tax guy’s ideas. Nonetheless, there is no evidence that Mr. Kitilya tried to lead up his superiors by trying to influence either the timing of mining sector policy implementation or solicited TRA capacity and capability building in anticipation of mining sector changes.

If I were the top dog in the country, this dude would have been shown the door. I know the question to me would be then what? Who’s the next guy who will be able to show true leadership skills? Honestly, that is dilemma in Bongoland. I don’t think that we have a pool of great leaders. If we do, they are probably swallowed somewhere within the system.

My message, however, is that you can’t have a leader who is unable to manage the changing environment or lead up by communicating his knowledge to his or her superiors. It is that simple. Sometimes, a leader has to lead up in order to be successful. Waiting for directives to come only from above is a sure sign of puppetry. I don’t think that TRA, being so technical and functioning in a constantly changing environment, can do well with a leader who’s waiting for politicians to make decisions for him or her.
Photo Credit:

Thursday, January 10, 2008

RTF: Demanding Freedom From a Brother?

Do I have to apologize every single time I bounce back? I am not sure, but I think I should. There are folks who have faithfully checked on this blog to see if I have fresh insights on what is happenings in Bongoland. For you faithful readers, I appreciate your diligence. I truly do.

But life, yes life, kept me from this space. I know most of you can relate. A lot have happened in the past few days, some thrilling while some are just straight up sad. Of course the hottest topic is what transpired in the Kenyan election. The aftermath of elections in Kenya couldn’t prove Dr. Watson’s theory of Africans’ lack of intelligence . I mean, seriously, what is it about the State House that makes our tired African leaders act like the merely intelligent chimps? Was that the best Kenyans could do?

Well, the thrilling news for Kenyans (at least) was the victory of their cousin, Senator Baraka Obama, in Iowa. Well, the fact that Hillary Clinton bounced back in New Hampshire is a whole new story. The next thrilling news of the week is the sacking of the Bank of Tanzania’s former governor – Daudi Ballali.I think story which started way back, has had a “happy” ending. I think multiparty system is working, somewhat. If it wasn’t for the opposition camp, I am sure this BoT crap would have gone under wrap. Trust me.

You didn’t think I just wanted to recap what you already know, did you?

Let me just go back to the Kenyan election story. I think it really underscores my reflection for today. You know what? My eyes “opened” in the early 1980s, the period which was still the heydays of the post-colonialism agenda. I grew up listening the preaching of the Kaundas and Nyereres and all other African greats about the evils of the West and the beauty of Pan Africanism. These speeches made me believe that the greatest thing that ever happened to the African kids was for “us” to get out of the chains of colonial rule.

For the most part, that was truly an inspiring story, because the desire for freedom is a universal phenomenon. For the most, “we” had to get our freedom. As such, debating whether Africans deserved to get their freedom then is almost mute pointless.

What is debatable, from my perspective, is whether most Africans are truly free. I seriously think that most Africans are still in bondage. They are enslaved and encaged by the very few elite brothers and sisters they ignorantly elected to occupy State Houses across Africa. They are enslaved by their own brothers who look like them and speak their mother tongues. These are not slave masters who crossed salty waters from continents far away, but slave masters who grew up in their own backyards.

Looking at the imagery I saw in Kenya, where the police resorts to shooting unarmed citizens simply for demanding a fair and just electoral process, one has to wonder – whose interest was the police trying to protect? Are they trying to protect the elite few? Trying to protect that bald imbecile who rigged the election?

Isn’t it crazy that after forty years of "independence", a Kenyan, and many other Africans have to beg for and demand freedom and justice from a fellow African? Why in the world then did we kick the Queen out of Nyanza, Mbarara and Kericho?

I am not that intelligent, nor am I an expert in the psychological makeup of the African mind. Nevertheless, this much I know. It takes so much gut to do insane things African leaders do. It takes a sick mind to boldly do what Mwai Kibaki has done in Kenya. It takes an insane mind to do and say the things Museveni does in Uganda. Honestly, are these best brand of leaders Africa could produce?
Photo Credit: New York Times