Monday, October 27, 2008

Gotta Love Them Tarimeans

Among folks who should talk about the recent Chadema victory over CCM in Tarime, I believe I should be among them. Heck, I hail from that area.

If you have to know my political affiliation, I don’t belong to any party in Tanzania. I just love good leaders who could move the country somewhere positive. That’s why I think Mr. Kikwete and the CCM party is a joke. Not only that, I believe the opposition also is full of career politicians who just very good at rhetoric. Mr. Lyatonga Mrema anyone?

Regardless of my neutral political affiliation, I just abhor CCM. That is because these folks have been in power for ions, but there is nothing to show up for it. I know Mr. Makamba and Chiligati, as the spin doctors would tell you otherwise, CCM simply stinks.

Honestly, I also had hope when Kikwete came along. Boy, did he impress me the first few days of his presidency! I’m ashamed to admit it, but just as my hope ascended I got discouraged as the days passed on. October 31 is just this week and I’m looking forward to hearing what the president will do with EPA thieves.

Trust me, nothing will happen.

It is for my “hate” for CCM that I was happy for Chadema snatching up the parliamentary seat. But leaving my “joy” aside, I would just like to drum it up for my fellow Tarimeans. Theirs is a story of courage.

It is undeniable truth that tribalism, though not problematic in Tanzania, is part of the Tanzanian life. As such, it is not uncommon to see folks electing a leader (regardless of the merit of doing so) solely to “represent” their tribe. Given that the Father of the Nation is laid to rest just a couple of miles from Tarime, shouldn’t we have expected the folks in Tarime to embrace the party and ideologies that their “homeboy” Nyerere brought to life?

How could you explain the fact that despite Tarime’s lack of concentration of educated folks (who lives and votes there), those people still had the guts to do what sophisticated and educated folks in Dar-es-Salaam and other urban areas failed to do?

I believe the only explanation is uncommon courage. “Defecting” from the normal social and political expectation requires courage. And I believe that Tarimeans have the courage that ordinary Tanzanians lack.

I know, I know, Tarimeans at times go overboard with their “courage”. Man, have you been to Tarime? My people down there are angry and mad all the time. I mean, sometimes it seems like fist fights or machete fights is a normal way of settling philosophical differences. The constantly reported clan clashes in Tarime are partly due to fight over cows (one clan stealing from the other), but also the fights are an attempt to show a clan’s courage. You don’t mess with a “mura”. Period.

If you think I am kidding, just go ask Mr. Makamba who dubbed Chadema a party of hooligans. Say whaaaaat? I know if that was is Dodoma, my Gogo friends would have just moved on. Not in Tarime. I am sure if it wasn’t for security protection, those boys would have sliced Mr. Makamba’s throat, literary. [I’m not advocating slaying folks, I’m just telling you what happens in Tarime]

I know that some people in Tanzania regards the Chadema’s victory in Tarime as a sure sign that CCM is going down in 2010. Hardly. I hate to rain on someone’s parade. CCM ain’t going anywhere. That is because this is not the first time folks in Tarime have elected someone from the opposition party – remember Mabere Marando for NCCR, anyone? Secondly, the courage you find in Tarime is not found anywhere else in the country. Do you honestly think folks in Rukwa will let go of their beloved son – Mizengo Pinda – despite his lack of strong leadership qualities?

Surely, nothing stays the same forever. It is more than likely that CCM will lose some feathers in 2010, but as of October 2008, I am just glad that my fellow Tarimeans have demonstrated the kind of courage that the rest of Tanzania lacks.

Honestly, those people in Tarime are not rich. Those people are just ordinary folks who go through the same struggles like anyone in Kibiti or Korogwe. The only thing that has separated them from your ordinary Kalumanzira is courage. And you can just go ahead and read my lips on this: Nothing will ever change in Tanzania unless folks learn a thing or two from Tarime.
Photo Credit: Michuzi Blog

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bongo Series: A Pictorial View

After all the yapping I have done about my Bongoland experience, I just thought of letting you see what my camera was able to capture....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bongo Series: Wrap This Thing Up

I typically have this awful feeling when I have stuff hanging over my head. If it wasn’t for life getting on my way, I would have finished sharing my Bongo experience a long time ago. I will try that today.

So wrapped up my stay in Dodoma and headed out to Dar. Quite naturally, the Scandinavian bus service became a bus of my choice. Folks in Tanzania claim the bus is a bit expensive, but I was not ready to sacrifice safety for cheapness. Bure ghali, they say in Swahili.

I’m typically reserved and more observant when travelling. For one, it is safe that way in Bongoland. Secondly, it gives the opportunity to learn a few things. Bubbling affords the opportunities for others to learn about you. I wasn’t willing to be the focus.

If you are looking for drama in a Scandinavian bus, sorry. My experience has been that most people who board the bus are somewhat dignified. So the ride was really uneventful, or rather boring. Everyone was busy reading their newspapers. I pulled up my MP3 player and was uploading my spiritual songs to my spirit.

I don’t recall saying much to the passenger next to me, until we passed Morogoro.

Scandinavian bus has their own station in Morogoro (another thing I liked), and we had an opportunity to stop there for lunch. I guess the lunch we had at Morogoro did the trick, because the passenger next to me and I started conversing.

I learned the gentleman was actually Kibaha Secondary School’s headmaster. Knowing the dude was in the education sector, I just wanted to know what the former minister of education - Mr. Joseph Mungai – was thinking when revamping Tanzania’s Secondary School educational syllabus. Given the intense criticism that was aimed at Mr. Mungai, I thought this gentleman would echo my preconceived notions. He did not.

What I learned is that Mr. Mungai was right. Mr. Mwalimu next to me educated me to the fact that the Tanzanian education system, especially at the primary and secondary level, is overloaded. Kids learn stuff that has no practical meaning. The objective was to trim the load, so that kids could focus on three main areas – reading, writing, math and other subjects such as civics.

You know what? That made sense to me. That is because I could personally relate. I learned accounting in the ordinary and advanced secondary levels in Tanzania. When I joined college in the US, I started to study the same subjects with kids who have never touched those subjects in middle or high school. At the end of four years, we were on the same level!

That is the argument that Mr. Mungai tried to make. I just wonder why he failed to articulate the objective. I also think such a change should be phased in. The backlash, I guess, was due to the fact Mr. Mungai introduced the change abruptly and suffered from the "forcefulness" culture of Mr. Mkapa's government.

I thought Mr. Mwalimu next to me was pretty good. So I teased him again with another concept – the Majimbo concept. Man, the dude again impressed me.

This is what I learned. According to Mr. Mwalimu, the introduction of the Provincial government in Tanzania, with probably elected governors (to replace Regional Commissioners) is useless. The current system in Tanzania is adequate. Each district has its own council of elected leaders – Madiwani under the leadership of a Mayor or a person charged with a similar role. Madiwanis are charged with the responsibility of not only planning, but also of evaluation and supervision of development programs.

The problem, Mr. Mwalimu told me, is that most madiwanis have no idea of their powers to bring about development in their local areas. According to Mr. Mwalimu, bringing up the Majimbo system would just be elevating the same crappy leadership to a larger scale.

I thought thatt was a pretty good argument.

I learned that Regional Commissioners and District Commissioners have no role whatsoever in local development planning any more. From a Tanzanian political system, RCs and DCs are there simply there to represent the President’s hand (dola), nothing more, nothing less.

Mr. Mwalimu disembarked from the bus at Kibaha. Nonetheless, I was surely glad I got the reason for Moshi and Arusha being sparkling clean, while other cities are swimming in dirt. It boils down to having a quality Halmashauri, comprised of good councilmen and women and a pretty good mayor.

Can we find the same quality in Iramba? I doubt it.

You know what? I am not even going to talk about Dar again, because I think I pretty much covered my experience there in the earlier posts – traffic jams, heat, poor customer service, etc.

I took care of some personal issues in Dar and my days in Tanzania came to an end. I finally caught my plane back to the US, wondering whether I should go back to live in Tanzania or stick it out in the US till I retire. Like many in the Diaspora, I wonder if I will ever settle that decision anytime soon….

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Bongo Series: The Cap City Stint

Let me try going back to this writing thing and see if it will work. As of now, I walk around sometimes feeling like my eyes are full of sand. That’s what lack of sleep will do to you. I know someone in Bongo will be asking, “Yaani mwanaume mzima unalea mtoto”? Yap, I do, because the cost of hiring a “yaya” in the United States is almost equivalent to my own pay.

If you have to know, malezi has been the main thing keeping me from yapping on this space.

Before I got interrupted by good news of another bundle of joy, I was headed towards Dodoma, right? And I was looking forward to it.

Dodoma, as I alluded to earlier, also holds a special place in my heart. That is because that’s where I practically grew up. Shirati is my “genesis” if you will, but Dodoma carries the next many chapters in my life.

How did I end up in Dodoma from Shirati? See, when my father died in 1974, my elder sister took over the caretaking of the family. She was in her early twenties, but she sacrificed to live with my older brother and me. She was then teaching at Chamwino Primary School when she took the uphill task.

I was then very little, but I witnessed UNICO, a construction company work on Arusha Road/Area C roads. Trust me, it has been nearly 30 years and those roads are rock solid. It is laughable that newly constructed roads are disintegrating. In case you wanted to know, I graduated from Kiwanja cha Ndege Primary School and later Dodoma Secondary School, before hitting Shycom in Shinyanga for high school.

Dodoma is where I formed my lifelong friendships. I don’t know about you, but friends I formed during my formative years have been my forever friendships.

Before you hit Kizota from Singida, the road magically become paved again. I wonder what the Singida folks did to Kajima, the Japanese company working on the road. I was surprised to see how Dodoma has expanded from the years I left town.

The town was as chilly as ever. As June was a dry season, the dusty winds blew the same way. I stayed with my sister who still lives in Dodoma. She no longer teaches, but she is still very much involved in education as an inspector.

I noticed that Dodoma has positively changed in some aspects. The Kuu Street, which is the main street, has been beautified with street lights. In addition, the street also boasts of a Nyerere Memorial Park. The park was absolutely awesome, particularly if you have time to relax after work or over the weekend.

I was anxious to see how my alma mater, Dodoma Secondary School looked like. Just like what I saw in Shinyanga, my old beloved old school is also suffering from a culture of destruction. See when I was attending Dom Sec, the school compound was fenced and everything kept beautiful. The story is quite different as the fence is gone and folks coming from the nearby Makole section of the town crosses right in the middle of the school.
The most amazing thing is this: Pascal Degera, who used to be my headmaster, is an MP for Kondoa South and he spends most of his time at the Bunge building in town. I wonder why he is not stopping by now and then to scold the current headmaster for letting the school disintegrate.
What I was truly hungry for was Mnadani. To my disappointment, I was informed that the weekend barbeque festivities have died. The mnada was moved from Mnadani to Kizota and the craze just died. For anyone who has ever been to Mnadani, you can definitely agree with me that the place offered the best barbeque in the whole wide world.

I tried to compensate my cravings with some organic barbeque chicken right in town center, but it wasn’t the same.

My few days in town came to an end and I had to leave town. Dar was calling me one more time before I caught my flight back “home”.