Sunday, 13 October 2013

Tanzania without the Father of the Nation


Dar es Salaam. Tanzania is a nation in a state of serious uneasiness because after the retirement, and subsequent death of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, the symbolic cello tape that held them as a cohesive family, no-one has emerged to sustain that role decisively.
No-one has shot to the fore, either, as the national compass, to serve as a national brand, act as a strong stabilising force, reconcile divergent interests, influence policy, co-ordinate implementation and sanction wayward characters, other key attributes on which the designation of Mwalimu as Father of the Nation rested.
This leadership hollowness – expressed by a cynic as represented by lack of even a national stepfather of sorts has deepened the uneasiness
This is the thread that runs through the sentiments of some commentators on the eve of Nyerere Day tomorrow, when Tanzanians and their well-wishers elsewhere, recall the blow they suffered when Nyerere died of leukemia in a London hospital on October 10, 1999.
The commentators, alongside conversations beyond media outlets, paint a picture of a people who are as saddened as they are puzzled by the sharp differences in various aspects of social welfare, between Nyerere’s era when the economy was relatively weak and now, when it is supposed to be stronger but isn’t, ‘thanks’ to vices like grand corruption, greed, and moral degeneration.
Divergence of opinions between Mwalimu devotees and critics notwithstanding, one thing they are agreed on is: Under his stewardship, stretching from 1961 to 1985 (as well as in an informal advisory capacity up to when he died), the country had a sense of purpose and being a Tanzanian was a badge of pride.
Interviewees said most people are very nostalgic over Mwalimu, who they wish had still been around to redeem the nation for whose liberation from colonialism he had been instrumental, and whose leadership was sharply focussed.
The general feeling is that, under Nyerere’s watch, some of the things happening today, some approximating nightmarish dreams, could neither have happened nor even remotely contemplated. One of these is the recurrent land conflicts and inter-religious hostility.
Yet other examples are feverish bickering and physical confrontations in Parliament – the hallowed legislative arm of the State.
Horrifying, too, are the abduction and torture of individuals and excessive use of police force. Many lament that corruption, which Nyerere was most vocally against, was conducted by a few courageous yet very fearful individuals very clandestinely, but had now become literally fashionable.
Long gone are the days, they note, sadly, when Tanzanians were respected as an incorruptible people; who, 14 years after his departure from State House, and 14 after his death, are now lumped in the same basket as the broader corruption-riddled humanity.
Taxi driver Mugisha Godwin of in Dar es Salaam, who remembers Mwalimu fondly over being a beneficiary of government-sponsored schooling (erroneously called free education)