1967, Tanzania made a serious policy decision, which determined the way Tanzania was governed for a good part of nearly two decades. The Arusha Declaration ended unofficially in the 1980's but it's ramifications did not.
Azimio la Arusha, was not only Tanzania's bold declaration of the way it wanted to run the state, but also business in the state. It was similarly a determination to make the state responsible, accountable and pro-people in as much as was practicably possible under the circumstances.
The circumstances then, demanded the presence of Government in your face, for your benefit, but if people complained, it was a whimper rather than an outcry and if the circumstances favoured big government over the people, well, for about 20 years, the rumblings were never more than isolated dissent.
Yet, for all its weaknesses, the Azimio la Arusha can be credited with the place of Tanzania in the community of nations as a country that was respected for standing up for what it believed to be right.
Tanzania over the years was well known for its self-pride that allowed the country to go against the grain, the kow-towing and beggary that was common place with poor 3rd world countries. Tanzania those days, could be counted upon to stand up for what it perceived as fair, right &just.
True , the country was perceived to be leaning towards the East-and in those days being pro-West or pro-East -was the determinant to whether countries got-that dreaded word, AID. It was the bulwark against the dominance of remnants of minority rule in Southern Africa and it supported and propped up resistance movements against the minority rulers with relish .
Indeed those days, Tanzania had identified it's niche and done it well. Some may think the road to stability was easy, like it's neighbours tribal rivalries were alive only the leaders in Tanzania took a bold step to deal with the situation. The instabilities included a failed military coup in 1964, destabilisation and even military hostilities and the country bore a heavy financial burden that today's and future progeny will continue to pay for. Consolation is , at least , it was all for good cause, not to line pockets of leaders.
Elsewhere for instance in neighbouring Malawi or in the sleeping giant that is Democratic Republic of Congo then known as Zaire, the despots in Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda and Mobutu Sese Seko the cock of all cocks, turned their countries treasuries into mini bank accounts of their own. They caused to be killed those who opposed them but as long as they were serving the interest of their western god fathers, no one bothered with the call for human rights.
The idea of hear no evil prevailed even as Idi Amin began the process of systematically butchering human beings in Uganda. Yet all this was possible because besides the Azimio Tanzania was led by a truly charismatic leader. President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere was true to his calling as a teacher. He played politics with a passion little found in his contemporaries nor in many of the want to be followers today.
He not only talked his vision was, but he believed it. When Mwalimu said the corruption was an enemy of development , Mwalimu meant it. His reflection on corrupting state led to Mwalimu's famous quip, "what business is there in Ikulu that can make politicians want to spend billions of shillings in their quest to become President?" he asked. When Mwalimu tore into the west for their hypocrisy he meant every word and he tried to live his life as President without falling for the trinkets & trappings that come with the high office of the Presidency.
A lean man, Mwalimu went into the Presidency and left it without adding an ounce of weight. His words, deeds and zeal were the driving passion behind the Azimio la Arusha and the desire that the ruling party put in place to give Tanzanian's a better life. Some say he failed. Those who say so think economics only. But Mwalimu gave Tanzania a deep sense of nationalism that now seems to have seen glory days.
However, as the saying goes, if the story of hunt was told from the perspective of hunter, the antelopes would never be the heroes. Tanzanian nationalism was carried with a sense of pride. What would Mwalimu Nyerere's homily to Tanzania, Tanzanians & East African's today be, in the face of hiccups of regional integration, hostility in social & traditional media at every twist & turn, attack, real or imagined, spats with Malawi over Lake Nyasa, Kenya over this and that, Rwanda over God knows what and pursuit of immunity for Presidents at the ICC that has brought together these erstwhile competitors?
Given his usual frank jibes & straight from the hip shooting style and for a man, who is widely renown for being a philosopher thinker, Mwalimu would be appalled at how low East African's have sunk. The people who saw lots of sense in leadership are now followers, almost rudderless. This is no insult to our leaders, as evidence showed during the spat with Malawi & the storm in the East African community teacup, that our Ministers and party officials were shooting like the Wild West, shoot first ask questions later.
That explains why President Kikwete's speech over the East African tea cup brought embarrassed smiles from the faces of those who thought he was going to adopt their bare knuckled approach. It is clearer to see Tanzania looking at the country from the prism of the entertainment scene & the youth culture. While the youth of 1961-1986 also boogied, there was a deep sense of pride & selfknowledge even if knowledge of oceans far beyond was limited to what was heard over the radio.
Today's youth are blessed with open waves of the www but instead of using them positively, seem to only have found a tool of abuse. From copying impossible lifestyles of stars of the west, to using the formidable web for entertainment of the negative type value, our youth have become victims of circumstances rather than drivers and shapers of their own destiny .
Rather like sponges soaking in all the trash that comes in. It explains why our new knowledge of TV and video is for exposure of nudity. In fact it explains why the fact that we have built network of roads, Mlimani city and other complexes and sky scrapers are being used, not as citadels of our 'uthubutu' (we have dared) and ability and therein a spur for more, better, but as chest thumping instruments of 'who do you think you are' against our perceived rivals.
We may be paying them back in their own coin but the world has moved on and we too need to move to the beat off the new realities which have come with new challenges. As Mwalimu would say the best way to drive forward is by keeping your eye on the road and every so often in the rear view mirror. Distractions will not end today but better focus on the prize and spend less energy on those distractions.
Is Tanzania leading the way in shaping the destiny of the country and East Africa? To do that we can ill afford small irritants military, economic, envy or even lack of foresight, ideology or conviction on the paths we choose on our part!. And that will not make Tanzania weak but stronger than ever. Comments