Tanzania's 58th Independence Anniversary, Reasons for Optimism

IT was UHURU day again yesterday and being the 58th anniversary.

Once again we are celebrating over a half a century of political independence since Tanganyika, one of the key jewels, was unshackled from the imperial crown on the 9th December 1961.

Apparently, as a country pushes the boat out for this important day, the situation in our country has changed fundamentally and it is to this growth I would like to engage the general public to reflect with me on our values of freedom and independence in relation to our future national prosperity.

Aware of the fact that brief general analyses and reviews can scarcely do justice to the complexity of Tanzania's development process, I am specifically keen to look at some reasons for optimism and caution as far as our destiny is concerned.

In reality, even though we cherish our 58 years of freedom, we are still swimming in the effects of colonial rule and African actions during the colonial period, which affected the resources and institutional settings of our subsequent political and economic development.

However, what is important today as we celebrate the 58th independence anniversary is not hold on to the pains of the past, but to consider the occasion as a significant time presenting an opportunity for each one of us to take stock.

And taking stock diligently and honestly will always invite wananchi to look into the state they are in today. Here we cannot escape or rather ignore our current triumphs and achievements as well as our ongoing or persistent challenges and trials, which we should use as similar commitment and strategy we used to fight colonialists to help us move forward.

As we celebrate this very important day therefore, we should also ask ourselves key questions. If we want to open the door wide for our future prosperity this is the time to be honest to ourselves. And the value of honesty I am writing about could be interpreted from various angles. I will explain.

While others would say, by way of example, why our record economic growth in most African countries fails to impact rising poverty rates, others may rightly say, and they would be right, we are still struggling and have not been successful in tackling both vertical and horizontal inequality.

Likewise, probably many, would categorically indicate other challenges such as those of limited infrastructure leading to the danger of continuing to be dependent on Western economies for much of our energy, the gaps that needs to be filled when it comes to integrity and commitment to leadership and a call to increase efforts so that we get well trained and thereafter experienced civil leadership.

All that said however, we have to remember our joys and triumphs as well. To be fair, without ignoring the challenges we still face as country, over the years Tanzania has celebrated its independence while cherishing, treasuring and relishing its development of political and other conditions.

Indeed progress is vivid. With political development, I mean that expansion which branched off to become, as some have argued, one of the few "model states" whose political stability, peace and democratic credentials continues to be comparatively taken far more seriously than others.

Put it simply, for all these 58 years of freedom and independence, Tanzania has simply not lacked international recognition. And this country respect was won since Mwalimu Nyerere era, a leader universally respected for his personal integrity, whose firm foundation in nation building did not leave behind efforts to unite post-colonial Tanzanian and African communities that had been fractured by years of colonialism.

Looking at our national positivity, I must say there is more to what I call optimism. Yes, our national confidence and hopefulness can well be understood best when linked to the 58th independence anniversary and President John Magufuli's fifth government commitment.

In fact, the assurance I am talking about here is to do with Mr President, whose country's industrialisation agenda has been well articulated and now evidenced in the rising spirit among wananchi.

From what I see, wananchi are steadily beginning to acknowledge that the destiny of Tanzania is in their hands and that what they have to do now is nothing else but to act now in order to shape the future they want. For me this speaks of the bright hope for today and tomorrow.

This success however speaks volumes to many. It calls for our leaders not to sit and relax. While there is this sense of optimism, the caution is real too.

When we look at the pains fellow Africans still face, it would be much important to allow the 58 years success to challenge us to stand firm and avoid entering into inconsistent, fragile and conflictive situations we hear and see now and then on our continent. And now I turn to the second part of my message today. It is a caution.

It is about risk avoidance. I begin by two famous quotes on independence and freedom. One is by Brigham Young an American religious leader, politician, and settler who once wisely said, true independence and freedom can only exist in doing what's right.

The second quote comes from Stephen Breyer, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States who warns, independence doesn't mean you decide the way you want. For me these two quotes are timely. Both Young and Breyer speak of the task and mission that remains to me completed by and for Tanzanians.

The quotes reminds us about seriously holding ourselves, our government and its institutions accountable for results.

In other words, it is about the need for wananchi and their leaders to ensure that mother Tanzania never, at any cost, become an unstable democracy plagued with political violence, aggravated as it is in some other parts of the continent, by religious and ethnic fractionalisation, and political instability.

The quotes should be reminding us that, at 58th anniversary, the global eye is sharply looking at current level of our openness in areas such as those of political leadership, competitiveness of political participation and a constant check on our political attitudes, commonly clustered to include democratic values, freedom of expression, and trust in political institutions.

The anniversary brings with it a challenge to our leaders to do more. Let me conclude. Tanzania's 58th independence anniversary event has some strong reasons for optimism as well as critical caution for our future and especially as we embark and look forward to the 59th anniversary.

I must say, let us get together, celebrate and have fun, but we are not there yet - the task ahead is massive. We still have a long way to go. Indeed long as it can well be stipulated using Ronald Wilson Reagan word. Reagan served as the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989 and became the highly influential voice of modern conservatism.

He once said, freedom [independence] is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same. Cheers!

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