Dear Your Excellency,
Greetings from London.
I hope you are well and in good health because we need you very much. Never has a leader of our country been under so much pressure and scrutiny. However, since being under the microscope is nothing new to all Presidents let me start by saying we wish you the best. We are on your side. You won a landslide in 2005 then faced a slightly harder election last year. That is to be expected.
Democracy is the name of the game; you and CCM have allowed it to happen; we are not a 40 year old dictatorship like some of our brothers in Middle East countries.
As long as you allow free and fair elections; you should experience positive pressure (like a parent expected to provide food to his children). But if you are a thief, a political liar it shall be negative pressure. The opposition will not shut their mouths; this means sleepless nights, locking people up, secret killings, political cover ups, a cynical media and so forth.
This democratic freedom should be one of the best things about Tanzania and her interesting history.
While many African countries mourned and buried thousands through civil war we assisted our brothers and sisters to hoist flags in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Eritrea, Biafra and Uganda. We allowed numerous camps to be built to house fugitives from Burundi, Rwanda, Congo, you name it. In 2002, the UN named Tanzania amongst top refugee hosts on the continent alongside Ghana, another bacon of peace and harmony.
We have come a long way. The last time any major hostility was battled on Tanga Nyika plains was in 1907 when the colonists tried stamping out the Maji Maji resistance. Even the writer Ebrahim Hussein (hope he is well) created a play regarding the Ndengereko-Zaramo hero, Kinjeketile. Yes, your Excellency. You govern a special country.
Our military history is unique; our army used to be respected and feared at the same time. Not only because we blew out butchers like Idi Amin in 1979, but also stood fearlessly, to protect our continental family. Even though the former South African apartheid regime possessed nuclear armoury we stood stoically and supported our bleeding cousins. Poor we were and relied on imported weapons but we had one thing Mr. President. A disciplined army. We had soldiers who were trusted by the people. Soldiers who lived amongst citizens without suspicion or Juju ghosts. Our askaris were considered an army of the people and the phrase Jeshi la Wananchi (TPDF) signifies just that.
You are the chief of this army. An army that has not attempted to disobey nor topple your government, TANU or CCM; since the 1964 failed rebellion. That is a long time. An obedient faithful army.
Now you must finally sense where we are going with this letter. Many have already spoken their minds regarding the Gongo la Mboto and Mbagala accidents. Some have called for the army bosses (chief of staff and Minister) to resign; we have listened to you calling for the modernisation of the army. Oh yes. We are all concerned and worried. Here in the UK we are currently collecting small funds to help the victims; a tiny gesture expressing how we care.
A final question Mr President.
Do serious accidents happen twice? We have heard bus accidents happening over twenty times and the police force doing nothing about it. When the bombs exploded at Mbagala in 2009, killing 24, it was an accident, definitely. Then there were calls for an investigation but a report never materialised. Twenty four civilians dying due to a military accident is a serious matter. But to occur again and causing over twenty deaths (Gongo la Mboto) plus extra civilian fear is not just a grave but also a national security issue.
Potential enemies (I hope we do not have enemies, we have been good guys; always caring for our neighbours) might be wondering how efficient Tanzania’s security is. If we keep stabbing our fingers with our own knives, what will happen if extremists decide to sharpen their swords? In other words if this so called peaceful Tanzania cannot keep her own bombs securely and end up harming civilians, what would happen if malicious elements (inside and outside) decide to do a little mischief. You have, probably, thought about that of course.
- London, Monday, 21st February, 2011.
Published in Citizen Tanzania: