Twenty eight individuals attended this very apprehensive seminar. Apprehensive in the sense that some of the speakers withdrew at the last minute and only three Tanzanians were present. The rest were foreigners who love the country, former volunteers and expatriates who had worked in Tanzania- some as far back as 50 years ago.
Pensive mood and discussions...
I chatted to a former Bwana Shamba, who roved and managed villages shortly after Uhuru was declared. The man could still greet and joke in one of the tribal languages. Smiling and jovial he told stories about local villagers he had interacted with. The former Bwana Shamba- a term that is associated with pre –Arusha Declaration times- could still remember Mbege, Ulanzi, Dengelua and Chang’aa, which he pronounced well. Swahili learners always find it hard to pronounce words like “chang’aa” called Gongo or Machozi ya Simba (these days). For the reader who is unfamiliar with hardcore local drinks, Gongo is the crude, raw version of Konyagi - distilled, packaged and bottled 35 percent original Tanzanian whisky. Of course Gongo (or the said “chang’aa”) is stronger and much more sinister, hence the deadly name, Machozi ya Simba (lion’s tears).
SOAS Radio pundits and students, Rob Wilson (UK) and Debula Kimoli (Kenya) participated...
Lesson one from last Thursday’s event at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) is Mmmh... what? Most that have walked on Tanzanian soil never forget the country. May I include ones who had unpleasant experiences? I recently met a young British guy who speaks good Swahili, loves the language and the people but is slightly wary and cautious to return. One warm evening he hailed a cab in Dar es Salaam and ended being robbed. The cabbie stopped to pick up two armed thugs, who then threateningly drove him around the beleaguered city. He was forced to call his family in the UK who then sent a couple of thousand pounds- (millions of shillings) - via Western Union.
Bottom line here is that although Tanganyika of the Bwana Shamba gentleman has dramatically changed, apprehension and politics remain focussed on the “three mantras” that Mwalimu and TANU used to chant: ignorance, poverty and disease.
How can that be assessed?
Newly appointed UK Ambassador to Tanzania, Dianna Melrose (centre) with BTS man, William Fulton (right) and author (self taken I-Phone pic)...
The seminar’s goals was to look at media and democracy- born through multi-party reforms in 1992. The seminar was organised by British Tanzania Society (created in 1975) currently presided by ex President Ali Hassan Mwinyi.
BTs is not only about meetings but essentially runs good causes through it’s charity- the Tanzania Development Trust (TDT). TDT displayed few products and information. One of TDT’s report claimed this year’s aid money sent to fund several projects in the country progressed to 146, 165 pounds compared to £ 78, 000 in the 2010-2011 periods. Their booklet is highlighted with graphic details of success stories, mostly to help education and small scale production. A student from Kahama, Clement Lusamila for example tells how he was sponsored to study and successful qualify in book-keeping, tailoring and English language. He can now support his young family.
This is the soul and spirit behind those present at the seminar. Not forgetting the newly appointed UK Ambassador to Tanzania, Dianna Melrose, who came by to hear and familiarise.
Andrew Coulson, of BTS, introduced speakers and questions. Having taught at the University of Dar es Salaam in the late 1970’s, Coulson is a lecturer and author whose “Tanzania- A Political Economy” was published in 1982 and is about to be re issued with revisions which he promises shall be available to Tanzanians at “an affordable price.”
Discussions compared the era of Mwalimu and now and concluded that we live in far freer times of self expression, especially due to the rise of social networking sites and blogs.
A topical and catchy subject was the brutal murder of journalist Daudi Mwangosi whose news spread thanks to online efforts, in September. Or the beating of Dr. Stephen Ulimboka, (chairman of the Medical Association of Tanzania in June) whose puffed up, grim face was beamed on a large screen at the seminar.
Giving the geographical landscape of the Tanzanian press, Iringa based NGO professional, Ben Taylor managed to inform the audience about who is who in the country’s media. Whether we have more freedom than we should, or not, the seminar concluded, forthcoming 2015 elections are going to be decisive in the future of democratic process of the country.
Julian Marcus taking care of the Tanzania Development Trust display table...during seminar.
This was one of the moments in time, when talk about a country with a rich history like ours is being viewed with interest. Someone said despite the lurking fear and apprehension, we do not have turmoil similar to that found in Congo, Somalia and Zimbabwe, thanks to a history of exemplary leadership i.e. Mwalimu Nyerere and those who came afterwards. Good or bad leadership always determines and shapes the vision and psyche of any nation.
Published in Citizen Tanzania last week.