Tuesday, 7 June 2016


Every season, new political words are created.
When President Barack Obama stepped into the ring of American power, in 2008, the phrase “Yes You Can” jumped up and accompanied his endearing smile. It does not matter whether the man has been successful or not...but this particular idiom is now part of the English vernacular.

All over the world, you shall find T-shirts, songs, chants and so on, reassuringly saying Yes You Can!
 For the fifty years plus reader-, you might remember numerous phrases created by Mwalimu Nyerere’s leadership. My personal favourite is “Kung’atuka”..., which meant a leader “willingly” relinquishing authority.  Those days’ African armies used to force out incompetent leaders. Rarely happens now. These days we have tough guys staying in power for at least thirty years.  Until they are so old they fall off stairs or droop in their mouths and doze during cabinet meetings. Meantime their secret services injure, kill and terrorise at will. 
Early this week ex Chad President, Hissene Habre (1982-1990) was finally found guilty of crimes against humanity in an international court in Senegal. You can see the joy and relief of some of the victims.  Habre was accused of practising rape, slavery and torture.
  Britain wants to leave the European Union.
 Instead of “ng’atuka”, we have Brexit.  Brexit has dual feeds. Leaving and Staying. Within that, you have “In” and “out”...During the last few weeks, folks have been forced to decide. Are you in or out? Political leaders, ditto, Ministers on television are now defined as “in” and “out” campaigners.
The most committed and famous “Brexit” (i.e.  Out)  is the former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who has been crusading fervently to keep Britain “out” of the European Union. Boris Johnson called for immigrants to learn English if they want to come to the UK.  Leader of the Parliament (House of Commons, which has 650 members), Chris Grayling, is on the same side. Their camp is supported by the anti immigration ticket, the UK Independent Party (UKIP), under millionaire, Mr Nigel Farage.
Brexit supporters and leaders are passionate and fiercely supportive of the “anti -immigration” fever. In the media, The Daily Mail (traditionally against immigrants) on Wednesday carried the headline, the “Immigration Revolution”...
Which means...? There is a possibility to create an Australian style immigrant policy with very, very tight restrictions. In the past six years, things have been rock-hard for immigrants, but this should be “tougher.”
 Understandably, such a negative approach is due to the rise and rise and rise, of refugees and economic migrant numbers, from war torn regions of the Middle East, Asia and parts of Africa. Gangs are said to be charging as little as £100 to smuggle migrants into the British islands. Security, is nonetheless, the major concern. The continual threat of terrorism as seen in Paris and Brussels in the last few months.    
So while the “leave” lobbyists have been lifting the banner of immigration menace and danger...the “stay” promoter’s argument has been the economy. Number one on the lips of “stay” campaigning Business Minister, Sajid Javid, was that small businesses would suffer a lot if Brexit were fulfilled. Others argue about job losses. Young people will specifically be affected.
 Last week former Labour leader, Ed Milibandurged youths to vote during the referendum expected on Thursday 23 June. So far, the “stay out” campaigners look more convincing, while those in doubt have not registered to vote.

 Miliband’s argument is that the “out” campaigners are offering a pessimistic view of the future without any solution.
 “...Do not let someone else decide your future.” He was quoted telling 18-24 years old, mostly University students.  Adding, “Young people can decide this referendum. If they don’t use their vote, the danger is this referendum will be lost.”
Thursday 23 June 2016 is, subsequently, a huge, historic event.
 As politicians join in the skirmish, so do celebrities and ordinary folks too.
The other day I was conversing with a British born African whose parents were immigrants from the west side of the continent. He argued that the union is good for work, education and opportunities. However, he also cautioned on the alleged corruption in Brussels, headquarters of the European Union.
“Millions are collected from every member state. But for years there has been talk of money vanishing and being unaccounted.”
Any union should benefit members equally. No one knows this better than East Africans. We have had the East African Community and union with Zanzibar for over 50 years now.
How many would vouch for staying in or out, were a referendum to be held now? And would it make any difference?
Wonder. Ponder. Wonder. 

-Published Citizen Tanzania, 3 June 2016.

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