Wednesday, October 18, 2017

We are Satisfied with Democracy in Tanzania But...

The Majority of Tanzanians are Satisfied with the Way Democracy is Working in our Country But...

Chambi Chachage

I have been particularly annoyed with the ways some of our compatriots have been using the corporate Western media to portray the purported decay of democracy in Tanzania. "Upheaval in Kenyan, Ugandan politics as Tanzania cracks down," one such outlet purports in an article entitled: Brawls, Autocratic Moves Threaten East African Democracy. But is the situation that bad?
It was thus refreshing to read Professor Ian Bremmer's tweet indicating that Tanzania, alongside India and Sweden, has the highest percentage of people (i. e. 79%) who are "satisfied with the way democracy is working in their country." The dose of skepticism from Tanzanian critics and wall of defensiveness from supporters of the regime has sent me back to the original source.

Indeed the Pew Research Center's survey on 'Globally, Broad Support for Representative and Direct Democracy' released on October 16, 2017 indicates that we are way up there. "Majorities in Tanzania, Ghana, Senegal and Kenya", it asserts, "say their democracy work well" (p.14). But that is not the end of the story.

In terms of how much we "trust the national government to do what is right for our country", the 79% is virtually halved as 48% said "a lot" whereas 41% said "somewhat." Since my interest in this blog is to simply - and gullibly - interpret Pew's results in their own right, here is their standard interpretation of such glaring differences:

"Attitudes about the functioning of democracy are closely tied to publics' trust in their national government. People who are satisfied with how democracy works in their country also tend to say they trust the national government to do what is right for their country" (p. 16).

Interestingly, Pew adds the 48% of those who say they were satisfied a lot and 41% those who say they were somewhat satisfied  to get a total of 89%. One can only but wonder what we - the ever cautious Tanzanians - actually mean when we say "somewhat."

Ironically, only "53% of... Tanzanians hold the view that representative democracy is good" (p. 20). This makes one to even wonder what type of democracy, then, are the 79% satisfied with?
Is it another version, one that makes 39% of us say "a system in which a strong leader can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts" is "total[ly] good" (p. 26)? Of course, 57% of us responded by saying it is "total bad" and 39% said it is "very bad" (Ibid.) But is isn't 39% more than a third of Tanzanians?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Contemporary Art Exhibition: Home

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Kutoka Makavazini: Utumbuaji, Uteuzi, Uwaziri

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Simulizi Mijini/Urban Narrative: 27/09/2017

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Attempted Assassination of Lissu as Terrorism

The Attempted Assassination of Tundu Lissu as Terrorism

Chambi Chachage

Tanzania is in a state of shock. Unknown assailants have shot the maverick politician and advocate, Tundu Lissu, multiple times. As he battles for his life, the nation is hoping and praying for him.

Conspiracy theories abound about this attempted on his life. Such speculations are beyond the scope of this article. Evarist Chahali and Mzee Mwanakijiji have already presented us with possible scenarios of who might be responsible and for what purpose.

What this article wants to underscore is the implications of what has transpired. This was not simply an attempted assassination  It is an 'act of terror'. The loaded phrase is fitting, whether this has been attempted by the so-called rogue elements in the 'deep state', 'agent provocateurs' in the corporate world or 'political rivals' in the race for the 2020 presidential elections. It is an apparent continuation of violent acts directed toward activist politicians and human rights advocates, not only to kill but also to instill terror in survivors.

The late Professor Seithy Chachage's novel, Makuadi wa Soko Huria (Pimps of the Free Market), artistically captures this in its narrative of the ambush of activist journalists. "You think you are heroes?" one of the terrifying assailants asked rhetorically. "All heroes are dead," he then told the terrified activists sarcastically.

I have known Lissu personally since the times when he was not  into party politics. His was an environmental activist who was a thorn in the flesh of exploitative multinationals. As early as 2001, Lissu and a colleague were subjected to intimidations for pursuing allegations that 52 artisanal miners had been buried alive to give way to a Canadian mining company in "a World Bank guaranteed gold mine." The Center for International Environment Law (CIEL) stressed that their "efforts are not criminal, they are courageous."

Hence, it is ironic that Lissu is now accused of being in consort with the very same corporations he has been spending his lifetime fighting against. In a country with a dearth of courage, there are those who come once in a generation. Such a society cannot afford to lose them easily, especially when its aim is to root out corporate exploitation and build strong legal institutions to curb corruption.
We may not like Lissu's political affiliation as a key member of the leading opposition party. I, for one, have a lot reservations with the way he played a crucial role in embracing a politician whom they had characterized as the face of corruption in the country. Up to now I am ambivalent about his position on the Union. However, I cannot deny his heartfelt role in defending the downtrodden. One only has to read Maxence Melo's tribute to him to get a feel of this.

Nor can I overlook his role in strengthening the legislative arm of the state as an independent watchdog of the executive organ. When he finally became a Member of Parliament (MP) in 2010, I recall asking him why shouldn't he vie for a position in the parliamentary committee responsible for mining given that it is the area he has been closely monitoring. His response did not make sense to me then: 'I want to be in the committee responsible for parliamentary standing orders, privileges, ethics, and powers to ensure that the parliament does it job of oversight.' Of course, I am paraphrasing him. What matters is that what he said is exactly what he has been doing since then to extent that he seems to be a troublemaker.
Take for example, his contribution in the parliamentary debate on the very day that he was shot. He queried the celebratory speed in which the otherwise patriotic Bill on Natural Wealth and Resources (Permanent Sovereignty) was tabled and passed only for the Act to be returned for amendment within a space of two months. For him, such 'acts of fiat' are loopholes that multinationals exploit and thus rip us off when summoned for arbitrations in international courts.

One can thus see why virtually anyone could have attempted to silence Lissu. He surely has many enemies inside and outside of the country. But one thing should be very clear: Whoever attempted to assassinate him was also attempting to terrify the courage out of us.

As we celebrate Doctor John Magufuli as arguably one of the most courageous presidents, let us also remember how much we need the likes of Lissu. We need to raise more courageous citizens. After all, as they aptly say, "cowards die many times before their deaths."

Courage is probably the most important ingredient that we need in the tough "economic war" that our Commander-in-Chief, President Magufuli, has declared. A century or so ago, a young courageous woman penned the call below, out of which when the words "the world", "sin", and "men" are to be substituted with 'our country', 'corruption', 'men and women', captures Tanzania's pressing need:

Bon Courage Tundu Antiphas. Long live Lissu. Amen.

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