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.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Wizi Mkuu Wa Kiingereza Afrika?

"Hii ni Insha inayonuia kuhimiza, kushangilia na kuendeleza mchango wa Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o katika mjadala muhimu unaohusu swala la lugha barani Afrika. Lengo kuu hapa ni kusema kwamba hoja ya majadiliano kuhusu lugha ya Kiingereza katika akademia inabidi isibaki tu kwenye ubishi kati ya swala la umilikaji -aidha Kiingereza ni lugha ya Mwafrika au si lugha ya Mwafrika lakini isonge mbele na iangalie kwa makini swala la mizigo, gharama, na hasara za kuchukua Kiingereza tunavyokichukulia barani Afrika. Hatuna budi kujiuliza kwanini Kiingereza kinaendeleza ubaguzi, ubinafsi, na udanganyifu kuwa lugha za wenyeji Afrika hazihitajiki katika maswala ya elimu na maisha ya kisasa. Insha hii inajaribu kubainisha kati ya ‘Vertical English’ yaani ‘Kiingereza fasaha na cha kitaaluma’ ambacho ni Kiingereza maalum na tena teule ambacho ndicho kinatumika katika kazi za kisomi zikiwemo harakati za kujifunza, kufundishia, kutahini na kufanyia utafiti. Kwa upande mwingine ‘Horizontal English’ yaani ‘Kiingereza cha watu wa kawaida’ ambacho kimetanda kote Afrika ambako Kiingereza ni lugha rasmi. Kiingereza hiki pamoja na lugha zetu havithaminiwi. Hoja ni kwamba Kiingereza hicho fasaha (kimuundo na kimatamshi) ndicho pasipoti ya kupanda ngazi kielimu, kutambulikana kisomi, na kuwa mwanachama mheshimiwa katika klabu cha wanataaluma duniani. Kiingereza hicho kinatoa fursa hizo kwa Waafrika wachache mno na kuwanyima nafasi hizo wote wale ambao hawakimudu. Tamko ‘heist’ linamanisha ‘unyang’anyi’ na usemi ‘The great English heist’ una maana ya ‘wizi na unyang’anyi mkuu unaohusu Kiingereza’ katika masomo ya Kiafrika. Maana ya kutumia neno hili ‘heist’ unyang’anyi/wizi ni kushtaki jinsi ambavyo elimu na ujuzi wa mwafrika unavyokusanywa, kujadiliwa, na kuhimarishwa kwa lugha zetu za asilia na Kiingereza cha watu wa kawaida zikiwemo pijini, lakini kusahaulika makala zinapochapishwa. Kile kinachokosekana na kusahaulika katika mchakato huu ni mchango mkubwa wa lugha hizi katika akademia ihali wale walio wachache wakinufaika kwa tuzo, umashuhuri na kupanda ngazi. Basi wakati mwingi mchango wa mwafrika hauonekani wala kuchangamkiwa ila kupitia lenzi za wasomi walio wachache wanaomudu Kiingereza fasaha" - John Mugane

Calls for Research on Urbanization in Tanzania

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

International Literacy Day at Soma Book Cafe

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Tanzania at the T-Junction

Tanzania at the T-Junction

Chambi Chachage

The protagonists of the recently premiered film, T-Junction, are a marvel to watch. Although dubbed “An Amil Shivji’s film”, it is a collaborative work that brings Tanzanian talents as they attempt to make sense of our society. What is particularly impressive is the way the scriptwriter who also happens to be the director has juxtaposed the role of the starring.

There is the young Fatima (Hawa Ally) who seems to be the starring. But this feeling does not last long when Maria (Magdalena Christopher) enters the scene. One then gets a sense that Maria could be the ‘alter ego’ of Fatima as she struggles to come to terms with the contradictions of her society. As such, her experience embodies Tanzania’s crossroads. 
These crossroads include the questions of race, state power and economic (dis)empowerment. As a daughter of the later Iqbal Hirji, whom we never get to see in the film, Fatima has what one may call ‘Indian heritage.’ But Mama Fatima (Mariam Rashid) was his African domestic worker prior to their marriage. Whereas the widow deeply mourns the loss of someone whom she believes loved and accepted her irrespective of ‘class and color lines’, the orphan hardly finds solace in a memory of an “estranged father” who probably drunk himself to death.

That is as far as we can get in unpacking the mystery of why T-Junction opted to start with the funeral of Fatima’s father. What we can surmise is that the film is attempting to tell those of us, who tend to view the ‘Indian Community’ in Tanzania as generally wealthy, that not all is rosy. The ‘Iqbals’ lived in a modest house though the funeral services took place in a prominent mosque. Yet ‘their house’ does not seem accessible to Africans probably because it appears to be in the areas that were historically – i.e. ‘racially’ – designated for Indians.

Thus, the only people who came to comfort Fatima and her mother were from Tanzania’s ‘Indian Community’. To buttress this point, the film ensures that Fatima is asked if she does not have any friends who will come. We thus encounter Fatima making her first friend in the film when she goes to the hospital to seek treatment and enquire about a death certificate.

This is when she encounters Maria who narrates to her about the story of the T-Junction. In a nutshell, it is a ‘surreal’ narration of how the state apparatuses bulldozes those who attempt to eke out a living through ‘street vending’ in what some theorists refers to as the ‘informal sector.’ It is also an account of what a young African girl, i.e. Maria, can encounter when she works for an Indian woman who seems to be related to Fatima’s father. To add nuances, the film indicates that even a seemingly exploitative Indian businesswoman who hires an African domestic worker can also be subjected to the gendered violence that emanates from patriarchy.
Though it may seem coincidental, it is interesting to note that there is a real Fatima Bapumia who has published her research on Rationalizing violence Domesticizing Abuse: South Asian Experience in Tanzania. Therein she unpacks how what happens in the ‘private sphere’ of Tanzania’s ‘Indian Community’ is hardly noticed in the ‘African community.’ T-Junction thus gives us a rare chance to peek into that sphere in relation to what transpires in the public.

Then there is what is hardly coincidental. As the film premiered, we witnessed another round of demolition of houses and business premises in Dar es Salaam. This time it is not only the downtrodden in the informal sector who are bearing the brunt, but also the ‘middle class’ in the formal sector. In this sense, T-Junction is not a corner out there where ‘the poor’ struggle for a ‘right to the city.’ Rather, it is at the very heart and soul of a society in search of solace.

Karibu kwenye ulingo wa kutafakari kuhusu tunapotoka,tulipo,tuendako na namna ambavyo tutafika huko tuendako/Welcome to a platform for reflecting on where we are coming from, where we are, where we are going and how we will get there

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