Saturday, October 22, 2016

What Would Mwalimu Nyerere Do?

The King is Coming: What Would Mwalimu Nyerere Do?

Chambi Chachage

What would Mwalimu Nyerere do? Barely a fortnight after commemorating Nyerere Day, the government of Tanzania is about to host the King of Morocco. This is a glaring foreign policy shift from a country that is known for supporting liberation struggles.

Tanzania's solid stance against Morroco's colonial occupation of Western Sahara was inculcated in our consciousness as we grew up in the twilight of Mwalimu Nyerere's regime. I still remember how Willy Gamba, a character in a popular novel, Njama, that the late Aristablus Elvis Musiba published in 1981, moved us when he thus described another tough character known as Veronica Amadu:

 "Anajulikana kuwa msichana mwandishi jasiri sana, amewahi kusafiri na majeshi ya Chama cha wapigania uhuru wa Sahara Magharibi kiitwacho "The Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguiet el-Hamara na Rio de Oro" yaani "POLISARIO", katika mapambano yao dhidi ya majeshi ya Morocco ambayo yameshika sehemu hiyo, inasemekana mwandishi huyu alikaa na majeshi haya na kuandamana nayo katika uwanja wa mapambano kwa muda wa miezi sita na kuwa mwandishi wa kwanza kuandika habari kamili za mapambano haya akiwa shahidi wa macho. [She is known as a brave journalist, she has travelled with the army of POLISARIO freedom fighters in their battle against the army of Morocco that occupy their land, and it is said that she marched with them for six months, becoming the first journalist to write a firsthand account]."

Two years earlier, in 1979, Mwalimu Nyerere was among the then Organisation of African Unity's (OAU) "wise" leaders who met in Monrovia to seek an an end to the war. However, the then King of Morocco boycotted. Nevertheless, they "unanimously called for Morocco to call a cease-fire and withdraw from the disputed area." 

A confidential briefing in the US thus captured our clear stance: 

The briefing also observed that Tanzania viewed Morocco as the chief impediment to the resolution. It also noted that Mwalimu Nyerere was committed to persuade the King. Yet it concluded:

Despite all these diplomatic efforts, Morocco quit the OAU in 1984 immediately after Mwalimu Nyerere was elected the chair of OAU. Mobutu's then Zaire supported it. According to Clifford D. May of the New York Times, Nyerere "made no comment". He must have been so disappointed because of the failure to resolve the question. 
It is thus ironic that now Mwalimu Nyerere is long gone, Tanzania is embracing Morocco and abandoning Western Sahara. Although they signed a cease-fire agreement in 1991, the question remains unresolved. One only needs to compare this conclusion to a speech the Tanzania's former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Membe, delivered to the Parliament in 2013 with our current dispensation:

Mheshimwa Spika, Tanzania haina uhasama na Morocco lakini inapinga kitendo cha Morocco kuendelea kuikalia Sahara Magharibi kimabavu. Tanzania inaendelea kuishauri Serikali ya Morocco kurejea kwenye Umoja wa Afrika ili suala hili lijadiliwe na wao wakiwa kama sehemu ya Umoja huu. Aidha, tunazidi kuisihi Morocco itekeleze pendekezo la kura ya maoni ili wananchi wa Sahara Magharibi waamue hatima yao wenyewe [Honorable Speaker, Tanzania has no dispute with Morocco but it is against Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara. Tanzania continues to advise the Government of Morocco to rejoin the Africa Union so this issue can be discussed while they are members. We also plead with Morocco to implement the recommendation regarding a referendum so that the people of Western Sahara can determine their own destiny]
Membe's successor, Dr. Augustine Mahiga, seems more interested in Tanzania pending investment agreements with Morocco of about two billion US dollars. After his UN speech on behalf of President Magufuli which called for the decolonization of Western Sahara, he is now preoccupied with how much we can get out of 150 or so Moroccan delegates. His press statement of October 20th is quoted in a government newspaper, Daily News, as saying: "We welcome them and we have no reason of not endorsing our support"
Little wonder the leader of the  ACT-Wazalendo, Zitto Kabwe, is convinced that Morocco is lobbying Tanzania as it attempts to ensure that SADR is kicked out of the African Union (AU) to pave the way for Morocco. His fledgling party has issued a statement, seeking some clarifications and asserting its would march against the King's visit. The embryonic Tanzania-Sahrawi Solidarity Committee (TASSC) is also using this moment for its advocacy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Swahili Ally: Tanzania Misses Its Culture

 An Interview with Swahili Ally 

"A country which has no culture is not free," says Tanzanian musician Swahili Ally a.k.a Digo.

Swahili, you are based in Dar es Salaam, the Mecca of the Tanzanian music scene. Which problems do you have as a musician in Dar?

I face several problems and challenges. First of all, it's hard to get space to present my music. And the people still do not believe that traditional music is good music which needs to get attention. You need to cultivate your own culture. You know, a country which has no culture is not free.

You are saying Tanzania misses its culture?

Yes, Tanzania misses its culture! Songs of our culture and our culture as a whole are not been given space. The commercial music has taken over the whole country and we as traditional musicians, representing and cultivating our culture, have been left out.
What do you think where does that come from?

I think it has to do with commercial musicians who are seen as examples nowadays. I think the current society does not know about traditional musicians who were successful. I mean there are legendary ones like Tatu Nane who among the first ones to successfully present traditional music even far away. And they were being loved for that. Nowadays young musicians heavily copy western music and it seems like this is the music which gets attention and with which you can make more money. Local music is said to be music which is difficult to listen to. But if people would listen more to local traditional music they would get more used to it.

Can the government improve the situation of traditional music in Tanzania?

The government and the media need to bring back musical infrastructure so that people can rediscover their own society. People need to hear songs from former times. And the government needs to open up much more music academies. Then people will be able to know traditional music instruments and to create their own music. Without this it will be difficult, because the society has forgotten its origins. People have forgotten what is part of their own African identity. Now they need to get food which is not yet there, but which they need to know. 

You play the Kora, a typical West African instrument even though you come from Tanga, a city close to the Kenyan border. How did this come about?

You're right, the Kora comes from West Africa. But I met a European musician who played the Kora and that inspired me. I wanted to play the Kora and to mix it with my own music, because it matches perfectly with my own voice and my own style of music. Also originally the Digo people migrated from West Africa long time ago, so my family roots have kind of a West African origin.

Where did you learn to play the Kora? 

I was lucky to be taught to play the Kora by Ebrima Mbye from Gambia when he was staying on Zanzibar for six months. He worked as a volunteer at the Dhow Music Academy and I had the opportunity to stay there as well. He taught me how to play Kora in a typical Gambian way, which is the original one. It therefore dominates my own style of playing the Kora nowadays. 

Storytelling is an important element of the Digo culture as well as of the Kora culture. Do you see yourself more as a musician or as a storyteller?

I see myself as a musician who tells stories. In my music I talk about where we come from, where we are and where we are heading to. Through the way I am doing this I try to remind the society of its own people and ethnic groups and to show them that they still exist and that they are still able to influence things. 

Your grandparents introduced you to the world of Digo music and passed you on the knowledge about it. What role do your grandparents have and how do they influence you nowadays? 

My grandparents still influence my music even though they are no longer there. I still draw on the advices they gave me – they make me unique, they help me to be different. When I composed my melodies my grandfather gave me some assistance sometimes: he told me what to do and what to change. When I wrote my lyrics he told me when I did mistakes and corrected them. He is therefore a person who is an important part in my life. He pushed me and made me understand many things.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tuzo ya Andika na Soma

Public Talk and Book Signing with Andrew Coulson

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Tanzania-Germany: A Shared Memory and Legacy?

"Will there be giving back or returning the cultural objects loot which is stashed in almost all ethnological museums in Germany? I met a German lady working at the national museum in Berlin and she told me that some few years ago the best German lawyers were convened to make sure that they improve the rules, regulations and laws which protect German’s interests in keeping all what was collected during colonialism. It may be considered a mere coffee table talk she was making with me, but is there a political will from the German side to realize the objectives of this project? So far these objects in German museums serve as commercial products through which museums make profits from visitors charges, how are the profits generated in such activities shared to Tanzanians? Is there hope that there will be a day when Tanzania will see some 4000 cultural/archaeological objects are given back to enrich its collection of its pre-colonial generations? Is there any logical explanation from German to justify the need to keep the loot from the small communities they extinguished in Tanzania? Why not give back everything they have taken from these small people after all the suffering which has been caused?" - Dominicus Makukula

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