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Monday, November 12, 2007

Is outsourcing our government an option?

At last we have come to the close of an eventful month. August has treated us with many surprises. Some passed unnoticed. Others still linger in our minds.

As we were busy disputing a government minister’s role in Buzwagigate, our former Premier added fuel to the fiery debate. In an interview with the Sunday Citizen (26.08.07), he revealed a startling secret. For all those 10 years as a Premier he was blind to the real causes of poverty!

“During my leadership,” he confessed, “I was always wondering why, despite all the efforts we were making in the government plus the support from donor community, we remained a very poor nation with living conditions deteriorating everyday. But today I see clearly what the problem is.”

Ironically, it only took a year at Harvard University to cure his blindness. This is ironic because many Tanzanian thinkers and policy advisors have been educated at Harvard or similar liberal institutions. When the Premier was in power some of them went as far as producing a multi-sectoral analysis of ‘Why is Tanzania still Poor 40 Years after Independence?’ Some even participated in formulating the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (Mkukuta).

In surprising moments likes these it is tempting to think of outrageous ideas. After all in a country with a constitution that advocates freedom of expression, we are free to think. Isn’t that one of the rights we fought for during independence? With this disclaimer, what I have in mind is the often concealed idea of re-colonization. Who said the call for a return to colonialism is only whispered in corridors of diehard colonialists?

I have encountered the re-colonization idea in many guises. The first time was in secondary school. In what was the most vibrant class, our Kiswahili teacher introduced a new text. It instantly sparked a lively debate on the poor condition of Tanzania. To her dismay some students argued that as far as development is concerned it is better to be re-colonized. Then one day I overheard a couple of elderly folks asserting that although colonialists whipped and forced them to work hard, at least they developed the country.

In another instance I reviewed a book with elaborate plans of outsourcing executive and judiciary arms of African states. The author, a Tanzanian, argues that if we do so the foreign administrators who win the bid will run our governments efficiently. This will be based on renewable contracts and our sovereignty would be safeguarded by legislatures.

The re-colonization thesis is usually supported by controversial evidence or rhetorical questions. You go to Kigoma and you are shown remains of German colonialism. Then you are asked to compare them with whatever our government has built since independence. You pass through defective railways in Kilimanjaro and you are told that the last time they were repaired was during British colonialism. Then you are asked how many railways has the independent government built anyway.

What is puzzling about nostalgic feelings for colonialism is their resonance with what is going on. Citizens are invited to Mkukuta meetings and to their surprise they witness foreign poverty advisors presiding as minds of the government while local experts fold their hands silently. Tanzanians attempt to have policy dialogues with the government but to their surprise they first have to engage with foreign policy advisors masquerading as government spokespersons. In these circumstances who wouldn’t wonder whether we have started outsourcing our government?

As the Sunday Citizen notes, the former Premier’s confession has kick started an interesting debate on whether those who are governing are equipped well enough to understand exactly our problems and their solutions. It is important for the debate to be open enough to accommodate outrageous ideas. This way we can be well informed about subtle ideas that might turn into injurious ideologies if they evade us.

The idea of re-colonization is creeping just like the way the idea of colonialism crept. The latter was bolstered by the civilization mission and scientific racism. The former is reinforced by the liberalization mission and technocratic indoctrination. Both intend to change our mindset.

While promoting freedom of thought we ought to be thoughtful enough not to take independence for granted. Let us remember Mwalimu Nyerere’s words: “The British used to say ‘you people can’t be independent because you don’t have this, you don’t have that, you don’t have the other thing.’ I’d say this is rubbish.” As a people we have our collective mind. Surely we can use it independently to govern our country.

Author: Chambi Chachage
Source: The Citizen 31/08/07

1 comments:

Celine November 11, 2008 at 3:11 AM  

Good for people to know.

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