Wednesday, July 30, 2008


It is 50 years since Chinua Achebe published Things Fall Apart. The novel came out a year after Ghana's independence, an event that significantly changed the face of Africa. What was to be famously termed the Wind of Change in 1960 - the celebrated year of African independence - was already blowing accross our continent. Since then the 'masterpiece' has inspired the African imagination in its quest for self-expression in relation to self-determination. As various forums revisit this illustrious moment in the history of African literature, I am moved to share what I once wrote as a university student. This essay is an abridged version of a longer essay entitled 'The African Writer's Burden: A Description and Critique of the Polemic Significance of the Works of Achebe and Ngugi'.

Retelling The African Writer's Story

“His [The African Writer] story had been told for him and he had found the telling quite unsatisfactory’”- Chinua Achebe

In his literary critique on The African Imagination, Abiola Irele devotes an entire chapter on the Dimensions of African Discourse where he presents what he considers to be the most striking aspect of this discourse, that is, its character as a movement of contestation. A movement that had and is still adversely contending with European representation(s) of Africa and Africans, and has thus, in his own words, assumed a polemical significance. Moreover, he deduce that the “point that emerges from this aspect of African discourse is its strongly articulated sense of historical grievance” (Irele, 2001, p.69). In a significant way this grievance is what has been articulated by Chinua Achebe and Ngugi wa Thiong'o.

It is important to bear in mind that these writers were born during the colonial phase of African history and in African countries which were under the rule of the British Empire. While Chinua Achebe was born in the Eastern part of Nigeria (West Africa) in 1930, Ngugi wa Thiong'o was born James Ngugi in Limuru, Kenya (East Africa) in 1938.

Like many other intellectuals of their generations, they were both educated in primary schools run by Christian missionaries and therefore had an early encounter with the Christian and European discourses of civilization. While Achebe later moved to a government college, Ngugi had an opportunity to study in a Kikuyu independent school before moving to a government Alliance High School. As undergraduates they both attended prestigious African colleges which had been established by the then ruling colonial administrations: Achebe went to University College, Ibadan in 1948 while Ngugi went to Makerere University College in 1959.

Achebe and Ngugi as writers share a lot in common. Both use their African imagination to retell the stories of Africa and Africans in contrast to the way they have been told earlier by some European writers. Thus, they are all centrally engaged with the same dominant issue which, according to Irele (2001), constitutes the imaginative and ideological forms of African expression in European languages i.e. “our historic encounter with and the continuing relationship to the west and the varied implications of our modern experience as it has been determined by this historic encounter” (Irele, 2001, p.68). However, they differ in some of their perspectives and approaches, especially in relation to the use of what has been sometimes referred to as the ‘language of the oppressor or the colonizer’ i.e. English in the context of the British Empire.

Neither Achebe nor Ngugi lived or wrote during the pre-colonial phase of Africa. But both writers had an opportunity to learn about pre-colonial Africa’s history and culture from their elders, relatives, parents etc. These lessons were mainly learnt through what Irele (2000) identify as representing the basic intertext of the African imagination i.e. ‘oral literature’.

For instance, in his 1998’s McMillan-Stewart Lectures at Harvard University entitled My Home Under Imperial Fire, Achebe states categorically that it “was from the conversation and disagreements in these rooms [His father’s piazza and his mother’s parlor]…that I learned much of what I know and have come to value about my history and culture…. I heard, for example, that one of Ogidi’s neighboring towns had migrated into its present location a long time ago and made a request to Ogidi to settle there. In those days there was plenty of land to go round and Ogidi people welcomed the newcomers, who then made a second and more surprising request –to be shown how to worship the gods of Ogidi” (Achebe, 2000, p.11).

Likewise, in Writers in Politics: A Re-Engagement with Issues of Literature & Society, Ngugi nostalgically recalls how he got involved in what he calls a dreadful indulgence of fiction: “It began in my childhood in my mother’s house where people would gather to tell stories and to compete in unraveling riddles. I myself was not good at telling stories but I was a very good listener. I could not hear enough of these stories. These characters, human, animal, ogres, all seemed dangerously but excitingly real to me. They dwelt in a world which was near and far, real and unreal, or shall I say marvelously real. The forest and the mountains and the regions in which they dwelt were truly enchanted, magically true, recognizably close to, but at the same time very different from, the Limuru that I knew ” (Ngugi, 1997, p. 87).

But these memoirs were not the stories they read when they went to school or church. There they read about civilized Europe and Europeans or about Africa and Africans who had no history, language, culture or religion. Little did they know then that they were located as ‘colonizable objects’ in a larger body of a European discourse that encompassed discourses such as those of ‘scientific racism’ and ‘civilization’ disguised under the innocent garb of Christianity.

For instance, the following is Achebe’s recollection - cited in African Literature as Restoration of Celebration - of his first naïve encounters with these writings: “One of the earliest short stories I wrote was called ‘Chike’s School Days’, and it ended like this: The first sentences in his New Method Reader were simple enough and yet they filled him with a vague exultation: ‘Once there was a wizard. He lived in Africa. He went to China to get a lamp…. That boy [Chike] was me [Achebe]…I did not see myself as an African to begin with. I took sides with the white men against the savages” (Achebe, 1991, p. 7).

And this is what Ngugi could recall: “At Ma-nguu and Kinyogoori primary schools, one of my teachers, Samuel Kibicho, introduced me to stories in books such as Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Dickens’ Oliver Twist and my happiness knew no bounds…. And then in 1954 I went to Alliance High School where I was introduced to a house full of these magic pages… I read voraciously; anything from detective novels to Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Tolstoy’s Childhood, Boyhood and Youth” (Ngugi, 1997, p. 87). It is interesting to note the affinity this list of books has with the following list of what fascinated Achebe in is school years: “ Treasure Island, Mutiny of the Bounty, Gulliver’s Travel, Ivanhoe, School for Scandal” (Achebe, 2000, p. 20).

To Achebe the light dawned when he reached what he calls an appropriate age. Deducing from what Achebe (2000) calls "the gossip in African Literature" once can speculate that the most significant incident in this realization was his experience of a ‘landmark rebellion’ over Joyce Carry’s novel Mister Johnson. This incident was triggered by their fellow student at University College, Ibadan who gathered the courage to tell their English professor point blank that he, the Nigerian student, only enjoyed the moment when Johnson, the Nigerian ‘bumbling idiot and embarrassing nitwit’ hero ,was shot to death by his British master in the novel. Though like Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in its inhuman depiction of Africans, what sounded more problematic to Achebe (2000) in this novel relatively to Heart of Darkness of which he is well known as it’s prominent controversial critic, is that it’s author was/is writing or rather claiming to be writing about Nigeria i.e. the home of Achebe which, unlike Congo, was/is well known to Achebe.

This book made Achebe call into question his childhood assumption of the innocence of stories and in the end he began to understand that there is such a thing as absolute power over narrative that render the privileged the security to arrange the stories about others in whatever manner they, the privileged, like. Just like the totalitarian regimes, they ‘could rent a crowd’ for indeed the crowd of the ‘others’ in Mister Johnson reminds one of the crowd in Heart of Darkness.

Thus, when Achebe reached that appropriate age he realized that the European writers he read in school ‘had pulled a fast one on him’ for it indeed it came to light that he was not one of the so-called civilizing agents on Marlow’s boat steaming up the Congo in Conrad’s in/famous novel Heart of Darkness but, rather, he was “one of those strange beings jumping up and down on the river bank, making horrid faces” (Achebe, 1991, p. 7). This is when Achebe (1991) said no and concluded that stories are not innocent for they can locate one in a wrong crowd as in this case were he was put in a crowd of those who came to dispossess him.

However, in its preoccupation with this realization, African discourse has tended, whether deliberately or not, to ignore or pay little attention to the question of gender and patriarchy. And this has courted the attention of some feminist critics. One such critic is Florence Stratton, (1994) whose work How Could Things Fall Apart For Whom They Were Not Together? offers a feminist critique that tries to make Achebe swallow his own critical words on the racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness by arguing that there is sexism in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

According to Stratton (1994), in his attempt to masculinized the Africa that had been 'feminized' by Europe, Achebe ended up silencing the African women and therefore he failed to keep what he proclaimed as the prime duty of an African writer in the few years after independence i.e. the duty of restoring dignity to the past and to show that African people did not hear culture for the first time from Europeans. She argues that while Achebe attempt to ‘restore dignity’ and self-respect to African men, he does not attempt to do so to African women nor does he tell them, as he does to the African men, where “the rain started to beat them.” Thus their African writer's realization is literarily and stereotypicallt gendered in favour of African men at the expense of African women.

Since Ngugi often appear to be wary of telling his earlier experiences directly, I cannot exactly pinpoint when exactly he got to that point of realization. Maybe it was 1954 when an editor of the school magazine decided to frame Ngugi’s (1981) story on magic so that it can fit with the Christian message. Or maybe it was in 1955 when became a devout Christian and then abandoned it due to its relation to colonial discourses. Whatever the case, the main point that emerges here is that this kind of realization - this wake up call - is the basis of the birth of modern African [written] literature as a form of a promising African discourse that was to contest with the European discourse on Africa that was premised on what Edward Said appropriately terms Orientalism.

Achebe illustrates this On-the-road to Damascus type of realization nicely in the following conclusion on the difference between Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the Senegalese Hamidou Kane’s novel Ambiguous Adventure: “Conrad portrays a void; Hamidou Kane celebrates a human presence and a heroic struggle. The difference between the two stories is very clear. You might say that difference was the very reason the African writer came into being. His story had been told him and he had found the telling quite unsatisfactory” (Achebe, 1991, pp. 6-7). However, the major mistake which he, Achebe, made in this quote was that he didn’t include ‘she’ and 'her' when referring to an African writer and thus opened doors for feminist critics to attack him in a way that is reminiscence of his very own attack on Conrad.

At this juncture it is worthwhile to recall one of the works that have influenced both writers i.e. the work of Frantz Fanon on The Wretched of the Earth. In its chapter entitled On National Culture, Fanon describes three phases, which characterizes the evolution of a native intellectual, in this case an African writer:

“In the first phase, the native intellectual gives proof that he has assimilated the culture of the occupying power. His writings correspond point by point with those of his opposite numbers in the mother country. His inspiration is European and we can easily link these works with definite trends in the literature of the mother country. This is the period of unqualified assimilation…. In the second phase we find the native is disturbed; he decides to remember what he is. This period of creative work approximately corresponds to that of immersion which we have just described. But since the native is not a part of his people, since he only has exterior relations with his people, he is content to recall their life only. Past happenings of the bygone days of childhood will be brought up out of the depths of his memory; old legends will be reinterpreted in the light of a borrowed aestheticism and of a conception of the world which was discovered under other skies…. Finally, the third phase, which is called the fighting phase, the native, after having tried to lose himself in the people and with people, will on the contrary shake the people. Instead of according the people’s lethargy and honoured place in his esteem, he turns himself into an awakener of the people; hence comes a fighting literature, and a national literature. During this phase a great many men and women who up till then would never have thought of producing a literary work, now that they find themselves in exceptional circumstances – in prison, with the Maquis or on the eve of their execution – feel the need to speak to their nation, to compose the sentence which expresses the heart of the people and to become mouthpiece of a new reality in action” (Fanon, 1963, pp. 178-179).

It is clear that Achebe and Ngugi outgrew the first phase while in school and by the time they started to write and publish their novels they were already in the transitory period between the second and the third phase.

The immediate effect of the transition and hence the realization was that the latter was put vehemently into practice in their first written novels i.e. Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, which was published in 1958 – two years before Nigerian independence from Britain; and Ngugi’s The River Between, which, though was the first one be to be written, yet, it was the second to be published in 1965, a year after Weep Not Child was published.

A cursory analysis of the title of Things Fall Apart would lead one to conclude that Achebe was telling, not only the Europeans, but also the Africans that at a certain point of time before the colonizers came to Africa things were somewhat together. And with Christianity appearing as a twin sister/brother of Colonialism in taming, pacifying and conquering Africa(ans), which was a better place to start the polemic contest other than on the sphere of culture, political, and religion?

So the introductory note of my intermediate Heinemann version of Things Fall Apart re-written by John Davey, and of course approved by Achebe himself, reads: “This is the story about life in Africa before the Europeans came, and the destruction of this life by the Europeans…The clan had its own customs, religion and leaders…the people were free” (Davey, 1974 - In Achebe, 1958a, p. ix). And the first chapter of The River Between goes back to the ‘long ago’ as it paints the same type of picture: “These ancient hills and ridges were the heart and soul of the land. Their people rejoiced together, giving one another the blood and warmth of their laughter. Sometimes they fought. But that was amongst themselves and no outsider need ever know” (Ngugi, 1965, p.3).

Contrary to the Africa of Conrad and Joyce, the African societies of Achebe and Ngugi in the opening salvos of above two novels are presented as having a civilization and founders ordained by divine beings. Achebe, for instance introduces in the very first paragraph of the first chapter an old man who tells us that the founder of the town had engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights – a story that reminds one of the Christians stories such that of Jacob who also engaged an angel before he was given a new name which was to be the name of a new nation i.e. Israel (Genesis 32:24-32 KJV). Ngugi is more explicit for he turns upside down the Christian story of creation: “And Murungu [God] had told them [Gikuyu and Mumbi i.e. the Kikuyu’s Adam and Eve]: this land I give to you, O man and woman. It is yours to rule and till, you and your posterity.” The land was fertile. It was the whole of Gikuyu country” (Ngugi, 1965, p. 2).

They thus retell stories about societies which had a God or spirits and,thus, had a religion. And many years later Achebe (2000), after gaining an understanding of the above-mentioned folklore of an Igbo town of Ogidi that was reluctant to foist its religious beliefs and practices on those neighbours even when it was invited to do so, concluded that this African society could not have any notion of the psychology of religious imperialism, and may I add paternalism, that was later to be manifested by European evangelism in Africa.

Moreover, Achebe (1958) tells us that his main character i.e. Okonkwo sat with kings and elders while Ngugi (1965) tell us that leaders rose from the land of many ridges, which simply mean that these pre-colonial societies had organized leadership let alone democracy. Achebe goes as far as telling us that there was a systematic monetary exchange system: “Unoka was, of course, a debtor, and he owed every neighbour some money, from a few cowries to quite substantial amounts” (Achebe, 1958, p. 4).

Yet in the midst of a strong temptation among African writers to romanticize the past, both writers manage to start retelling their stories without unneccessarily idealizing their pre-colonial African societies. For instance they are honest enough to admit that there were some ethnic wars as well as internal disputes. Okonkwo’s pre-colonial life itself is an embodiment of these conflicts: 'he fought and killed five men in tribal wars'; 'he broke the week of peace when he beat his wife, Ojiugo, and Ani, the earth goddess punished him'; 'for the sake of maintaining a fearless masculinity, he went against the warning of the oracle when he killed Ikemefuna; and then 'Okonkwo killed himself' and his suicide was to be a "story” [to be written by a colonial writer and not by a colonized writer] to make an “interesting reading under the title The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of Lower Niger” (Achebe, 1958).

This story of pacification, like Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, was to be a guiding Bible to earlier colonialists, such as Captain Winterbottom in Achebe's Arrow of God, who believed they were “called” to bring light to the “heart” of the “African darkness” as this statement of his, reminiscence of Conrad’s fine specimen, imply: “ ‘He is a fine specimen, isn’t he? He’s been with me four years. He was a little boy of about thirteen – by my own calculation, they’ve no idea of years –when I took him on. He was absolutely raw’” (Achebe, 1964, p. 35). This is the kind of a paternalistic discourse that was to be inherited by Mr. Green in Achebe's No Longer at Ease.

Thus, on the eve of of the end of British rule in Nigeria when colonial administrators represented by Mr. Green were busy preparing ‘civil servants’ to take over, Things Fall Apart came out of one of the European publishing houses as an ‘African voice’ showing the damages inflicted on a pre-colonial African society which was organized according to its own suitable type of civilization. This was primarily an African attempt to tell the African story for the sake of Africa and Africans. The onus is on us to keep on rethinking, rewriting and retelling our own African his/herstory to our satisfaction.

Source: Chambi Chachage, CAS UCT 2003
Photo: Courtesy of Mail & Guardian Online

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Views on Zimbabwe's Plight

Here are my personal views on this debate....

IMHO, I think, it is not surprising at all to see Robert Mugabe getting support from his people and beyond the borders of his country. Arguably, that is expected and in certain terms deserved. He has a legacy in the history of the nation/country and the continent and that is not small by any standards. Undoubtedly, he was at some point universally, perhaps still is and will be to some - accepted as a Father of the Nation, to the same/similar standards of the likes of Julius K. Nyerere or Kwame Nkrumah. It suffices to hint that, in African culture, and perhaps many across the world, one doesn't necessarily denounce their Father because they have gone "power bonkers" - as some may casually refer to - due to any reasons.

Nyerere once said, during Ghana's independence day, and I paraphrase, "great people do make great mistakes". No doubt, the great man Mugabe doesn't escape from this, as he is making and has made some great mistakes for the people he fiercely fought for and protect. I am more convinced than not, that what remains in many peoples' mind, I propose, will be the questions around leadership, and more so, where are the principles his movement (seemingly) fought for as they strove and struggled to get rid of the oppressing regime for new Zimbabwe?

Going by Dr. Alvin Masarira's narration on how ZANU's military wing recruited and won its support in getting rid of the Ian Smith's regime, this throws questions around the founding core principles of the movement then, as these gets exposed and tested when the going gets tough as is the current situation. Is it about whatever means to achieve an end? Anything goes? This perhaps provides some insights into the supposedly anomalies where we hear these types of leadership talking about the interests of "our people" but actually they mean anything else but the interests of the people. If the core founding principles are around the "people", hardly that should change to oppress the same "people".

More questions in the lines of: When are our African countries and leadership going to clearly start to unashamedly respect the will of the people, rule of law and actually genuinely educate our people from the grass root level, for the benefit of the our people and stop changing regimes based on some form of divide and rule mechanisms, or some new order simply to put new team in place to continue oppressions using same old tricks and techniques, forcefully denouncing anything that contradicts the rule of law and rules of the game so to speak?

When are we seriously going to unite and fight the real enemies surrounding us left, right and centre, which are mass extreme poverty, mass extreme ignorance, western world trade injustices/imbalances and, as some may refer to, corrupt oppressors supposedly learned "elites" of our societies? Those to me are the questions and we need to be able to deal with them in an "African Familyhood" fashion, which involves telling each other the obvious injustices and not avoiding the difficult questions. That way we will be building each other progressively.

The opinions may be equally divided whether one lives inside or outside Zimbabwe and/or Africa for that matter. The reality is, the people at the "front line" are the ones facing the real and practical challenges.

Until we have solid and robust legal frameworks, law and order embedded in our systems and way of life from the ground up across the continent, get rid and refuse to comply with divide and rule dossiers, and getting all nations championing around similar new causes, at a pace similar to the wind of change that swept Africa in the 60s, we are more likely than not to be witnessing the battles of the likes of the Robert vs Morgan or Mwai vs Raila for some time to come, even though all these struggles may not necessarily have the same history in the making of their respective nations.

Who else is on the pipeline?


Temu, A.B.S

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Who should clear Rostam Azizi?

The name of Honourable Rotam Azizi has popped up in the media for sometime now whenever issues such as the Bank of Tanzania( BOT) and Richmond fraud scams and possible grand corruption allegations relating to these have come up for discussion. The media reports often echoed allegations made to the same effect by the popular opposition leader, Honourable Wilbroad Slaa, who first made these allegations at a political rally at Mwenge Yanga grounds in Dar es Salaam late last year.

This was the occasion on which a coalition of opposition parties including CHADEMA, CUF and TLP, announced what has now come to be known as the List of Shame, or Orodha ya Mafisadi, in Kiswahili. That list named eleven senior CCM politicians who were alleged to be the key participants and beneficiaries of these alleged BOT and Richmond fraud scams.

Some sections of the media, such as the popular Kiswahili weekly, Mwanahalisi, subsequently made further elaborations on the role played by Honourable Rotam Azizi as the key accomplice in the various serious fraud schemes, including one involving getting money from BOT and passing it on to the ruling party, CCM, to help it finance the campaigns of some of the politicians who ran on its ticket as parliamentary and presidential candidates in the 2005 General Elections.

All the same, these serious allegations remain allegations, and the truth about them has yet to clearly come out. The public has been denied the ultimate truth partly because those against who these deadly serious allegations have been made, including Honourable Rostam Azizi, and many other senior CCM politicians, have not so far taken the opposition politicians who made the allegations or newspapers like Mwanahalisi that made the allegations public, to court. It is the courts which can clear the names of these eminent persons, if indeed these allegations are false and the alleged culprits such as Honourable Rostam Azizi are also indeed innocent.

One is therefore baffled by the attempts by those who are on the List of Shame to seek to clear their names by organizing media spins including attempts at mudslinging those who they claim to be behind what they allege to be politically ill-motivated insinuations and innuendoes against their personal integrity. One is intrigued by the attempts by those mentioned on the List of Shame to take advantage of occasions of giving charity donations to Christian churches to announce to an obviously captive and ratified audience that they are innocent and that those making the allegations against them are maliciously envious political and business competitors.

On previous occasions when they had made donations in support of these same presumably noble religious causes they had not seemed to be too keen to have publicity given to their philanthropic endeavours. It sounds odd indeed that these same god-fearing philanthropists whose immerse wealth was presumably acquired through protestant chastity and prudence are now furiously seeking to have the entire world believe that, in spite of the ‘lies’ told against them by people who presumably have an axe to grind, they are clean politicians and businesspersons and that their claim of innocence ought to be accepted at face value.

Being unusually very naively charitable, I wish to humbly make a simple suggestion as the way forward out of the political hell into which CCM and the country’s ethically clean reputation has been plunged by the alleged BOT and Richmond fraud scams. I say to my compatriot Honourable Rostam Azizi, and all the other senior CCM leaders who are included in the List of Shame, if you wish to clear your name using religious platforms, then put to Parliament a private members motion requesting for the establishment of a Truth Commission. This will be similar to the one formed in South Africa after the collapse of the Apartheid regime in 1994.

Those alleged to have been involved in the alleged frauds will confess and be forgiven but only after pretty rigorous public interrogation by a panel of eminent persons, including noted lawyers like Prof. Issa Shivji and Mr. Tundu Lissu as well as clerics like Bishop Methodius Kilaini, and in the presence of representatives of those who suffered due to the commitment of the alleged frauds. In religious terms, that will indeed constitute a proper repentance procedure. Otherwise take Honourable Wilbroad Slaa and Mwanahalisi to court and stop organizing media circuses meant to encourage all to consider you innocent at face value, just as some people seem to have already done.

Author: Dr. Azaveli Feza Lwaitama
Source: The article was submitted as ' Rostam Azizi, Religion and the Media' in a respected newspaper. However, it was not published with apology from the editor as par commissioned column contract on advice of a lawyer.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wasomi ni Makuwadi,Wakombozi au Wahuni?

Kwanza kabisa nimpongeze ndugu Halima Mkutambilu wa Kawe, Dar es Salaam kwa kuweka wazi hisia zake juu ya Wasomi wa Tanzania. Katika barua yake kwa Mhariri, Mtanzania la Alhamisi 12 Aprili 2007 yenye kichwa cha habari “MBEKI HAWA NI WASOMI WETU”. Ameweka wazi hisia na matamanio ya wananchi walio wengi kwa wasomi pamoja na mtazamo wao kwa hili kundi dogo ambalo kwa sehemu kubwa limefika hapo lilipo kwa kodi za wananchi.

Kwa ufupi, katika barua hiyo wasomi wanalaumiwa kwa kuifikisha nchi hii pabaya na kuisababishia matatizo makubwa. Sifa za kundi hili zimeainishwa kuwa ni ujivuni, kupenda kula, ufisadi na kuwa mihuri inayotumika kuwekwa hapa au pale na kuacha alama ambayo huja kuwa maumivu makubwa kwa wananchi. Sina budi kuunganisha uchambuzi huu na changamoto mbalimbali zilizotolewa na wachangiaji mbalimbali katika siku ya kumbukumbu ya Hayati Kamaradi Chachage, Usiku wa Chachage pale Chuo Kikuu Dar es Salaam tarehe 8 Julai 2008 juu ya nafasi ya wasomi katika kuleta mabadiliko.

Inawezekana hii ikachukuliwa kama mzaha fulani na labda wivu wa watu wenye mtizamo hasi dhidi ya wasomi. Lakini bila shaka ni wakati muafaka kwa wasomi kutafakari na kuangalia nafasi yao upya katika ujenzi wa Taifa. Labda tuchukulie mifano michache inayoweza kuwa imechukuliwa; ni nani aliyesaini mikataba mibovu iliyotufikisha hapa tulipo? Ni nani washauri wa Serikali katika mambo mbalimbali, ya siasa, uchumi, jamii n.k.? Pamoja na wanasiasa, ni viongozi wetu katika kada mbalimbali. Hawa wote kwa namna moja ama nyingine wanaunda kundi la watu wanaoitwa wasomi. Swali la kuongoza tafakari ni: Je, kazi zao na yote wayafanyayo ni kwa maslahi na manufaa ya nani?

Katika moja ya tahariri zake Mhariri wa jarida la Ardhi ni Uhai, linalotolewa na Taasisi ya HAKIARDHI Mhariri aliongelea kwa kirefu juu ya wasomi na nafasi zao mbalimbali katika jamii yetu sasa. Katika kujenga hoja yake alitoa mfano wa Susi na Chuma watumishi waaminifu wa Dk. David Livingstone, Raia wa Uingereza aliyekuwa na kazi kubwa tatu; kueneza injili ya Kikristo, kuifungua Afrika kwa ajili ya Wafanyabiashara na Mabepari wa Ulaya na kueneza Ustaarabu wa Kimagharibi miongoni mwa 'Washenzi'. Sote tunatambua madhara ya kazi zake, ukoloni na umaskini tunaoendelea nao mpaka sasa. Hawa ndugu Susi na Chuma uaminifu wao haukuwa na kipimo! Walimtumikia na kumbeba kila alikotaka kwenda akiwa hai au amekufa. Pengine wangebaini madhara yake bila shaka wasingeendelea kumbeba na kumzungusha.

Kama tulidhani akina Susi na Chuma wamekwisha twajidanganya! Kwani wapo akina Susi na Chuma mamboleo, kwa kujua ama kwa kuongozwa na tamaa na ubinafsi wanautumikia ubeberu katika mfumo wake wa utandawazi kwa njia na mbinu mbalimbali. Hawa wapo katika sekta binafsi na ya umma. Wamo serikalini wakibariki sera na sheria za kuuza nchi. Wanapatikana katika NGOs wakifanya harakati zenye kusaidia uhalalishaji wa sera na sheria zinazouza nchi na kudhalilisha utu na uhuru wetu. Pia wapo wale ambao wapo kwenye vyuo vya umma na binafsi, wasomi ambao wanashauri kwa sababu ya tamaa ya fedha wakijua madhara yake kwa jamii.

Akina Susi na Chuma wa kisasa ni changamoto kubwa sana katika jamii yetu leo hasa ukizingatia kuwa kwa lugha na mbinu mbalimbali wamejitambulisha kama wakombozi wa wanyonge. kwa sehemu kubwa pamoja na usaliti wao wananchi wengi bado wanawaamini hawa wanazuoni na wasomi na wana matumaini na kundi la pili linalojiita wanaharakati! Wengi wa wananchi kama ndugu yetu Halima Mkulambilu wanapobaini kusalitiwa hulalama na kusema “WASOMI MNATUANGUSHA’!

Ni kweli kwamba mchango wa wasomi katika kuleta chachu ya mabadiliko katika jamii unatambulika na kuheshimika na watu wengi wa kawaida. Hata hivyo, ni vigumu kwa walio wengi kutofautisha kati ya wasomi, wanazuoni na wanaharakati wauza nchi na makuwadi (kama awaitavyo hayati Prof. Chachage) wa ubeberu na kundi la pili la Wasomi, Wanazuoni na wanaharakati wanaolinda na kuendeleza nchi na wananchi.

Njia rahisi ya kuyatofautisha makundi haya mawili ni kuangalia mchango wao katika ukombozi wa watu wanyonge. Je, wanashirikiana na watu ili wajikomboe wenyewe au wanataka kuteka harakati na kujinadi kuwa wao ndio wakombozi! Wanachukulia matatizo ya watu kama fursa za kijasiriamali kwa ajili ya maendeleo binafsi? Badala ya kusema samaki mmoja akioza tenga zima ni minyoo lafaa kutupwa nadhani ni vyema tukawa makini kuchambua ili tubaini waliooza na ambao bado wapo safi. Ukombozi wa kweli wa watu utaletwa na watu wenyewe, pale tunapowabaini wasaliti tuwaweke hadharani na tuwaumbue tusiogope.

Ni mara ngapi ushauri wa kitaalamu kutoka kwa wasomi wetu umekataliwa na Serikali na ni wangapi wamesimama kuhoji maamuzi ya Serikali, kwa mfano katika mambo makubwa yafuatayo: Mikataba ya Richmond na IPTL; Ujenzi wa Maghorofa ya BOT; Ununuzi wa Rada; Uuzwaji wa NBC; Tuhuma za Manji NSSF; Ununuzi na Ulanguzi wa Korosho; Ununuaji wa ndege ya Rais na kejeli za Mramba; Pato duni kutoka katika sekta ya madini; Kunyanganywa uraia kwa baadhi ya wananchi na baadhi ya NGOs kufungiwa? Pamoja na mambo mengi kuwekwa wazi katika vyombo vya habari na baadhi ya wasomi kuongelea juu ya masuala hayo bado jamii kwa ujumla ama imekaa kimya kwa kuona mambo hayawahusu ama kwa sababu ya kulindana kichama ama kwa kuendeleza ile tabia ya kuwaona viongozi wezi ni wajanja wanaojua kutumia nafasi zao na kuwaona waaminifu na waadilifu ni watu wa ajabu.

Mwanazuoni mmoja aliwahi kusema kwamba mabadiliko ya kweli yataletwa na wananchi wenyewe kwa kuangalia kwa ukaribu matendo ya viongozi wanaowachagua na kuwawajibisha pale wanapotenda kinyume. Kama wasomi wamekuwa ni wasaliti basi hatuna haja ya kuwategemea. Kwa umoja wetu na wingi wetu tukiamua kuleta mabadiliko ya kweli tunaweza. Umoja ni nguvu wingi ni uwezo.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Presidential Pat in the Back

This photo which was taken in the ongoing G8 summit in Tokyo has given me food for thought. I am still a novice in photo analysis. However, I believe that this photo, like the one I once analysed here, tells us a lot about the power dynamics between our country and the so-called sole superpower. This particular photo actually reminds me of a historical incident in which a powerful ruler of this world took a great leader to the top of a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world. You can guess what he told him. Could this be the beginning of bowing down to the ruler(s) of the so-called New World Order?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Utaalamu Mbadala Upo Umejaa Tele

Mchakato huu wa kuzalisha mkaa utokanao na uchafu/takataka kwa kutumia mtambo uliotengenezwa hapa nchini ulinivutia sana katika maonyesho ya Saba Saba 2008. Mtambo huu umetengenezwa na taasisi ya teknolojia inayofaa kutumika vijijini (Appropriate Rural Technology Institute). Mwaka 2002 taasisi hii ya ARTI-TZ ilishinda Tuzo ya Nishati Endelevu ya Ashden. Jitihada zake za kuvumbua nishati mbadala zinazoendana na mazingira yetu ni kielelezo tosha kuwa uwezo/utaalamu wa kujifanyia mambo yetu wenyewe tunao. Hii ndio ilikuwa njozi ya Muasisi wa Siasa na Elimu ya Kujitegemea.
Hatua ya 1: Kukusanya Takataka
Hatua ya 2: Kuchoma Takataka

Hatua ya 3: Kufinyanga Mkaa

Hatua ya 4: Kutumia Mkaa

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Politics of Pigmentation


Contribution made to "Consultation" event organized by fellow people of Africans descent, for a Scotland Census 2011. This submission was not tabled by the organizer as was submitted rather reportedly "late", though advised views were "noted".

However, here are some of my views, republished for a wider audience as I believe these are important historical unjust and socially harmful connotations of the past, that we try and accommodate and even promote a number of times, most than not, unknowingly.

Have you come across those Equal Opportunity questionnaires where you find some boxes to tick, whether you are "White", "White" Others, "Black" African, "Other" African, Indian etc. The points I am making below is that these classifications are detriment to the very causes and purpose they are reported to have been established for. Please read below my submission.

Scotland Census 2011 – 21st Century Politics of Pigmentation

What are we really looking for within these global pigmentations?
Does it really matter?
I say, simply don’t promote it!
Is it or is it not, the chance to remedy the historical wrongs?
As the famous say goes: the devil is in the detail !

Many thanks to all who have taken time to write some of the circulated articles which I believe will be tabled in the event, as contribution to the debate.

I strongly feel about this debate, hence I have quickly put together my comments and views. These are, as perhaps with many contributors, own personal views, and do not represent any entity or organization that I may have links with or any affiliation whatsoever.

To this end, I will simply send some notes, just adding to more thoughts out there.

I had to go back to simple basics! What do these words really mean? We all know their meanings. Worth to have a quick glimpse and remind ourselves using the common worldwide language: English.

Last time I checked a few definitions, using the same English language we are all now using here, it read as follows:

eth·nic / Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation [eth-nik]
1.pertaining to or characteristic of a people, esp. a group (ethnic group) sharing a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like.
2.referring to the origin, classification, characteristics, etc., of such groups.
3.being a member of an ethnic group, esp. of a group that is a minority within a larger society: ethnic Chinese in San Francisco.
4.of, pertaining to, or characteristic of members of such a group.
5.belonging to or deriving from the cultural, racial, religious, or linguistic traditions of a people or country: ethnic dances.

skin /skɪn/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[skin] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation noun, verb, skinned, skin·ning, adjective
1.the external covering or integument of an animal body, esp. when soft and flexible.
2.such an integument stripped from the body of an animal, esp. a small animal; pelt: a beaver skin.
3.the tanned or treated pelt or hide of an animal, esp. when used in apparel and accessories; leather (usually used in combination): pigskin; calfskin.

colour - this had at least 29 different definitions or usage... in the context, I have picked this : skin complexion of a particular people or race, esp. when other than white: a man of colour.

The above are all not my own words. These are words from an English dictionary. But how do we use them in the current discussion? It is rather, how we use them where issues start to stem out!

My point being, it is plain clear what each word stands for. I am sure we all agree here.

What I challenge is the context in which the words are used in the politics of race or rather pigmentation. In the racial context, the heroes and heroines of our times and of the past, we all so much respect and admire, used the word "B(b)lack" with a capital or not, to garner political support during the struggles of their times, they didn't intend and did not use the word in any derogatory terms. To the contrary! In my view, they were and are part of unfolding history, which they found themselves in and adapted the best they could under the prevailing circumstances.

You have to remember, in those days, the word black when used in relation to people/race was commonly used by many in derogatory terms. I would imagine, the revolutionaries of the time embraced it almost as mocking their oppressors who felt that they were their "masters". The people used their masters’ own game to either attempting to ridicule or defeat them. This didn't and doesn’t mean they endorsed the derogatory message or as one of the instruments of oppression. They did their best. They worked within the then existing means.

The notion of superiority and hierarchical structures in many cultures where they would appear to promote the colour politics, the lighter and darker perceptions plays similar derogatory schemes. This is even true within many cultures where the lighter skinned may be placed in a privileged societal rank with an allowance to make mockery of the darker counterparts – within the same culture and the same ethnic group! I challenge you to all revisit your own home dialects and local languages and find out about this, especially if you are from a "non - white" ethnic group. You go to Asia like in the sub continent India, they will have some form of derogatory name-calling; you go to any African country, and you will find this. Now I ask myself, why should people of 21st century keep promoting these clearly societal anomalies?

Now take a bigger picture and go to the wider world, you will find this – with a number of evolving connotations such a “Negro”, “Darkie” and“Caffer”

When you check on the English dictionary, you will find some of the meanings of these words:

Ne·gro /ˈnigroʊ/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[nee-groh] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation noun, plural -groes, adjective
1.Anthropology. a member of the peoples traditionally classified as the Negro race, esp. those who originate in sub-Saharan Africa: no longer in technical use. ASK YOURSELF WHY?
2.of, pertaining to, or characteristic of one of the traditional racial divisions of humankind, generally marked by brown to black skin pigmentation, dark eyes, and woolly or crisp hair and including esp. the indigenous peoples of Africa south of the Sahara.
3.being a member of the black peoples of humankind, esp. those who originate in sub-Saharan Africa.
[Origin: 1545–55]

See how the word black is used above with the definitions. Language is a vehicle for any culture. The words are as important as the message they convey and represents the thoughts of those uttering them. They represent what is inside.

I can’t stop asking, what does pigmentation have to do with services planned? If the census is for numbers, then why not simply Africans? Isn’t that enough? Or will Africans hide a lot?

You perhaps can see my reasoning. I will not shy for a second to categorically state that – Yes Indeed, I do strongly support the use of African as a grouping of people from the continent of Africa and or with African descent. There could be an argument to take it further to countries, but that becomes nationalities – which perhaps may bring a different debate to perhaps suggest we simply use nationality – period! I have no qualms with that either, as the numbers can be served with that model as well. Unless the motives are different!

Personally, I would like to see the use of word black in the above context confined to history, just as much as the other similar words in similar context have. Promoting the status quo or anything resembling is something personally do not and will not endorse and frankly I see it as creating a sense of own-betrayal.

For reasons stated, I for one will not fill in such forms as they represent continuation of the wrong intentions. I perceive them as furthering the promotion of the historical wrongs. Our generation has an opportunity to change the trend, and that change is a small step in the right direction. If I were to borrow the phrase: confine the context and words to a place where our future generation will one day refer to the English dictionary or own language and discover something just as much as “ no longer in technical use”

Apollo BS Temu
Edinburgh, Scotland
October 23rd, 2007

Friday, July 4, 2008

Public Forum on Mwalimu Julius Nyerere

Thinking with Mwalimu Nyerere: Reflections and Reminiscences

By Ikaweba Bunting and Walter Bgoya

Facilitated by Issa Shivji

Tuesday 8 July 2008
(3.00 – 5.00 pm)


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rais ni Kilongola!

Tazama ni jinsi gani inavyopendeza kuona Rais wetu akisoma kwa makini, tena mbele ya kadamnasi, ripoti ya Afrika kuhusu namna ya kutimiza Malengo ya Maendeleo ya Milenia kabla ya 2015. Picha hii iliyopigwa huko Misri kwenye mkutano wa AU iliupamba ukurasa wa mbele wa gazeti la Majira la jana na Tovuti ya Magazeti ya Serikali. Picha hii imenikumbusha mahojiano/taarifa ya Dk. Asha-Rose Migiro (pichani) wakati alipokuwa Waziri wa Mambo ya Nje kuhusu moja ya ziara za Rais kule USA. Mama Migiro aligusia kuwa pamoja na kubanwa sana na ratiba ya ziara, Rais alitafuta upenyo na kwenda katika mitaa ya huko ughaibuni kununua vitabu.

Tukio hili pia limenikumbusha ila dhana ya 'Kilongola' ambayo iliingizwa katika misamiati yetu pale Bungeni na aliyekuwa Waziri wa Nishati na Madini kabla kulazimika kujiuzulu Kutokana na lile sakata la Richmondgate, Dk. Ibrahim Msabaha. Kwa ufupi, Kilongola ni mtu anayewaongoza wenzake katika jambo fulani muhimu. Tena kama anavyosisitiza Jenerali Ulimwengu katika makala yake ya Kazi ya 'Kilongola' kuonyesha njia, huwa inakuwa vyema mtu huyo akiwaongoza wenzake kwa vitendo na sio kwa maneno tu.

Tanzania yenye utamaduni wa kusoma inawezekana. Rais wetu anaonyesha njia. Risala zake zinadhihirisha ni kiasi gani Rais na wasaidizi wake wana utamaduni wa kusoma. Rais ndiye Kilongola wa kuivunjilia mbali ile dhana mgando ya kwamba ukitaka kumficha Mwafrika jambo fulani basi liweke katikati ya kitabu, yaani, kwenye maandishi. Tumuunge mkono. Na kama vitabu tulivyovitumia darasa la kwanza enzi zile vinavyotukumbusha, tusome kwa furaha!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

In Search of African Alternatives: Rethinking Chachage’s Legacy

It is exactly two years now since Professor Chachage passed away. So many things have passed since then. However, his legacy lives on in our minds and hearts. In a significant way he has become the (intellectual) conscience of our society.

As the history of ‘the making of a legend’ teaches us it is quite easy to lose sight of what iconic personalities really said and stood for. In our quest to immortalize the great women and men of our times it is easy to end up conflating myths and reality. Yes, we can end up wearing commoditized Che Guevara T-shirts without even thinking twice of how Che was actually opposed to capitalist commodification. We can indeed end up not knowing for sure whether Karl Marx really said “all I know is that I am not a Marxist”. Thus we need to guard ourselves against blindly mythologizing Chachage as we reflect on who he was/is and what he really stood/stand for.

In this memoir, which can by no means do justice to Chachage, I attempt to offer a brief narrative of his intellectual trajectory. Of particular interest is how far he has gone in searching for African alternatives on the way we theorize/think and practice/act on matters of importance to our society. In the spirit of academic honesty which he subscribed to, let us let him speak for himself on how consistent or/and contradictory he was in his search for the knowledge-cum-truth that will liberate us from colonial mentality and neo-colonial dependency.

Probably the best place to start is in his first novel, Sudi ya Yohana. Here we see Chachage, then an undergraduate student at the University of Dar-es-Salaam (UDSM), attempting to come up with a tragedy that aims to provide “object lessons and a new level of ethics in a new society that we are building” Of course, writing in 1981, here he was referring to building Ujamaa and Self-Reliance. However, he was not writing as a brainwashed idealist or ideologue of Ujamaa. In as much as he believed in Ujamaa he was conscious enough to see through its rhetoric and thus portray how it had been hijacked by the ruling class. For instance, he portrays how Ujamaa villagization was used by the ruling elites to acquire large chunks of land. He also portrays how the workers movement was co-opted in the name of Ujamaa and Unity.

It is quite clear that working at the Tanzania Publishing House (TPH) prior to his university years provided Chachage with a base for accessing a lot of local revolutionary literatures. This were the times when TPH had the revolutionary audacity to publish books such as Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Issa Shivji’s Class Struggles in Tanzania and ‘Lucas Khamisi’s’ Imperialism Today: A Contribution to the University of Dar-es-Salaam Debate. Being a voracious reader that he was, having devoured the voluminous writings of the likes of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Tse-tung during his high school and national service years, Chachage must have eagerly embraced the challenge to make sense of what The Intellectuals at the Hill were debating about our state in the international context.

By the time he joined the Hill as a student in 1979 Chachage was already well versed in the texts of the times. Naturally, in 1981 he became a member of the editorial board of Maji Maji, the successor youth journal of the then banned Cheche at UDSM. A cursory look at what he wrote then reveals that this period crystallized Chachage’s social consciousness and radicalized him into a class analyst. This is a self-confessed Marxist Chachage who could write about The Housing Problem in Tanzania and Urban Classes in Tanzania. However, this was not the 1970s of radical (African) scholarship that put modernization and developmentalist theorists to task – the very pundits who are now back in action with pro-poor policy prescriptions on growth and poverty reduction in the context of our so-called economy of affection as if it is not an economy of affectation as one of their critics put it. This was the so-called lost decade in Africa. Reflecting on these precarious times two decades later in his keynote speech on Intellectuals and Africa Renewal, Chachage had this to say:

My intellectual growth, if I can say that, took place in the midst of the heat of the emergence of the New Right and the triumph of neo-liberalism world-wide, whose icons were Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and the [then] current Roman Catholic Pope. It was a movement whose hallmark was the rolling back of the state as a development and social provisioning body and the cutting of funding for social service – including education and knowledge production. While still a student, even the fundamental objectives of the universities as academic institutions – scientific enquiry, pursuit of knowledge and the search of the whole truth (the consequences of that notwithstanding, without fear of the powers that be) in the interest of social transformation and human emancipation – were being relegated to the background. This undertaken in the name of certain notions of relevance; national (read state) interests, development needs, job market requirements, ‘man power’ creation, etc. These are aspects which tended to reduce institutions of higher learning into mere government think-tanks and suppliers of high-level ‘manpower’ (women were forgotten) to the government and the private sector.
It is not surprising then that Chachage made it his lifelong intellectual mission to struggle against Margaret Thatcher’s TINA i.e. ‘There is No Alternative’. Way back in the 1980s he realized that even our celebrated brand of African Socialism and its rhetoric of Self-Reliance was masquerading as a non-western alternative. He thus devoted his PhD study to the examination of Socialist Ideology and the Reality in Tanzania. The study revealed that the views of the nationalists who took power after independence were “based on partial knowledge of African societies (a knowledge which picked from African societies only those elements which were acceptable by the West) hence “they did not contradict westernality, despite their radical denial of Western values.” As such the state entrenched capitalist relations and disarmed the resisting masses in the name of the protection of the interests of the so-called uncaptured peasantry who, purportedly, need to be modernised. No wonder prior to his death the ailing Chachage mustered his remaining intellectual energy to prepare a publishable manuscript so that those who are eager to use Ujamaa as a backdrop for formulating truly African alternatives can pick a leaf from his analyses encapsulated in this conclusion of his PhD study:

African Civilization and African Socialism were partly generated as an answer to European prejudice: it was an attempt to show the being-in-the world of the African. It was not an attempt on the part of the educated to become organic thinkers of the masses; but to attain universal recognition. It is in this respect that it became part of developmentalism which like all modernization thinking looks down upon ordinary people as incapable of their own emancipation.

Isn’t our mindset still focused on ‘capacity building’ programs for the people, nay, ‘the poor’, as if they don’t know who they are and what they need? Despite his bold quest for African alternatives Chachage belonged to Shivji’s group of “some of us who adopted radical approaches, albeit still within Western traditions.” Yes, some, if not all, of us are still trapped in this Euro-American worldview. The likes of Chachages have deconstructed the limiting western forms of thought and practice that has been superimposed on Africa and Africans. We cannot afford to stop were Chachage left us. The onus is on us to move a step further and reconstruct our own independent Pan-African modes of thinking and living.

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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