Saturday, February 14, 2009

'Tanzanian Teacher Whipping Move': Act of Impunity or Accountability?

In the process of defending the 'rule of law' and 'human rights' while condemning 'impunity and 'anarchy' we can easily miss the other side of the coin. This other side is captured well by this rhetorical, if not sacarstic, contribution by Msemakweli in Michuzi Blog: "JK, vipi baba wacha wacharazwe bakora hadharani. Hawafanyi kazi yeyote, watoto wanafeli. Huyu Jamaa Albert Mnali ndio anafaa kuwa Raisi wa Tanzania. Atembeze bakora kwa mafisadi wote hadi wanyooke. Baada ya hapo ndio tutazungumzia Rule of Laws." The quotation is simply stating a given fact: Lack of Accountability is equal to Absence of Rule of Law!

What the now former DC of BK did is/was a manifestation of a 'vacuum' that we now have in our society. When the system is not functioning at a fairly optimum level you create a condition for 'compensation' in an attempt to fill that 'vacuum'. In such a situation even teachers can resort to 'mob (in)justice'. The so-called black markets thrive. And so forth. Our country is particularly prone to this illegality because there is an unholy alliance between the 'political regime' and the 'legal regime'. Many a times politicians become the law in themselves. Illegally, they can issue political statements which are legal statements. In lawlessness, they can take political actions that are legal actions. The DC is/was not the first one to take such an action. He is just the tip of the iceberg. Just a tiny space in the bigger vacuum!

So, our governance system needs an overhaul. There can be no rule of law without separation of powers. Nor can there be accountability. And when the Speaker of the Parliament and the Chief Justice are in a tussle about the alleged interference of the Judiciary by the Legislature in a country whereby the main complaint has been about the interference of the Executive then know that we are into 'anarchy' and 'impunity'. No wonder human rights violations have been 'thriving' way before the teachers were whipped!

In Defense of John Cheyo and Pastoralism

By Navaya ole Ndaskoi, February 12, 2009

I listened with disgust the Tanzanian Prime Minister, Mizengo Peter Pinda, answer the questions asked by John Cheyo, MP for Bariadi East in parliament on Thursday February 5, 2009.

I arrived home and found the state owned TBC1 beaming live from Dodoma. Suddenly John Cheyo, a very wise and extremely serious opposition MP, stood-up straight like an arrow. He asked the premier something to the effect that when will the Government allocate pastureland for pastoralists who are being hounded from around the country?

I doff my cap to Cheyo for asking such a legitimate but rarely asked question. Keep up the good job our John. Do not give up hope. One day Tanzania will be a fair nation.

Delicately, but hardly surprisingly, Pinda took up the microphone and said very loudly something, translated from Kiswahili to English by the author, to the effect that the Government will no longer tolerate nomads who are destroying the environment.

The Prime Minister added that the Government will deal with the pastoralists according to the laws with immediate effect. He stressed even, 'enough is enough.'

I will try, to the best of my ability, to engage the Prime Minister hoping that the Government will come out of the woods and treat pastoralists fairly.

When I went to primary school we were lectured about the environment. our teacher, out of guilty, listed the causes of soil erosion. She hardly listed two causes of erosion before hurling accusations to pastoralists and their livestock.

To be sure, too much energy has been devoted to painting out how excessive grazing by livestock, but not wild animals, has caused the country to deteriorate. Henry Fosbrooke was Chief Conservator for Ngorongoro Conservation Area for a very long time.

In 1972, he wrote the earth shattering Ngorongoro-The Eighth Wonder. He argued that one 'hears a great deal of talk about soil erosion, much of it nonsense, especially amongst those who wish to appear knowledgeable about conservation.'

Pastoralists move from one place to another. Moringe ole Parkipuny is a former MP for Ngorongoro. He says, 'They talk about the migration of wildebeest, zebra, gazelles and others. That is wildlife transhumant paten of use of natural resources on a seasonal basis. The Maasai, like other pastoralists from around the world, are transhumant.'

'During the rainy season livestock are moved by young people to the plains where then there is plenty of lush green grasses and water. They leave the highlands fallow so that the grass can grow. At the end of the rainy season the water ponds dry out and the grass being so fragile and short would be depleted. At the end of the rainy season wildlife retreats West [of Serengeti National Park] in the woodlands where there is water in the rivers and the Maasai retreat to the Ngorongoro highlands.' Where are you Pinda?

'You said let us find a place for pastoralists to go to, where did they come from?' Pinda asked rhetorically. A lot of praises were heaped on him. You would think zombies were celebrating. By then Cheyo was literarily shaking his head in utter disbelieve.

Where did the pastoralists come from? The Sukuma, the Maasai and the Barabaigs are the main societies currently portrayed by the Pindas of this world as one of the main causes of the conflict between pastoralists and farmers in Tanzania.

It is in records that in 1959 the British colonial Government drove the Maasai out of Serengeti National Park. Prof. Issa Shivji and Dr. Wilbert Kapinga documented this in fine details in their book titled Maasai Rights in Ngorongoro, Tanzania.

Parkipuny adds that Sukuma, Barbaigs, Sonjo, Ikoma, Kurya and others were also driven out of Serengeti. The colonialists favored the Maasai, for tourism reasons, and treated other tribes as dirty. So what one reads today is that Serengeti is Maasailand alone.

Sifuni Mchome has detailed how the Maasai were forced out of Mkomazi Game Reserve. The title of his book is self explanatory, Evictions and the Rights of People in Conservation Areas in Tanzania. The Maasai were among the victims according to him. Today Mkomazi has been elevated to the status of, yet, another national park. Ah!

Colonialists left behind only Serengeti National Park. Currently there are 15 national parks. How many people lost their lands when these parks, and other conservation areas, were created may never be known. Suffice to say pastoralists are among the losers.

It should be remembered too that the Government and well-connected capitalists, local and foreign, alienated massive lands under natural pastures in the name of 'maximum utilisation by all citizens.' This is so because politicians see such lands as being wasted.

No doubts, in a perverse and masochistic sort of way, this was immensely satisfying to all concerned. Mwalimu Nyerere was an eloquent spokesman for this point of view.

Nyerere, with due respect, wrote in Freedom and Development, 'When I use my energy and talent to clear a piece of ground for my use, it is clear that I am trying to transform this basic gift from God so that it can satisfy a human need. It is true, however, that this land is not mine, but the efforts made by me in clearing the land enabled me to lay claim of ownership over the cleared piece of ground. But it is not really the land itself that belongs to me but only the cleared ground which will remain mine as long as I continue to work it. By clearing that ground I have actually added to its value and have enabled it to be used to satisfy a human need. Whoever then takes this piece of ground must pay me for adding value to it through clearing it by my…labour' [original emphasis].

This type of thinking, which is used to claim that pastoralists are wasting the land, remains a shocking performance by a man of Nyerere’s high intellectualism. What about pastoralists who depend entirely for survival on communally owned pasture lands?

In the 1980s the Tanzanian Government in collaboration with the Canadian Government started a gigantic wheat complex in Hanang at the detriment of the Barabaig pastoralists. This too is well recorded by Charles Lane in the book published in 1996 under the title Pastures Lost: Barabaig Economy, Resource Tenure, and the Alienation of Their Land in Tanzania. As I write this the Barabaigs are still struggling to get back their land.

How big is the land which was formerly pastureland that has been converted into national parks, game reserves, forest reserves, wildlife management areas, buffer zones, nesting sites, corridors, hunting blocs as well as wheat, barley and other plantations?

Even if Pinda is a rocket scientist, it sounds that he is not, common sense demands that he still should have at least a faint idea as to how the Hadzabe hunter-gatherers of Lake Eyasi use sticks to dig-up tubers and poisoned arrows to bring down an elephant to survive. He should have known that the Saami people of Norway, Finland and Sweden still live almost entirely on the reindeers and in fact practice transhumance.

Even Russia, the first country to send man into space, has its own nomads and hunter-gatherers in this very century. They live from the West of Russia to Siberia.

It is immaterial for the Prime Minister to emotionally speak for the hapless albinos and ending up trampling too heavily the constitution which he as recently as February 8, 2008 vowed to protect. It is alleged that Pinda shade tears for saying killers of albinos must be killed instantly to revenge before taken to court and proved guilty beyond doubt.

While the on going killings of albinos is regrettable and must be stopped it is perhaps not unlike the state-made paupers who are being hounded from Loliondo to Ihefu.

I challenge Pinda to order the Maasai, the Sukuma, the Kurya and all the others to return to Serengeti. The Barbaig must return to Basuto. Let the Pare, the Sambaa, the Maasai and all the others who were evicted from Mkomazi return to their ancestral lands.

The world will soon see what Pinda is made of.

Contacts: +255 754 453 192/

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Not so Long a Letter to a Prodigal Son of Africa

Dear Pious Prodigal Son of the Soil,

Self-proclaimed pious men taught me to give thanks to everything. So, 'no, thank you' for your disguised letter. Anyway, let me respond to it.

A spectre has been haunting African Studies for quite some time now - the spectre of decolonization. If we appropriate one of my finest son's - Frantz Fanon's - conceptualization of decolonization as a violent process, then the process of decolonizing the Study of Africa in general and African Studies in particular has indeed been violent, at least in the realm of intellectual rivalries. This has been particularly evident at the turn of the 21st century, not least because of you, my prodigal children who are wondering here, there and everywhere. On the eve of the dawn of this century we indeed witnessed mounting bitter contestations over the production, dissemination and entitlement of knowledge on and about me.

It is important to note that these contestations were not only global and inter/multidisciplinary in scope, but also racialized. They cut across cultural, racial and national divides. Thus, in a way, the contestants closed the 20th century with a high note of affirmation to the fulfilment of the famous DuBoisian prophetic declaration that the last century would be characterized by the problem of the colour line i.e. that of “the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea”. Expectedly, these contestations spilled over to the dawn of the 21st century and kept widening the gulf and antagonisms between scholars of Africa, both within and without Africa .

A sample of notable contestations, as you well know given the fact that you are currently refuelling them, include those fuelled by Sally Falk Moore's defence of a Changing Perspectives on a Changing Africa: The Work of Anthropology; Philip Curtin’s critique of Ghettoizing African History; Mahmood Mamdani’s debate on Teaching Africa at the Post-Apartheid University of Cape Town: A Critical View of the ‘Introduction to Africa’ Core Course in the Social Science and Humanities Faculty’s Foundation Semester, 1998; Henry Louis Gates Jr's travelogue about the Wonders of the African World; Achille Mbembe’s African Modes of Self-Writing; and, last but not least, Gavin Kitching’s apologia, Why I gave up African Studies, which you have appraised.

As we approach the close of the first decade of the 21st century, contestations and crises besetting African Studies remain a challenge. It is important, then, that you keep on looking critically at their intellectual and institutional implications to the study of Africa , Africans and, inevitably, Africanists such as those who, following in the footsteps of Kitching, are on the Afropessimistic verge of giving up African Studies because they find it depressing. But, my son, it is high time now that you look at the possibility of charting viable ways out of the ‘Africanist-African’ divides and their conceptual impasse for the sake of what is supposed to be the primary beneficiary of African Studies, namely, Africa .

My pious son, in your attempt to legitimize your sojourn far away from me - your inspiration - you are actually creating another 'authenticism' that only serve to fuel more schisms between the so-called my continental scholars and diasporic scholars. Does the fact that one of the citadels of the plunder of Africa's minerals accord you the privilege to have a class with "more than half the continent" make you a more important scholar of African Studies? Indeed the "chances of having such a geographic swathe in a single classroom in such “authentic sites” as Ibadan, Legon, or Makerere" borders null. Why? Because my children think they have the luxury of joining the Kitchings of this world to give up on what some of my sons refers to as the task of 'bringing back African Studies to Africa.' Yes, a lot of my children are wandering far away from me, building other continents' ivory towers. Now they call them African classrooms! Even that great son of mine, the one who reminds you, his siblings, that you have to do to your languages what people of other continents did to their languages, has been busy building those granaries of other continents.

Yes, some of you call it academic exile. Some of you even claim that you are doing more good to me when you are far away from my geographical and bureaucratic confines. After all, once in a while you come to visit, nay, re-search me. But, as that son who champions decolonizing the minds of his siblings would say, you go back with your books and reports written in English and other so-called languages of globalization to fill the granaries of Euro-America with that knowledge about me - the one you call African Studies. Is it really the Study of Africa? Or is it African Studies made in USA as my other son once called it after meeting the wraths of Africanists in America and that so-called exceptional Africa?

Well, I apologize for exiling you. But, you very well know that I have more than 50 bosoms. If one cannot succour you surely another can. And of course I have that bosom that resemble the bosom that is nurturing you now. As a compromise some of my sons and daughters are using it to avoid what one of my sons (who keep disowning me) dubs writing about Africa from a cliff. I know the last time you visited this bosom you were so upset that it has generated since the natives took over. In an ironic way you sang the same song as apologetics of colonialism: 'these natives!'

My plea for you sons and daughters of Africa is to stop brain-draining me. Despite all the reservations you have toward me and your comprador siblings, I have offered you a lot. So, don't take me for granted. The pat/matriotic among you must not despair. By any means necessary you can reclaim your heritage from those children who have stripped me naked in front of rapists/plunderers of this so-called globalizing world. After all they are no longer my children; I have already disowned/cursed them, accordingly. Yes, according to African culture(s) that some of you detest.

So, dear prodigal son, why quibble about who knows me better? Haven't we heard enough of that? Can't my children use their nervours energy and intellectual creativity to invent what will make me cease to be the laughing stock of Hegel's ghost? How long will it take my children to read between the Aime Cesaire's rhetorical negritude line: "Hurray to those who did not invent anything, who never discovered anything"? How long?

Please come back home my prodigal children. There is a lot of work to do here. Land to farm in Zimbabwe. Schools to teach in Tanzania. Roads to reconstruct in Somalia. Houses to build in South Africa. Films to make in Nigeria. Hospitals to consult in Algeria. Markets to attend in Ghana.

By the way, I have already stretched my hand to God.

I miss you dearly.

Truly yours,

Baba/Mama Afrika

Friday, February 6, 2009

Propaganda balaa! Eti magari yote hamna barabarani Harare! Na hizi nazo ni baiskeli?

Anajulikana kama 'Ze Big Chicken' mojawapo ya vitoweo nilivyofaidi kwa Mugabe

Pamoja na vikwazo Air Zimbabwe inatoa huduma ATCL mpo?

At the top of Africa

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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