AN INTERESTING DEBATE ON TWITTER HAS REMINDED ME OF THIS UNPUBLISHED LETTER THAT I SENT TO A NEWSPAPER EDITOR IN 2007:
Stop this ‘Dar’ Gibberish: Tanzania is not Dar-es-Salaam
I am surprised, nay shocked, to see your esteemed newspaper carrying articles which substitutes Dar for Tanzania . In your newspaper, one can find headings such as these: ‘Dar kicks off drive to end death penalty’; ‘Glowing tribute to Dar as refugees return home’; and ‘ Japan to cancel Dar’s debt’. I find these titles very disturbing given the fact that we, Tanzanians, have no political culture of referring to our country as Dar. Other countries may be doing that but that is not a sufficient reason to make us do as they do. One may say it is professional to do so. But who defines what is professional, especially when it comes to matters that have serious national implications?
It is important to remind you or rather clarify some important facts to you about Tanzania . First of all, its capital is Dodoma . Not Dar-es-Salaam. That is the first fact, that is, the capital of the United Republic of Tanzania is not Dar as you, dare I say, dearly call it. So even if your newspaper wants to maintain that ‘professional’ style of using the capital of a country to refer to that country, then, professionally, Dar does not qualify.
Another important fact is that this country was and is still built on the foundation of nationalism. This was a nationalism that stretched beyond the borders of Dar, as workers and peasants joined hand in fighting for independence. This Uhuru was not to be restricted to hegemonic cities such as Dar. The culture and politics of nationalism necessitated and still necessitates the need to decentralize Dar as the epitome of Tanzania.
Despite its primacy elsewhere, that culture of privileging the capital city in political discourse did not entrench its roots in Tanzania , something that your newspaper, knowingly or unknowingly, seems to be working on. In the so-called age of ‘the end of history,’ whereby people tend to forget who they are and where they are coming from, I am tempted to believe that your paper may succeed. But in the wake of fast tracking the East African Federation, the ongoing debate on nationalism casts doubt on this belief. People are coming to realize what Tanzania really means to them, and I can bet it does not mean Dar to them. A national consciousness is being born or, rather, being reborn.
Honestly, I don’t see why we should start or keep on imitating those who refer to USA as Washington or Russia as Moscow. By the way, in the first place have we even asked ourselves if we know why they do so or we are just copying and pasting a hegemonic political culture? And more significantly, do we know what implications this cultural and political parroting has on an African country that is beset with socioeconomic crises resulting from urban primacy and migrations? ‘Words Create’ so we are told. Let us not use our written words to create a Dar, a Nairobi and a Kampala that can talk on behalf or at the expense of Arusha, Mwanza, Unguja, Pemba, Mombasa, Kisumu, Mbarara, Jinja etc. Dear Editor, let a thousand flowers bloom in Tanzania. Let Tanzania be Tanzania.