The Sanctity of the Military Parade
Richard Mbunda, UDSM
“Fikra sahihi huja kwa lugha sahihi”- Mrisho Mpoto
I had a long week. At last I could rest on a long weekend. But, alas, I was made wide awake by the beautiful drums and commentaries from the Uhuru Stadium, in Dar es Salaam, thanks to my better half who had switched on the TV earlier. Oh, yes, we were commemorating 55 years of Tanganyika’s independence, the date we became captains of our own ship. In my mind, an image of Mwalimu Nyerere, who was only a year older than my current age- wearing a dazzling smile while holding the ‘Complete Independence’ placard, became vivid. This placard is visibly attractive especially when you pass along Bamaga- Shekilango road.
Jubilant Nyerere on the Uhuru Day
There was a true, genuine, and unreserved expression of satisfaction in his smile - we were INDEPENDENT! It is this image that made me realize how important this day was - December 9, 1961. It was the day we were released from the shackles of colonialism, an inhuman form of suppression exhibited in many forms including physical torture. The day we were supposedly freed from mental slavery and, most importantly, the day we laid a foundation for our nation. To our Father and Almighty God, I pray that you protect this nation under your mighty wings. Amen.
My appreciation of Uhuru Day is deeply engrained in my soul. I have known no other country apart from Tanzania that allows its subjects to plan and achieve their goals in a wide array of issue, regardless the hiccups that we normally face. I don’t ask for more than my peaceful and united Tanzania. Viva Tanzania!
Then you must be wondering what has pushed me to write this piece? As you might guess, it’s just nuisance ……. oh yes, in defense of the beauty and sanctity of the military parade.
Let me start with a stupid question: If all roofing materials are intended to cover our houses from rain, why don’t we consistently use thatched grass, which, after all, are cheap? Instead, we tend to go for expensive roofing materials for their beauty. Beauty has a place in everything. Similarly, there is no question about the beauty of the military parade! Thousands of Tanzanians thronged the Uhuru stadium to see just that. It is irresistible to miss the 'muscular show' from the 'men soldiers' in the Tanzania People's Defence Force (TPDF) and Field Force Unit (FFU), let alone the ‘slomo’ of our 'women soldiers' who do it meticulously but with a 'feminine swagger'. If they didn’t know it, they should know now that it is these foot drills and the ‘show’ of our Special Force Unit [Commandos] that pool the crowd at the Uhuru stadium and probably attract many youth to join the military.
Mama Maria Nyerere in the National Service Army
We also know that such 'peak' performance are preceded by rigorous practice and not just rehearsal. In the military, probably unlike anywhere else, a lot is going through to perfect performance. We may think that all soldiers are capable of mastering the foot drills at equal footing. However, there are slow learners who, at times, must be coerced to cope.
MY PROBLEM, then, is on the performance day, especially when the President is inspecting the parade. presidential guards dressed in civilian suits have been seen walking along with the president without considering the proper dressing and the sanctity of the parade. At one point on December 9, 2016 one of the secret agents who is a presidential guard was seen checking on and adjusting his neck tie while at another occasion, the secret agent is completely wrong-footed with the rest of the team accompanying the Guest of Honour! These incidents crowd the beauty of this important and historic ceremony.
President Kikwete Inspecting a Military Parade in Tanzania
President Magufuli Inspecting a Military Parade in Tanzania
It might not be proper to question the mandate and role of secret agents, but, why is it different when the Tanzanian Head of State visits other countries? For example, when President Magufuli visited Kenya, we did not see such secret agents around and the dressing of the team accompanying the Guest of Honour was proper.
President Magufuli inspecting the Guard of Honour in Kenya
In international politics, probably the US president and the Prime Minister of Israel are regarded as risk targets to terrorists than most of the Heads of States in the world. But you will be surprised that when President Obama visited Tanzania during the reign of former President Jakaya Kikwete, he inspected the parade without being crowded by presidential guards and secret agents !
President Obama inspecting a Guard of Honor in Tanzania
Literature on military parades indicate that all weapons are inspected before the parade and they are not supposed to be loaded. And there are special units of the police force, military and secret agents who are positioned to protect the President or any other Guest of Honour, including foreign Heads of States during the military parade. We understand the security of Heads of States must be heightened, and I would love our corruption-fighting hero, President Magufuli to be guarded heavily, everywhere. I will even tolerate incidences like removing hands of ‘citizens’ who maintains a lengthy shake of hands with the president, and preventing others from coming near the President [we have seen and noted that in several occasions]. But the sanctity of the military parade with its proper dressing of the team accompanying the President as the Guest of Honour ought to be observed.
Long Live Tanzania!