Thursday, July 19, 2018

Wakati wa Ushairi Mkahawani Soma

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Meeting Africa's Creative Writers in Dar es Salaam

Tuesday, July 10, 2018



Richard Mbunda, UDSM

There is a notion out there that does not sound so good for a leader in a democratic society. They say JPM doesn’t listen, he heeds no advice and that is it! He’s got it all. He has nothing to learn.... and all sorts of comments. 

Well, I want to say this again, that this notion is polarizing, dividing and at best demoralizing. We are used to some wishful exquisite attributes of a leader. We want to characterize leaders as charismatic, eloquent (because leaders ought to persuade their followers) and transformative. That’s all we want to hear: The ability of leaders to inspire their followers to behave beyond their self-interests; for the benefit of the wider social group-the nation.

Of recent, our beloved President has received sticks. Apart from the opposition leaders, of whom Zitto Kabwe deserves an inimitable credit, statements issued by the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church and, most recently, the Muslim Statement, should not be ignored. If you ask me, this is a genuine poll, which is naturally representative for two good reasons. 
First, they are all talking about more or less similar issues. They reiterate lack of freedom of expression, arbitrary arrests, persecutions, disappearances, extrajudicial killings and economic hardship. Hear me Oh Tanzania! Religious leaders are probably the best economists to gauge our situation because they also collect donations. I cannot stop wondering how the voluntary donations and tithe are dwindling... Second, we all belong to one religion or the other. And we interact with these religious leaders every day. They know our problems and they speak for us. We speak. We can in no way ignore them. Their message is REAL.

Oh! Sweet Lord, who says JPM doesn’t listen? As recent as last week, and out of free will, he convened a special meeting with former national leaders at the State House. For me, this is a big thing. It is the learning curve I am talking about! Because JPM knew what was coming from the [retired] politicians. He wanted to confirm the credibility of the noises that have been doing the round ever since he took office. Actually, former President BWM made this clear, that the notion that it’s only from him JPM has chosen to listen to, is wrong. Wrong or not wrong, I see a learning curve, and that’s the point I want to make.
What did the political gurus say? I hear you BWM. In your voice that used to send shockwaves when I was an undergraduate student, you put it precisely... advising JPM to stop personalizing his administration. You say, you want to hear the Fifth Phase Administration identifying itself as the CCM government and that the sitting President has been put in power by CCM. You believe it has effects on the morale of the followers as we are gunning for the 2020 elections. Alas! 

What a vision! It’s only a few months away! Apparently, you are appalled by statements such as ‘my administration’; ‘my government’; and you probably didn’t go as far as saying ‘hakuna aliyeniweka hapa’ ‘mimi nimewekwa na Mungu’.... although I subscribe to the last statement.

There was also a rare appearance of former chiefs of that key branch of the state, dealing with the administration of justice. Their advice was spot on! Ensure a smooth dispensation of justice in your administration. One former Chief, who I hear is also a Pastor, tells you rightly, that peace is a product of justice, whereas without justice there is no peace. Your assistants, such as Ministers, Regional and District Commissioners ought to observe justice in their capacity if Tanzania is to maintain the most valuable item on earth, and that is, peace.
Probably what the other former Chief said is essentially vital! Rule of law. Mr. President, all Tanzanians congratulate you on the developmental initiatives your administration is embarking on, including the recently acquired Dreamliner 787-8. Mr. President, you have achieved a lot in only two years. We are a proud country because of you. And I wish to get my salary arrears so that I can plan a family trip somewhere with the Dreamliner.... Oh, never mind that!

However, in accordance with this former Chief, all our development efforts must be within the rule of law. It is inexcusably absurd to see the way the observance of rule of law is deteriorating in the country! And I won’t comment on the statements that you see leaders issuing in the local TVs Chief... always off the mark! Oh yeah, we all get disappointed, but thank you for this very important remark, and peace be with you!

And look who is here! Former premier, Chair of that Committee whose good work could not see the light... I hear you saying that many good efforts are done to fight corruption, drug trafficking and ghost workers and the like. But you are concerned that, such abhorred practices are likely to come back in future because no institutions are built to ensure continuation of the efforts. It’s a question of sustenance of the efforts which automatically require institutionalization. 
It’s like saying, JPM, we cannot be sure your successor will embrace your spirit! Implied, Mr. Former Premier, you are telling the Commander-in-Chief that we need a new constitution that will accommodate the required institutions to further the agenda which he has initiated. The presence of great thinkers, like this former Premier, made this meeting not only special, but also extraordinarily crucial. 

At this point I don’t want to be analytical. Why would I? Because I don’t want to recap what JPM said about advice from former national leaders, and his example of Mr. Trump versus Mr. Obama. Of course, he had to say something, anything. It’s human nature to kick when you are attacked. Just like in wrestling, even when you are hard hit, you can’t yield in easily. But you accept you are hit. And this is what JPM finally did.... to accept the advice, and promise to work on it. 

May this article serve as a reminder to you- Your Excellency! The Bible wants us to be forever students and there is no end to learning. And Proverbs 20:15 says "Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel". Mr. President, you had rare jewels in that very special and extraordinary meeting. And what is more pleasing for me is that, I see a learning curve. Heed to their advice. 

Viva our President! God bless Tanzania! Amen!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

A Love Note to Mama Samia

A Love Note to Mama Samia

On that particular evening, like many Tanzanians, I was glued on the sofa watching a LIVE broadcast of the CCM Presidential Candidate nomination. The 3 finalists were two women and one man. As the gender activist I am, I believed on the possibility that CCM will nominate a woman candidate, hence, the likelihood of having the first woman president in Tanzania. 

But my logical self was telling me that the women finalists were strategically brought in to divide women votes, sweeping the floor for a man to win. 

The results came in, both women lost. I was tearing up, angry and emotional. While people on TV were happily dancing for having their candidate, I was cursing, shouting and complaining. Then the candidate announced his running mate, Mama Samia.

 I was still angry, but I remember the ‘then president and party chairman’ said ‘wanawake shangilieni, mtakuwa na makamu wa raisi wa kwanza mwanamke’(women, you need to celebrate, you will have the first woman vice president). It was as if he was speaking to me. I accepted a compromise. 

 Fast forward. The election won, and we got the first woman vice president. I was happy. 

It took me courage to write this blog post. In fact, I have deleted many versions of it. I know exactly what might happen to me.

Mama Samia, when you have a chance to read this, treat it as an emotional letter, from a place of love not hate or hypocrisy. You will notice I hardly use data or any statistics because I don’t want my feelings to be reduced to a statistical debate. This is personal, a love letter to my first woman vice president. 

Mama, before I share my feelings with you, allow me to ask you a few questions. Do you know the significance of being the first woman vice president of Tanzania? Do you know what it means to me? Do you know what it means to your fellow women? Do you know what it means to male chauvinists? 

When you took office, I was excited that finally we have a woman in the white house. We have finally proved a point that women too can be leaders. At last we have changed stereotypes. Now we are reviving hopes of millions of Tanzanian women. They too see possibilities of becoming leaders. 

Three years down the line, I can’t help but feel, ‘you need to be reminded of what your position means to all of us.’ 

Mama, have you taken a moment to think  of your legacy? What would you wish to be remembered as the first woman vice president? Let leave the issue of legacy aside. I would ask you some practical questions.

When your boss publicly dehumanised pregnant schoolgirls, did you go to his office and look him in the eye and call that out for what it is? When appointments are being made with less than 10% women representatives, do you call him and ask: ‘Where are the women?’ I am asking these questions assuming that you were not in the room when these decisions were made. If you were, gosh, I would be devastated. 

Mama, I don’t see that we are making any progress. I don’t see what I expected from you as a woman leader. I don’t see our ambassador who negotiates within while we lobby from outside! 

I know you know the many reasons we have been pushing to have more woman leaders. Apart from exercising our rights to vote and be voted for, men have no insights of our experience as women. When in leadership, they tend to take women issues for granted and protect their interest over ours. 

Now we have you as a vice president. Do you get us mama? Do you have our interest at heart? Are you proud and happy with everything that is happening? Or are you as upset as all of us?

 Some of my friends try to convince me that your hands are tied. I refuse to accept that. I refuse to accept that the vice presidency is a toothless position. If it is, then let history records that we are yet to have women in powerful positions. 

As a woman, it took me courage to ask you these questions. But I believe in the power of love and I bank in your wisdom. I know I will be called a hater by some of my fellow women. I also know that the rest of ‘men-kind’ will be jumping with joy, invoking the myth that ‘wanawake hawapendani’(women hate each other).
Mama, let me tell you it is from this fear of being labeled ‘hater’ or the desire to labeled ‘supportive’ that almost all women have chosen to glorify you, singing praises, yet complaining about the backsliding on the gender agenda. In their mind they divorce you from the system, absolving you in everything that is going on now.

 When asked to list five awesome things you have done or changed during your three years in the office, they end up saying, ‘let’s not be too hard on her, her hands are tied’. This excuse that masquerade as an explanation boils my blood. I see you as a comrade, a doer, a mover and shaker, a woman of courage and the list goes on. 

Unfortunately, when your glorifiers think they are bailing you out by saying, ‘your hands are tied’ they are actually saying you are incapable of doing anything. This is an explanation I refuse to accept. And this is why I am sending this letter to you Mama.

Mama, you are wiser than me and you certainly know better. The truth is, as soon as you leave that chair, critics will be throwing arrows right and center. They will tell you then the opposite of what they are telling you now. It will be tough because there will be nothing you can do then. But I believe that in telling you now, there is a lot you can do. That is why I am doing it. 

I know you can handle critics. What would be lethal is to retard the women leaders nurturing movement for failure to provide evidence of transformative leadership. As one of my friend puts it, “better to be ruled by a man who we can punch on the face publicly and shamelessly than being ruled by women who we are ‘not allowed to criticise.”

Mama Samia, there is a reason you are the first woman vice president. This position is not only about you. It is for all of us. That is a lot of pressure for sure, but we don’t have a choice.

 Leave a lasting legacy. Make your vice presidency inspirational to millions of women aspiring to be transformative leaders. Please inspire change on men’s attitudes, so, they too can envision their wives, daughters and sisters in leadership roles. 

Last but definitely not least, prove to all of us that when women lead, the quality of life for all women and men improve, a dignified life became a reality, and society became better. 

With Love,


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