The members of the ‘Association des Amities Franco-Tanzaniennes’ are too modest. On October 23rd and 24th 1987 they held a seminar (or ‘colloque’ as they rather charmingly term it) in Paris (jointly with the Centre de recherche et d’etudes sur les pays d’Afrique Orientale – CREPAO) which was something of a model of its kind.
It was held in two locations and squeezed a very great deal into two long days. No tea breaks in France ! There were speeches, as one would expect, and much animated debate, but there were also films, video and slide shows and, at the conclusion, naturally, as we were in France, a convivial ‘diner Tanzanien’. Yet throughout, members were saying to me that they hoped I would not be too disappointed as everything must be so much bigger and better when organised by the Britain-Tanzania Society.
Several different nationalities participated, including some fifteen Tanzanians and virtually everyone spoke at some stage (although I was somewhat disoriented when the interpreter suggested that perhaps we would get on rather better if I made my own contributions in my mother tongue!) The interpretation was of a remarkably high standard – especially in one session handled by Father Justo Laconza – now studying at S.O.A.S.in Britain – so that I could not complain.
As regards the formal sessions, much had indeed been covered in the wealth of seminars which have been held in Britain during recent months including a presentation not dissimilar to the excellent paper ‘President Nyerere and the State’ by Jeanette Hartmann which was published in Bulletin No. 26.
The first address, by Professor Francois Constantin (University of Pau), dealt with Tanzania’s image in France. It was not a very strong image. There was the absence of any colonial connection and many in France had only become aware of Tanzania when a certain French Foreign Minister had become involved, many years ago, in a public altercation with his Tanzanian counterpart at Dar es Salaam airport! But the real reason for the low profile of Tanzania in France had been the lack of eccentricity in Tanzania’s leadership. Reference was made to Bokassa, Idi Amin and others. Perhaps another reason is that the French have not been exposed, as have so many Britons, to the skill with which Mwalimu Nyerere handles the English language.
But those French people who were aware of Tanzania had been deeply impressed, according to Professor Constantin, by Mwalimu’s integrity, humanism, life style, moral stature and charisma. Latterly however, things had changed. There had been the economic problems, the corruption and a lot of faulty insinuation. The French Association needed to communicate better and re-establish the truth.
Mr. Gerard Fuchs, Socialist member of the French Parliament explained that, for each country, the Parliament had established interest groups. There were some thirty Deputies in the Tanzanian group which made it, numerically, one of the largest. Unfortunately, however, it was not as active as it should be.
Father B. Joinet, author of the book ‘Manger d’abord’, gave a colourful address under the title ‘Nyerere – Has He Achieved His Objectives?’. Like a recently graduated student in management technique Professor Joinet first clearly spelt out what he felt the objectives had been. For example, Ujamaa had not been an objective to be achieved. It was an image of a utopia which had not been achieved anywhere on earth. It was an idea aimed to give inspiration.
Father Joinet hypothesised that Nyerere had had four objectives:
– liberty at all costs and of all kinds; cultural, political and economic;
– unity of the nation;
– elimination of gross inequality and,
– adequate food, water, clothing and housing for everybody in Tanzania
These objectives Nyerere had achieved. He should be awarded (in the French system of academic assessment) 18 out of 20 (or was it 19? various different grades were bandied about for different elements of the programme!)
The implication was that development, as such, had not been high in Nyerere’s list of objectives. All employment was an exploitation. There had been, therefore, no proper division of labour as understood in other countries . Father Joinet felt, and he believed that Nyerere agreed with him, that Nyerere had envisaged a nation of modest but self-supporting crofters.
On the subject of stability (a matter of particular relevance as the nomination of Mwalimu as the sole candidate in the election for the chairmanship of the C.C.M. had been published in that day’s edition of ‘Le Monde’) Father Joinet referred to Tanzania’s regional administrations. You often found conflicting forces. The Party Chairman might push hard for development; the Party Secretary might want to go forward more slowly. Result ‘stability’. Rapid development could lead to instability. But stability could also mean stagnation.
Nyerere had been very far sighted on several occasions. For example, during the war with Uganda, he had instructed journalists not to emphasise the presence of Libyan troops on Uganda’s side. It might prove necessary to work with Gadaffi again at a later date and there was no point in permanently antagonising him.
Nyerere’s attachment to his own culture would long be remembered. There was no Government supported ‘Academie Anglaise’ in Dar es Salaam. Clear differences of opinion emerged on some issues. Dr Jeanette Hartmann spoke about two groups that had been jockeying for power in Tanzania. The first group were Nyerere’s men; together a long time; much ideological rhetoric; not wanting too much change so that they could continue to control the political process. Another group were supporters of President Mwinyi. Many of them were in Government trying to find pragmatic solutions to day to day problems. Both groups however were agreed on the need for political stability.
Professor Bavu, also from Dar es Salaam University, said that there were not really different groups. Mwinyi had been created by Nyerere. There were however certain ideological differences.
Tanzania’s Deputy Minister of Education, who was in Paris for a Unesco conference, said that Tanzania was proud of its twenty-five years of unity and stability. Tanzania had, in spite of all the difficulties, remained as a fundamentally democratic society.
Marjorie Mbilinyi, also from Dar es Salaam University, spoke about the sexual division of labour. Cultivating by hand with a baby on your back was very hard. Young women were leaving the land and trying to get any other work. A powerful film on the income – generating activities of women (work carried out without any help from the menfolk) was shown later in the seminar and followed by a discussion. It is called ‘Kumekucha’ (From sunrise) and has been highly and rightly praised in a Daily News review by Martin Mhando. He wrote that the six women interviewed in the film have one thing in common – a clear understanding of their role in society vis-a-vis the man; and that, if a man leaves the theatre after the 20 minutes of being stripped naked of his humanity without feeling guilty then he is no human being. The subsequent discussion on the film in Paris was less successful however than it might have been due to the extreme pugnacity of the film’s producer.
Professor Robert Mabele, also from Dar es Salaam University, took part in a brief discussion on the import of ‘useless goods’ (whisky was mentioned). He explained that the Trade Liberisation rules were often breached.
Ms Anna Cassam, former Assistant to President Nyerere, spoke with considerable force and passion. France was guilty of cultural arrogance. It was part of the northern world in which there was a lack of comprehension; there were different dimensions of time and space, She spoke of a visiting Parliamentary delegation in the 1970’s from an unnamed European country. The leader had been impressed during his upcountry tour. “You are trying to build democracy and equality” he had said to Mwalimu Nyerere. “But is this going to bring happiness?” There had followed a moment of silence. “No” said Mwalimu, “we are not engaged in metaphysical research. We are involved in a struggle against exploitation and uuderdevelopment. This has nothing to do to do with happiness”.
Everything about Tanzania had to be understood as part of a struggle. The struggle with the IMF had not been just a struggle against the organisation in H Street, Washington DC. It had been a struggle against the modern equivalent of slavery. The objective had been to maintain Africa on the margins of the world economic system, France had been the beneficiary; Africans had been the victims.
Zanzibar was squeezed in to a short period near the end the seminar. “We are accustomed to that” said a lady from Zanzibar. We were treated to a rather skillfully devised potted history of Zanzibar which, as is customary on these occasions, stimulated some controversy as to what actually has been happening in Zanzibar during the last twenty years. We also heard some strong words about the new mass tourist complex being constructed in Zanzibar and the unfavourable effect it was likely to have on the environment and the social structure.
Our French counterparts are deserving of considerable praise for arranging such a stimulating two day programme.
One criticism, At the ‘diner Tanzanien’ there was no Dodoma wine. We had to make do with Bordeaux!