AFRICA TODAY (August) quoting the latest data from the UN’s annual Human Development Report said that Tanzania had risen 17 places to 156th last year out of the 174 countries included in its human development index. Uganda was down because of a drop in life expectancy to 39.6 years and Kenya was up by 18 places. Bottom of the list were Burundi, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone.
The July issue of the GEOGRAPHICAL MAGAZINE included four pages of pictures and some text under the heading ‘Life on the Inside’ about Lugufu refugee camp, one of three purpose-built Congolese refugee camps in what was described as ‘a remote area of mosquito-infested marshland’ in Kigoma region. Extracts: ‘This urban society of 45,000 people supported by donors including the Red Cross, living in 34 villages is larger than Kigoma with shops, discos, wrestling arenas and hairdressers in abundance. The camp even has its own radio station and cinema and numerous bars selling pombe and banana beer to the accompaniment of Congolese Lingala music. The Lugufu bicycle-taxi company runs 20 ‘cabs’ between villages and, for the equivalent of $2 offers a bone-crunching day trip along rutted roads to the nearest Tanzanian village. There are 40 churches, a mosque and 10 primary schools following the Congolese (French) curriculum plus one additional subject -‘peace and conflict’ .
A less happy picture of Lugufu was presented earlier in the year by INDEPENDENT INTERNATIONAL which wrote as follows: ‘Most of the refugees are women, and to compound their desperate plight, they are sexual prey for the men … rape is something you have wherever you have refugees said Kenyan Red Cross Reproductive Health Coordinator Mama Obaso. “The men want children …. to replace their dead relatives. They cannot afford the bride price to marry again so they rape a girl. The victim’s family, anxious to cover the shame, force the girl to marry the man … they turn it into a positive thing. About three months ago 50 refugee women were raped one afternoon while trying to reach the camp from the Congo’ .
LIFE AND DEATH
The SUNDAY TELEGRAPH published a moving story on July 2 by Lindsay Hawdon under the heading ‘An Englishwoman Abroad’. Extracts: ‘I notice him first because he seems too old and tall to be leaning on his mother’s shoulder. His head tilts to one side as if it is too heavy to hold upright. They are the first to board the bus. They move slowly up the aisle, settling somewhere in the middle; she by the window, he by the aisle. The bus engine starts and coughs black fumes from its exhaust. “Are you American?” the driver asks as I pass him. “No, English” I reply. “Ah, Margaret Thatcher” he says, flashing a gold tooth in his smile. Finally, everyone is aboard and we set off down the bumpy road out of the Tanzanian capital. I am cramped across my rucksack with my feet almost around my head ….. the driver is singing. And then there is a groaning sound that becomes distinct above the noise of the engine. The tall boy has flung his head back against the seat and his eyes are moving erratically from side to side. His groans catch in his throat and seem to choke him. The mother takes his head in her hands and brings it down to rest on her lap. I try to think of other things. I’m counting potholes and dreaming of home …. The mother starts rocking back and forth. She holds the body against her chest, squeezing him tightly. His eyes are open, staring unmoving at the roof…. It is only when she starts to sob high, drawn-out wails that I know he is dead. She tries to close his eyes but the lids seem fixed open. The driver is no longer singing and is looking worriedly behind him. Eventually he stops the bus. But the mother tells everyone that there’s nothing they can do and that she wants them to let her take him home. Everyone is quiet. Occasionally a hand reaches out to squeeze her shoulder comfortingly. For most of the four hour journey we sit in silent sadness. The mother looks back towards her son -and still she cannot close his eyes … (Thank you Paul Marchant for sending this Editor).
MAMA NYOKA (SNAKE WOMAN)
“This business has been dominated by men for too long” said Salma Moshi in an interview published in the EAST AFRICAN (May 8). Extracts: ‘Sahna (38) claims to be the only woman in East and Central Africa who dances with snakes and makes a good income from doing it. She has six snakes of different sizes and types which she refers to as pets. Her favourite dance partner is a cobra, whose ability to stand on its tail thrills the crowds who flock to watch her. She has been bitten twice on the hands and once on the chin. When that happens, she quickly wipes off the blood and keeps going or otherwise the crowd would take off… .Apart from being a source of income, the snakes also keep thieves way from her house. “Sometimes I leave the doors open, but no one dares come in” she says.
TRADITIONAL PLANTS AND MALARIA
The Maasai people have a strong tradition of using plants for healing, often as a ritualised retreat called orpul aiming to increase both physical and spiritual strength. POSITIVE NEWS (Spring 2000) explained that many of the plants used by the Maasai have already been demonstrated scientifically to be effective against particular diseases, such as zanthoxylum chalybeum for malaria. Research into this field is being undertaken by the Aang Serian Peace Village in Arusha, in association with the Global Initiative for Traditional Systems of Health at Oxford University. To celebrate this vibrant heritage of ancient healing wisdom a festival of traditional medicine and culture was recently organised in Arusha. The festival also commemorated the inaugural meeting of the Research Initiative on Traditional Anti-Malarials (RITA) which was held there to develop a strategy for more effective, evidence -based use of traditional medicines. The Peace Village contact address is P 0 Box 21103, Arusha (Thank you John Porter for sending this item -Editor).
RAP -REGGAE -TAARAB
Yusuf Mahmoud described in the Spring issue of ORBIT how in Zanzibar, between calls to prayer from the many mosques, you can also hear American rap and Jamaican reggae. But around the next corner you will just as likely hear music from India or the latest chart toppers from Egypt and the Gulf States. The article went on: ‘Equally popular are local musical forms, in particular, ‘modem Taarab ‘. This is derived from the Arabic Taarab meaning to be moved or agitated -it is sung poetry. The Malindi Music Club is the oldest group dating back to 1905. Legend has it that, in the 1870’s, Sultan Bargash sent a Zanzibari to Cairo to play the qanun, a kind of zither, common to the Arab speaking world. Besides the qanun other instruments in a taarab orchestra include the oud (an Arabian lute), violin, accordion, cello and keyboard. ‘East African Melody’, currently, the biggest act in Zanzibar, plays ‘taarab to dance to’ which has sparked a debate about the debasement of traditional culture’
WATER OF LIFE
The intervention of former US President Carter together with the very persistent persuasion of a London-trained Bavarian-born anaesthetist has led to a unique production system for the water which is dripped intravenously into patients to enable them to recover from a multitude of illnesses. So wrote MISSION AVIATION NEWS -MAF (June-August) which went on to explain how the liquid is produced using the reverse osmosis method (once clean and softened, using ion exchange, the water is forced through an osmotic membrane so fine that it stops microbes from passing through; it is later further cleansed through a filter made of pressed glass dust) -a method employed by NASA as part of the USA space programme. Although it was secret, President Carter allowed Dr Kamm at the Christian Medical Centre in Moshi to develop production and the system has now been installed in 54 Tanzanian hospitals. MAF uses its planes to help technicians to travel to even the remotest hospitals and to distribute medicines and medical equipment (Thank you Christine Lawrence for sending this item -Editor)
HOW UGANDA LED TO NYERERE’S DOWNFALL
There was strong reaction in the July/August issue of NEW AFRICA to an article by Henry Gombya which it published and which was referred to in Tanzanian Affairs No 66. A Kenya reader described the suggestion that Nyerere lost power because the soldiers he sent to Uganda were exposed to Ugandan ‘riches’ as a lie. Another reader described the article as ‘shocking’ and said that it portrayed a ‘very ungrateful Ugandan’. ‘It is a pity’ , he wrote, ‘that Gombya did not see that Nyerere deserved credit for trusting his ‘school dropouts’ to chase ‘the rich’ Idi Amin out’.
THE NEW DAR ES SALAAM
In a glowing 16-page supplement on Dar es Salaam in its May 22 issue the EAST AFRICAN said that ‘the sun never sets for Dar’s exciting nights; the city is as awake at night as it is during the day’. Articles spoke of the new Strategic Urban Development Plan (SUDP) -the city now occupies 1,350 square kilometers compared with 51 Sq. Kms. at independence; annual revenue collection rising in the last three years from $125,000 to $11 million largely from rapidly expanding business and industry; many new high rise buildings; massive refurbishment of roads and telephone services; 200 licensed taxis; a huge modem port which welcomed its first cruise liner this year ….. .
A ‘TRAINEE COMMUNITY MUSICIAN’
Kate Murdoch writing in THE INDEPENDENT (April 22) told of her experiences last year when she was taught traditional music -as a ‘trainee community musician’ by the nephew of the well-known Tanzanian musician Dr Hukwe Zawose. ‘The Zawose household boasts 11 professional performers and everyone else in the family plays sings and dances too’. Her classroom was a shady mango tree and under it she learnt ilimba (the Gogo word for ‘thumb piano’ -a series of metal or bamboo tongues fixed to a wooden plate). After classes, a room stuffed with thumb pianos, stringed gourds called ‘zee zees’, skin drums and xylophones became the focus of activities. She explained how ilimba music evolved in the dry dusty plains of Dodoma as cowherds played while walking their cattle to water.
The EAST AFRICAN MEDICAL JOURNAL in its May issue published a table comparing estimates of the prevalence of female genital mutilation in African countries. Countries topping the list included Egypt (98%), Sudan (89%) and Mali (94%). Kenya was said to have 50% while the figures for Tanzania (10%) and Uganda (5%) were the lowest in the table of29 countries.
‘A SKIN-DEEP AFRICAN AFFLICTION’
“Kaburu” children scream as Mohamed Msoma pushes by on his bicycle. Being called a Boer is just one of the many taunts hurled at the middle-aged religious teacher. He is an Albino, chairman of the 80member Albino Society in Morogoro. As in other African countries albinos in Tanzania face social stigma. Mr Msoma claimed that he was sacked from the local tobacco factory because he is an albino. The superintendent said that he could not work properly with poor eyes. Health problems do indeed compound discrimination. Weak eyesight, blisters, bums from the sun and skin cancer are common afflictions …. American researchers estimate that one in 17,000 people has some form of albinism -THE ECONOMIST. (Thank you Jill Bowden for sending this item -Editor).
THINGS HAVE CHANGED
Michael Korda writing in the NEW YORK TIMES (May 7) contrasted a recent visit to the Ngorongoro crater with what a visit used to entail 15 years before. Extracts: ‘Our first surprise was that everyone at Kilimanjaro Airport was pleasant, helpful and friendly. On previous visits it had been like flying into East Germany in the old days … .At the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge the decor is breathtaking. The phrase ‘over the top’ scarcely does it justice. Not since I was in Cher’s house in Malibu have I seen anything so extraordinary. Here are giant fireplaces, African sculpture and weapons, fine bronzes, English country furniture, very beautiful tile work in the Moorish tradition …. The men’s room is so unexpected and luxuriously decorated that we all go to visit it -it’s as if Versace had been asked to design a urinal -only then did we discover that the ladies room was even more baroque…….’ (Thank you Peg Snyder for sending this story from New York-Editor).
THE PRIVATISATION SONG
‘There cannot be many countries that have composed a privatisation song but this has happened in Tanzania and is a point of pride for the Parastatal Sector Reform Commission and symptomatic of the transformation taking place as the country changes from socialism to capitalism … ‘ This was how Mark Turner and Michael Holman of the FINANCIAL TIMES began a 6-page supplement in the July 24 issue. After a slow start, Tanzania was said to be gathering momentum: ‘Dar es Salaam, once not so much sleepy as comatose, now boasts cybercafes and satellite dishes. New hotels are opening to cope with the foreign investors now responding to the new business climate. South Africans are in brewing, British in banking, Canadians in mining, Japanese in cigarette making, Germany in telecommunications and a Philippine company is about to take over the port’s container facility. But when President Mkapa goes to the polls in October he will have a lot of explaining to do ….. ‘ The article goes went on to list the alleged rigging of the last Zanzibar elections, the treason trial, heavy-handed powers to limit freedom of expression, poverty, unemployment, corruption, AIDS, the fear of competition amongst local manufacturers and hence tariff barriers and cumbersome bureaucracy. ‘But Tanzania now looks a better regional investment base than ailing Kenya and the sooner Tanzania meets the objectives of the new East African Community Agreement the better’ .