In reviewing the probable future of the East African Community in the Kenyan THE NATION (March 26) Gitau Warigi concentrated on Tanzania’s new leader. Extracts: ‘Kikwete has started off doing some sensible things, like cracking down on crime and police corruption. He has also ruffled his country’s male establishment by appointing a host of women to powerful government positions. For me, Kikwete’s main problem is that he is a populist. The worry is whether he will allow this populism to play havoc with sensible governance. Most of the extravagant manna he promised during his presidential campaign is clearly not something poor Tanzania can afford right now. This populism could turn problematic in other ways. There is a powerful political and business lobby in Tanzania, which takes it as its calling to raise red flags about Kenya and its presumed designs to suffocate its neighbours economically. Right now a reported bid by Kenya Airways to buy a stake in Air Tanzania is causing a lot of commotion in Dar es Salaam…….The point, though, is that all too often some unreconstructed bureaucrats in Dar es Salaam have a perception of economic self-reliance that is totally outdated and at variance with the realities of today. I don’t believe Kikwete is that kind of knee-jerk isolationist. He looks more suave than that. In certain respects, the East African leaders come from totally different backgrounds. Kibaki still betrays the heart of a technocrat, which is how he started in government, anyway. He is comfortable with numbers and the language of business and commerce. Museveni, on the other hand, prides himself as a “revolutionary,” at least starting with the bit of having gone to the bush and fought to oust a dictatorship…. He is clearly infatuated with the idea of a “transformation” of the East African region. Kikwete is a very different character. He is a born party cadre who grew up and flourished within the ranks of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi…… Kikwete is a very modern, very urbane specimen…… Is Kikwete serious about East African integration?…. Obviously, he has given the right cues to his Kenyan hosts, and prior to that, the Ugandans, as well. Museveni can’t wait and is all raring to go…. With Kikwete, all we can do is to wait and see. Quite understandably, his initial attention has been in consolidating himself in power. Once that is done, East Africa is waiting to see what plans its newest Head of State will bring.
Aware that there was going to be one gap in his recent business visit to Tanzania, Tim Yeo, writing in the FINANCIAL TIMES (March 11), described his experience (with some help from an official of the British High Commission), as a golfer at the Gymkhana Club in Dar es Salaam. Extracts: ‘The lack of water means you putt on browns, or a mixture of mud and dirt, rather than on greens. The surface of the brown gets scuffed up when anyone walks over it so before every putt a caddie sweeps it smooth with a sort of handsaw…. I am not sure how misfits in with the Rules of Golf but at least it mean your putt may go where you hit it. The borrows are not severe but the variable speed is a big challenge. With no time to practice, my tee shot on the first – a par three lined with palms, eucalyptus trees and bougainvillea – was predictably wild and a peacock wailed sympathetically as the ball hit a tree…. although the terrain is flat and the course is in the middle of the growing city, the setting is lovely and the 7th and 15th tees are separated from the Indian Ocean only by a small beach side road. The bunkers are excellent, better than some I know at home. Thank you Jill Bowden for this – Editor.

An article by Anthony Field in WORLD WILDLIFE FUND (WWF) ACTION in February under the heading ‘Go with the Flow’ was particularly timely as Dar es Salaam was suffering from some of its the worst ever cuts in electricity supply. Extracts: ‘Fifty per cent of Tanzania’s electricity comes from two dams fed by the Great Ruaha River. By 2010 WWF aims to restore year-round flow into the river even in the driest years. During the 1990’s and early 2000’s misuse of water upstream caused the river to stop flowing at the peak of the dry season…. The problem lies 150kms upstream, where poor farming practices result in sediment being eroded from fields into the river. WWF is working with the local communities creating and training Water Users Associations to manage the river better…. These associations are spreading across the whole catchment. They bring communities together to offer training on fair distribution and efficient use of water and, crucially, they also help people to understand one another’s needs, which is vital in reducing localised conflicts’ – Thank you Christine Lawrence for sending this item – Editor.

An article by Richard Human under the heading ‘Tanzanite Trouble’ in the April issue of NEW INTERNATIONALIST told the story of a 26-year-old Maasai called James who spent a year in the Tanzanite mines of Mererani. Extracts: Unpaid and unfed, the only way to earn money from the drudgery was to smuggle gems out of the mine and past the mine owner before selling the raw stones to one of the many dealers in the town. James never managed it. “If you get a stone out you can make Shs 8 million (about $10,000)” he said. “When a mine is dynamited, the miners have to stand, one arm hooked around a ladder step, receiving a bag of rock from the miner below before passing it to the miner above. They will stay in this position for the whole day without a break” The only things that keep them going are brandy and marijuana . “Both stop the feeling of hunger but make people angry.” Stories abound of mine owners blasting into each other’s tunnels resulting in fatal brawls….. but as long as farming remains a precarious existence with changing weather patterns…. the mines will continue to attract those who want a better life for themselves and their families.

The FINANCIAL TIMES reported that TazaniteOne, which mines and sells the gems, is to spend $5 million on a marketing offensive. At a glamorous event in London, staff were all bedecked in jewellery laden with Tanzanite. The company is also involved in community projects amongst the Maasai in the region where the Tanzanite is mined – Thank you Jill Bowden for this – Editor.

The ANTIQUES TRADE GAZETTE (14th January) reported on a recent auction sale in London of two huge and remarkably symmetrical elephant tusks, weighing a 192lbs and 189lbs, which had been found by the owner of a factory in the Scottish Borders and which had been found by the owner of a factory which used to manufacture pianos. Why they had not been turned into piano keys was said to be less of a puzzle then why the previous owners of the factory forgot about their treasures in the cellar. The tasks are believed to have come from animals shot in Tanzania in 1970. The American winner of the auction, the owner of two Tanzanian safari parks, paid £380,000 for the tusks – Thank you John Sankey for this item – Editor

Uganda’s NEW VISION reported on February 24 that Tanzania’s Bongo Flava had very rapidly penetrated the Ugandan music scene. Tanzanian artistes like Mr. Blue, Rah P and many others were becoming household names. Then, when many Ugandan artistes jumped onto the dancehall music bandwagon, Rocky Giant did the unexpected – he went for the rare music genre of Tanzanian origin. Bongo Flava is reminiscent of the urban hip-hop music style, but sung in Swahili. The end result? Rocky Giant has made himself a household name and is riding on the runaway of success through his two main hits – Rafiki and Nikifika. Rocky Giant is emerging as one of the most versatile artistes in the year 2006 as he blends Swahili and Luganda. With slapstick lyrics in most of his songs, Rocky Giant drives the crowd wild whenever he performs….’

The SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST (December 17) reported that an international consortium of research institutes has published the first draft sequence of the genome of the chimpanzee which has confirmed that chimps are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. Humans share 60% of their genes with chickens and 88% with rodents but with chimpanzees we have more than 98% of genes in common. The article went on to say that, thanks to the work of Jane Goodall, the world’s most famous living primatologist, we have learned that chimps are capable of empathy and kindness, but also cruelty and meanness. ‘Their range of behaviour includes murder, cannibalism and organised warfare. In other words they just are like us.’ Dr Goodall (71), visiting Asia, said however that the chimpanzee genome was not a big deal as we already knew the DNA structures differed by only 1.6%. Dr Goodall still visits her chimps twice a year in the Gombe Reserve in Tanzania, the site where she made most of her discoveries in the past four decades – Thank you Ronald Blanche for sending this from Hong Kong – Editor.

The EAST AFRICAN (10th January) commented on some of President Kikwete’s new ministers. Extracts: Finance Minister Mrs Zakia Meghji becomes the first woman in East Africa to hold this powerful portfolio. Political observers say that she has what it takes to drive economic reform given the respect she commands within the ruling party. Her performance at the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources is testimony to her ability to turn things around. Having imposed a ban on log exports in the teeth of industry opposition she was nicknamed the ‘Iron Lady’ following her firm stance in canceling the timber export licences of several firms…. Former Finance Minister Basil Mramba has not been demoted in his new appointment as Minister of Infrastructure combines the work of the former Ministers of Transport and Communications and of Works. He will have one of the largest capital expenditure budgets in the country. The new Minister of Trade and Industry, Nazir Karamagi is a political novice but also a successful businessman with a stake in ‘Tanzania International Container Services. and is deeply committed to economic development. Thank you Christine Lawrence and Keith Lye for this – Editor.

In an article in THE TABLET (September 3) under the heading the Pill and the Planet, the BBC’s Mary Colwell compares two sets of people – Catholic and conservationist – ‘each with more or less the same aim of making this earth a place of justice and harmony. Yet they barely talk to each other.’ She went on: ‘Population growth is the single biggest threat to the health of this planet….birth control is a nettle that has to be grasped and discussed realistically by Catholics.’ She illustrated her point by referring to a paper by Professor Craig Packer in NATURE. Extracts: ‘The number of people being attacked by lions in Tanzania has gone from an average of about 30 cases per year in the early nineties to well over a hundred cases in the last three of four years… This is primarily due to the fact that there are so many more people in Tanzania than there were before. The population growth is about three and a half per cent year which means it doubles every 20 to 25 years. We now have people living in areas that would have been lion habitat in the past. Lions won’t normally attack people if they have enough zebra or wildebeest but in the areas where those animals have been a source of bush meat for growing numbers of people, the lions become ravenous and actually break into people’s houses at night, specifically looking for people to eat. The horror is simply unimaginable.’ – Thank you John Sankey for this – Editor.

HABARI, the Newsletter of the Sweden-Tanzania Society (No 3 of 2005) has a number of articles in English particularly on the arts. One describes the art market in Tanzania; another explains historically how Tanzanian cartoonists have begun to take the lead in Africa; a third is compiled from the ‘Minor Field Study – Graphic Art in Dar es Salaam ‘ held in 2003; another article, under the heading ‘Sex, Cellphones and HIV’ reviews a new film – Kizunguzungu, which is said to expose the hypocrisy and opportunism of those who are supposed to be in the vanguard in the battle against aids. Yet another article describes the ‘Tanzania Culture Trust Fund’ which was established in 1998 between the governments of Tanzania and Sweden and operates autonomously.

Tanzania is beginning its first field trials of genetically modified crops. So reported the NEWSLETTER OF THE SCIENCE AND DEVELOPMENT NETWORK (10th January). The research is being conducted on cotton in the Mbeya, Rukwa and Iringa regions and is aimed at combating attack by insect pests, including the red bollworm that feeds on cotton and causes bollworm disease. A representative of the ‘Tanzania Farmers Association’ said it was good that the government had decided to start its GM trials with cotton instead of a food crop as this would avoid the contentious issue of having GM products in the human food chain. The Newsletter reported also that President Kikwete had pledged to invest heavily in agricultural research. “The $600,000 allocated to the Tanzanian Commission for Research ” he said. – Thank you Peter Park for this – Editor.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.