by Donovan McGrath
I eat halal meat, and I just know these recent religious tensions aren’t kosher. Elsie Eyakuze shares her thoughts on recent religious tension in Tanzania.
Extract: “Let’s admit: We’re not coping well with our diversity anymore. There are some who will say that we never have been the haven of peace and tolerance that we purport to be, that we are rather fragile. There might be some truth to that. It is unlikely that Tanzania in its 50-odd years of Independence has managed to magically resolve one of the most intractable social divides… Since we no longer have the unifying elements of a socialist regime marching us through poverty to rely on anymore, it looks like we’re starting to take care of some of the business we never got around to in the tender period of our early nationhood.
Now identities are cropping up, and they’re always so obvious aren’t they? If not tribe, then religion. I respect the benefits that a strong identity, a set of beliefs can confer on people. Just not at the cost of the collective good. That is what is frightening about the recent accumulation of stories about religious strife – it is not in keeping with our reverence for the quiet life. The secular life. The separation of church and state, and all that entails.
…We have stepped all over Zanzibar’s frail sovereignty to avoid even the hint of encroaching theocracy… I don’t know many Tanzanians who can look at their clans and not stumble across at least two major religions, an aunt who is a charismatic pastor, a couple of closet atheists and a handful of mixed marriages…. Which makes me wonder who is looking to benefit from the destabilisation that religious strife offers? … I can’t bring myself to imagine that we would be so stupid as to fall into the trap of religious strife … People of true and deep faith tend to be rather difficult to annoy to the point of violence. Which makes religious conflict one of the biggest contradictions I have ever encountered…”
(East African 6-12 April)
Radical preacher wanted over Zanzibar acid attack shot in police raid
“A radical Muslim preacher wanted for questioning over the acid attack on two British tourists in Zanzibar was shot … as he fled police trying to arrest him [in Morogoro].’ Extract continues: ‘Sheikh Issa Ponda is understood to have survived the raid and was on the run but injured police sources told The Daily Telegraph. He had visited Zanzibar in the weeks running up to the attack on Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup … Ponda earlier this month met with the imprisoned leaders of a Muslim separatist group, Uamsho, who police believe may have inspired the attack on the two women. (Telegraph online 10 August). (Editor’s note: there has been considerable concern in Tanzania regarding the portrayal of this acid attack in the UK press, including this article from the Telegraph. In particular, several British papers insinuated, as this article did, that the arrest of Sheikh Ponda was connected to the acid attack. The Tanzanian police have strenuously denied this connection.)
Why Dar is hot, and the rest of us are not
According to the East African, as far as African diplomacy goes Tanzania right now is that girl on the dance floor that every boy wants to dance with. If it is a Chinese leader coming to Africa, he must stop in Dar es Salaam. If it is a Western leader visiting, tea with the President at State House on Ocean Road will inevitably be on the cards. And now in the first week of July not only has US President Barack Obama decided to cherry pick only Tanzania to visit in the region, but former American president George Bush and his wife Laura will also be in town for a First Ladies conference.
An earlier article entitled ‘Why Obama chose Tanzania for his Africa tour’ explored three possible reasons why Dar is hot. First, it has vast oil, gas and mineral reserves that have been discovered in recent years, so the Americans don’t want the Chinese to feast on the goodies alone. They want a piece of the action. Second, its leaders are not involved in any major domestic or international controversy… Third, it is the most stable country in the region … the only country in the region whose political reserves have not yet been tapped out. Rwanda has to keep 24 hours DRC watch as well as peacekeeping in Darfur and the two Sudans’ border; Uganda, Burundi, and Kenya are still wading through Somalia’s murky political waters. And Tanzania has the largest unspent store of energies that can be unleashed through political reforms.” (East African 8-14 June).
Violent Episodes Grow in Tanzania, an African Haven
“As one of the leaders of an acrimonious doctors’ strike in Tanzania, Dr. Stephen Ulimboka was not entirely surprised when a group of armed men appeared, unannounced, at a meeting and arrested him. But when he saw that the car they were forcing him into had no license plates, fear truly hit him. … Tanzania has a reputation abroad as an island of stability in the often-chaotic region of East Africa. … President Obama arrives here on Monday to a country where human rights groups and the largest opposition party say episodes of intimidation and suppression of political opponents are growing.
“The international community believes there is peace in Tanzania,” said Willibrod Slaa, the secretary general of the opposition party Chadema. “There is fear, not peace.”… Journalists have been attacked and in at least one instance killed while working. Last July, the government banned an independent weekly newspaper, Mwanahalisi, which had been reporting aggressively on Dr. Ulimboka’s kidnapping, linking the crime to the government. President Jakaya Kikwete denied any connection. … Analysts say the very real prospect that voters will choose another party in the next election, in 2015, has rattled some members of the government, particularly those who are afraid that a new party in power could mean aggressive investigations and prosecutions.” (New York Times 30 June)
Tanzania settles human trafficking case of former diplomat
President Obama can go to Africa next week with a clean conscience. The government of Tanzania, which had been in a years-long dispute with the State Department over a human trafficking judgment against one of its diplomats, has settled the case on the eve of the presidential trip. Diplomat Alan Mzengi in 2008 was ordered by a U.S. court to pay a $1 million judgment to a domestic servant he and his wife held against her will at their Bethesda home for four years while he was posted in Washington. The woman was maltreated and eventually escaped, but Mzengi didn’t pay the default judgment and instead returned to Tanzania, where he was reportedly working as an advisor to the president.
The victim was willing to accept only the $170,000 in back wages she was owed, but, despite years of efforts by the State Department, no serious offer emerged. Finally, Tanzania this week paid the $170,000; according to people familiar with the agreement, Mzengi himself paid a small amount of the total and his government provided the rest. The victim’s pro bono lawyer, Martina Vandenberg, said it was the first such payment for a case of diplomatic human trafficking in the United States.” (Washington Post 21 June)
Obama hopes to tap into Tanzania’s boom
“Discovery of large energy deposits and secession fears in East African country form backdrop for US president’s visit. … Obama is visiting Tanzania months after China’s new president, Xi Jinping, had finished a tour of the resource-rich country. As China continues to expand its footprint on the African continent, the United States is moving to strengthen ties with countries it has had good relations with over the years. … The US government understands that there are political schisms and corruption in Tanzania, but the country’s stability is important for US business interests and foreign policy, given the risk of terrorism on the coast of East Africa and the ongoing efforts to find peace in the Great Lakes region, as Tanzania shares borders with eight other countries.
… Despite the corruption and likely instability in the future, President Obama’s decision to visit Tanzania will be viewed by many as good judgment. The fact that Tanzania has held five successive democratic elections in a region plagued by political instability and tribal disputes does not only make it a good investment destination, but also gives it legitimacy and moral authority to broker peace in Somalia, where the United States is battling groups affiliated with al-Qaeda.” (Al Jazeera 30 June)
An Electric Moment for Tanzania Lingers
“The curving stretch of road along the Indian Ocean behind the State House was once simply called Ocean Road. Now, a black-and-whitestriped post holds a sign bearing its new name: Barack Obama Drive. … After Mr. Obama headed back to the United States on Tuesday – ending a trip to sub-Saharan Africa that also took him to Senegal and South Africa – the American flag still waved alongside the green, yellow, black and blue of the Tanzanian flag, under the ubiquitous signs with Mr. Obama’s face and the Swahili word for welcome, “karibu.” … Mr. Obama retains the kind of celebrity status here in East Africa that he once enjoyed in Europe and other parts of the world, making his visit a public event as much as an act of diplomacy. The cheering throngs welcoming him to Tanzania were much larger and louder than those he saw on the first two stops of his trip.” (New York Times 2 July)
Funded at last! Zanzibar Cathedral
Extract: “In 2007 CED [Christian Engineers in Development] was asked to look at whether we could assist in efforts to conserve and repair Zanzibar Cathedral. The costs are considerable and CED had been supporting the Cathedral and Friends of Zanzibar Cathedral to find funding with the expectation that the EU would make a call for heritage projects and fund a large portion of the work. The Cathedral organised a sponsored climb of Mount Kilimanjaro which raised around $20,000 … the World Monument Fund (WMF) … has taken a broader interest in the project and its significance on the World stage…
The works principally involve the tying of the barrel vault arch roof of the Cathedral, which is formed of approx 600mm thick coral and lime concrete, with high tensile steel bars (to be imported). Plan one is to provide steel thrust palates at either end of the tie rods, but if the wall construction proves to be very poor, then plan two may have to swing into operation – the casting of large reinforced concrete beams to spread the load. We hope and pray the project does not necessitate this!” (CED Newsletter No 97, May 2013)
The Bully of Zanzibar
“House crows compete for resources with other birds, prey on their eggs and chicks, and regularly raid poultry.” Extract continues: “When David Livingstone arrived on the island of Zanzibar in 1866, he was so appalled at the filth and the stench that he called it “Stinkibar” … In an attempt to clean up the island, the colonial governor of the time [who had seen crows eating rubbish in India] .. introduced the Indian house crow [in 1891] to clean up the filth, little knowing the havoc it would wreak in Zanzibar and beyond… “By 1917, the house crows were officially declared a pest in Zanzibar …” [and] has been called the world’s most destructive crow. This aggressive monster is unafraid of humans … They are known to gouge out the eyes of infant cows, sheep and goats … it is difficult to bait the house crow because it can recognise human faces… Thriving on human waste … [t]he only thing known to repulse house crows is the avicide Starlicide, manufactured in America to get rid of the European starling… It worked well until the infamous 9/11 terror attacks, when the poison was banned for export by Americans for fear it could be used for other purposes… Kenyan authorities have taken no initiative to fight the menace. But [Tanzania] is killing one million birds a month…” (East African 20-26 April)
Not all Tanzanians have the ‘r’ problem – Ebby Exaud shares his experience with Swahili during a stay in Kenya.
Extract: “I went to Kenya to study for a bachelor’s degree six years ago, and, at first, I was surprised at the way everyone changed their intonation on learning that I was Tanzanian. “Naomba nikusarimie.” “Umerara poa ndugu yangu?” “Naomba nikuombe uniretee kazi yangu.” (May I greet you? Did you sleep well, my brother? Can I please ask you to bring back my work?) I don’t know who told these people that all Tanzanians speak like that. And I am not referring to the courtesy in speech but replacing “l” with “r.” It took me a long time to explain to them that not all Tanzanians have the “r” problem. It mostly comes from Sukuma who do. But it never stopped. The good thing with being a Tanzanian in Kenya is that you are considered the Kiswahili guru. I was always happy to teach my Kenyan friends proper grammar. I could not get over how they always said “mandizi” as the plural for “ndizi.” In Kiswahili mufti, the plural for ndizi is ndizi.
I had three roommates at the university, all Kikuyu… They said if I wanted to have a comfortable stay at the university, and in Kenya, I had to learn the language… My Kikuyu lessons didn’t last too long … just two days… I asked them to teach me how to say “Good night” in Kikuyu. Happily, they told me it was “Koma ngui ino.” So I sent Wahura [a Kikuyu girl] a “good night” text message in Kikuyu and she did not reply that night. In the morning, I learnt what I thought was a good night message actually meant, “Sleep, you dog”! She had a good laugh when she realised I had not meant to insult her. But it marked the end of my Kikuyu lessons. To this day, I do not know how to say “good night” in Kikuyu.” (East African 25-31 May).
Tanzanian artist draws out the life in women
Extract: “…In Tanzania, the Tingatinga style of art, named after its founder, Edward Said Tingatinga, was developed in the second half of the 20th century. And now, there is a new generation of artists who have created their own style. Among them is Beata Munita, a self-trained painter who has been working on canvas since 2009. Munita has a unique style in her use of colours, brush stroke, and mosaic backgrounds. The artist says she paints the stories of African women and their role in society. The purpose of her work is to express all aspects of women as mothers, workers, home makers and wives… Munita showcased her art at the Alliance Francaise in Dar es Salaam. It was her first exhibition The 360 Degrees Woman.” (East African 29 March)
Young African Millionaires to watch in 2013
This online edition of Forbes featured ‘a handful of young African entrepreneurs who’ve legitimately built multi-million dollar companies while in their 20s and 30s. Tanzanian Mohammed Dewji is among them.
Extract: “Dewji, 38, a Tanzanian businessman and politician, is the CEO and leading shareholder of Mohammed Enterprise Limited (METL), one of the largest industrial conglomerates in East Africa. His father, Gulam Dewji, founded the conglomerate decades ago as a trading company but “Mo” as he is popularly called, now calls the shots… METL, which records an annual turnover of close to $2 billion, owns 21st Century Textiles, one of the largest textile mills in sub-Saharan Africa by volume… The group employs over 24,000 full-time employees… Mo Dewji [is also] a Member of Parliament for Tanzania’s Singida Urban constituency…” (Forbes magazine – online 15 July)
The Mtwara boom
Thousands of tonnes of drill pipes are neatly stacked in a yard at Mtwara port in southern Tanzania, waiting to be loaded onto vessels supplying gas rigs 100km (60 miles) offshore. There drill bits, guided with centimetre-level accuracy, will bite into the seabed 2km underwater and then penetrate the reservoirs of gas that locals hope will fuel a long-awaited leap forward. When the British colonial authorities opened the deepwater port at Mtwara in 1954, partly to replace a naval port at Simonstown in South Africa, it was billed as a turning-point for East African trade. But the port decayed and Mtwara and its cashew-growing hinterland were neglected by Tanzania’s rulers after the country became independent, initially as Tanganyika, in 1961.
Work on a road linking Mtwara to Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital, began half a century ago and is still unfinished. Most tellingly, Tanzania’s education system has failed to equip the local Makonde people with skills. But the scale of the coming gas bonanza bears no comparison with anything in the past. Tanzania’s gasfields abut even richer ones in the waters of neighbouring Mozambique. Britain’s BG and Norway’s Statoil have won licences to exploit the bulk of the gas found so far. Tanzania’s government wants the companies to put some of the gas to use in Tanzania and to invest in local infrastructure. Exporting the rest will mean constructing a liquefied-natural-gas plant that will be the biggest project in Tanzanian history.
The government has also signed up a Nigerian company (Dangote) to build a cement factory near Mtwara. A new railway will have to be laid to carry material from the port to the factory. Within a few years coal, ores, timber and food should be shipped out of Mtwara in greater quantities than before.” (The Economist 20 April) -Thank you John Walton, Simon Hardwick and David Leishman for this item – Editor
Africans moved aside for land
This issue looks at the forced movement of people from their land. In Ethiopia cattle-herders are being resettled into “main villages” to free up vast tracts of land to foreign corporations, while in Tanzania Masai herders are being evicted to allow a big-game hunting firm exclusive access to Masai village land (see TA 95,96 and 105)
“Masai herders may be victims of deal with Dubai hunting firm”. Extract continues: “Tanzania plans a new “wildlife corridor” on 600 square miles of Masai village land in the Loliondo Region … will evict 30,000 Masai – and allow exclusive access to the Ortello Business Corporation (OBC), a big-game hunting firm owned by the royal family of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Tanzania’s tourism minister, Khamis Kagasheki … announced the creation and sale of the wildlife corridor as a kind of fait accompli…. Tanzanian officials claim the Masai are squatters on government land and that their cattle overgraze and threaten the health and migration of herds of wildebeest. Many biologists argue that the Masai, who do not hunt, pose little threat to the ecology and lived alongside wildlife, including the wildebeest, for centuries. Nomadic cattle rearing is a highly productive use of arid lands, well adapted to the inconsistent local weather patterns, they argue.
‘The way the Masai manage the range actually encourages wildlife,’ says University of Washington expert Benjamin Gardner. In recent years, the government of Tanzania has earned far more cash from tourism than from cattle, and the Masai argue that officials are taking their land under the rubric of environmentalism to line their pockets. The OBC has operated in Liliondo since 1992 and pays so well that Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete sent in national police during a 2009 drought to keep cattle and locals away from water resources near the hunting camp.
… The government might rethink its decision after an online petition received two million signatures and as Masai threatened to leave the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi … Tanzania’s mission in the United Nations issued a statement upholding Minister Kagasheki’s decision that evicting the Masai was an ecological necessity… Ced Hesse, principal researcher on dry lands and pastures for the Britain-based International Institute for Environment and Development, says Tanzania’s position is ‘not founded in any scientific evidence’.” (The Christian Science Monitor Weekly 10 June) -Thank you R J Searle for this item – Editor
The Karagosis are back
Up to the 1960s in Zanzibar, the Karagosi [Puppets: from Turkish Karagöz] show was the main Eid attraction, both for kids and grown-ups at Mnazi Mmoja grounds, followed by a ride on the wooden merrygo-round and a picnic on the grass with family and friends. Extract continues: ‘The Karagosi show is a revival of the old customs. The performance combines live actors and puppets on stage together in a funny, enchanting performance. The organizers are Creative Solutions and dramatist Issak Esmail Issak collaborating in their second summer production, “Ruya na Rabia”. The action takes place in the 30s and 40s in Makunduchi village on southern Unguja. The play is based on one of several published short stories by Issak Esmail Issak. The language is Swahili.
Ruya and Rabia are twins. One of them influences the other in habit and action so strongly that no one is able to tell them apart. Soon Rabia is lost at sea during Mwaka Koga (finalizing the year after Ramadhan and Eid). Ruya grieves and becomes ill. When she recovers she discovers she has inherited Rabia’s magic, whereby she is able to make those near her imitate all her actions… Ruya and Rabia is a comedy for young and old, played by trained young Zanzibari actors, exquisite puppets created by Aida Ayers at Creative Solutions and with original freshly composed music. The show was performed at Creative Solutions Centre at Mangapwani”. (Habari 2/2013)