One of my trackers is registering nearly forty hits today, and I can imagine why- the bombs. I figure, somebody out there wants to know what's up, and nothing sells quite like news of an African country shooting itself in the foot. Okay. Yesterday and today's powercuts have given me lots of time to think about what to say, so here goes:
1. I don't really want to wade into this issue in a political way. But I think that it does provide a wonderful lens through which to examine ideas of accountability, governance, authority and standing armed forces. A FB friend was calling for the resignation of somebody over something- I personally find such unfocused statements tedious beyond belief. This is a very specific issue: an officer, in uniform, was in charge of making sure that ammunitions would not go off willy-nilly and decimate a residential area- not to mention emptying out the country's largest arms depot. This officer, and a number of this officer's superiors, are the ones who need to be court-martialled, dismissed without honor and subsequently sued to within an inch of their lives. Oh, and the army should spend a little time doing hard labour rebuilding that which they have broken.
2. For a "peaceful" country, Tanzania's army is quite professional. I know, it doesn't really seem that way, but it is. The veil of secrecy that protects our armed forces from public scrutiny is supported by legislation* but if you are industrious enough you can find information on the intertubes about the size, composition, professionalism and, uh, hardware of our armed forces. So how does an otherwise disciplined army SNAFU not the once, but the twice, in the primate city? Worth a little think, that. Kulikoni...
3. I am interested to see what will be done to compensate civilians whose lives and properties were lost/damaged in these blasts. The complication? How many of these settlements were legal, and can they produce the paperwork to prove it?
4. Lost revenue: it's like this particular administration has a perverse inclination to bugger up everything they have going for them. Power's out. Water supply is dodgy. Politicians are toxic. And now the (usually dependable) army is coming across flakier than a Fairy Delights chapati? I mean, seriously- you guys broke the airport? Wow. Like... how?
5. Some notes on media: since the aforementioned government is criminally overwhelmed by the day to day complexities of doing its job, and is essentially incapable of providing electricity**, mass communication in a time of crisis was compromised. Broadcast and the internet came through for the general population because of one thing, and one thing only: mobile phones. 3G phones allowed some of us to access the internets, and our service providers did a great job (at least mine did) of sending public announcements updating customers of the situation. Best update tool: radio-enable handsets. I don't wanna product-name-drop, but there is a company that is making affordable and dependable mobile phones and merchandise for the African market that come through time and time again. Now that's just good business sense.
In the next few days, the international press will latch onto this (I exaggerate- only 17 African lives lost means that maybe we'll last until tomorrow in the news cycle. Remember- the Middle East is revolting which is so much more exciting) and we will have plenty of debates about who is to blame, why Kikwete/Mwinyi/Mwamunyange/Pinda/Nemesis of Choice should resign, lots of bemoaning about how terrible everything is about Tanzania (please feel free to emigrate. May I suggest the DRC?) and perhaps Chadema will walk out of parliament again in protest***.
For those who are more constructively inclined: there have been many heartfelt calls for donations: blood, clothing, food etc. for those who have been affected by this disaster. Please act as your conscience dictates. And do spare a moment of thought for the children, and their families, who have lost so much in the past 48 hours.
* Something about national security. Last time a newspaper tried to print our defense budget, it got slapped on the wrists rather strongly by the military. TIA: never f*ck with the guys with the guns. It really is just that simple.
** I was just musing the other day on the utility of this particular administration. While I acknowledge that it inherited a number of problems, I am surprised by how it has managed to actually make the country worse in the course of seven years. Which begs the question, is the CCM of 2o11 the same CCM of 197-odd? And if not, why are the young turks so eager to claim achievements of the past that they had no hand in? Hm.
***Yup, go on. Show us them backsides. Very effective political tool that, the displaying of your big round African heritages.