It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago during a 'discussion' with some well-meaning folks from abroad that I had to admit to myself how fearful I really am right now. The specter of dread has been been stalking me for a while as the gulf between what Tanzania projects and what she's really like grows with every sunrise. In principle, and on paper, we're a peace-loving folk who are married to the practice of Utu. The reality is... well, not that.
In the fine tradition of killing the messenger, Tanzanians- be it the government or just us- abhorr having our dirty laundry hung out to dry in public. So there's a lot of silencing, an integral part of our so-called peacefulness. Unfortunately, every conversation I have had with my usual range of inspirators- old folks, radio taximan, bright-eyed youth, friends- has a note of distess hidden in between the words. What is becoming of us, what does the future really hold, and who knew how truly horrifying it could be to live in a country which is steadily abdicating the rule of law.
Lest you think this is a philosophical discussion, it isn't. Seeing as I don't own the stories I can't share them here but people from all walks of life have been subjected to incredible acts of thievery, thuggery, violence. Murder, unlawful incarceration, coersion are on the ascent as we ourselves descend into the worst applications of 'might is right.' And to be honest, I place this situation entirely at the feet of our morally defunct leaders. You can't have a country administered by sociopaths and hope to thrive.
Leadership is a dangerous concept in that it demands the creation of a follower class. I don't think this was the point of gaining independence, but I am resigned to the fact that this is going to be a journey. The only way to be optimistic in life, sometimes, is to be able to stare into the abyss that you're sliding into and say hey! It's pretty awful down there, but we can do something about preventing it. There is always choice.
Thankfully we have a new constitution in the offing. It's not going to solve everything but it is a step in the right direction. The most pressing need is to make sure that we get it as right as we can before time runs out on us in November. We'll have to stick to our guns and refuse to let entrenched powers pervert the document and the process:
"The good news is that we seem to know this. Power is like manure- you can’t just let it sit there in a heap you have to spread it around for it to do its work well, and a solid constitution is just the shovel to help us get the job done. In the process of drafting the new constitution so far we seem to have avoided its capture by the usual entrenched interests. It is early times but there are encouraging signs that it has been participatory in spirit and in practice. And so far yes, it does look like it designed to contain and prevent the executive from usurping all the power."One step at a time.