Tuesday, December 23, 2008

When does no mean 'yes, please'?

When people give pollsters an answer that politicians would rather not hear, I guess. There has been a mini-furore in the past month over Tanzania's misbehaving ways in the EAC. We don't want to tackle formal integration at a pace higher than a crawl while Kenya and Rwanda are chafing at the bit and Uganda schleps along. Of course, away from the beady eye of the press and regulatory authorities, we are negotiating various forms of integration anyways- economic and cultural, technological etc.

When Prof. Wangwe traipsed around the country a couple of years ago polling and 'educating' people on the EAC, 75% Tanzanians opposed political federation unless it could take place at some unmentioned date far in the mists of the future as opposed to within their lifetime. Things have not changed much, in spite of the tantrums that the other EAC countries have thrown. It can be argued that what Tanzanians claim to think about integration is immaterial, which is happening anyways, and that these periodic shouting matches with her neighbors are a waste of energy. But the will of the people should not be so lightly ignored- doing so is usually the hallmark of a dictatorship.

Our fellow countries might be content with their interesting political arrangements but Tanzania is at a point in her political development where the voice of the people is tentatively starting to matter. What is to be gained by reverting to our top-down ways now? I can't see the wisdom of setting up bodies and institutions and political instruments to administer an arrangement that Tanzania is resisting, unless the goal is to force Tanzania's not-so-buried fears to manifest as violent intolerance of citizens from neighboring countries. If we are already throwing rocks at Jay Kay's motorcade we are not that far from smacking non-locals into oblivion, and then the Pan African dream will really have to die.

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