Tuesday, November 30, 2010

World AIDS Day 2010

Every year it amazes me how much this particular day strikes me in the deepest chambers of the heart. Some wounds do not heal- if anything they acquire layers. This year, this past month, I had to hold a dear, dear friend as she grieved for a beloved relative whom she had nurtured through thick and thin, bullied into eating, kept faith with and visited constantly. He broke her heart because she wasn't there to hold him when he died. I had never seen her cry before, in so many rich and complex years of knowing each other.

African women are strong. Because, well, what the hell else is there to be? But some things, we need help with. Wear the condom. Use your ARVs. Go to the antenatal clinic, embrace the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) protocols. March for equal rights and universal access. Tell your truth. But please. Please, don't make us watch and hold you and then lose you day by day. No one should have to be quite that strong.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Now We're Talking.

Been keeping off the political pipe these past few weeks for a couple of simple reasons: 1) with this stuff it's best to be "first out the gate" by live blogging or live tweeting an actual event for netizens and 2) analysis is overcrowded at this time as we commentators scramble to either gloatingly point out that we were right, or revise our horribly erroneous predictions. Might as well sit back and let the post-election thinking percolate until we're all sipping from the same pot of freshly-brewed spin.

Still, some pretty interesting developments: The cabinet is even more laughably huge than the previous one, which will only make it more ineffective, not less. A meeting with 50 people- tena Tanzanians who must be praised for the ability to have three opinions for every single issue- in attendance? Oh yeah, I want to see that "decision-making" in action. Also, this cabinet's hamstrung in that it comprises a mix of technocrats with demonstrated success and political deadweights to whom favors are evidently owed. Good luck with that, Mzee Pinda.

Meanwhile, on Saturday I watched live on ITV as Hamad and Mbowe chewed the beef* that's been brewing between our two largest and best-organized opposition parties. If nothing else, the debate left no doubt in viewers' minds as to the differences between different political parties. We've gotten used to treating opposition as one big undifferentiated block- hopefully that's going to change as we realize that ideology matters. As do grace in defeat, and a good grasp of the tools of governance, such as the legal system. Si, we wanted competitive multi-party democracy? Heh.

As an aside: this is why I don't do parties. I have a perfectly wonderful MP who is unfortunately for me hauling around the stinky baggage of belonging to a party that is slowly and publicly losing it's sense and it's dignity. I don't think that party politics make sense in this century, and I don't think they make sense in Tanzania. Give us free. Independent Candidates by 2015!

I have said before that it's generally not a good idea to get into a public political argument with Mr. Hamad and sure enough when he lost grip of his temper things got... both erudite, and lively. I do love a serving of drama to go with my politics, and it was amusing to watch grown-ass Tanzanian men get into a shouting match at the Movenpick. The moderator wore the expression of a skinny youth trying to wrestle a deadly python into submission. ITV had to take a loooong commercial break. I wish I had made some popcorn before the show began...

A recent string of interesting articles from Mwananchi suggest that Jay Kay's second term might be more of the same, just as he promised. Lack of focus, messy policies, unwieldy public sector compromised by political shenanigans, self-contradictions galore and politics of performance. Perhaps somewhere in that disaster zone we call government, there is a critical mass of public servants trying to do things right.

My Lady of the Cynical Smiles passed by today and we had a proper-good intergenerational political "discussion" that was thoroughly satisfying to all involved. She did leave me with one final knotty problem though: since the current system (and by implication, her generation of public servants) is rotten, who is going to inherit the structures of power and reform them to work for the good of all Tanzanians? I have a few people in mind. Feel free to throw down some names in the comments section.

*Hehe. These days Bongolanders are quick on the trigger finger with that YouTube! Preserving embarrassing moments for posterity... man, I love this town.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Book Slam, Week, Launch.

The Book Slam was superfantastic, thanks for askin'. Louise Hoole, Morris Mwaviso, Nadir Tharani and our host of the evening Walter Bgoya read their beautiful works. They entertained and seduced us, crushed our hearts with bittersweetness only to lift them up again in song. The booze was flowing, the food was bountiful, the company delightful. It was that kind of evening. And the organizers... some people just know how to throw a party. Waiting on them to do it again, soon. No pressure, eh guys ;)

All this whoop-la was also a pre-event to kick off the Dar es Salaam Book Week. Ubungo Plaza big conference room, ends today (Saturday). Publishers, books, creatives, readers, folks from all walks of life and all different countries brought together by one love.

Finally, I am happy to finally be allowed to say: The Mama Dar book project has come to fruition under the tender care of a fantastic duo of American writers- Amy Brautigam and Debbie Ventimiglia. These ladies have cajoled and coerced 26 stories out of several writers on the theme of parenthood/ nurturing. This here, folks, is African literature live from Dar es Salaam.

And there is a cause behind it. Proceeds from sales will be directed to the Dar es Salaam House of Peace, a place for women escaping abusive situations at home and transitioning to something better. Now, this project is dear to my heart because it's my First Time getting some pieces published. I'm petrified, you can't control-alt-delete that kind of thing.

But I hope, here, to make it dear to your heart: if you have ever wanted to give thanks for the women in your life who have nurtured and protected you, loved you and raised you, fought for you and wiped your tears, then buy this book. Buy this book and give it to your mother. To your wife. Your sister, your daughter, your friend. Buy it for yourself.

The launch will take place at Makutano House in Oysterbay from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm on Monday the 13th of December, 2010. I'll be there, a little tipsy because Amy and Debbie have threatened me with the possibility of a reading*. I might also have one or two "free" copies to hand out to the folks who buy me the most (alcoholic) drinks and/or flatter me stupid. There might be autographs involved. Everything else is open-ended. So, you know, come along. And bring the Her in your life you wanna show some love to.

*... erm. No.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kipima Joto: What's your flavor?

I forgot to draw attention to the new poll on the right sidebar of the blog. It won't show up on your RSS feeds/inboxes etc, folks, you might have to physically visit the blog. :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tanzanian Exceptionalism?

This is an idea that has been rolling around my head for a while. And it's probably going to take a bit of doing to explain. But here's a start:

Emergent Democracy.* It's a concept I have only stumbled upon recently after thinking that the idea of emergence shouldn't belong to economics alone (emergent market). Yeah, I know. I move slow. Now, onto the good stuff:

-"action of many individual participants"
- "complex and unpredictable results"
- "efficiency beyond the comprehension of any individual participant"
- and my favorite bit: "Supporters of the idea point to instances in which bloggers have brought about political change by posting about issues that mainstream media had not paid much attention to..."

Now: comparative political analysis has it's uses but I have felt for years that Africa is underserved in this area by her many polities, ethno-political complexity, geographic variety and impenetrability, structural racism, ignorance fuelled by spotty documentation, and general misunderstoodness. None of which are new complaints amongst Africanist scholars, I'm just cribbing from those who've gone before and standing on the shoulders of giants.

This mash-up of convoluted thinking is trying to address how strange comparisons happen: the Kenya/Tanzania pairing for example. I think it makes more sense to do a Tanzania/South Africa pairing in the post-colonial context if one counts South Africa's independence as having happened in 1994. Which is when the emergent market concept kicks in nicely. Kenya/Tanzania? What, because of geographic proximity? That's just lazy. Yes, even if we're going all EAC. It's still lazy.

But that's just one layer. Evidently there is a technological/communications component: it seems that social media is an integral factor of emergent democracy as a concept. Not to mention the way it introduces/acknowledges complexity by embracing the idea of multiple actors outside of the traditional roles (legislator, executive, judge) without devolving the discussion to something as trite as single-issue lobbying.

And so it makes sense in my head to think of Tanzania as one of the emergent democracies on the continent: diverse population, diverse agendas, complex interrelations. Democracy at work however compromised it may appear to an external observer (the system does in fact self-correct for balance. or peace. and no, you don't get to choose how.). Modernist habits- the adoption of IT technologies, leap-frogging stuff like a cumbersome landlines parastatal telephone system. Entrepreneurial spirit and political savvy. These are just a few of the significant positives that Tanzania could continue to build upon.

Which means, naturally, that there are significant negatives threatening to drag us down too. Beginning with oversimplification: our decades-long public-education mess is not serving us well. I have heard keen-minded colleagues in the field of political analysis say things that are shockingly dubious about our history. And then cling to antiquated notions against all evidence of research, articles and voluble argumentation. That's messed up. If idealism and conservatism constantly trump evidence and dynamic thinking we're gonna tie ourselves up in knots.

Put down the verbal gun. I'll be the first to admit: I had to leave the country to learn the country, if you know what I mean. Yeah. Try buying a well-researched, totally dependable collection of books on Tanzanian history and let me know how that went for you, bongolander. Being kept uninformed about the gritty bits of our contemporary history is a part of the social contract that I think we should push to renegotiate in a global kind of sense.

But that's just one layer. There's the real issue of haves and have-nots: what's our mechanism for handling economic stratification? America advances the idea of universal opportunity: if you just work hard enough you too shall be a millionaire. Now, it's a nice little bedtime story and we all know it doesn't quite work out that simply. Still, as a national ethos... it's pretty positive. Constructive. Non-partisan. It's got non-Americans skipping on planes to go find their streets of gold in a country that isn't nearly as kind to immigrants as it's PR campaign suggests.

The Tanzanian social contract is sort of libertarian with heavy doses of social liberalism. Social stratification is a lived reality for Tanzanians of all walks of life, as economic enclaving is almost impossible here. Perhaps one major factor, often overlooked, is the fact that the state owns land in Tanzania and only leases it to citizens for prescribed periods of time. Which means that this business of going Happy Valley and shooting trespassers is not done with impunity here. All to say, it can be hard to be entirely untouchable here as some folks from the previous government may have found out to their surprise. I like it that way- keeps us honest, lean and mean.

Tuesday 23rd November: I completely forgot to mention a major factor in the social contract! Corruption. We point our fingers upwards and knock our politicians about for stealing public funds- and they deserve it. However, we also don't talk about the fact that living in Tanzania these days means hustling and you can bet your bottom shilling that most every adult has at one point or another deliberately initiated or engaged in corrupt practices for their own gain. So it's structural. I don't really know how this fits in with the emergent democracy framework, or if it does. Might be more of a cultural issue- one man's nepotism is another man's family duty.

Another layer: emergent democracies are not all that common. Not really. It takes a certain fluidity, technophilia, mental flexibility and creativity to live and thrive as an emergent democracy. I think that Tanzania, in her post-colonial history, has proved that she's got what it takes to adapt to the various situations thrown up by a rapidly changing, ever-competitive world. Doubt me? Look at how we handle our elections. It might not be perfect, but it's a far cry from Kenya (eish), Uganda (puh-leeze), Burundi (hm?), Rwanda (democracy? heh.), Congo (basketcase), Zambia (mh.), Malawi (mh.), and Mozambique (meh. maybe).

Thing is, it's not about superiority or inferiority. Here's how Asia has always been a touch more privileged than Africa as a developing continent. See, Japanese folks don't get subjected to anxiety dreams over what Indians are doing. Because no one is confused about whether Asia is a country or a continent. Both polities, both cultures are respected in their individual right as they work the nation-state model. Africa? Not so much. Why is it that on this most diverse of continents we don't embrace the fundamental idea of real diversity? With functionality as the only real measure of success? Sure, there are fifty-plus polities. What's wrong with the idea that they are all exceptional, and worthy of study in their own right?

I think that only after this level of respect for individual polities has run it's course will it make sense to talk about a pan-African identity and accept the demands of massification/ manufactured collectivization. Europe still won't get it together, and it's taken them how many millenia? Enough said. Gonna end here for this foray and see what turns up in the comments section :) Be gentle. Heh.

*Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is tugging my heartstrings for money. I would give him some if I wasn't perpetually embroiled in a fight with my bankers over the quality of their retail services. Still, what a fantastic resource is Wiki? Sigh.

Web Crawl.

Good times in the offline world, fuelled by copious amounts of quality time, food and movies. God Bless Mnet Movie Magic. But a couch is not for surfing alone, and I have been crawling through various social media accounts. Here's the haul from my web crawl thanks to netiverse friends links:

There'a a Book Slam happening this Wednesday Evening. The message from Shurufu:

"Hello Friends,

I would like to invite you all to a Book Slam event, a literary evening with readings by the artist, architect and writer Nadir Tharani, the novelist Louise Hoole, the writer Morris Mwavizoand the publisher Walter Bgoya.
The place? Saffron Restaurant. The time? 7.30pm - 11pm. The date? Wednesday, 24th November."

Bring your mellowness along, it's going to be a good one. And to whet the appetite, a nice bit of writing on Pamzbazuka about some of the themes of contemporary African literature. And the Dar Sketches book will be out soon.

One of my favorite unexpected politicians has a great article in the 500th Edition of the New African. Very nice ruminations on women, leadership, in the African context- cover story I believe. And here's another TED event that looks fantastic. Wonder if there's TEDMen and TEDTeens in the pipeline.

Speaking of the special characteristics of African politics- Binyavanga Wainaina's back in fighting form. In development, Chris Blattman asks a pertinent question about the urge to collectivize NGOs. The Undead Aid question rears it's head: is it maybe good? is it definitely bad? is that a political question?

Here's an interesting piece of news from the public health sector- World Aids Day is around the corner. And this is just a bit of fun.

I never like to pass up a chance to show off some Tanzanian gorgeousness. This video's not the common or garden variety effort either. And for the belly? Early times, but the Black Tomato is looking good. An establishment that serves crispy Belgian style pommes frites is taking its food very seriously. Also, it looks like Zenji might be budding as the Swahili Coast foodie haven. Then again, there's lots of really good stuff stashed on the isles... it's just that kind of place.

On social media- here's some recognition for Ushahidi's work. And here's a very interesting article about social media in Tanzania, more comprehensive than the average effort. Some food for thought on the Fourth Estate, courtesy again of Shurufu. It's interesting to watch the industry struggle for it's soul and identity in the 21st century...

Still "avoiding" politics but I gotta say... so far it looks like this is going to be a very lively term in the legislature. Walk-outs, using the parliamentary canons instead of the oral vote, accusations of machinations coming from all sides. Good times.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

November? Already?

Um, I'm taking a little break again...

Yes, I know I keep saying that, but this time I really am going to take it easy for a while. You may have noticed that the blog has gone a bit squirrelly on me: that header needs to be wrestled down to size, and there are some interesting font choices and missing punctuation marks to fix. Gotta do some spring cleaning on the blogrolls, refresh them and visit blogfriends to read and get up to speed. Hunt around, see if there's anything new. Besides, this is my traditional holiday month: not-quite-December but just as mellow.

It's going to kill me to sit down and be quiet about the Speaker thing, and about the new Cabinet, and other stuff. But I'm gonna step away from the politics and concentrate on chilling out, and maybe doing some art/food/other interests posts if I get the mental shakes from withdrawal. And then sometime in December, maybe, I'll get around to doing a year-in-review like these guys did. What a great application of the principle of transparency.

But first I gotta stop squirming and jumping around and actually deal with the sadly neglected offline life. So I'm grounded, for a little disciplinary down time and so that I can do my offline life homework because it's overdue. Sniff :( Later, amigos.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One. Two. Chakachua!

There is no way that everyone's favorite Election 2010 neologism would fail to inspire a writer. Check out this fantastic excerpt:

"Law and order men like Martians went to meet em,

Sprayed em with smelly liquid perfume, which also itched,

Fired smoke in their eyes so they could not see

Left couple of tires burning and run for their lives

poor boys and gals

To take shower and remove the perfume

Wash their eyes so they could see clear where to go

And then we heard the word chakachua

What? Again? But how can that be?

Same way they did for petrol, they said.

So let us jazz it up again!

All together now,

A one and two chakachua

A three and four chakachua

In the west chakachua

And in the east chakachua

In the south chakachua

And in the north chakachua

Everywhere, chakachua

In the morning, chakachua

In the night, chakachua

Left and right, chakachua

You want to vote, chakachua

You got your money, chakachua

‘n good roads, chakachua

‘n Health centres, chakachua

‘n this time, chakachua

‘n next time, chakachua

In the church ,chakachua

In the mosque, chakachua

In the school, chakachua

Univeristy, chakachua

All together, chakachua

Ali Mselem, chakachua

Ali mselem, chakachua

Mchakamchaka, chakachua

Mchakamchaka, chakachuaaaaaaaaa!"

That's just the final part of this creative piece that runs through contemporary Tanzanian politics with power, agency and freedom as it's central themes. Who is the passionate young man behind the chant? Walter Bgoya. Want more? You're about to get more.

There is a Book Slam coming maybe-anytime-now to a yet-to-be-decided location near you, so watch this space. And please do ask Shurufu for more information, especially if you would like to participate and have a few pieces you want to share as well. And if you came to Sarah Markes' Street Level exhibition launch or visited anytime after, you rock. Support your local artists. The Street Level exhibition closes this Friday.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dude. How do You Mean It?!?!

Teasing politicians is fun. Comedians have always known that politicians are the gift that just keeps on giving. The Fountain of Eternal Material. Besides, it is it's own form of public service because sometimes leaders need a little ego management to keep their feet planted firmly on the ground. Someone has to be the court jester, the griot, the little boy who asked his mother why the Emperor is walking around with his wobbly bits hanging out. We all need that friend who lets the air out of our pomp and circumstance.

But, sometimes, the problem is a little bit bigger. Tanzanians have been spoiled rotten by our Presidents: they have been so far rather accessible people. Mwalimu established a Presidential culture that is wonderfully healthy and very democratic, so we are used to demanding our President's personal time and attention. It gets a little cloying at times, and Jay Kay occasionally forgets himself when kidding around with his adoring public. Still, it is far better than the alternative: being subjected to rulers so closed off, so protected, so far outside our reach that there is little commonality to bond us in the mutual endeavours of nation-building. Since we are a presidential political culture, our other politicians and public servants tend to align their behaviors to the president's. The public performance of humility and accessibility is an important part of our social contract with our leaders.

Joji asked in a previous discussion what intelligence has to do with anything. Well, here's my real opinion: we are all gifted and cursed with a talent. Some of us enter the world through our brains, others do it through music, some through movement, others through their sight. Some do it through their spirituality, some through their infinite curiosity. Some have a lot of talents, some have just the one. But you have to understand the gift to understand the curse that comes with it. Most successful politicians are highly intelligent people. Some of them need help managing their egos. If we don't help them, they can run amok on us and next thing we know we'll have our own version of Jean Bedel Bokassa trying to coronate himself at the National Imperial Stadium of the United Empire of Tanzania and All Her Surrounding Territories.

So, for the most part, our leaders have been pretty well-behaved. However, occasionally we are faced with a real threat. I will never forget the sheer force of Edward Ngoyai Lowassa's resignation speech. Towering rage, bitter humiliation... and the latent threat of resurgence. And now, we have Andrew John Chenge asking for his peers' votes so that he can become Speaker of the Parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania. Andrew Chenge, Mr. Vijisenti, Mr. Viji-tendencies, is asking his peers to let him head the most important and democratic branch of government? Yeah, I don't think so.

I think someone is having a little trouble recalling the terms of the Tanzanian social contract between the citizenry and the leadership. It looks like that old joke is quite appropriate in your case, Mr. Chenge. Old lawyers never die, they just lose their judgement... It's going to be an interesting session.

*I totally stole the expression in the title from my joyously irrepressible mischief-making grrrl. Name-check. What, what. Sorry, you know it is too good not to appear on the blog ;)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

African Lessons for an American President

Charles Onyango-Obbo had a few things to say to Obama about his "mishandling" of the mid-terms while skewering us for our East African political maladies in his sharply hilarious way. Here's a snippet from his Facebook Notes:

"There are a few things Obama would be told if he had spoken to any president in Africa. He would have been told that first, he should have transported about two million Africans to vote for the Democrats (and worried about their refusal to return home after the vote later). That is what we do, we transport voters across constituency lines.

Secondly, as president of the world’s richest country (although its fortunes are in decline) he would have been told to break into the Federal Reserve, get all the dollars there, and buy votes. If there were no dollars, he would have been advised to print the money. What is a president for, if he can’t print money?

Thirdly, we didn’t hear any news that he transferred the officials in the Federal Electoral Commission, and appointed a Kenyan cousin to the job. Incredible. How can you go into an election without your man in charge of the electoral commission? (Maybe this a Kenyan problem, because I see President Kibaki is also now confused, and appointed some Somali, not a Kikuyu from Nyeri, to head the electoral commission. And we were told he stopped drinking. I think the Baks is sipping something strong under the covers, and it is messing his head)."

I had to wait until the elections were over to post this, for obvious reasons. Incidentally, FaceBook Notes make for an excellent alternative blogging platform.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Elections 2010: Done.

What a fantastic election to have experienced as a first-time voter. So rarely is the practice of Afro-optimism validated as in this, my beloved land. We watched, we weighed, we voted and waited. We were tense, we were young, we were challenging the status quo in the most peaceful manner we knew how. It wasn't always easy to keep our social contract- our angry youth lost patience in the cities, opportunists made hay while the sun was shining and even the normally invisible branches of the state security machinery felt the need to expose themselves in the light of day to quell anxieties. Neighboring states anticipated a little shadenfreude, some African politics 'experts' trotted out unimaginative comparative analysis. It was a close thing. But we've come through.

Hey, Tanzania: we've come through. We are, we can be, we should be the example of a finely integrated, self-aware, internally coherent, progressive, democracy-seeking, negotiated, complex African polity.

A few things:

1. I got this wrong and I must eat my share of crow. I admit: the Fourth Estate surprised me. And not even from the quarter I expected. Broadcast came into it's own in this election. Radio, sure. But let's talk television. Every single station brought their a-game. Some revamped their look, some launched their teams of new anchors, some even braved the English-language medium. But Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation took the cake. Thank you Tido, and Tido's team. What a beautiful thing you did.

2. Zanzibar. Zanzibar. Zanzibar.

3. There are a lot of hot young things on the political scene to watch. We will hold you to account.

4. While we were distracted by the usual noisy suspects, some folks parachuted themselves into Bunge in a truly Ninja style. I salute them- that level of strategic capacity is masterful.

5. You be the judge.

Social media Tanzania na marafiki zetu majirani: bonge la collabo. High Ten. Mikocheni Reporter over and out.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Resolutely Nonpartisan Liberal Pacifist.

Oh, it was hard to bear. The leftist totalitarians, constantly dismissive of the idea that Tanzania doesn't have to fit into their narrow little perception in order to be viable, promoting the vile notion that the Only True Tanzanian (eti Mtanzania halisi) is the kind that is "poor." And, by not-so-subtle implication: "black." "rural." "helpless." Making things difficult for liberals, minorities, and every honest entrepreneur who has earned their shangingi whether you like it or not.

And on the other extreme, those many gloomy humbugs who blow and blow and blow away at whatever small flame of faith in the democratic system we're trying to protect from the gusting winds of cynicism. Not to mention the ones who are constantly trying to shove you into this party or that party because the idea of independence is too threatening a concept.

Last time I checked, all you needed in order to make a smidgeon of difference was to be a citizen who has reached the age of majority who bothered to turn up and vote.

Picture courtesy of Mkuki Bgoya in response to a Facebook appeal for pictures of inked fingers. And no, I have no idea who he voted for or why. That's his business, innit?

Contemporary History Lesson

When I was just starting out as a baby development worker, green and earnest and totally clueless, I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to tag along on a trip deep into Dodoma. I mean way, way deep into Mpwapwa which is the only place I have ever seen so many baobab trees, like a forest almost. Harsh, dry, gorgeous land... but I digress.

My assignment was to interview some of the project's beneficiaries to document their satisfaction with the service provided. It was mostly elderly people that I was talking to, which was actually pretty cool. One fiesty lady in particular who looked older than Bi Kidude said something to me that I'll never forget. You know how some of our elders have that way of teaching you a lesson, putting you in your place, making sure that the message sticks, and making you laugh, all using just one sentence?

Well. She let me get all my stuff set up, tape recorder switched on, pen and paper ready, everything good to go. Then, after watching me placidly and nodding at every pause as I greeted her warmly and explained my assignment and asked for her name and age she calmly replied: "I don't speak the colonialist's language. Find a translator."

She was referring to Kiswahili.

We dutifully proceeded in Kigogo after my befuddled self found a translator who could tell me what she had just said. I noticed that she did know how to say "Marahaba, mjukuu wangu." She's probably somewhere terrorizing cherubs and disciplining choirs of angels, in Kigogo of course, as I type this. Bless her crabby soul.

Have Your Say on The Speed of Election Results.

Totally missed the live broadcast, but The Beeb's Have Your Say program talked about how long it takes for election results to come out in our neck of the woods today. While fiddly election behaviors are obviously not unique to Africa, some of our governments have developed a number of techniques to scuttle democracy that vary in their sophistication.

My beef is that highly visible international press tends to seriously water down issues and has a predilection for violence. Really interesting political developments that aren't centered around elections or riot footage from an African country? Meh. I tried to pitch a story idea in 2008 to a journalist friend who does pieces for a very well respected international paper. The one about the events that led to the historic, beautifully furious Lowassa resignation and the implications for Tanzania's future. It lost out, naturally, because the very well respected international paper wanted something a bit "grittier." Y'all know that means.

Of course we should be aiming for as fast a turn-around on election results as possible, isn't that just common sense? Maybe after these elections we are heading there. It's not like in 2005 we could have predicted how intense this year's elections were going to be, or that we'd have social media tools and a surprisingly styled-up media to help us break The Establishment's sweaty grip on information. None of this is proof against the excruciatingly. slow. pace. at which NEC has been reading out election results.

Anywho, looks like there is still time to have your say in the program's comments section. After you've read the moderation policy (I found it by clicking on explain next to comments that are awaiting moderation). Speaking up not only gets the truth out, it helps to protect against these kinds of nutjobs.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dar Sketches Exhibition Opens Tommorow

From Six to Eight at the Alliance Francaise. Hope to see you there.

In other news, the long-awaited, finally open Makutano House is warming up it's engines. Looks like international films will be coming to Dar with a bit more frequency. Maybe even... independent films! Check out their offerings. And on that tip, I also spotted this interesting blog on Global Voices Online's sidebar. Diversity? Yes, please.


When we lost Amina Chifupa, the young female voice in parliament was dealt a severe blow. I wasn't sure that we would recover. I thought we'd be stuck in silence in that ghetto called Viti Maalum. Especially since Jay Kay was ill-advisedly suggesting even more special seats for women as a way to increase our political clout!

But I did notice that Amina hadn't been entirely alone: there was a quiet young woman in nerd chic glasses sitting somewhere behind Rashid Hamad Mohamed (CUF-Wawi). He tends to push up the bar and many parliamentarians sound remedial if they speak within half an hour of a contribution by the leader of the opposition. This first-time Special Seats MP did not suffer that problem as she earnestly clutched her written speeches with trembling fingers and powered through her stage fright.

I have yet to see her screaming like Anna Kilango Malecela of the overwhelmingly dramatic soliloquies. I'm conservative like that, I like my leaders to handle themselves when they are in their formal role.

I was very, very happy when she announced her Kawe candidacy (Christmas came early this year). Although it was a risk to endorse her on the blog* she came through like a champion. And now I get to have Halima Mdee as my very own shiny, brand-spanking newly elected, self-made-woman, kick-ass MP. I know it is a bad idea to fall for a politician, but The Gut tells me that this one might just be the one of the good eggs in the tray.

*The last time I totally bought into a young politician, he pitched a wobbly in his mid-term and I haven't been able to figure out his behavior since. Once bitten, twice shy.

Point One Percent.

Had to post this on FaceBook last night when the results came out since Blogspot started acting funny precisely around the time that the Zanzibar Presidential Election results were being broadcast.

Now that the elections are over and I don't have to play my cards close to my chest, I'll just come out and say it: I am crushed that Maalim Seif did not win. It's nothing personal, like most folks I think that Shein is a gentleman of the old-school variety which is an excellent thing to be. But nonetheless, I'm crushed.

Also, I'm overwhelmed with a bitter-sweet joy at Hamad and Shein's handling of the situation. Zanzibar is a particularly machiavellan part of Tanzania, and we're plenty squirelly to begin with. This might be a sweetheart deal amongst Zanzibari politicians, who knows? But if it isn't, and Maalim gave that concession speech in order to preserve the lives of his countrymen and the peace, stability (and economic viability) of his beloved Zanzibar... well, in that case I must salute him with a deep and genuine respect. That's what it means to sacrifice for your country, all too often.

Heshima kwako, Maalim. Wanazenji, nawatakia heri na amani. Mnatufundisha.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood

There is a reason this poem is a classic. Decisions can be complex things. You'll notice that the banner has changed to a walk in the woods. That is the path that leads into the mangrove forests of Jozani Forest Reserve in Zanzibar. It's one of my favorite shots: a visual metaphor for Frost's poem and yet another reminder of how stunning this country is.

I cannot help it that mangroves are green anymore than I can help it if a reader decides to take that as a mark of political allegiance. But the madness has got to stop, people, CCM does not have a monopoly on the color green or the color gold. Hasn't anyone else noticed that Green/Gold is a terribly difficult wardrobe color-scheme for people with melanin?

The picture is also a visual metaphor for the coming months, both personally and in terms of Tanzania's political future. Do you know what is around the corner? Because I don't. I only have hope, optimism and the faith that we're the African Renaissance waiting to happen. It could go either way, but I'm ready.

Mpaka Kieleweke!

I had to crack up when I heard a BBC Idhaa ya Kiswahili reporter say that from Arusha. Reporters have really had a field day with this election. Between them and us voters, I don't know if The Establishment has suffered this much scrutiny in it's long history. Transparency is tough on the state :)

But the situation is a little bit touchy. Looks like we're anxious. Lots of us are young voters too, first time at the ballot, keen to make sure that our favorites are not robbed of their victories.

Tensions in Zanzibar, in Mwanza, Ubungo, Arusha, Dodoma... all revolving around the National Electoral Commission's laggardly pace with the results. While it makes some sense to keep quiet until they are "certain" of their results, this is not a time for reticence!

A little birdie told me...

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