Monday, March 28, 2011

Media and Accountability: On to Social Media

Alright! We're now onto social media - the Big Three (FB, Twitter, blogs). Zitto Kabwe has just walked in and is on the mike about the role of social media in the North African revolts/revolutions. And moving right along to using social media: "I blog. I tweet. I would encourage other politicians to do the same."

Aaaaah, hapo amenikuna patamu as Makwaia wa Kuhenga would say. It has been very (veeeeeery) interesting watching the emergence of youth politics in the past five years concurrently with the rise of social media. It's a natural attraction: the young politicians are media savvy in a way that the old guard can't even begin to understand let alone compete with. But what are they doing with the awesome powers of social media?

Well- just like the old guard was able to manufacture and manipulate their contemporary media tools to suit them, so does the youth. One or two have been able to create social media mini-empires of their own that revolve around their political persona. Their public avatars, if you will. Great. Does this mean that these politicians are trustworthy and accountable in their use of this media? I don't think so. Non-professional socialmedia is the primordial soup of news- you gotta be very careful what you fish out of that pot. The same demons that haunt traditional media are there in socmed, and they move faster.

Does having a blog or a twitter account or a forum and "breaking news" or leaking documents or expressing your opinion make you a journalist? Should you be held to the same level of accountability as a professional? Or should that kick in when you Get Paid To Use Social Media? Or when you sell advertizing space? Is it okay if you are a politician, on the government payroll and using social media? Is it okay to claim to break news when you do it using Anonymous and refuse to reveal identity, sources or interests driving you?

Weigh in. I would love to hear from you about how you view social media and accountability. I'm afraid that the debate ended rather abruptly in the last five minutes as I was composing the blogpost but you can catch the stream of conversation on twitter at hashtag mediaforum.

Media and Accountability: The Debate Continues

"The government has a social contract with the people..." Richard Mgamba is going down a list of promises by the Kikwete regime and talking about accountability in terms of balance: do you focus on good stories or bad? At which point the moderator jumped in with this challenge: how does the media hold itself accountable?

Sure. But you know, I want to throw another spanner into the works here. How do consumers hold media accountable? I work in a very interactive form of media and I can tell you from experience that the level of responsiveness from the consumers is appalling. This might be because of the medium: not many people want to write, or type as it were. Radio and TV do better in this sense. But still: how many of us complain up one side and down the other about bad newspapers... and then go right back to buy the same paper the next day (voting by the wallet). How often have you, as a consumer, written in to a media house to give a piece of your mind about the quality of their product? Or do you think that accountability is manufactured in heaven like Manna?

Media ownership and accountability: whoooeeee! So this one participant pointed out that ownership is concentrated in a few hands, and this has consequences. One: some media owners don't care about the profession and create a working environment which forces journalists to resort to brown envelopes to make ends meet. Another: politicians during the election campaigns were known to strand journalists in the field if they did not write favorable articles. Okay, so it was a bit stronger than that, but at least he raised the specter of corruption. And then the kicker: as one earlier participant pointed out, its a social thing. Media is not an isolated sector, it just reflects the state of the society it operates in. What say you?

Media and Accountability: The Debate.

We're waiting for the Guest of Honor and a few other panelists to join the debate, but as time waits for no man the event is forging ahead. On the hotseats: Adam Simbeye (Host of This Week In Perspective- TBC One), Ichikaeli Maro (Editor- Daily News), Richard Mgamba (Editor- The Guardian, IPP Media).

Adam Simbeye challenged us to be focused in our definition of relationships of accountability and responsibility. First responsibility goes to the public, according to him. Ichikaeli Maro clarified that Daily News is NOT a government-owned newspaper, it is a publicly-owned newspaper and it's first job is to serve the interests of the Tanzanian public. Richard Mgamba was quite adamant about journalistic professionalism and responsibility: laxity, inaccuracy are not defensible!

Observation: before and leading up to the 2010 elections I was a massive fan of TBC, Habari Leo and Daily News. They seemed to be oases of reason in a sea of hysterical partisanship. Mind you, I did consume other media. However, after the elections there have been some serious crackdowns at TBC and an evident sea-change in the government's attitude towards free media. I am skeptical about Daily News' alleged independence from Establishment agendas. TBC is just tragic. But at least Habari Leo still has the crispest Kiswahili this side of Rai.

Highlight: Richard Mgamba also made note directly that the former head of TBC (allegedly, ahem) lost his job as a direct result of being accountable to the public rather than to the oligarchy. Word.

TMF Forum Liveblog: Observations from the SocMed Corner

Speeches. Very good ones, but I have sadly missed out on the names so you'll have to forgive me.

Looking around, there is a very interesting mix of people in this room- perhaps not what you might expect. There are: veteran journalists giving the benefit of their experience, a group of young turkeys in the corner tapping away and demanding that everybody retweet (yes, Shurufu, we're on it), a table of people who could only be donors, I spot the BBC World Trust, politicians, a couple of Kenyan accents and some lightscameraaction! going on. Very eclectic, and then again perhaps exactly what one would expect from this kind of gathering.

Multimedia has become such a part of our lives, but you should see the production that goes into getting content out. Between fighting over space for your adapter on the never-enough extensions that are provided, asking each other who that is on the microphone so we don't misspell their name, grasping the point of a rambling speaker so you can condense and write it up accurately? Si mchezo.

Media and Accountability: Livebloggin the Tanzania Media Fund Forum

Good morning Dar-es-Salaam! I'm wearing my semi-professional hat today and liveblogging from the Tanzania Media Fund Forum that is being held at Mlimani City as I type. The basic concept behind the Tanzania Media Fund is simple and straightforward: to support the development of a free, fair and accountable media sector in Tanzania. A pretty big project in many ways, which you can read more about on their website.

This event is meant to showcase TMF's successes, will feature a hot debate about Media and Accountability and a keynote address by the guest of honor, the Deputy Minister for Information, Sports and Culture Dr. Fenella Mukangara. The event is also being liveblogged/tweeted by my fellow social media URLs: JamiiForums, VijanaFM, TMF and hopefully Udadisi (where, oh where is my favorite die-hard Afrosocialist?). Check them out.

I am watching the TMF documentary as we speak, and it is quite an interesting mix of people. Just spotted Mrema in one segment endorsing TMF, and some testimonies from practitioners. Stepping outside the big media houses, it's evident that there is a lot of untapped potential in our pool of journalists. Makes me wonder: is our media quality being compromized by the journalists themselves, the media market or some other factor? If you have questions or comments I'm online so email or tweet MikocheniReport. Look forward to hanging out with you.

Observation: I am the only woman at a table of six online journalists covering the event. Online journalism, a new frontier for fellow fempundits? Weigh in.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The King's Diary: Agriculture, First.

Dear Me

Almost two years ago the Agriculture Matters Initiative was launched. It has worked wonders. The Kingdom imported hundreds of tractors and sold them at throw-away prices to those we owe for their support during the elections. We’re inviting plenty of large scale investors to buy big tracts of land (at a reasonable commission of course) and have introduced a fertilizer voucher scheme that generates very smooth pays offs to my people.

The Agriculture Matters Initiative has also helped keep the inquisitive donors at bay. As the Kingdom’s homegrown plan to address poverty, their rhetoric of country ownership leaves the foreigners little choice but to embrace the initiative. Even the smarter foreign sponsors who smell a rat (after all which country asks the business sector to develop its poverty reduction strategy?) prefer to ignore the initiative’s inconsistencies in the interest of good relations.

Now that our self-promoting scheme is bearing ‘results’ and paying my supporters handsomely, complaints crop up. The other day an academic argued that the credit window of the Agriculture Matters Bank is not pro-poor because it only allows loans of at least Kingdom Shillings 100 million, a massive amount. Well, of course, the amount is massive. These loans are meant for my supporters; not for peasants! It was a great move to state that small cultivators should organize themselves into groups to qualify for the loans. They’ll never manage to do that.

While I will deal with the academic who raised the loan issue, the fact that people start to express concern demonstrates the need to be careful. I should avoid that the Agriculture Matters Initiative creates dissent amongst my most loyal power base: smallholder farmers. It seems that the Initiative creates fear of being displaced from agriculture, their livelihood, because of losing their land to land grabbing large-scale investors.

The remarks by the former Secretary General of the United World, who leads another large scale agriculture initiative, were helpful. He stated that “responsible large scale farming systems can play an important role in directly supporting small farmers through technical advice, transfer of new technology and support and access to markets”. Maybe I can tell my supporters to change tack a bit and make sure that in addition to enriching themselves, also peasants benefit. And possibly I can hear more from the former Secretary General when he visits the Kingdom: he really seems to understand our situation.

23 March 2011

* A quick apology: this post is terribly late as I have been lax in my blogging lately. As punishment The King has given me a manual lawn mower and ordered me to clear up the Ikulu grounds. I guess it's better than the dungeons.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Coming Attractions!

One of the best things about this blog is that it has given me friends in art places. Hehe, get it? Friends in art... nevermind. But you know how it is- this is a small city. Hang around people's porches ling enough and instead of getting arrested for stalking, you end up bumping into some creatives. And creatives do cool stuff.

Coming to an Alliance Francaise near you: capturing light on the ocean with paint. Origins is a collection of painting by Nadir Tharani- author, architect, artist. Here is a brief interview by VijanaFM profiling Nadir and his work. It opens tomorrow and will be running until the 8th of April and from the little I have seen if you love the color blue the way that I do, you better go treat yourself.

Then, there is Jazz. I love Busara, really, but I have always thought that this coast is very well suited to a Jazz festival. Turns out that other much more able people have been working on this idea for a while now. This April, the first steps are being taken in that direction and it's looking good so far. Check out the First Dar Jazz Event on their website and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Some Days.

I was watching the news this morning, getting my daily dose of Grim Shit From Around The World when I stumbled across a reporter for BBC in Tripoli who was talking to a Libyan supporter of the coalition thingy that's trying to oust Ghaddafi. After about five minutes of listening to this guy herding his interviewee into a coalition-friendly sound-bite (dude was only too happy to oblige) I heard him ask " do you think that this means that Libya will have to be split into two: Western and Eastern Libya?"

That's when I switched off the TV. There was something horribly formulaic about the whole thing. See Developing Nation. See Developing Nation's Despot. See Younger Generation revolting. See Despot Refuse to Relinquish Power. Watch Revolt collapse. See International Intervention. Watch World Leaders Double-Speak. Entertain self by noting which words chosen by International News Media to headline story: Disaster. Crisis. Revolt. Uprising. Coalition. Nato. Unrest. Opposition.

And this after they switched to a report about Japanese mothers in Tokyo who have been told not to give their young babies tap-water because of radioactive pollution? News: the 24-hour cycle of doom for those who are addicted to misery and fear.

TV dead, off I went to do my toilette where I discovered My First White Hair. Crisis! Disaster! Uprising! Let me tell you: this media-watching/development grinching work thingy that I do has an inbuilt negativity to it. The posts and articles I have been producing lately seem to be coming from a rather dark and dissatisfied state of mind. Obsessing about local politics and the odd international news story was never supposed to overtake the blog like this. So I'm rolling it back a little, time to recalibrate.

I'm battling not to read anything too pessimistic into the fact that Tanesco hasn't rationed power so far this week. I'm admittedly glad about a couple of other bits of good news, such as the fact that Dawasco water has been spotted for the first time in two months in our neighborhood. And the fact that the CCM Youth League actually look like they might take on the old guard in the coming year or so. And the fact that because there's electricity my barber was able to take care of a little problem for me today. So all is well with the world again, especially since I won't be staring at my Disaster, Death and Crisis Media-Induced White Hair of Despair for at least the next two weeks.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hair, Politics, Endings and The Big Man.

I just finished a really nice article in the Financial Times where Alec Russell interviewed Zimbabwe's Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, about working with Mugabe. Both Russell and I were incredulous at Morgan's protestations that working with Mugabe wasn't hard at all (... dude. seriously?) and his various other attempts to conceal the realities of Mugabe today. Hm.

What makes this sinister is that Morgan is doing what I really hate about Generation Independence people: he's covering up Mugabe's present monstrosity as though his revolutionary past is enough to buy him out of jail forever. We make much ado about African Bigmanism but the truth is that there can be no Big Man unless there are Little Men around him stoking the fires of his ego and generally enabling him.

It's bad enough that power corrupts and that leaders are prone to losing touch with reality- do they really need any help from the peanut gallery? Take Ghaddafi, for example. If someone had told him at least ten years ago that the Jheri Curl was nasty and that it had to go, maybe his other delusions of grandeur could have been controlled. But nooooo. I bet all his people were like "Damn, Mumu, that's totally hot. And very fashionable. It's what all the despots wear these days..."

Bad hair, man. It helped to seal his fate. See, the minute he decided to get belligerent on the "rebel forces"- I bet you thought Dar is disorganized but have you seen the Libyan "liberation" front?- his fate was sealed. It was far too obvious, really: this is Libya we're talking about. Oil. It was only a matter of time before Napoleon... I mean Sarkozy got hopped up and then the rest of the EU and America stuck their oar in and now he's getting shelled in his own compound, cornered like a middle-aged rodent with stringy hair.

It is all so unnecessary. He could have gone for gold: "left power" nice and early and retreated into the shadows where he could keep a controlling hand on matters kind of like Mwalimu did. He should have cut that hair. He should have collapsed his ridiculous tent and retired in comfort to a tastefully ostentatious manor in the south of France. He could have died a Dear Leader and then been stuck in a tastelessly ornate marble mausoleum that would mock his people's poverty for posterity. He could have had it all. But he chose... the Jheri Curl and a shameful end.

Consider yourself warned.

*And I don't just mean Jheri Curls. I'm also talking to you, you with the boot-black hair even though we all know you're waaaaay past fifty. And you too. Put that fly-whisk/cowboy hat/dubious accessory away, nobody is fooled.

Fresh Catch From the Webtrawler

I need to close some tabs on the browser again, so let me get this post done. And if you sent in a link, thank you. You know who you are. Anyways, here's the most recent catch of interest from the Intertubes:

From the world of development: I love that sometimes when you have a tiny idea and you can't quite articulate it... someone out there is more likely than not to have done a bit of thinking and writing on it that elucidates. Anyways, I have long ribbed economists for hogging more than their fair share of the development discourse and made the argument that we need more social scientists. Here is an excellent example of social science work with real ramifications. And here is a very nice piece about politics and development. This here is a more general discussion of interdisciplinary and culturally appropriate approaches to development.

In other news, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie had this to say about Nigerian politics and the lead up to their upcoming elections. I like her writing and I wish the article had been a bit longer.

From the wild and whacky world of social media: how has Twitter changed our political behavior? I would say that this article overstates things a bit, but it's got nice graphs. Speaking of pretty pictures: here is an effort from the Uwezo/Twaweza complex that certainly gives food for thought. It's a great site for playing around with info, but remember to keep an eye out as they do herd you towards some very obvious conclusions...

Another group of people seeking to influence your mind are... you guessed it! The US military is on a Facebook page near you! Lol. I love the way the science fiction of my youth and the realities of my adult life seem to be coming together nicely. Truth? Fiction? Can you tell anymore? Am I even alive? Maybe I'm a web-app. But do I dream of electric sheep?... I could do this all day :) And so the week starts...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Vegetable Love*

Look at that beauty. It's the size of a small child. We ate it's brothers and sisters over the past few weeks and they were sweet and juicy and hung so low I could literally lie underneath one and wait for gravity to take its course. Paradise...

Sorry about the silence on the blog. It has been a strange month- to be honest I am still trying to synchronize my writing bursts with the Tanesco electricity schedule and it's not going as well as it could be. In order to soothe my frustration, I have come up with a new obsession: vegetarian cooking. Whenever my muse is not in the mood, which is a bit too often these days, I spend the online time perusing the interwebs for recipes using cabbage, using magnificent purple eggplants and surly, aggressive mint.

I doubt that My Lady of the Verdant Smiles has bought greens in years. Like, years. And no, I can't name the thingy in the bottom left corner as I have no idea what it is but I can tell you it tastes about as good as an unnameable leafy green can hope to.

I am, metaphorically-speaking, drowning in curry sauces and stir-fry noodles, freshly roasted groundnut pastes, garlic and ginger and out-of-season mangoes. Don't get me started on the things a girl could do with a courgette or two, some spring onions and mounds of knobbly potatoes with thick red skins... That's it. When I grow up I'm going to be an urban farmer, just like my folks.

The black dot in the middle of the picture is a bumblebee. I have never seen an actual pumpkin show up in the patch. I think someone needs to be fired for lazy pollination.

Stole the title of this post from Barbara Crooker.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The King's Diary: Political Conundrums.

Dear Me

For almost seven years I have tirelessly worked to deliver a better life to my subjects. But I seem to have failed. Problems I faced when I came to power such as electricity rationing, delays at the port, traffic congestion, a malfunctioning railroad, backward agriculture and an untrained and unskilled population remain unresolved. Other things are getting worse: food prices are skyrocketing, the Treasury is out of cash and one of the donors has walked out on us calling the Kingdom “an unreliable partner”. More may follow. Meanwhile TKP officials continue to line their pockets without delivering anything, the opposition is getting more vocal and citizens are getting restless. This is an explosive situation! As leader I need to find a solution and restore the TKPs legitimacy.

I came across an interesting book by Richard Hofstadter that seems to speak to our precarious situation. It discusses party history in the Great Imperialist Nation. Like us, the Great Nation struggled with its opposition, and like the TKP, the incumbent party was set to destroy the opposition by all means. They even succeeded, but when they did the remaining party fell into disarray. During the Era of Good Feeling (1816-1824) the party ruled virtually unchallenged and fell into several factions that failed to work together. Without external pressure toward solidarity, internal disintegration was unchecked.

How much this resembles our situation. The TKPs power is virtually unchallenged. Could it be that because there is no incentive to compromise and accommodate one another, TKP big wigs fall out in different factions and interest groups and fail to collaborate?

If correct then going after the opposition will not result in triumph but in chaos. Should we stop fighting the opposition and allow them space to compete? Should we allow them to demonstrate and to highlight TKP weaknesses? It could drive TKP members to greater solidarity. Should we allow them to win constituencies of non-performing MPs? It will certainly prune the TKP of its weak members and entice others to work harder. Hmmm.... interesting thought. Could it really help restore the TKP’s glory? I need to think this over.

14 March 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Favorite -ism

Happy International Women's Day, all and sundry :) I just want to grab this moment to address a few common misconceptions about feminism that I encounter here all the time.

1. Feminism is not synonymous with affirmative action. I have to say this because whenever the f-word gets invoked, there is always someone getting mean-eyed about how either women shouldn't get what they perceive as preferential treatment in the labor market or about how men are being sidelined. Thing is, feminism is a large and complex -ism that cannot be reduced to a few practices such as affirmative action in the labor market (or political sphere for that matter). It is a public relations problem that I think our formal feminist institutions might do a better job of addressing, because it does kind of make the issue reductive.

2. Feminism is not synonymous with man-hating. That's just a holdover from the past, when more militant groups of feminists rejected the masculine and went off on that rant for a few decades. Not only is this a minority issue in the feminist movement, I think it has been incredibly damaging and obviously folks are still suffering the after effects. Perhaps more people would be comfortable calling themselves feminists if they didn't have to contend with that little problem. A propos: there is a new movement mostly in the US but also somewhat in Europe where issues of masculinity are being dissected as men negotiate a society quite different from those of the past where their roles are no longer so strongly defined or supported. Pretty interesting stuff to read especially if you are a feminist. Holler in the inbox if you want some material but it's easier to just google "Masculinism." And yes, it is different from patriarchy :)

3. Stop calling feminism "mambo ya Beijing." If I could, I would try to think up a new term for feminism in Kiswahili because Haki za Wanawake and Mfumo Dume do nothing to capture the dynamism and relevance of the -ism. Still, please, for sweet chunky monkey's sakes don't call it "Beijing."

4. Men can, and do, benefit immensely from feminist advances in societies. I know that the idea is a hard sell in this market, but believe me. A society in which women enjoy more freedoms doesn't have to look like the US, and can be quite healthy for everyone.

One thing I admit I found a bit strange was the repeat notion- can men be feminists? What do you think, and why?

The King's Diary: Education and Tracking the Opposition

Dear Me,

Inspired by the Arab protests, the opposition keeps calling for change. Do they realize who they are challenging? I cannot allow anyone to threaten my position. Already I instructed my ministers to denounce the opposition whenever possible. I also told the police to keep a close eye on them and to harass them whenever they can.

I am sure the opposition has heard me, but I am not sure whether they have listened. If they do not come to their senses, I fear I will have to resort to violence to calm them down. Meanwhile I'll keep beating the instability drum by publicly stating that the opposition threatens peace in the Kingdom. If I cannot scare the opposition into submission, I should still be able to make my subjects believe that only the TKP can guarantee stability! We simply have to remain in power.

While it is necessary to protect my position, by treating the opposition harshly we might be putting wind in their sails. Citizens always tend to sympathize with the underdog. And as long as deep dissatisfaction continues to run through my Kingdom, the opposition is likely to prey upon it.

Take education for instance. Parents no longer accept the argument that the TKP brought them schools. They expect their kids to learn. On this count statistics presented to me in confidence are worrisome: 23% of teachers are not in school on any given day and when in school, teachers spend half their time outside the classroom. As a consequence children are only taught 2 hours and 04 minutes a day! Instead of the 5 hours. It’s a miracle some still manage to pass their exams.

Meanwhile the Ministry of Education pays all teacher salaries in full and on time. Of course they do, I insist on it to ensure a large loyal TKP cadre across the Kingdom. I wonder though whether time has come to demand more from the teachers than loyalty alone. Maybe I can talk to the Teacher Union and convince them to tell their members to teach as well. In addition, I could demand headmasters to closely track teacher performance. And I could order 10 household leaders to monitor headmasters and inform the TKP about it. Hmmmm.... I like it. It strengthens our control, won’t cost a penny and might defuse the popular unrest a bit.

07 March 2011

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Celebrating Womanhood 2011

Okay, I set up a kind of open-ended questionnaire so that we could have a little fun on the blog with Women's Day. Again: things get heavy- you know? So I like to lighten things up from time to time. Which evidently works for some folks because the sarcastometer in the comments section is tickling me something fierce. Okay, let's play:

1. Are you a feminist? Are you gendered male or female? (stop sniggering, these are perfectly valid terms).
Yes, I am a feminist (philosophically and practically). I am gendered female and happily in touch with my masculine side.

2. What do you think of the feminist movement in Tanzania?
It could be better. For sure.

3. What's the one thing you think African women could use a little help with?
Anonymous had it right: independent income. But I think I would end it at "Independent"

4. Which woman do you most admire in the world, and why? (Note: I know you loves your mama, but not today. Keep that for mama's day and give some other lady a chance). Meryl Streep. I like her shaggy-ass self. She's like the concentrated version of womanhood, a stock reduced to gelee. Essential, really. I also have a fine hankering to be Halima Mdee for the political opportunity, but one life at a time. Or, like, Angela Basset. The list goes on.m, ..

5. Which one is better to watch on TV: Soccer, Rugby or Tennis?
Rugby. Mh-hm.

6. Angelina Jolie: Hot? Not? Why?
Yawn. While my masculine side appreciates much across the board, them puffy lips and crazy eyes don't do it for me. Oh well.

7. Do you know what infibulation is? (if you must describe, please keep it clean).
Yes, and Google it. Then think about it.

8. FGM: torture and abuse or culture and tradition?
Torture and abuse masquerading as culture and tradition.

9. Feminists are making a mountain out of a molehill: true or false?
False. So, very, false.

10: Who is your favorite Tanzanian politician? (sorry. I couldn't resist. I just couldn't)
I would tell you but not only is s/he completely inappropriate, I have enough problems justifying my political views on the blog as it is without owning up to preferences that are not shallow. Politicians are like crack: whack but somehow you go back.

11. Special seats: difficult subject. I am engaged in this and the deeper i go, the more I try to understand and respect the issue... the more things slip away from me. for example: i am not inclined towards affirmative action. But- where would women be in this society without it? then again- was it the religious (Muslim and Christian) influence that truncated our experience in and belief in women's power? ... it's a journey. I don't have the answers. But asking the questions is so much fun. And there's some living to be done, so onwards.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

The F-word Survey 2011

This year, I am on top of International Women's Day. Yay! I almost always miss this one, which is embarrassing, but this year I can build up towards it. It's been a bit doom and gloom around here lately hasn't it? Let's do a little affirmation instead. I want to throw this one to the readers, by asking you a few questions and hoping you will participate in the comments section. Feel free to ignore the questions and say what you want to in the comments section anyways as long as it pertains to Women's Day in whatever oblique way. Cheers :)

1. Are you a feminist? Are you gendered male or female? (stop sniggering, these are perfectly valid terms).
2. What do you think of the feminist movement in Tanzania?
3. What's the one thing you think African women could use a little help with?
4. Which woman do you most admire in the world, and why? (Note: I know you loves your mama, but not today. Keep that for mama's day and give some other lady a chance)
5. Which one is better to watch on TV: Soccer, Rugby or Tennis?
6. Angelina Jolie: Hot? Not? Why?
7. Do you know what infibulation is? (if you must describe, please keep it clean).
8. FGM: torture and abuse or culture and tradition?
9. Feminists are making a mountain out of a molehill: true or false?
10: Who is your favorite Tanzanian politician? (sorry. I couldn't resist. I just couldn't)

Wreak havoc in the inbox and see y'all soon, and lightheartedly, in a few. Oh, and feel free to suggest some questions/topics too.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The King's Diary: No Revolution Here

Dear Me,

The uprising in the Arab countries keeps hounding me. Even the opposition is inspired by them, threatens me with popular protest and calls for change. I am not worried. Things are firmly under control. Except that … isn’t this what Arab King colleagues thought as well?

What might my people be upset about? Recently,

  1. my police killed peaceful protesters,
  2. power rationing was stepped up,
  3. an army base exploded,
  4. and we started harassing street vendors in earnest.
  5. Meanwhile it turned out that kids in secondary school don’t learn a thing,
  6. student loan corruption was exposed and
  7. we sold our pride by begging the Great Nations for more free money.

Then there are the usual irritations of economic hardship, rising inequality, unavailability of clean water, traffic jams, rising food prices, no jobs, my buddies benefiting big time from mining contracts, huge tax exemptions for my supporters, a failed rail network, delays at the port, an exploding budget deficit and of course the never ending electricity arbitration saga.

But I also have things going for me. Let’s see:

  1. the Kingdom is stable,
  2. my efforts to distribute bed nets and to fight malaria work.

Hmmmm…, a bit unbalanced. Still I am convinced my approach to power will keep the lid on the situation. The TKP’s approach is so much more subtle and effective when it comes to repression than the overt repression the Arab Nations relied on. First we restrict economic opportunities such that the middle class remains small. Then the TKP uses violence only occasionally. And if we do, we announce it ahead of time giving the disloyal time to flee.

Instead of using violence, the TKP has perfected the art of creating fear. Announcing someone’s imminent death helps spread fear about how ruthless the TKP can be. And then there is the fear of poverty. TKP members know it is dead easy to get kicked out of the party and lose one’s benefits. It is simple for us to finish off a successful business by sending the Kingdom’s Revenue Authority (KRA), to ruin an obstinate peasant with a court case, to blacklist recalcitrant consultants and NGOs, to make sure the children of vocal citizens are denied access to school and to send the career of a civil servant into a nosedive by spreading rumors.

As long as the TKP uses these approaches sporadically but to great effect, it creates huge uncertainty. This combination of fear and uncertainty is really effective. It makes my subjects so unclear about my real powers that they prefer to swallow their pride and instead of speaking out they choose to self-censor and behave themselves.

Once the Arab disaster has settled I am sure other Kings would like to study the TKPs approach to staying in power. Till that time, I’ll keep quiet thus adding to the myth of being in control. Meanwhile I hope the Bedouin King holds out and throws his country into civil war. It will do wonders for my credibility when warning my subjects not to protest or face instability. Not that the latter is likely. My Kingdom does not have oil or diamonds worth fighting over and I don’t believe my army will support me when forced to choose between supporting me or the people. Hmmmm… maybe this is the right time to take some of my subjects’ grievances serious.

A little birdie told me...

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