Saturday, 8 December 2012

Fifty One Years of Political Independence in Tanzania, Economic Independence remains elusive

Tanzania mainland marks 51 years since it attained independence on 9th December 2012.  At the down of 1960s, many African nations were emerging as sovereign entities in the international system. Others had undergone a protracted struggle under colonial imperialism while others had peacefully negotiated for their independence with their colonial masters. For the first time in modern history, African states had gained global recognition and impetus in world politics and economics.

The African story has been written and authored by a myriad of scholars predominantly Western ones. Tales are told of a ragged and frayed continent, a wrecked continent, a continent of despair, a lost continent, and even the fate of the African continent ravaged by war, disease, ethnicity and underdevelopment has been told. But, despite this hopelessness and despair, apathy and cynicism in the African continent, Africa will forever remain our motherland.

Although independence had come, it had come only in political terms. The most essential element of independence is not political freedom or what we term ‘flag independence’. The continent of Africa was deprived the most precious form of independence; economic independence. As Tanzania mainland marks fifty one years of independence, we should ask ourselves what type of independence we are marking today. It is quite blatant that we are only politically independent and not economically liberated.

Building great nations require selfless leaders who will out of the desire and love for their people mold a nation that will aspire for economic independence and not those who blame their misfortunes on others. The concept of economic independence has elicited sharp academic and political debate. I shall try and contribute to this debate by contextualizing Tanzania. It is quite clear that Tanzania, just like many other African nations, is not economically independent.

As we celebrate this 51st  anniversary of our independence, we should pose and reflect on the past, present and what lies ahead in terms of economic liberation. As Jenerali Ulimwengu (political commentator) says in one of his recent commentaries that ‘birthdays are a time to give thanks to Providence for having survived the vagaries of a cruel world,’ it is also a time to take stock and reflect.

Reflections should be made towards propelling our nation towards economic independence. In doing so, we should reflect on how we can achieve economic liberation. Dambisa Moyo one of Africa’s contemporary scholars in the field of international economics posits that economic independence can only be attained through debunking the western models which promote economic aid.

Her thesis describes the state of postwar development policy in Africa today and she confronts one of the greatest myths of our time: that billions of dollars in aid sent from wealthy countries to developing African nations has helped to reduce poverty and increase growth. She asserts that, contrary to the opinion that aid benefits the recipients, it actually traps developing nations in a vicious circle of aid dependency, corruption, market distortion, and further poverty, leaving them with nothing but the “need” for more aid. This cycle deprives the countries their economic independence. Tanzania is still regarded as one of the poorest nations on earth. We are still dependent on economic aid for many developmental initiatives in our country. Our budget is still to a large extent financed by external donors. This is not the economic independence we aspired when we gained independence.

Towards Economic Independence
Economic blueprints in many countries are built with the purpose of liberating countries from poverty and stagnation. One of the best blueprints which has yielded immense success is the Singapore story. Under the close guidance of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore was transformed from third world to first within a generation. Singapore’s extraordinary achievement has transformed the country into an Asian economic giant. Economic independence comes from doing the small things right, with great love and vision. It comes through identifying your strengths and working on your weaknesses. Tanzania can do just this.

Tanzania is a land of great potential, a land of great people, a country blessed with massive wealth and a country of great diversity. We can harness our potential through identifying what we can do best, this way we shall be in a position to strengthen our economy and thus becoming economically independent. 

As we mark this day, fellow Tanzanians, let’s take a moment to reflect on our path forward. Let us rekindle the desire of progress our fore fathers envisioned, let us pursue a better Tanzania in the next fifty years when we shall be celebrating an anniversary of economic independence, let us aspire for greatness because Tanzania is a nation destined for greatness. God bless Tanzania. 

A reflection: Nico Minde, Nairobi.  

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Monday, 3 December 2012

Kenyan Electorate Shouldn’t be Duped Again

By J. Mghanga Malasi, Nairobi

Kenyan optimism has grown to a less extent and so are their expectations towards the fulfillment of the promises made in the new constitution. It’s fresh in the minds of many when Kenyans voted in a landslide to usher in a new government after decades of dictatorial rule. They in their large numbers flock into the polling stations to vote for change, “Yote yawezekana” where several politicians led by the then leader of the official opposition who is the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki formed a formidable coalition that handed a resounding defeat to the Kanu Government that had been in power for four decades.

Kenyans ecstatically celebrated the victory that promised to bring changes they had yearned for many years. Indeed, they were reported to be the most optimistic people on the face of the earth by international media in early 2003. They were hopeful that their livelihoods will change under the new leadership. Given the promise given by the coalition partners, Kenyans were optimistic that their lives would change for the better. Little after the formation of National Rainbow Coalition government things changed after the memorandum between the two parts that come together to form the government was not followed to the letter and the leading president went against it making the Liberal Democratic Party cry foul to its main partner National Alliance of Kenya party. Before long, corruption and other malpractices slowly started crept back. The power struggles that ensued eventually saw the Coalition disintegrate and by 2007, Kenyans had realised they had been duped into voting for a regime that was not entirely forthright.

Having said that Kenyans an optimistic people and in August fourth this year they did the same went out and voted in large numbers to usher in a new dispensation. They voted yes for the new Laws to govern them; providing a facilitating framework to heal the ills of the past and make amendments where they went wrong. From this we clearly saw the expectation from those congregations and their expressions at the promulgation day at Uhuru Park. Though, as Kenyans we seemed to have turned a new leaf after the passing of the new Constitution, this has been clawed back by the watering down of laws meant to entrench integrity in the country’s top leadership.

It’s time that Kenyans called on their leaders and those entrusted with responsibility of implementation of the new constitution that they must trade carefully and guard the optimism of Kenyans by all means. They must act and work within their mandate given to them and should be people of integrity and uphold high moral values.  They must bear in mind that the intention of the constitution is to foster unity among Kenyans. They must stay away from sectarian politics and draft laws that will guide this country as whole into prosperity; achieving the middle income status as stipulated in the vision twenty thirty.

The recent public debate by politicians on gender one third rule achievement come the next election march fourth and the call by the chiefs to know their fate in the devolution of the provincial administration in the new constitution is a healthy debate and should be encouraged. Remember the new constitution is the most widely read document in the country and public debate helps the citizenry understand the stick issues and get involved. However we should cautious and discuss with an open mind the most contentious issues that can easily divide us especially as Kenyans have to ponder as we prepare to cast our ballots in the General Election due in March next year. Looking forward there is wide appreciation of the understanding of political freedoms by Kenyans and this is expected to enhance their decision making come election time. With the maturity, the questions Kenyans should be asking are: why should they continue voting for anti-reform leaders? Why should they glorify corrupt politicians and vote them for public office while they still suffering? Many of the politicians on the campaign trail wear different hats in the eyes of public, thus may not suit the list of those to be elected for office come the election date.