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Is Peace in Tanzania Under Threat?

Discussion in 'Habari na Hoja mchanganyiko' started by nngu007, Dec 30, 2011.

  1. nngu007

    nngu007 JF-Expert Member

    Dec 30, 2011
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    [TD="class: createdate"]Saturday, 17 December 2011 11:07

    The recent heinous crime committed by police against peaceful demonstrators in Arusha, people's spontaneous reaction in defence, reports of protests in institutions of higher learning, constant complaints in the press, and skirmishes we experienced during last election have created a fear for the future of tranquility in Tanzania.

    Tanzania has been relatively peaceful for five decades winning names such as "an oasis of peace," as mentioned by a German scholar, Rolf Hoefmeier, in 1997. However, political, economic and social reforms that started in the 1990s have pushed Tanzania to the brink of violent conflict though the country is still stable.

    Practically, Tanzanians are not an exception; they are like Kenyans, Ivoirians, Afghans, Americans, or any people. Each society has values that distinguish it from other societies superficially, but down deep, all people are political animals, just as ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said.

    Rather than playing a blame game by condemning the opposition and the press as our politicians prefer to do, one ought to examine our past and look at some theories of violent conflict for an answer.
    After independence, Tanzania under President Julius Nyerere launched a top-down nation building project under one party system, nationalized economy, and various policies to bridge the gap between the rural populace and the rest. Tanzanians had hope.

    The government then controlled the press making the then-editors like Benjamin Mkapa and Ferdinand Ruhinda mere amplifiers of the socialist rhetoric. Challenging the government looked like treason but luckily, Tanzania had the greatest patriotic and humanitarian leader ever to happen in Africa, Mwalimu Nyerere.

    Fast forward to present day, Tanzania has a much freer but struggling press, an ill-managed free market economy, an oppressed multiparty system and shaky social services that follow the money.

    Poor Tanzanians, who used to look up to their government for everything, are now left in the woods facing a host of difficulties. The emerging middle class is living in another world with their kids shying away from the Swahili language and playing video games inside air-conditioned homes.

    The gap is growing faster than the speed of light.
    Karl Marx explained that in a class struggle a mismatch between economic base and social superstructure is always the major source of social disruption and conflict. But Tanzania under Nyerere escaped all forms of class struggle in effect reducing the chances for violent conflict.

    Nyerere, however good, avoided the risk of educating the masses at a higher level of education, but the 1990s' reforms opened up the minds of Tanzanians, who by then were denied even access to television. Today Tanzania has mushroomed with institutions of higher learning, creating an army of young jobless elites desperate for changes.

    The success story of a few Tanzanians paints a picture of greed, nepotism, corruption, misuse of natural endowments, and injustice, just to mention a few evils. Poor Tanzanians are wandering where these "lucky" guys get all the money while others remain damn poor. The situation creates the perception of "being deprived," regardless of the truth.

    Ted Robert Gurr, an American scholar specializing in political conflict and instability, defines relative deprivation as the "perceived discrepancy between value expectations and value capabilities." He said as feeling of deprivation grows more intense the chances of violence increases significantly.

    That brings us to another theoretical argument by an Italian philosopher, Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), which states that "changes occur when the rising elite is barred from attaining political power and economic opportunity."

    Jack Goldstone, an American sociologist and political scientist, builds on Pareto's theory arguing that "an expanding population of higher educated youth facing limited opportunities to obtain elite political and economic positions" is likely to bring revolution.

    Do these arguments hint as to why most of Chadema's supporters are young, educated and urbanites?
    The 1990s' half-cooked reforms changed the way Tanzanians interact with each other and with their government. Luckily, as an American scholar in African studies, Ilana Kessler observed in 2006, Tanzania has been peaceful because ordinary citizens are strongly attached to the moral principles of peace and unity that underlie Tanzanian national identity.

    However, there is a threshold for everything. Tanzania cannot continue on its current path peacefully. The time has come for Tanzania to change peacefully to allow justice and an equal opportunity for everybody or else face violent conflict.

    The problem is with the ruling class, which won't concede easily and is likely to resort to unjust means such as police brutality under the pretext of "intelligence reports," unfair legislation, media muzzling, pervasive corruption, election rigging, religious division, tribalism, deception, passing the helm of power to their kids, and even witchcraft.

    Karl Marx observed: There is no real change without blood and violence. We can't run away from changes; we just need to choose between peaceful changes and bloody changes. God bless Tanzania!

    Mr Matinyi is a consultant based in Washington