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When the president makes a good speech

Discussion in 'Habari na Hoja mchanganyiko' started by ByaseL, Dec 7, 2009.

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    ByaseL JF-Expert Member

    Dec 7, 2009
    Joined: Nov 22, 2007
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    There is a tale from Malawi about the President’s speech during 1980s. This was the time when Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda was a despot life president and a demigod of some sort, so to speak. Banda never brooked any dissent let alone criticism from anyone. Crossing the president’s path the wrong way could invoke immediate terror from state house goons to the culprit to be a lesson to all and sundry.

    One day President Banda made a speech to the nation which sounded like music to one guy (let us call him Jimmy) who was an expatriate in Lilongwe. Jimmy used to socialize at the elite club ( Like Gymkana in DAR) and that evening he went to the club and found several club members seated around the bar counter enjoying the evening. Very excited Jimmy started narrating to his fellow club members how impressed he was with the President’s speech made earlier that day. “Today, President Banda made a very good speech!” He quipped. He then sunk into a monologue with aspects of the speech but he had barely gone far when he noticed that he was alone at the bar counter! “Why are people leaving?” Jimmy queried the Bartender.

    After doing a few drink errands the Bartender eventually responded to Jimmy’s wonder. “Sir, You know why people shifted from the counter? It is because you said today the President made a very good speech!”. “What the hell is wrong with that?” Jimmy retorted. The Bartender carried on “By saying what you said about the President’s speech, it implies that all the previous speeches made by President are hogwash except this one! I am sure you know what it means to ridicule the president in this country”

    At this juncture Jimmy got the “revelation” and realized why people had deserted the bar counter. Dear Reader, can you envision what happened to Jimmy? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Malawi under Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda was like that for donkey’s years.

    President Jakaya Kikwete’s speech on Friday, 20th November 2009 jogged my memory on Jimmy’s fable. This was the climax of the 10th Anniversary Celebrations of the formation of East African Community which also ushered in the signing of the East African Common Market Protocol by the heads of states of Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania. On the same day President Kikwete had been elected the Chairman of the East African Governing body to succeed President Paul Kagame of Rwanda whose successful tenure had come to an end.

    Arusha town on that day was a beehive of activities which culminated by the heads of states greeting the wananchi in turn at Sheik Amri Abeid Stadium. President Kikwete as the interim chairman and host was the last to speak. What was expected to be a very brief pleasantry from the President to the wananchi actually turned out to be a short and snappy (about 30 minutes) speech! I watched President Kikwete talk live on ITV and was quite elated. Admittedly I did not realize that the president had made such a good speech until the following day although I had internalized his speech quite well because I can boast of some elementary economics after all.

    Come Saturday, 21st November 2009 I was having a rendezvous at the nearby Kijiweni (a local pub) in the evening. There were other revelers from different social strata which my quick sampling categorized them into retired people, white and blue collar middle class citizens as well as ordinary wananchi. At exactly 7 pm TBC1 started re-airing the President’s Arusha speech and somehow there was dead silence around the pub as all eyes were glued on the TV huge screen.

    The President’s theme, in a nutshell, was about East African Integration. “We have come a long way” said the President. “We started with East African Customs Union which comes of age on 31st December 2009. With the signing of the E. Africa Common Market Protocol, East Africans are going a step further in consolidating the integration process. This will soon be followed by a Monetary Union and eventually a Political Federation”

    The President went into the finer details of the merits of the impending Common Market Union which inter alia includes free movement of the people, labour and capital within the East African member states. He went on to allay fears Tanzanians harbor against the integration process. “About five years ago when the customs union came into effect, Tanzania exports to Kenya, for example, were about forty three million dollars. In 2008 Tanzania’s exports to Kenya jumped to a whopping three hundred and fifty million dollars” the President revealed. Mr. Kikwete’s clarion calling to fellow Tanzanians is to take this opportunity and work hard in order to realize the benefits thereof.

    Fears about land grabbing and jobs by non-Tanzanians are unfounded because all these issues have been discussed thoroughly by the community members and will be subject to individual country laws, President Kikwete clarified.

    When the President was done with his speech, one gentleman intoned “ Rais leo katoa hotuba nzuri sana!”. Meaning? Listen to this; “Today the President made a very good speech!” I could not help cracking into laughter. I recalled Jimmy’s predicament in Malawi but of course did not take off from Kijiweni. We live in different times but I could not miss the gentleman’s point. Frankly speaking, I think the president that day rose to the occasion. He was spot on by talking about what really matters and I believe this is what people really wanted to hear. Perhaps people listening to his speech this time around thought this was a departure from the usual style in terms of eloquence and content hence the attention and exaltation from the audience I sensed that evening. Unlike the previous ones the Arusha speech was impromptu and upbeat.

    Byase Luteke