By Elsie Eyakuze
It is a dire situation. Dar, um, I mean Dodoma is
being shunned by the EAC and we are steadily
dropping off every popularity chart imaginable.
This in spite of having hosted American President
after American President after American President.
After being fondled by China like a sweet little fruit
on the vine just waiting to ripen. After finding our
soils rich with gold, precious stones, fossil fuels and
wide vistas full of nothing but arable land waiting to
be converted into wheat, or genetically modified soy
The Afrobarometer results are grim, our Open
Government Initiative thingy is looking dodgy, the
World Bank’s Doing Business Index is unimpressed
with us and we’ve apparently got the most corrupt
police force in the region. And so on and so forth —
although I have no idea how that police issue can be
entirely true considering the neighbourhood.
We have a problem in this modern world of ours, of
unwarranted optimism. And then there is that
superbly annoying happiness imperative.
Anyone who has used social media knows precisely
how terribly incarcerating all that broadcasting can
become. Strangely enough, it isn’t just social media
that has this attitude; it is a feature of international
Tanzania has always enjoyed such a good reputation
that it is hard to tell how we have fallen into this era
of mild disgrace, but at least two reasons present
themselves. The first is that journalism is coming
into its own, finally. Stories are leaking out that are
getting closer and closer to the truth. As we go ahead
and dig deeper we are writing with greater bravery,
which is never good for business or public relations.
The other reason is simple: These are complicated
times we’re living in. If you take the EAC, for
example, in principle there is nothing objectionable
about its goals at all.
And we should be a lot more business-savvy than we
are and we could do with a lot more openness in the
government. But we have to account for human
nature and the way that civilisation grinds us all
down to our lowest common denominators.
I think that when the real pan-Africanists were still
alive and influential, when ambitions were more
daring and people were more malleable, it made
perfect sense. But come on; let’s all love one another
and stitch a mass society out of the quilted network
of our disparate cultures is a challenge that is outside
of our current capacities. We’re just too mean for it,
This world demands that in order to succeed we have
to be efficient, we have to compete, we have to
embrace the brutality of modernism — there is no
space at all for the touching and feeling business.
Even if it makes sense in a bureaucratic kind of way,
the EAC has to make sense in our hearts and minds
before it can take off and I fear that the window of
opportunity for that sort of sentiment may have
closed, judging by our current behaviour.
The story is similar with our corruption problem.
Corruption is the underlying factor in the reports on
how the police are not very clean, how we’re rather
difficult people to do business with, why elements of
our public service simply cannot afford the scrutiny
of open government.
There are those who are discomfited by “bad news”
about their countries, who feel that propaganda is
the way to go. And then there are the other ninety-
nine per cent of us who are happy to exhale at the
sound of someone else saying it like it is.
The paradox of bad news is that it can foster a spirit
of optimism and change, which is why the
independent is hard to get rid of once it infests a
society with it’s truth telling.
Our EAC is falling apart? Well, let it be a lesson to us
about good sense, neighbourliness and the
importance of good leadership. Our police are
corrupt? Well, let’s stop incarcerating young men and
employ them instead, give them uniforms and the
belief that there’s dignity in the business of
protecting people because there is. As for business,
Every generation needs a raison d’etre and I see a
link between the hypocrisies of modernity, the
mendacity of our hegemonies and the resurgence of
a belief in honesty. Bad news? It gives direction,
hope, a place to place your activism and your
communal nature. It is, yes paradoxically, good for
Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and
blogger for The Mikocheni Report, http://
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