{Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and
blogger for The Mikocheni Report.}

By Elsie Eyakuze

Posted Saturday, April 19 2014 at 08:41

I should have known something was brewing when,
at the very beginning of the year, local radio stations
started advertising Tanzania to Tanzanians quite
aggressively.

Although broadcasting is dominated by independent
entities of varied ethical and political inclination, the
big stations seem to tacitly agree that promoting
nationalism is worthwhile.

So we sing the song of ourselves to ourselves as part
of public life, to luxuriate in our self-regard and
remind each other that the continued health of the
United Republic must transcend our schisms and
frustrations. In other words, where there is smoke,
there is fire.

The debate on the structure of the Union has
swallowed the draft constitution without pausing to
chew, the opposition camp has just walked out of the
Constituent Assembly for the first time since it was
convened and Julius Kambarage Nyerere’s status as
the infallible Father of the Nation is under attack.

Dar es Salaam’s infrastructure has been knocked out
cold by the yearly rains, lives have been lost due to
flooding and we’ve just been warned that there’s
more water on the way. In the past day or two, I
haven’t heard the obnoxious boom of fighter aircraft
overhead as they practice for our display of military
might for Tanzania’s 50th birthday.

Clearly, someone was anticipating trouble. Nobody
needs prophetic skills to know that Dar es Salaam
and precipitation do not play well together, or to
know that debating the Union was always going to be
fraught, but the scale of the drama of the Constituent
Assembly has been surprising.

Latin American soap
opera stars need to visit us for some professional
training.

Timing really is everything, isn’t it?

When the
process for the constitution kicked off two or so years
ago, I wondered who takes on the challenge of
writing a constitution for an entity as complex as a
21st century nation-state in a hurry?

It didn’t seem worth quibbling about because the
intention at least is decent and I am not even certain
that The Establishment is capable of long-term
visionary planning and execution any more or if crisis
mode is the only mode that functions for them.

If I
don’t agree with the pace of the endeavour, I have
learned to trust that when a critical political project
isn’t convincing enough, someone is likely to try to
thrust a parliamentary spear into its heart and kill it.

That said, we did create an absolutely perfect
situation for the Union debate to come and bite us in
the new constitution, didn’t we?

It has only been
brewing for as long as the Union has been around,
getting stronger with time.

It is also a perfect
illustration of how far we have come: Tanzania at 50
is apparently not inclined to be dragged along behind
policies that it has deep reservations about.

The era
of Ndiyo Mzee is past.

Whether and how the Union survives is an issue that
I am very comfortable being ambivalent about.

Just
because you inherit a political situation doesn’t mean
that you must chain yourself to the thinking patterns
of the people who instigated it.

I have opportunistically asked as many of Nyerere’s
contemporaries as I can get hold of about why they
think the Union came about.

I have received answers
that sometimes contradict each other.

No one ever
mentioned a referendum: Like Ujamaa, this was
something that our dear National Fathers didn’t allow
within sight of a democratic process.

All these sacred cows are just chewing their cud and
ailing under our watch.

Is Nyerere so special that we
should never talk about his humanity, or have people
been deriving too much inspiration from North
Korea?

How do we get to the bottom of grievances on both
sides of the Union?

Why should we trust our leaders
with the present structure let alone multiple
governments?

And what will it take to get a
reasonably decent constitution, seriously?

This isn’t the mood with which to approach one of the
world’s most unique, admired and deliciously
complex political phenomena on a big birthday.

It is
kind of killing the festive spirit.
Specifically, it is killing the festive spirit that radio
has been working on for months.

Whether state-
engineered or otherwise, positive messaging has the
simple function of boosting morale.

These wave-riders have made fun of our diversity of
Kiswahili accents and invited us to laugh along with
them, and it is nice to wake up to the message that it
is fantastic to be Tanzanian.

It is a fiction that helps us hold the demons of civil
strife at bay, to the best of our collective ability.

Ain’t
nothing easy about keeping your country together in
this ‘hood of ours.

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