BY OKECH KENDO/the Star
Tanzania has done it again. The fifth president of Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli, takes office tomorrow to consolidate about 50 years of a stable political leadership.
Meanwhile Kenya and Uganda, Tanzania’s freedom age-mates, are wobbling. The two are either unwilling or unable to learn the art of nation-building from their next-door neighbour.
The founding president of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, knew when Kenya and Uganda lost the plot. The late Mwalimu Nyerere also knew when his East African peers, Milton Obote of Uganda, and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, lost pre-independence designs of what should have been stable nation-states.
While Nyerere started on a socialist path, which he domesticated as ‘Ujamaa’, Kenya took the capitalist road. The road wound into primitive accumulation of capital, including land. Kenya under Jomo minted a few millionaires faster than business acumen could explain. Grand corruption continues with impunity.
Much of the acquisition, as the late JM Kariuki explained in the early 1970s, was a betrayal of the struggle for political independence. The accumulation was done at the expense of the majority. Proceeds of public office enriched a minority. Political and tribal correctness defined one’s place in post-independence Kenya.
Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki followed in Jomo’s footsteps, with sycophantic alacrity. The current Jubilee regime is faithful to this divisive script, even as they play lip service to nationhood. Personal greed has overwhelmed national needs.
Seeds of Kenya’s instability were sown faster than the pessimistic imagined at independence in 1963. Ethnic correctness and accumulation of personal wealth blur hopes a united Kenya.
Nyerere laid the foundation of a just society, whose culmination was the Arusha Declaration of 1967, anchored in the ideals of self-reliance. The Arusha Declaration consolidated the independence of Tanzania – a 1964 union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar.
The other goal of Arusha Declaration was to safeguard the integrity of the individual in accord with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Nyerere had a vision of a country where all human beings are equal; where every individual had a right to dignity and respect; where every citizen is an integral part of the nation, and a shareholder in government.
Nyerere also aspired to build a nation where every citizen has a right to receive a just return for his labour. He may not have achieved all this during his lifetime, but Nyerere placed Tanzania on a firm foundation of national stability.
Obote struggled with a loose economic blue-print, the Common Man’s Charter. This did not amount to much amid tribes and kingdoms struggling for attention from Kampala. The bickering still simmers.
Kenya and Uganda are still grappling with tribe-defined politics and dictatorship, as Tanzania consolidates its post-independence gains.
‘Man-eat-man’ and ‘man-eat-nothing’ squabbles of 1960s-1970s may have killed the first post-independent dream of a common market for East Africa but Tanzania is enjoying the last laugh.
Tanzania is politically much stronger and economically coherent than its regional siblings – Kenya and Uganda. The two countries are trudging along under the stranglehold of intransigent and ethnic-coated power cliques.
Uganda is struggling with three decades of one-man dictatorship, thanks to a former guerrilla fighter Yoweri Museveni. President Museveni arrived in Kampala in 1986, as a ‘triumphant rebel’. Any claim to protecting the gains of the ‘liberation’ in the year 2015 is a sordid excuse for self-perpetuation.
Tanzania has, meanwhile, undergone five presidential transitions: from Nyerere to Ali Hassan Mwinyi; from Mwinyi to Benjamin Mkapa, and from Mkapa to Jakaya Kikwete. Kikwete will hand over to Magufuli tomorrow.
Each transition has left the largest country in East Africa, by size and population, much stronger. The land of Ujamaa is continuing the Nyerere legacy. Rotational presidency among regions has ensured unity of Tanzanians.
Kenya is yet to recover from rule by an economic power clique, with appalling economic and social disparities. These disparities validate the late Nyerere’s metaphor of Kenya as a ‘man-eat-man society’. The gap between the rich and the poor is among the world’s worst, according to the United Nations Development Programme.
Former Attorney General Charles Njonjo, who once described Tanzania as a ‘man-eat-nothing’ society, must be watching the events across the border with more than a fleeting interest. Tanzania, unlike Kenya, is not on record, as perennially begging the international community for relief food during droughts. Sir Charles Njonjo, hallow, are we together?
And, the gap between the rich and the poor across the border is not as unconscionable as Kenya’s, where the rich are grabbing food from the mouths of the poor. These inequalities confirm Nyerere’s view of Kenya as a ‘man-eat-man’ society. These disparities are crying for conscientious redress. The Bill of Rights should have a meaning, beyond paper, for the Jubilant rulers.