Today. Tanzania celebrated its 54th year of Independence. It did so in style different from conventional way. Away from having festivities at the national stadium with politicians sitting on the shade watching various performances, the new President Dr.Magufuli ordered that we all go out and clean our surroundings at home and work places. Living what we have only been saying #UhuruNaKazi. It was impressive how Tanzanians heeded to the call and most people woke up to clean streets, work places, schools, hospitals, public market places, etc. It was one simple sign underscoring Magufuli’s legitimacy.
Well, in this entry my focus is wider. I want to remind us of what Tanzania’s independence should mean for Tanzanians. In his collected speeches under the title “Freedom and Development” Nyerere expounded on the practical meaning of Independence. In one of his speeches delivered 8 years after the independence, he spoke of ‘Change to Make Freedom a Reality’:
“…a very great change in our economic well-being is necessary before we can meet these responsibilities of national freedom. Nor is it only in national terms that real freedom is undermined by our poverty. What freedom has our subsistence farmer? …certainly he has freedom to vote and to speak as he wishes. But these freedoms are much less real to him than his freedom to be exploited. Only as his poverty is reduced will his existing political freedom become a fact of human dignity”
Although that speech was delivered in 1969, it is still relevant to the current situation in Tanzania. We still have majority of our population working as peasants and chocked by poverty. Peasants can vote and somehow speak as they wish, but can they even enjoy the right to speak and demand as they wish given the poverty situation that undermines their political rights? In this way, we see poverty reduces the meaning of independence/freedom.
So the first thing in realizing our freedom is to fight poverty and mostly (now) inequality in the country. Luckily Dr. Magufuli is taking up austerity measures to save government funds for development purposes. Such efforts to protect the national cake from greedy hands of few will eventually minimize inequality. Well, discussions on how to fight poverty is beyond the scope of this entry, but it is noteworthy to remind ourselves that we cannot say we have #Uhuru while poverty still lingers around every corner of our country. We start by chasing out apathy and indifference. Make sure the poverty around disturbs you…and then act!
The second way of realizing our freedom is to ensure that our neighbors have dignity. Tanzania have, since its independence, been involved in liberating other states. In relations to that, Nyerere, again, said:
“…Tanzania’s freedom is itself in jeopardy while colonialism and racialism remain dominant in our borders….it is a matter affecting our security…we are all Africans; we all need to work together for the real development of any of us; and a continuing freedom struggle in one part of the continent affects the security of all other parts”
Of course the nature of the problems in our neighbors have changed, but the context is more or less the same. Just as we had freedom before our neighbors and we fought for their freedom, we are now having peace while our neighbors in particular the DRC and Burundi are still unstable in many ways. This has a lot to do with our security…and so we need to keep ensuring that our neighbors enjoy what we have.
Sometimes I think of the amazing grace we have in Tanzania and I get so humbled. Even when I see the re-emergence of a Nyerere like (at least so far) leader- Dr. Magufuli…and how our former presidents have left power peacefully, I feel so humbled and grateful. We need to share this grace. Humbly.
So, as Tanzanians we can only enjoy full freedom if we do the above two: i.e. ensuring development for all in Tanzanians and extending peace to our neighbors. In this way, we will be continuing to send rays of dignity within and outside our borders. This is the true meaning of #Uhuru.