Sunday, November 5, 2017

My journey notes: taking you in the interiors of Lake Tanganyika


By Elias Msuya

On my recent trip to Nkasi, one among the districts of Rukwa region along Lake Tanganyika, I witnessed many tales. I was headed there to fetch rural news for my local newspaper but the journey took an interesting toll.

It took three days to reach the interiors of Nkasi district, crossing many towns and weather conditions. The bus journey was rather a hectic yet exploratory one. Commencing from Dar es Salaam, I passed Morogoro, slopes of Kitonga Mountains, the evergreen Iringa, a night-out at Tawakali petrol station, Mbeya, Tunduma and reaching the extreme cold in Sumbawanga the second day.

Sumbawanga is a small and a calm town compared to Mbeya or Tunduma. Its weather is cold. I booked myself a room at a local lodge and got some rest for the next day’s journey.

The next morning, now the third day of my journey, I prepared myself and headed to the bus stand to find a bus to Nkasi district.

It is a journey of about 80 kilometers on rough road from Tunduma. We arrived at Namanyere Township (Nkasi) at 10am. I decided to take a motorbike to Kipili village along Lake Tanganyika. It’s about 70 kilometers of a rough ride.

After my long journey

Upon arrival, I still had to complete formalities with the district’s executive director before the village chairman could dispense information for my news coverage.

My journey seemed endless. I took a bus back to Namanyere Nkasi to meet the director. Though I completed the formalities, time was not on my side.

I couldn’t go back to Kipili village the same day because it got dark, so I decided to get a room around the area. Inspite of its small area, I had time to refresh with the live band in a nearby grocery.

Clean day delayed my journey

The next day I had to go back to the village and I was very confident because I got the permission from the director. But things didn’t go as I thought.

When I was at the bus stand preparing to board the bus to the village, the conductor informs, “We won’t go now because today is the cleanliness day, so we shall wait until the exercise is finished.”

It was the only bus to the village at the stand, so I had no option. I didn’t even bother to take a motorbike ride to the village because I knew it was a short exercise before we leave.

I was suppose to reach the village at 8am, but we left from there at11am and reached there at 2pm. Because it was already a Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t meet the ward and village leaders in their offices, so I did nothing but just survey the villages and learn how I could venture to the nearby islands namely Mandakerenge, Mvuna, Lupita, Mandauhuru, Mandaluila and villages like Kirando, Mkinga, Kalungu to mention a few.

Canoeing through the lake

I decided to spend my Sunday on the Mandakerenge Island, where I reached via a primitive canoe rowed by a single person in the second deepest lake in the world, Lake Tanganyika.

My hosts told me that there are some motor boats including the one which makes two journeys from Mvuna Island in the morning to Mandakerenge and then to Kirando Village and it comes back in the evening until tomorrow. If you miss the boat you must hire other motorboats or local ones without motors.

After reaching at the Island I met the village executive officer, Clarence Msemakweli, who shared with me a village report.

I observed that people are living in the extreme poverty in these islands with poor social services like health, education and sanitation.

Infrastructures are not found including roads since there are neither motor vehicles nor bicycles. They only use canoes and boats to reach the neighbouring villages.

The same day I took a motorboat to Mvuna Island, which is about seven kilometers away.

Their main activity is fishing, which the locals confess that they earn more money than engaging in anything else.

The Mvuna Island chairman, Elias Mlea told me that it was due to political reason that their community has been segregated.

On the other Island like Mandauhuru in the same district has neither a school nor a dispensary as a result children use local canoes to commute to Mkinga village in mainland for school purposes, but not all.

Mkinga village is among five villages of Mkinga ward. Other villages are Kalungu, Majengo, Ntanganyika and the Island of Mandauhuru.

Speaking with reporter in his office, Nkasi district Council executive director Julius Kaondo admits that the district has been far back in development, but they have been doing their level best to restore the situation.

“We are facing many challenges including education sector in which we are lacking teachers, equipment and infrastructure. Until now we are lacking 1,400 classrooms from 660 we have,” he says.

One thing I came to realise is that such small districts are neglected, not even heard about when it comes to emphasizing basic things such as health and education. I think we need to wake up and comprehend the fact that childhood exists in the interiors of Tanzania that needs as much importance as the children and people who dwell in the city.