When Iddi Amini invaded a part of our country in the Kagera salient and therefore striking at our sense of sovereignty, independence and nationhood, all Tanzanians irrespective of their political inclinations or sympathies rose in unity to denounce the invention.
Once again, the European Union (EU) – led by Denmark and Belgium - in spite of their headaches with Brexit and numerous other failings have chosen to divert attention to their challenges by a distraction on Tanzania. Lets call it for what it is: It is anoffensive and to say the least, ill advised.
Yes, it is reminiscent of the Iddi Amin attack but most importantly it reminds us of the colonial mentality where we were only appendages of the metropolis. As a result, orders and preferences of our colonizers were only to be faithfully enforced by the subjects.
Now let me clear. I have differences of opinion on a number of policy approaches assumed by the fifth phase Government. Nonetheless, as one who believes in democracy, I take it that it is legitimately pursuing an agenda upon which it was elected. Which is what must count to all of us. Which is also what democracy is all about. You don’t like it; vote them out during the next election. Most significantly, this must be a discourse among Tanzanians as a people.
Shockingly, the EU has instead chosen to insert themselves into our nation’s discourse on our values and morals. While they must be accorded the freedom to interact with their surrogates in the country they shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with the manner our elected representatives run the institutions of government. The Oath of Office they took is to faithfully serve only the United Republic of Tanzania.
The notion that cultural values of the colonizer are inherently superior is demeaning, distasteful and insulting. Lets face it. I have no quarrel with the Europeans ethical values. I understand they have evolved over time and have generally become acceptable to most of their people; which is fine with me. However, with regard to our country and many other African countries, such values remain controversial, contested and frankly still unacceptable. Our road is still long, and not only do we need the space to evolve but deserve it.
Take the issue of homosexuality. Many, if not all of our communities are solidly opposed to homosexuality. Thankfully, the laws we inherited from our colonizers were in sync with our customary beliefs. Paradoxically, while the Europeans moral compass has evolved and changed direction, ours has not. Shouldn’t we similarly be allowed the same space to evolve and hopefully change?
That they have chosen to tie their friendship and cooperation with us to their moral compass and value chain comes as a clear reminder of the colonial past.
Mwalimu Nyerere must be turning in his grave! He fought for the independence of this country but was keenly aware that the struggle remains long and arduous. The EU’s resolution on Tanzania re-emphasizes this reality. The white colonizer never considered the African as an equal. The native was always to be educated and civilized to the ways of his masters!
As proof of the Europeans agenda, ignorance and arrogance; take the condemnation of the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner, Mr. Paul Makonda: A Governor of a single region amongst 26 others countrywide. I for one do not agree with his modus operandi on the issue of gays and lesbians. Nonetheless, the clarification issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation in my mind strived to strike a balance.
The Ministry was categorical: Mr Makonda does not speak for, nor represent the view of, the Government. And yet, nowhere in the EU’s resolution is there a sentence, not even a word, acknowledging the Government’s perspective! Talk of double standards and hypocrisy of the enlightened colonial master!
Shouldn’t this glaring absurdity and ignorance enrage all of us? The truth is, Mr. Makonda is merely being used as a red herring. The EU has its own agenda whose obsession has only found anchor on Mr Makonda’s imprudence. As Tanzanians we have to rise above our differences and rally behind our Government.
Mwalimu Nyerere was always very clear: we will accept aid from all our friends, from the West or East, as long as its unconditional and provides us the space to pursue the course of development we have chosen for ourselves. The EU has also been categorical. Its aid to us is subject to about 15 conditions: It’s their way or the highway!
No self-respecting country should ever curve to the EU’s conditions. We might be poor but we have our dignity as a country and as a nation. It is my hope that as the Government formulates its response to the Europeans it illustrates our willingness to suffer the consequences of our pride as a nation. Ultimately, this will earn the respect of our genuine friends and even foes.
President Magufuli has been at the forefront of placing the interest of our country and people at the center of his leadership. This is the time his foresight and influence will even be more critical. He must stand up to the Europeans.
It is an irony that the EU has strived to influence the American administration about Tanzania! An administration whose moral compass should be a judgment left to others! They might rally all their friends and allies, however, no matter whom the Europeans suck up to, even in the midst of the killing of journalist Khashoggi, it should be for all Tanzanians to stand together and condemn their flagrant intrusion into the internal affairs of our country.
We should also be ready to bear the consequences. Our level of development won’t make it easier, but when the integrity and dignity of our independence is at stake, parochial interests driven by foreigners on a mission to enlighten an indigenous population shouldn’t divide us!
We should do this mindful of the fact that our true friends and allies will want to see effective and accountable use of the aid they provide to us. This must be and remain the only credible test of the support we receive. Anything else, we should be able to stand and say, thank you but no thank you!
Ultimately, we will more be respected for our independence and sincerity than as lackeys to those whose aid comes at the expense of our own moral values and compass.
In the past, at the University of Dar es Salaam, there would be street demonstrations by the scholars. That was the resolve and pride Mwalimu instilled in our youthful generation. It is not a too distant past for a young nation such as ours.
In the mean time, we must all stand and condemn the EU’s resolution on Tanzania irrespective of its consequences.