When I used to visit this city in the 1980s, something akin to paranoia, ruled. I used to wonder why Tanzanians in London, specifically, were so cagey, so secretive, so guarded. You would meet someone and they would rarely invite you to their houses. Unlike Germany (where I lived then), we shared real addresses and home telephone numbers. Sweden was even better. I remember Stockholm in 1986. The Embassy personnel would sit down with you, offer tea and bites. Tanzanians across Scandinavia seemed more at ease.
There was always something very strange in London. I wondered whether it was because of well known political figures being exiled here. Oscar Kambona -then most famous opponent of Mwalimu Nyerere- was a London resident. Abdulrahman Babu- much respected left wing thinkers of Tanzania (and one of those detained, after the assassination of Sheikh Amani Karume, first President of Zanzibar) was in London, too. After his death in 1996 – the occasion to celebrate Babu’s life at Holborn, West London, was insightful. So many international speakers and tributes!
London is an historical place. These streets have seen Marcus Gavey (iconic Caribbean writer, journalist and Pan African innovator – who inspired most of our African founding fathers) and died here in June 1940. Farther back, in the 19th century, controversial thinker, Karl Marx is buried in north London.
A unique city...
And by the time I moved here in the mid-1990s Tanzanians had not changed much. Come 2000, the Millennium seemed to bring in certain freshness. For example this character – Leo Nyanduga – young and energetic, with his mates.
They would organise Tanzanian dinners. You just paid a minimum fee of £20 to 30... (Affordable by UK standards)...for drinks, food and music. “I just want us to hang out and chill...” Nyanduga would say, confidently.
In an interview in 2003, I nicknamed him Mr Arsene Wenger. He was calm and tranquil and drove a Mercedes Benz. “People back home love the pic and want the car...” he joked. Then followed the Abubakar Faraji period and his TZUK, network. We were now in mid 2000s and live music provided by guitarist Kawele Mutimanwa and Afrika Jambo. High Commissioner? Mwanaidi Maajar.
“Get together” parties in these posh Banqueting Suites are quite popular with Africans in London...
Come June 2019 it is not just an evening time affair. Whole day for £20....just like the Leo Nyanduga phase. Between Nyanduga and June 2019, we hear the word Diaspora alot. One was even attended by President Jakaya Kikwete in 2014. They were now advertised as forums. Few years later, though, squabbling still existed. An embarrassing one right front of visiting Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, at the High Commission in Bond Street. Mr Majaliwa called for unity.
Last Sunday’s had three chapters. Late morning to mid afternoon, forum. Then a fashion show – and finally music, dinner and dance. All for £20. Mind you, this time the preparation had a changed face, a united front. Organising leaders sprang from everywhere: Leicester (Zuhura Mkwawa), Wales (Samuel Mbogo), Simon Mzuwanda, Mariam Kilumanga and Said Surur (London) etc. Plus Many Others.
Social media tools, ie. WhatsApp, have become fantastic devices of communication. No wonder Sunday 30 June was jovial and fruitful. The aim had a thread kicking off since days of High Commissioner Maajar, then Hon Peter Kallaghe, now Dr Asha Rose Migiro. Unity of Tanzanians. Dr Migiro has been busy travelling and meeting Tanzanians in various UK cities and her (typical articulate) mantra has been patience, unity, positivity.
How can Diaspora based Tanzanians contribute?
Thanks to the internet the Diaspora umbrella is now global. For example In April 2019, some Diaspora Tanzanians met in a ship in Sweden. The feedback was promising. The intention always the same. What can we do back home? What can we do back home? And How? WHAT CAN WE DO BACK HOME? AND HOW?
At the West London Sunday 30th convention, speakers reassured, gave stats and answered queries. Where issues involved the government, High Commissioner, Dr Migiro stepped in and explained. With specific matters, e.g. money, was CRDB’s Lucy Makei (“it is much better when you Tanzanians overseas are united we can easily assist and fulfil your needs”, she said); Zanzibar Investment Promotion Authority (ZIPA), had Nasriya Nassor, whose invaluable input was continuously paraphrased by the expression: “People of the islands are known for their kindness. You should love home and visit regularly.” Ms Nassor’s clarion call tallied with both George Mukono (Tanzania Investment Corporation) and Ngorongoro tourist spokesperson, Marco Silabi, whose chant was Tanzania is changing, Tanzania is changing, TANZANIA IS HOPEFUL, just as pointed out in this column last week. Living the Magufuli experience of optimism and hard work.
Like Dr Migiro kept reminding: “Tanzania Oyee!” Her motto underpins the aspiration seen among overseas Tanzanians. Thinking of ways to be part of the solution. Not bystanders. For our blossoming nation.