Whatever happened to the institution of marriage?

What you need to know:

  • In Dar es Salaam alone, at least 360 marriages are cracking up into smithereens each month – an average of 12 per day
  • In 2017 there were approximately 1.9 million marriages and 0.8 million divorces in the European Union

Earlier this week, I received a link to Nasaha Blog. Nasaha has highlighted marriage breakdowns in Tanzania. The problem (said to be in high gear as we eat our ugali) is now officially a government issue. Stanislaus Nyongo, chairperson of Parliament’s Social Services and Community Development Committee raised the matter after a ministerial meeting. Giving facts and hints, he chimed that in Dar es Salaam alone, at least 360 marriages are cracking up into smithereens each month – an average of 12 per day. Twelve a day! What word should we use to describe that?


Horror. We say horror because this is a phenomenon unseen before in African communities. Family-wise, Africans are still regarded as the most “normal” humans on the planet. Even the outrageous sexual madness going on around the “developed” world (e.g. males taking hormones to become females and vice-versa) is hotly and fervently frowned upon on the continent. Marital collapses are regarded as standard on rich societies’ menus. Stats in Europe indicate that divorce rates have been climbing since the 1960s and 1970s after the dawn and birth of Family Laws and the powerful and uncomfortable Women Lib movement. One internet source confessed: “In 2017 there were approximately 1.9 million marriages and 0.8 million divorces in the European Union. The former might be higher over the years, while divorce rates have more than doubled.”

Estimates published by Very Well Family from the USA in February 2022, for instance, showed that the victims of this horror boxing match are always children.

Very Well Family: “Children of divorced or separated parents are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to live in poverty and engage in risky sexual behaviour as they get older.”

When I arrived on the shores of this wealthy Ulaya paradise in the mid-1980s, I used to wonder at the “freedom” in marriages and how so many people of my age (youth) were reluctant to fall in love. These days it’s worse. Romance is not even visible. You need an app on your phone just to “meet someone” and when you meet them it does not work because “you can’t speak to them”. You must engage in social media disco and that is not even about dancing. It’s something causing serious mental health problems. No wonder these gender changes and the recent rules of not using HE and SHE. It’s no longer horror. It’s like living on another planet.

Anyway, in the 1980s and 1990s we learnt that getting divorced was easier than getting married. Single people searched elsewhere (meaning other continents) for true love.

Having just arrived from Africa, that really shocked and terrified us. In fact, some of these citizens took partners from other cultures (Africa included), “insinuating” that there was something wrong with their own kind. Within a few decades, however, such multi-racial arrangements sparked new challenges, mostly cultural differences. Come mid-2000s, it was common for Africans looking back home where it was regarded as less conflicting and more functional.


Hearing last week’s news is troubling. Reasons given by the parliamentary report include married couples cheating (michepuko) and the faith and fear of marriage as a sacred act falling down toilets of abyss and uselessness. Ironically, we Africans are still more religious and sanctimonious (I would like to think so) culturally than our pals in the developed world.

Yes, but is that really true?

Ask Mr Stanislaus Nyongo. Our dear Nasaha blogger – who has brought this issue to our universal attention – screams: “Many of these couples have become wanaharakati more than being parents, which is causing conflicts and breakups and affecting family stability and smooth running of work.”

“Wanaharakati” is a Swahili word that has grown in stature in recent years. Harakati is struggle. Meaning fight or aiming for equal rights, justice and freedom, which are the cause of most marital breakdowns globally. The fact that our beloved sisters, aunts and, more appropriately, wives, opt to move on without husbands has changed things. Changed families. Changed communities.

One of the given suggestions is going back to basics, jando and unyago, cited as a stimulus for solution to stable relationships. The other idea is the rise of homosexual tendencies among a small section of the community, or that divorcing couples, having no common interests, pursue different lives and, subsequently, the victims are children.

These recommendations are aimed at restoring our beloved family values. Our sacred African peaceful families. Untainted by values of fight and quarrel and tension. Human rights are as sacred as sanctimonious as marriage vows, but the welfare of children and future generations is much, much dearer. Hopefully the parliamentary meeting will assist and “find something”, but most of all, it is promising that members of the government are seriously looking at such a significant institution of our society.