WE have just marked the 53rd anniversary of the founding of the United Republic of Tanzania. This country known as Tanzania is beyond half a century old today.
This is no mean achievement compared to what is happening elsewhere in this continent and beyond. But as we move forward beyond half a century of our existence as Tanzanians, it is important to reflect on our past and present and what has happened in the intervening period both locally and externally to prove the point that people everywhere are better off together; least of all Tanzanians.
In the intervening period, a lot of water has passed under the bridge with the Union overcoming considerable tests poised by some separatist sections of the Tanzanian society. One way or another some have pushed for a break up of the Union in favor of former colonial arrangements of a Tanganyika and Zanzibar.
The pressures have come under different guises– most notably through recent constitutional debates –one in favor of a two-tier system of government with another pushing for a three-tier arrangement. These pressures are not likely to recede as this nation surges forward.
But there are paradigms in much older states elsewhere in this mutual world we share. Countries such as the United States of America and United Kingdom, much more developed than us in Africa have shown the way that people are always better off together.
As for Britain, leaving aside its recent move to leave the European Union famously dubbed “Brexit”, one would remember that notable vote about four years ago in Scotland (an integral part of the United Kingdom) which vote opted against separate nationhood away from the United Kingdom.
That vote by Scottish people to opt to stay as part of the United Kingdom or Great Britain had set the agenda and opened the eyebrows of many people across the globe. Eh! Bwana! That vote had many people on their toes and was instructive to many globally as it was equally instructive to separatists elsewhere.
The win of the ‘NO” vote against separate Scottish nationhood in favor of British nationhood is instructive to comparatively young states in the developing world like Tanzania which were once British colonies –known then as Tanganyika and Zanzibar before the Union took place, resulting in the birth of the United Republic of Tanzania known today.
Leaders of post independence Tanganyika, Mwalimu Nyerere and post Revolution Zanzibar, Abeid Karume decided to unite the islands of Zanzibar and mainland Tanganyika to become a United Republic. Thus Tanzania became the chosen name for the new state.
That was 53 years ago, a shade more than half a century ago. To avoid the prospect of a bigger fish i.e. Tanganyika swallowing a smaller fish, Zanzibar, the two leaders, Nyerere and Karume decided then that Zanzibar should have its own government.
When a contest was made to choose the right name for the two countries, the name, Tanzania, was chosen –thus the two countries were, hence forth, united into a United Republic, thus the United Republic of Tanzania.
It was also agreed that there should be one Government for the United Republic of Tanzania that would absorb affairs of former Tanganyika (mainland Tanzania) and, within its umbrella, this would be an inclusive government that would have persons from Zanzibar sharing Cabinet positions and other public offices with their counterparts from the mainland in the government of the United Republic of Tanzania.
This has been the stride of a Tanzania in the last half a century, and one can say with certitude that we have been better off this way together. There is another element from the Scottish vote about four years ago today that had taken many people by surprise. I will tell you which one.
That Great Britain or the United Kingdom, that always came to my mind was always one nation inhabited by one people. But the following remarks by the British Prime Minister after the Scottish vote had enlightened me; inter alia: “The people of Scotland have spoken. They have kept our country of four nations together…” He went ahead to name the four nations as: England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
These are the ‘nations’ that constitute Great Britain or the United Kingdom. When I was attending the University of Wales, Cardiff in the early nineties, hardly did I know that I was in a Welsh nation – all I knew I was in Britain (Uingereza) - nothing more and nothing less!
Nobody I met in Cardiff brooded anything like separating from the United Kingdom or declaring an independent state of Wales. So why should our former colonial masters consider themselves better off together as citizens of one Great Britain than us in Tanzania?
As enticed elsewhere in this column, we have separatists here both in the islands and mainland Tanzania. There are political parties that have campaigned for a resurrection of a Tanganyika as much as there are people on the islands of Zanzibar who think they are better off outside the United Republic of Tanzania.
As one may recall, in the process to re-write the Tanzanian Constitution in the course of the Kikwete Administration, a Pandora Box was let loose by our separatists here.
But the question to ask these people is: If Great Britain with its four ‘nations’ see the need to stick together as one country, why not Tanzania? What is there to gain from a separate Tanganyika or Zanzibar? The vote in Scotland recently is instructive to our own separatists here to see the sense that we are better off together as Tanzanians and not in fragmentation.
Actually, one would go further. Our continued peace and stability will to a large extent depend on how we stick together as one people in one nation and not as what is on the agenda of separatists we have around.
As the founder President of the United Republic, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere had time to warn us: we should never be deceived that we are any better than other Third World countries in Africa or elsewhere. Told us Mwalimu: “You are as fragile as Somalia.
Somalis look alike, speak one language and are almost all believers in one religion, what is happening to them?” He warned us that once the United Republic of Tanzania is gone and we are landed with a Tanganyika or Zanzibar, that will be the beginning of civil strife – a row will exist between those who will identify themselves as ‘Wapemba’ and those who will assert their being ‘Wa- Unguja’ – the two ethnic islands of Zanzibar i.e. Pemba and Unguja.
And the same may happen on mainland Tanzania or former Tanganyika –people will begin chasing each other on tribal grounds or on areas where they claim to originate. As one local political observer told me: “If you watched seriously in the last vote in the preceding elections, this divide on tribal zones was very clear…
” The message here is simple and clear: the terrain one knows is better than a new one. We are used to a two-tier system of government for half a century today and have not got at each other’s throats. Lets stick up to sustain our national unity and peace.