PUT liberally, 53-year-old human age mates of Tanzania’s Union– whose latest commemoration is today‑are two years short of voluntary retirement. But unlike a public servant for whom retirement is beckoning, and who is probably excited over liberation from stress, the Union is an entity for which no time-frame has been set.
The photograph featuring principal Union founders – the Mainland’s Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and the Isles’ Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume– mixing the soil of the two territorial entities to symbolise the event on April 26, 1964, shoots to the fore.
We are renewing prayers to God to continue resting their souls in eternal peace; Sheikh Karume’s life having been terminated by cowardly assassins in Zanzibar on April 7,1972, and Mwalimu succumbing to ailment in London on October 14, 1999.
It is a safe guess that the spirits of the pioneers are happy because the Union is afloat, but are also upset by negative tendencies that make it seem like a ship sailing in turbulent waters.
Calming the waters is a challenge with which Tanzanians must grapple earnestly. For starters, the Union represented correction of the division of two countries that, historically and geographically, were a single entity.
Continued division could have been manipulated by foreign powers to advance their negative schemes in the region. The ship-in-turbulent waters analogy isn’t entirely surprising, given Zanzibar’s relatively small size, which some cynics amplify to imply that it is being swallowed by its geographically larger and more populous partner. The Union government in which Zanzibar has a stake is ticking alongside Zanzibar’s autonomous Revolutionary government.
In place, too, are a shared, Mainland-based Parliament, and the Isles’ House of Representatives. Movements, trade and interaction between the two sides are widespread. Overall, Tanzanian-ness and Zanzibari-hood co-exist harmoniously.
Granted– this is a universal phenomenon in such set-ups–the Union is beset by some problems, for which, in spirit and by action, there’s resolute eagerness to resolve. Factored in-between are anti- Union elements that are orchestrating a revival of separate entities. But, being a minority, their evil schemes are doomed to failure.
For the record, the Union is an African model of inter-state cohesion for which Tanzanians are, and must unrelentingly be proud, as experiments to that end failed miserably.
It represents a token, but highly significant achievement in the largely-elusive African federation dream that stretches back to the era of the continent’s pioneer leaders, our own Mwalimu Nyerere being matched only by Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah.
It behooves Tanzanians on both sides of the Indian Ocean channel then, to protect and sustain the Union.