Muungano: Our best National heritage

The founding father, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere mixes sand in Zanzibar on 26th April, 1964 to grace the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar


FIFTY three years ago in 1964 on a day like this a united nation among other nations was born, a combination of two sovereign states who willingly gave up part of their freedom to form the United Republic of Tanzania on the 26 of April 1964.

The Union between the Republic of Tanganyika and that of the people’s Republic of Zanzibar is unique and unprecedented elsewhere in the history of the African continent.

However, this unprecedented Union was a culmination of the possibility of a Pan-Africanist dream as was envisaged by our founding fathers, it was a victory of unity against division; it was indeed a victory of the possibility of the African renaissance. It is the closest step any nation has ever gone to the realisation of African unity.

‘Muungano’ has dared to exist for 53 years amidst internal and external turbulences. On the 1st of May 1995 at a labour day celebrations in Mbeya one of the architects of ‘Muungano’ and our nation’s founding father, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere wondered loudly and sadly why anyone would look down at ‘Muungano.’

African boundaries and balkanisation was the work of the colonisers, but ‘Muungano’ was our own, made by us for us.

Mwalimu could not understand why this generation would despise their own legacy in favour of that of the oppressor? It is against that background I write not to question ‘Muungano’ but rather to cherish it. It is our and Africa’s most precious heritage.

I am at liberty to discuss the many cons of the Union but my interest today is to look at the other side of the coin for that is what matters in national and continental interest. In national interest because I still believe and am more convinced that ‘umoja ni nguvu’ that unity is strength.

In the words of the 16th President of the United States Abraham Lincoln “a house divided against itself cannot stand” reinforcing national unity, cohesion and understanding is in our best national interest.

If unity was the biggest mistake of our founding fathers made then division and balkanisation will be the biggest worst mistake of our generation. Let us choose our mistakes well. It is in continental interest because Africa still cherishes and is working towards unity.

The continued presence of the African Union (AU) a successor organ of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and indeed the presence of a number of regional groupings such as the EAC and ECOWAS, among others, demonstrates Africa’s commitment towards that direction.

As the nation celebrates slightly over half a century of ‘umoja,’ it is proper and fitting to pay tribute to our founding fathers who laid the foundation in the names of Mwalimu Nyerere and Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume and indeed the liberating parties of TANU and ASP for having taken a bold step towards unity, for ‘Muungano’ had the blessing of both parties which later in 1977 merged to form Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), tribute to the ‘wananchi’ for being an important pillar throughout the life of the Union from its inception, accommodating both its ups and downs with dignity and harmony.

One may ask, is ‘Muungano’ relevant now? Relevancy may be subjective, however, I am quite certain that the birth of ‘Muungano’ fifty three years ago is a living proof that African Unity (AU) is not a pipe dream, its survival is a strong message that regional integration is a possibility.

There is no doubt that both unity and regional integration are necessary both for economic growth and stability, for peace and for security. Against that background ‘Muungano’ remains Africa’s best heritage and Africa’s best demonstration of sacrifice, cohesion and tolerance.

This year our brothers and sisters in Rwanda observed the 21st Kwibuka in memory of the lives of some of their own in one of the most heinous crimes of the century. The Rwandan genocide could have been prevented in the presence of unity.

‘Muungano’ is evident that people can live together peacefully and in harmony, that tolerance is possible. ‘Muungano’ enshrines in its elements of sacrifice and selflessness, for indeed the brave sovereign nations of Tanganyika and Zanzibar willingly sacrificed a part of their sovereignty for the common good.

We observe ‘Muungano’ 53 at a time when Africa and the world is witnessing shameful acts in Madiba’s rainbow nation, whatever name they give it to this crime, whatever justification one may offer or try to explain, what is happening there now is unacceptable.

It is more than 20 years now since Madiba proclaimed to the world from the historical union Buildings that ‘Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.’

The so called xenophobic attacks have terrible wounded the legacy not only of Madiba but of all freedom fighters who sacrificed a great deal for the virtues of humanity, peace, love, liberty and above all tolerance and understanding, ‘Muungano’ enshrines all these virtues, South Africans can borrow a leaf from the spirit of our Union and preserve Madiba’s wish that they suffer not the indignity of being the skunk of the world as they have unfortunately demonstrated in the past few weeks.

In the words of Thabo Mbeki the former President of South Africa, a nation whose image has now been tainted, Mbeki an ardent believer in the African renaissance implored; ‘ I am born of a people who are heroes and heroines, patient because today the weather is bad. Nor do they turn triumphalism when, tomorrow, the sun shines.

Whatever the circumstances they have lived through and because of that experience, they are determined to define themselves who they are and who they should be.’ So let us define ourselves, but again we have defined ourselves, thanks to the founding fathers for now we are Tanzanians the basis of which is ‘Muungano’, let us therefore never compromise it by way of any sinister and partisan political affiliations.

Against the background and the spirit of African unity and the African renaissance, it will be a terrible injustice not to mention at least George Padmore, one of the best and great believer in the best Africa can be, it’s not his own words but rather the words of Osagegwefo Kwame Nkrumah whose credentials in this regard are self evident, President Nkrumah paid homage to George Padmore thus; ‘ one day, the whole of Africa will surely be free and united and when the final tale is told, the significance of George Padmore’s work will be revealed’, as we celebrate ‘Muungano’ we are confident in the prophecy of Nkrumah that indeed Africa will surely be united.

‘Muungano’ remains a living testimony of that sacred possibility.

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