ONE of my favourite teachings in the Bible is the story of the mite, sometimes called the story of a widow’s offering, when Jesus was sitting with His disciples, watching people depositing money into the offering receptacle.
He watched rich people dropping in large sums of money, and maybe some of them even tried to show off by making their contributions visible to Jesus and those around to see. And then, along came a widow with two coins in her hand that was the tiniest donation of them all.
She also put them into the receptacle and that is when Jesus looked around and said: “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything--all she had to live on.”
Tanzania has contributed a great deal in the name of justice, freedom, and equal rights for all. At a time when many African countries were still under colonial oppression, Tanzania went above and beyond, to ensure no single African country was still under the colonial rule.
Like the widow in the Bible, its contribution is barely noticeable. Under the leadership of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the founding father of Tanzania, the country worked as a base and training field for those fighting for liberation.
The liberation movements included the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan African Congress (PAC) both from South Africa, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), and the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) from Namibia.
Mwalimu Nyerere was the strongest proponent of human rights and equally treated all under the law. He always believed that Tanzania would never be free as long as someone, somewhere in Africa, was still not free. For him, it was not just liberation.
It was a human right to be free--and he took it personal. Fortunately, he had the support of his people and everyone in the government. Regular people for example, gave small donations, as much as they could afford to support their fellow Africans who were still suffering.
Emerging from an exploitative colony, and as poor as they were, Tanzanians would voluntarily contribute anything from blood donations to agricultural produce, and moral support. It all happened at a time when the country was facing economic hardship in the first few decades following its independence in 1961. Clearly, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was right when he brilliantly stated: “Less is More”.
There was no quid pro quo associated with Tanzania’s contribution to human rights causes. It was the right thing to do, and that was good enough. Throughout its history, Tanzania has worked tirelessly to ensure everybody is treated with dignity, regardless of who they are, where they come from, and how they look like.
For Tanzania, human rights are part of who we are, and not something to be said, just to make a beautiful political sound bit. We live it! For decades, Tanzania has been a safe harbour for those fleeing persecution in the great lakes region, and the horn of Africa.
The refugees have always been treated with dignity and respect knowing pretty well that they are also human beings like everybody else. While in Tanzania, the government has always ensured the refugees are protected, their basic needs are met, and they have the education needed to be successful in life by sending them to the same schools as its own citizens.
At a time when millions of refugees from Syria were being turned away in Europe, Tanzania was giving citizenship to over 170,000 Burundian refugees, the largest ever mass naturalisation of refugees by a single state.
At a time when large countries and wealthy were expelling and deporting asylum seekers by thousands of them, Tanzania was offering naturalisation to about 200,000 refugees. Today, the same countries, which wouldn’t welcome refugees fleeing persecution in Syria, are accusing Tanzania of human rights violations. Across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), millions of people were murdered, among them women and children, in one of the most brutal conflicts of our time.
That makes one wonder, where was the International Community, when those women and children were being murdered. Where was the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, when the Congolese women were being gang-raped? Advanced nations had all the resources needed to stop the killings in DR Congo.
Like the rich people in the Bible, the world powers didn’t do anything remotely enough, to help those helpless women and children. In their minds, they probably believe they did! Which will be an illusion of course! They failed to do what was right to protect the victims’ right to live.
After all, there is no human right if you don’t have a life. A fraction of their net worth, political and military power would have been enough to save millions of lives, lives of those who, otherwise would still be here with us today.
But for reasons that we may never know, they chose to do nothing. Today the same world institutions, which wouldn’t do anything meaningful to save those innocent lives, are accusing Tanzania of human rights violations--the same country that helped put a stop to the killings in DR Congo.
I believe it is fair to say, millions more could have been killed if it were not for MONUSCO, a United Nations peacekeeping force composed of military forces from Tanzania, Malawi, and South Africa. Clearly, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, the President of Tanzania at the time, along with Presidents Joyce Banda of Malawi, and Jacob Zuma of South Africa did not receive the credit they deserved.
I strongly believe they should have been nominated for a Nobel peace prize. Nonetheless, like the widow in the Bible, extraordinary deeds and sacrifices by less fortunate countries rarely get noticed. While a lot still needs to be done to bring sustainable peace in the country, many parents in DRC can go to bed tonight with a smile on their faces, and they don’t have to worry as much whether they and/or their children would not live to see the next day.
Giving life to innocent women and children, who would otherwise be dead is priceless and there is nothing to compare. This is Tanzania that I know. The nation that believes strongly in human dignity and human rights for all. The nation that believes all human beings deserve to live with dignity.
For Tanzanians, this is not something for discussion. That is why they strongly support their government’s unequivocal statement by Prof Palamagamba Kabudi, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and East Africa Cooperation when he said: “Tanzania will never allow anyone to use aid or assistance to undermine our dignity and sovereignty.”
It is ironic to think that, the same people who supported the apartheid regime in South Africa for over 40 years, would care about human rights for black people. They supported the regime, knowing quite well, how it was terrorising black South Africans. Some went as “low” to call Nelson Mandela a terrorist.
To make matters worse, they categorised his entire African National Congress (ANC) movement as terrorist organisation. Guess who was on the side of the oppressed! Tanzania. The same country being accused of human rights violations.
For a long time, foreign assistance has been used as a weapon against poor countries, especially in Africa. Foreign aid is in most cases not meant to help improve people’s lives, but instead, to keep them poor and dependent on foreign assistance. As we all know, aids come with strings attached. Tough enough to keep our economy in its infancy and that is the idea.
Tanzania is changing and is changing fast, under the leadership of President John Magufuli. Looking at what has been achieved in the past five years of his leadership, it is clear that the President is laying down a solid foundation for a stable economy. Some people are not happy about it.
They don’t like what they see, because it is not in their best interest, and they will do everything in their power to slow the progress down, if not to halt it completely. Africa has always been vital in advancing its nation’s success and prosperity.
For them, Africa must remain impoverished; unable to extract and benefit from its natural resources. Advanced nations need the resources and will do whatever it takes to get them. It is like saying, what is in their countries belongs to them, and what is found in Africa belongs to them too.
Obviously, they won’t come and say, “Hey! We are here to get your natural resources,” because that will be messy for sure. An unstable and chaotic Africa is a way to go. This can easily be achieved through the opposition.
All they have to do is find the weakest link, someone willing and ready, to go against his own people to get in power. Someone willing to do anything for personal gain, even when doing so means drifting his country in turmoil. Clearly, someone is using someone. The question is, “Who is using who?”