LAST weekend marked the 30th anniversary of the assassination of the first President of Zanzibar and First Vice-President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Mzee Abeid Amani Karume. Tanzanians remembered the day by special commemorations including saying of prayers at his graveside at Kisiwandui in Zanzibar.
Karume, who carried a simple respectful title befitting a respectable elder, known as ‘Mzee’ in Kiswahili is the founding leader of post revolutionary Zanzibar and a Zanzibar of Pan-Africanist stature. It was on the latter prism that this column is dedicated to him today. For among many other virtues of Mzee Karume, the virtue of a selfless person comes immediately to mind.
For, rare are leaders ready to recognise the virtues of others and submit themselves as deputies. But as the heading of this perspective reads, this perspective will be wider in its stride as we are set to write a new Constitution for the United Republic of Tanzania.
Since Tanganyika and Zanzibar make the United Republic of Tanzania, it is extremely important to pick a leaf from history and see what visions the founding fathers of this Union, Mzee Karume and Mwalimu Nyerere had in the making of this nation today known as Tanzania.
Making a flashback as we are set to re-write the Constitution is necessary if we are not to wind up wrecking this country altogether out of visionless emotion or myopic nationalism. In this process towards a new Constitution, leadership is extremely important to be exercised at all levels including the civil society.
When the two founding leaders met to discuss the merger of Tanganyika and Zanzibar about two months after the triumph of the Zanzibar Revolution, there was the question of what form the Union would take and who should be the leader. As seen from the quote at the launch of this perspective, it was Mzee Karume who told his colleague Mwalimu Nyerere that there should be no confusion: We are one people and one country, and you are going to be the president!
Mwalimu, as addressed by us, the people he led, which titled literally translates for ‘teacher’ as he was a teacher by profession, was a real teacher in all aspects. In spite of awards of several honorary doctorate degrees from globally recognised universities, Nyerere settled for the modest “teaching” title instead of grandiose titles! And true to form and as a far-sighted intellectual, he convinced his colleague on the need to let Zanzibar continue with its government and the second government being that of Tanzania to be a shared government by the two states in the Union.
At a very early stage, Nyerere was aware of the folly of a three-tier government formed by two young countries with limited resources. He was to defend his formulae of a two-tier government for the United Republic throughout saying in many words that the alternative would be to wreck the country. Indeed, that country he envisioned in 1964 is still there today, 48 years on. But this achievement has not been without hiccups along the way.
But Nyerere, as long as he lived, all along and always rose to speak on the sanctity of the United Republic in its original founding form. Now, as we are poised to re-write the Constitution, the question is whether Tanzanians, as represented by those who will be in the actual task of writing the new Constitution, will not end up wrecking the country from the roots it was founded. Already, constitutional experts I have interviewed say the Union is not there anyway.
They say: ‘What is there is hypocrisy!’ They say, for example those amendments to the Zanzibar Constitution made recently make no mention of the United Republic of Tanzania. Those amendments, they say, institute Zanzibar as a ‘sovereign state’ with no mention of the United Republic of Tanzania! But there are Zanzibaris in the Union Government; one of them even holds a key ministry, the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The fact that this factor of the new amendments to the Zanzibar constitution which institute Zanzibar as a sovereign state with no mention of the United Republic has not generated controversy or bad blood in the Union is an indicator that 48 years on, the people of this country care less on who wants to pretend otherwise.
The Union is there in reality – people move around within the Union unmolested with many people hailing from Zanzibar settled on mainland Tanzania. But now that we are about to let the cat out of the bag, it is extremely important to assume leadership at all levels. Let us please bear in mind that there is nothing to gain out of wrecked Tanzania, with a re-born Tanganyika or an openly separate Zanzibar.
And by the way, isn’t it true that when we travel abroad, whether in Asia, Europe or America people there always ask the question: “Are you from Africa?” They do not ask you: “Which country do you come from?” So we are all lumped together as Africans coming from Africa, isn’t it? So the message is there. Outside Tanzania, people care less whether one is from Zanzibar or Tanganyika since we are all lumped together as hailing from Africa anyway! So we are better off as Tanzanians, in a larger entity, isn’t it? Makwaia wa KUHENGA is a Columnist for this newspaper. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org END/JER