Since 2014 opposition parties in Tanzania have been facing a number of challenges trying to carry out their work—let’s call that a euphemism.
And there is something worth noting about how we are going about it: the unspoken truce. It seems Tanzanian democracy can involve the strongest invectives and other forms of competition without having to resort to violence...until recently.
And even then, we could never pull off a Hong Kong. I think we tried once to organise a march but upon listening to the paramilitary forces threaten to break legs, there was not a single peep nor protest. If anything, we got an unofficial public holiday.
That is because we are lovers, not fighters. And that’s alright. We’re holding local elections in about a week and the opposition is threatening to boycott them. This brings up a set of questions I like to dismiss out of hand. Is democracy good for African countries? Are we there yet, wherever “there” is?
Would it be better in the long run to endure benevolent autocracy for the sake of development? All of them strong points...and problematic.
Ever notice that these points are usually brought up by those who are naturally privileged? People of the “right” gender, with education, money, and power, and don’t really want to share any of it? Suspicious.
As for arriving at that point where democracy is earned, maybe democracy is like children; you don’t need to pass a competency test to have them, and that is why we all know of an individual or two about whom we wonder how it happened.
It is not for us to know though, is it? Nobody in their right mind would try to license parenting (the eugenics people are not in their right minds). And so it is with democracy, I suspect.
Some democracies are healthy, clean, functional, mind their manners, while others...could do with a lot of help.
Finally, I don’t think that development outlives autocrats very well. It can, but the evidence seems to swing the other way. I understand that consensus is infuriating; it takes time and compromise and when it is done right, nobody is entirely happy with the results. But the alternative is worse and costly. If you need to use force, something is wrong and you should introspect.
Arguably, democracy is a natural form of leadership, necessary for any mass organisation to thrive. It has come in many forms even under what looks like monarchies, even in African societies.
It is the yin to the yang of war and much of the reason we’ve been able to collaborate into countries and companies and whatnot.
I guess I have argued myself out of the seductive lure of strongmanism, yet again. Just in time for a local election! You know what we’re getting?
Another free national holiday, if the opposition insists – as is their right – on boycotting the polls. There will probably be no marching or protesting or any of that sort of thing.
We’ll just stay home and backbite the candidates we don’t favour, like the lovers and not fighters that we are. And with time, this too shall pass.
Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report. E-mail: [email protected]