I am getting used to being called naïve during political discussions in mixed company. By “mixed company” of course I mean fellow Africans from different states.
I don’t mind for two reasons: it always highlights the shocking depth of our ignorance about the political character of African countries we have not lived in, prompting us to express misguided opinions about them.
This just strengthens the argument that African education systems need a major overhaul, especially if we are serious about pan-Africanism in any form. I suspect we are still using curricula with a 1960s flavour in our schools, probably infused with a pinch of colonial racism as inherited from them good old days.
The other reason I don’t sweat it is because, well, Tanzania. We worked hard to build an aura of gentle and pacific progressivism that is quickly disappearing under the Fifth Regime.
But for the longest time we have kind of been the cool kids, the subtle guys who always show up at peace talks, spread the gospel of Kiswahili without being obnoxious about it and generally chill with everybody so long as you don’t try to annex Kagera Region.
But then Edward Lowassa, formerly of CCM then of Chadema, defected back to CCM and my relaxed attitude began to wilt.
Have we indeed been a little bit sheltered from certain aspects of RealPolitik? In 2015, after a week of suspense when he was not chosen as one of the top candidates for the presidency by his own party due to competitions between factions, Lowassa was announced as the presidential candidate for what was becoming the strongest alternative party, Chadema. He, a lifelong member of CCM, crossed The Line.
I remember sitting with a Chadema cadre in Arusha asking questions about their decision to welcome Lowassa and break their own party’s rules to enthrone him as their presidential candidate. A man they had spent years calling corrupt to the bone, a man who was divisive even at the peak of his career.
This Chadema cadre looked me in the eye and assured me with a look of deep sincerity in his eyes that Lowassa was the man to lead our country into realising its potential.
It is 2019 and the harassment and incarceration of politicians from the opposition has been stepped up to a systemic eradication of all non-CCM organisations.
Chadema might have been hurting before but with Lowassa’s return to the ruling party, it is now properly dead. If this was the plan all along, to kill off the opposition, then I applaud the masterminds behind it. Machiavelli would be so proud.
A friend from a neighbouring country expressed surprise at why so many Tanzanians were dismayed by Lowassa’s return to CCM, considering that East African politicians cross party lines all the time. I told him that for what it is worth, a leader’s moral character still matters to Tanzanian citizens.
Loyalty is an aspect of that. It may sound quaint, like remembering to say “naomba” and “asante” but we take “ustaarabu” pretty seriously here and try to keep on the humane side of the divide between wrong and right.
So I ask you: Is that actually naïve? Time will answer the question.
Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report. E-mail: [email protected]