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Mwalimu Nyerere: His pain, our gain

27th October 2013
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Father of the nation Mwalimu Nyerere

We will not cease to remember and cherish Father of the nation Mwalimu Nyerere because of his wisdom and love to his people. Fourteen years after his death the nation still sobs and remembers the great leader who was an assurance of peace and protection for the poor and disadvantaged majority.

As years pass by Nyerere's teachings to his nation continue to shine evermore and will be the beacon of hope for decades. Today national interests and values protected by Mwalimu seem to be banishing away but still the nation anticipates crossing the threshold of hope.

One of the many teachings of Mwalimu was on democracy. Mwalimu did not believe in multipartism as he knew this will bring a negative dissection of the Tanzanian society.

When asked about Single and Multiparty Democracy, Mwalimu had this to say: "...Democracy is not a bottle of Coca-Cola which you can import. Democracy should develop according to that particular country. I never went to a country, saw many parties and assumed that it is democratic. You cannot define democracy purely in terms of multi-partist parties..."

Many scholars also agree that it is not proper to simply take western models of democracy and paste them over African countries. Africa needs some type of democracy that will encourage unity and friendship (nationhood) among its people so that as the economic level grows, democracy grows to propel Africa in a brighter future.

Any democracy must begin and develop to maturity and not to be imposed. Indeed as the Indian historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in his book "Makers of Modern India" that, democratic revolution should be a staggered process that must be preceded by first nationalism where nationhood and unity of a nation is built and strengthened, followed by economic revolution where industrialization and urbanization must take place.

Guha gives an example on one hand of the USA which proclaimed its national independence in the eighteenth century, urbanized and industrialized in the nineteenth century, and became democratic only in the twentieth century, after women and African Americans were allowed to vote, and on the other hand, Europe that was a continent broken up into many different nationalities, the pace of these different revolutions towards democracy varied greatly across countries. Crucially in every European country the nationalism and economic revolution preceded the democratic revolution by several decades or more.

On democratization of Tanzania and Africa in general; and without a strong economy and nationhood Mwalimu commented; "...Multiparty democracy is alien, it is a Western thing, a luxury Africa could not afford and it will create opposition among us, this is an imperialist dogma...”

Yes, Mwalimu was right; building multiparty democracy in a poor country or a fragile toddler economy is synonymous to nurturing division and hate between the opposition and the ruling parties; between different communities with different cultural origins such as tribes and clans who in most cases create political parties to secure their interests.

The fulfillment of Mwalimu Nyerere's vision on the danger of multiparty democracy in Africa and Tanzania is today unveiling before our eyes when democracy becomes a source of conflict among the people of nations in Africa. Violence nurtured by hate against competing parties and communities is a common sight in African politics; each side of the political grouping condemning the other as the cause of the ugly situation. This situation creates a political imbalance that destabilises most African countries trying to build a democracy.

Practicing Western democracy in Africa is now a fragile endeavor. Africa has witnessed the West trying to forcefully institute democracy in relatively peaceful countries. Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia countries that looked economically better and harmonious under their limited democracy and sometimes dictatorship; today hate and division and fragmentation are a real threat to these once tranquil countries. In the name of democracy these nations are falling apart.

Countries south of the Sahara like Kenya, Zimbabwe and Tanzania; are also not spared either, where we see the effects of western democracy at work in a poor country, creating hate and division among its citizenry.

Nyerere said "... Tanzania, divided up into 112 distinct ethnic groups, is not a fertile ground for multiparty democracy. Tanzania is not ready for multiparty democracy as would descend the country into tribal and regional infighting..." Although Mwalimu did not believe in multiparty democracy the power and grip of imperialism forced him and the ruling Party to embrace multiparty system against the public views that rejected the system by 80 per cent. The global political wind of change was too much for Mwalimu and he surrendered.

Even though Tanzania embraced (against its will) western-type multiparty democracy in developing nations, I believe, after two decades of practice; if Mwalimu was alive he would continue believing that Africa was not yet ready for this type of democracy. Look at Tanzania today, multiparty democracy only nurtures hate and division, and building economy is no longer a priority.

Capitalistic freedom promoted by secular ideology in which individuals became free to experiment whatever they want as long as it is a fundamental human right is very dangerous. Free democracy, free press, free everything, so free in a poor country only erodes community and national unity and brings division and tension.

Mwalimu believed in a kind of a democracy that gives space to the citizens to develop their nation. He wanted Africa to embrace democracy in single-party systems or multiparty systems that ensure Governments of National Unity, in which after any election parties would bury their differences and take national interests to a sweeter height. Keep the people together and work hard.

The kind of democracy practiced in China, Russia and the Arab countries that forces people to build economy by instilling in the citizens the sense of nationhood, pride and upholding taboos of that nation could build national unity, tranquility and peace instead of this type of western free democracy.

As we continue to remember and cherish our great Father of the Nation Mwalimu Nyerere, let us uphold his good visions, hopes and optimism on democracy to inspire us once again, nurture and keep our unity as a nation and as a people.

Dr Dalaly Peter Kafumu is Member of Parliament for Igunga through the ruling party CCM and Former Commissioner for Minerals

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY