“We are now a nation… It is a proud nation, and one which has earned respect internationally through its policies of Non-Alignment and anti-colonialism, as well as by its domestic endeavours,” so declared Founding President Mwalimu J K Nyerere in Dar es Salaam on July 29, 1985 as he bid Parliament farewell.
A little over quarter a century after that memorable pronouncement, it suddenly dawns on us that there is still at least one person in the world so arrogant as to have the impudence to believe to the contrary - stubbornly declaring, when asked to apologise, that he said what he meant and meant what he said.
That person is none other than Israeli Defence minister Ehud Barak, once prime minister of the long-beleaguered country and therefore one to whom the concept of the world as a global village in which no country can’t hope or afford to stand as an island all by its own is not unfamiliar.
The issue is as Tanzania’s honorary consul in Israel, Kasbian Nuriel Chirich, put it in a letter to Israel Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman condemning Barak’s remarks and inviting a representative of Israel to visit Tanzania.
Wrote the consul: “In his effort to praise the importance of key countries in Europe, he (Barak) chose to put down Tanzania and compare it to a country that doesn’t even exist. Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa, rich in natural resources, with a population of some 46 million peace-seeking people and a gross domestic product of more than $58 billion.”
Chirich further noted that Israel and Tanzania have had diplomatic, security and economic relations since Tanzania’s independence and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently met African leaders and was attempting to deepen ties with the continent amid the strengthening of Islamic extremism there.
Accordingly, the consul reminded the Barak camp: “Tanzania is an important country that Israel should not ignore.”
That one country should elect to insult another, however slightly, is most unfortunate and regrettable. That the salvos should be hurled so brazenly and repeatedly without the slightest of provocation is shocking to the extreme.
But Ehud Barak is high-ranking and hugely experienced leader in a country so “indispensable” to the rest of the world that he believes he has no reason to care about treating “irrelevant” countries such as Tanzania courteously.
No words can describe well enough the Israeli minister’s recent suggestion that Tanzania is for all practical purposes non-existent – too poor and inconsequential to be of any significance or relevance to his country.
Suffice it to say that, were it made in a different era, it would have elicited a much different reaction in aggrieved Tanzania and throughout the civilised and peace-loving world.
Suggesting that Tanzania is a ghost nation amounts to declaring that all the regional, continental and international institutions, organisations and agencies to which it is affiliated actually have one member fewer – that is, minus Tanzania! What would be a bigger insult?
Surely, Barak’s reckless remarks call for immediate international condemnation. The bottom line, though, is that Tanzania’s existence and sovereignty are not predicated on its perceived relevance to Ehud Barak, the country he represents or indeed any other person or country.
But what many level-headed watchers of social, economic, political developments in the world will find hard to understand is that it is a senior representative of a country whose continued existence is only thanks to the generosity and goodwill of the international community that should be taking the lead in slighting and maligning other, generally innocent, countries just because his own awfully fragile country happens to be cushioned by the power and influence of global economic giants he is singing praises about.