Last Friday, our country was tested and found to be vulnerable -- beyond reasonable speculation -- when angry people believed to be Muslims staged demonstrations in Dar es Salaam’s Mbagala area.
Again this week, our country was put to test when the Zanzibar based radical group known as Uamsho—a Swahili word for revival—staged sporadic chaos in the Isles.
But as if this wasn’t enough, on Friday, this week, Dar es Salaam city centre and Zanzibar’s Stone Town yesterday were turned into battlegrounds as anti-riot police fought running battles with Muslim demonstrators protesting the detention of Muslim cleric Sheikh Issa Ponda.
In Zanzibar, Friday’s chaos was a continuation of violence that started on Wednesday following the disappearance of Sheikh Farid Hadi Ahmed who is a leader of an Islamic revival group, Uamsho, in Zanzibar.
Tanzania People Defense Forces (TPDF) combatants were called in to help contain violence that seemed to overpower the crack Field Force Unit (FFU).
Last week, we published an editorial headlined, “Woe unto you Tanzania and your elusive peace” in which we warned that the country’s peace would vanish if the current pace of religious motivated violence is further entertained.
As a serious newspaper that believes in a peaceful, united and prosperous nation, we are again repeating the same editorial with more update—aiming at appealing for all parties to restore our peace and unity.
We are doing so because of what transpired this week in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar which, in our view, is alien to our culture, and should be denounced by all well-wishers.
As we stated clearly last week, it’s not our intention to judge who is right or wrong; only that we feel obliged, and honoured, to say that Tanzania is facing real danger of being torn apart by those who have some fishy and hidden agenda.
The peace we have in this country, and which we have enjoyed during the past five decades didn’t rain from heaven, but was created and nurtured by the founders of our country.
It’s easy to forget that Tanzania has remained united for the past 50 years in a country with a mosaic of 120 tribes plus 168 dialects. In a continent where tribalism was one of the sources of deadly civil wars, Tanzania stood strongly beyond tribes. While our neighbours in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia descended into deadly wars that cost millions of souls because of tribalism, Tanzania overcame that situation; we overcame the deadly politics of tribalism because the founders of this nation laid down a strong foundation on which all of us regardless of our tribes, faith, gender, race or vernaculars remained equal and united.
The founders of this country led by the late Julius K Nyerere understood that the forces that unite us together are stronger than the ones that would like to divide us. So we united by our national language Kiswahili among other things, and the values that we share as a nation after the achievement of independence in 1961.
These values made us believe that beyond our individual religious faiths, tribes or race, we are one nation called United Republic of Tanzania. These values blossomed the love of wisdom, which cemented our peace -- and unity as a nation for the past five decades. As a young nation, Tanzania chose not to be a religious nation, but allowed freedom of worship. But, still, this freedom of worship didn’t make our country a cradle of chaos and abhorrence.
Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and the pagans learnt to live together as brothers under the peaceful umbrella called United Republic of Tanzania. But, rapidly, Tanzania is facing a very serious danger, made real from religious zealotry. We fully believe that nobody has the right to insult anybody’s religion.
However, whenever there’s a situation that tends to test our faith or insult what we believe in, we shouldn’t take that opportunity to talk violence. It takes years to build a peaceful nation; it costs a mere blink of an eye to destroy it. We were Tanzanians before we chose what we should worship.
Before the spread of Christianity and Islam, there was a nation called Tanganyika, which in 1964 was baptized and became the United Republic of Tanzania. If there’s anything that will soon destroy Tanzania, its blind religious affinity. While our neighbours were destroyed by, among other things, tribalism, unlike them Tanzania will suffer and get ruined—by religious conflicts.
We would like to urge all Tanzanians regardless of their faiths to protect our peace and unity at any cost—because it’s the roots that define who we are as well as our destiny.
It’s what can determine who shall be tomorrow and forever. It’s the precious inheritance we can leave to our children once we have joined our ancestors through physical death.
Without peace, there won’t be a room to worship let alone assembling to debate about whose religion is right or wrong. Without peace, there won’t be room for business, schooling, working or resting in our homes.