Speaking to blank wall typical of my fellows

14Feb 2016
Kenan Kalagho
Guardian On Sunday
The voice to be heard
Speaking to blank wall typical of my fellows

A week ago, I was in favour of a notion that Europeans were more informed than Africans during a conversation with a friend of mine.

I based my argument on the fact that Europeans are much more aware of their rights than Africans that they often stage protests whenever their rights are infringed.

Yes, we have been regular viewers of scenes over the global media, readers of the events and listeners to whereabouts on protests, just to mention a few, against G8 meetings for not taking bold steps in containing climate change or tackling global food shortages including such issues as security.

I am yet to see such protests taking place in Africa with the exception of South Africa where the recent protest on the presidential house renovation expenditure, with its citizens demanding reimbursement hit the global media attention, and of course Burundians stance on Nkurunziza cling on to power.

It is not that there are no such issues on which to protest in other African countries including my beloved motherland Tanzania, where the likes of Richmond, EPA, Radar and Escrow corruption scandals have been attracting public attention by virtue of their being an order of the day.

However, I believe that at issue is about lack of public awareness over whether high-profile embezzlement of public funds has anything to do with the mainstream public.

They fail to see direct link between the state coffers and their lives and that of their children, schools and hospitals, roads and transport, electricity, fuels, water they drink, houses they live in, and even the environment of which they are part and parcel.

Just for the benefit of doubt, I may regard high-profile corruption as a matter of the political elite where our voice has no room to be heard, but how about a poor Tanzanian student girl being stripped off naked on the streets in India?
It is pity learning that when the girl was stripped off on the streets of Bangalore in India, no Tanzanian seemed to care though the incident dominated headlines of the global media.

How can one expect street protest just to condemn the disgraceful and hate crime against a Tanzanian in a far away India, when one fails to see anything wrong when a Sukuma, Luguru or a Pogoro farmer kills and maims a Maasai and his livestock at stone throw in Morogoro? It’s apathy typical of my Tanzanian compatriots.

I have been obliged to scribble something to you after witnessing several Indian communities including students from various universities in Bangalore staging protests against the act while calling for justice to prevail.

And that is exactly what a friend of mine told me during the discussion that I shouldn’t expect anything close to a protest from us as a nation, because we always have believed that evil ‘isms,’ especially racism never existed in our country.

Instead, he said most of us tend to think that tribalism only happens in Kenya even as we witness clashes between farmers and pastoralists in Morogoro, just a throw stone from Dar es Salaam.

Do we really have the cause to protest over something happening across borders in India even as we do not raise our voice against inhuman acts to farmers and pastoralists killing each other including their livestock we dearly rely on?
If hundreds of livestock killed in agony can fail to attract protests from us, would a mere incident taking place across borders in Asia move our hearts for a protest?

It seems the issues of public concern in the country is no mans business especially if you look at the scandal issues regarding Escrow, Radar, EPA and others to do with the increased commodities price even as fuel price continue to fall at the global market to nearly $2 dollars a barrel.

We have witnessed peaceful protestors in South Africa demanding for producers to lower the prices of bread, just like in

Zambia last year, but in my country that too has been no mans business even as many go home each day without food.
Each time however, we stand to watch and read in newspapers as the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA) dictate to us the fuel pump price drop, believing such is also to the advantages of local industries and products prices and to the laymen.

I am still waiting to witness such mass protests for lowering fuel pump price, basic things as sugar, bread, water, flour and other commodities. The only protests I recall is that of commuter bus drivers because on the fateful day I paraded almost twenty kilometers to the office.

My daily gaze on television to hear the voices from various human rights activists with regards to inhuman act of a Tanzanian girl being stripped off in India is yet to yield results.

I believe we can still stand as a nation and tell the world that stripping off of our citizen in such disgraceful act, including any other woman regardless of her colour, race, ethnic, tribe and origin, is intolerable and need to be silenced.

The writer is revise editor, the Guardian on Sunday