Caravan 2018 relives in dramatic fashion Nyerere’s1997 testament

28Oct 2018
Miki Tasseni
Guardian On Sunday
Caravan 2018 relives in dramatic fashion Nyerere’s1997 testament

SOME often-forgotten moments of inspiration by leaders in history and around the world at any moment more or less come back to haunt human society at another period, the way the Versailles Treaty of 1919 -

(damages of World War I) led to another great war as UK government adviser and top economist John Maynard Keynes had predicted.

He told the delegates at Versailles as they were tidying up that treaty, that with the document they would have another war in 20 years. It happened as the secular prophet had projected; WW2 began precisely on September 1 of 1939.

The caravan that has been building up like a US coastal tornado from Honduras and Guatemala through to Mexico and upon US borders demonstrates with the most intense clarity what the late Mwalimu told key audiences in two important gatherings towards the end of 1997.

As the South-South statesman made no other important appearance after that engagement (taking three days or so in the second instance) it was by and large his testament on world system and how it impacts on development, an inspiration that has been missed out by major academic theorists.

As it was fairly divergent from the ‘usual Nyerere’ those in the two audiences have tended to forget it too.

Mwalimu chose his audiences a bit carefully probably expecting not just a higher chance of being understood but perhaps some policy dynamic arising from what he said, but it must be plainly said that his contribution to the direction of policy in the country up to that moment more or less closed off that possibility.

The third phase government then in office was represented at low key levels in both occasions, in the South African legislature in October and then at the University of Dar es Salaam in December, in the latter, to mark 40 years of leadership in Africa. So there was the figure of Kwame Nkrumah in the background, not evolution of Nyerere’s ideas.

The Speaker of the Parliament of South Africa at that time was barrister Frene Ginwala, an ANC luminary who spent part of her time in exile as editor of The Standard newspaper, forerunner of the Daily News.

As was usually the case between President Nyerere and the radical intelligentsia in the country, she tasted Mwalimu’s wrath with a straightforward sacking the day she wrote a trenchant editorial on massacres of communists in Sudan, by the government of fellow socialist Gen. Muhammad el-Numeiry.

By the time the ANC took over in1994 and Ginwala was elected Speaker, it wasn’t the time for remembering old dissensions but fraternities, so she would have been pivotal, along with President Nelson Mandela, in arranging Nyerere’s speech to the House.

As a matter of fact, Nyerere must have known he was breaking with the old model, having spent years looking not at the changes in China with whose leadership he had close affinities during the radical phase of Chairman Mao.

He did not have any direct affinities with the new leadership as he did not quite accept the slogan of ‘using capitalism to build socialism’ as advocated by his former cabin et lieutenant and strained political ally, Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu, But, to his credit, he allowed the Isles radical to go around spreading the new version of socialist thinking.

Nyerere looked more at what happened in Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and enactment of NAFTA (North America Free Trade Accord) and ongoing discussions between the European Common Market member states even with North Africa on some kind of links.

He concluded that when a zone of poor countries borders a zone of rich countries the latter will be compelled to enter into free trade arrangements to as to take development to the poor zone, to stop destabilizing migratory pressures.

It is a thesis which Africa could have used with fruit had it been understood at least when Europe came up with economic partnership agreements idea; Africa insisted on the old aid model while countries implode in violence and migration pressures.

While Nyerere said Africa was too far away from Europe to impact on its politics by migratory pressures, we can see how globalization has pulled Europe closer, such that young men risk life and limb to cross the desert for ‘greener pastures.’

As for South America it was Mexico that Nyerere saw as the source of destabilizing migrations, but now a caravan is formed not in the next country but the third country from Mexico, Honduras (through Guatemala) and reports say caravans are being organized in El Salvador.

 And who knows how many people in socialist and bankrupt Venezuela wish to leave a draconian system with run down currency, poverty, crime.

Looking at the caravans marching through the whole western coastal region of South America to find safety in numbers and reach the United States, where ‘cowboy’ president Donald Trump will face a clear revolt from his border police and army units to shoot the protestors – after what happened in Gaza closer to US hearts - one thing is clear.

It is no longer the NAFTA, EPA free trade areas that Nyerere was looking upon to bring development that will suffice, for little has changed in reality despite much of this being in place. It is to end an absentee landlord system on the land, rented to coca farmers and paying private armies, etc.

The US ought to work to change things in South America so that poverty stricken areas see an economic revolution to new cities with rising demand and job opportunities by nationalizing the land and privatizing it rationally to small farmers, and big industrialists can buy it and put people to work.

Nothing of the sort is in the air; diplomacy and US politics will have months of nerve wrecking effort to settle the crisis.