Tanzania Diary: August 15 (night)

I have avoided political discussions with Tanzanians until this trip. Superficial knowledge of the country’s political landscape made me cautious about encouraging any conversation that might return to haunt them—or myself. However, Joas’ open display of anger about his phony parking ticket had given me confidence, so I began to ask about the upcoming October 31 national elections.

Though I gathered an unscientifically tiny sample of opinions, each of the half a dozen people I spoke to insisted they would not, or in some cases never, vote for the incumbent President, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete. Yet all said they expected Kikwete to retain power, by stealing the election if necessary. They all associated Kikwete with other forms of theft, so they took for granted the ruling party’s theft of the upcoming election. This interests me because I know little more about Kikwete than that he had made tackling corruption the centerpiece of his 2005 election campaign and seems to have adopted the same strategy for the reelection he seeks. Two years ago Kikwete sacked the head of Tanzania’s central bank over evidence of fraud involving tens of millions of dollars and earlier this year his government approved the Elections Expenses Act, which targets vote buying and other shady election practices. Still, I suppose many Tanzanians see the Act as coming along too late since corruption seriously marred last October’s local elections.

It also interests me to have encountered this measure of opposition to Kikwete in a poor rural area. Historically, his ruling CCM (Chama Cha Mapinduzi or Party of the Revolution) has dominated the polling in such areas, partly by warning the relatively uninformed rural electorate of dire consequences—which to a modern African might reasonably include bloodshed—upon assumption of power by the “devil you don’t know.” Then again, I’ve talked about the election mainly to college-educated Tanzanians.

Would the Ufani School children learn more in Kenya?

The exception is one of our safari drivers, not a college-educated man although he has big ambitions for the education of his two children. But these ambitions motivate him to send his children to school in Kenya, where he claims they will receive a much better education than Tanzania can give them. Why won’t he vote for Kikwete? He blames Tanzania’s inferior schools on the ruling party’s theft of education funds. The driver also tells me that many of his friends and neighbors in Arusha hold the same view and, like him, pay extra to get their children educated in Kenya.—Don Stoll

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About Don Stoll

Don and his wife, Marianne Kent-Stoll, are co-founders of the Karimu International Help Foundation. They established Karimu in 2008 at the request of the people of Dareda Kati Village, in the Manyara Region of northeastern Tanzania. Karimu is devoted to working with the residents of Dareda Kati in order to satisfy their development needs, as defined by the villagers themselves.
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2 Responses to Tanzania Diary: August 15 (night)

  1. Julian says:

    It is interesting that English is, I understand, the language of instruction in all educational institutions so the children are better placed to communicate with the global business world. In Tanzania English is the language of instruction only from Secondary school level and beyond and the primary school teachers who teach English are themselves far from confident. Tanzania needs to address this problem because it causes many clever students to drop out just because their English is too poor to keep up.
    As for corrupt Governments, we in the UK are still learning about the outrageous “expenses” that some of our leaders have been claiming. No Government or institution is safe from evil that greed and opportunity can create. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

  2. Don Stoll says:

    Though our driver did not mention the superior teaching of English in Kenyan schools, I assumed that was one of the advantages he saw.

    And government corruption exists in all nations, but in varying degrees. In my August 21 post I noted that “Transparency International, the international NGO which monitors corruption,” last year rated Tanzania the “fifty-fifth most corrupt nation out of the one hundred eighty given scores. . . a little worse than Vietnam or Bolivia and a little better than Lebanon or Libya; this places Tanzania much closer to Somalia than to New Zealand on the corruption spectrum.” And the 2010 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, which measures “delivery of public goods and services to citizens by government and non-state actors”—a process affected adversely by corruption—gives Tanzania a score closer to the scores of Sudan and Zimbabwe than to that of Mauritius at the top of the table.

    You’ll be glad to know, Julian, that Transparency International found less government corruption in Great Britain than in the United States—but I believe those rankings predate the Parliamentary expense account revelations!

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