Friday, October 30, 2015

Tanzania Shines

It's been a strange week.

We haven't left our house except to take the kids the quarter mile to and from school.  We anxiously combed the internet for information, hearing reports of tear gas, fires, and unhappy citizens around the country.  Yet, our neighborhood was more silent than usual.  Traffic was light; shops were closed.

Yesterday, we kept the kids home from school.  We heard the presidential results would be released sometime yesterday, and our area is a bit of a hot spot for the opposition.  HOPAC closed early anyway, once it was confirmed that the results really were coming.

So, we spent another day at home.  Gil and the kids prepared games for Josiah's birthday on Saturday.  Twice, military jets flew over, low to the ground.  Everyone looked up in awe, except for Johnny, who ran into the house in fear.  The government's point was clear:  No Messing Around.

It was one of the few times when I wished we had television.  I kept refreshing the news page, over and over, about 67 times.  But in the end, we didn't need the newspaper to tell us the results.  At 4:00 in the afternoon, we heard the cheering all around us, from miles around.  Magufuli had been declared the winner.  Cars honked, people celebrated, for at least the next hour.  The air was electric with excitement.

Not everyone is happy, of course, especially the 40% who voted for the opposition, and I'm still not sure how I would have voted if I had been given the chance.  But with just a few exceptions, it looks like Tanzania successfully pulled off a peaceful election, and that is remarkable.  Was it fair?  Was it lawful?  Did the party leaders behave themselves?  It's hard to know for sure.   The people, however, are to be commended for their dignified conduct.

Tanzania has a lot of problems.  It continues to be one of the poorest countries in the world, and it has its fair share of corruption and infrastructure problems.  But today, I am proud to be a guest in this country.

Tanzania has been one of the only countries in Africa to avoid war or major unrest since it's independence.  It's been one of the only countries in Africa where it is assumed that the president will step down after his term is over.  It's been one of the only countries in Africa to hold peaceful elections, even when the race was tight.

"By the end of the 1980's, not a single African head of state in three decades had allowed himself to be voted out of office.  Of some 150 heads of state who had trodden the African stage, only six had voluntarily relinquished power.  They included...Tanzania's Julius Nyerere [the first president]."
(Martin Meredith, The Fate of Africa)  Nyerere set the foundation for peace, and Tanzanians have steadfastly persisted in that legacy.

Well done, Tanzania.  You have much to be proud of.  And congratulations (and Happy Birthday, ironically!) to Mr. John Magufuli, 5th president of the United Republic of Tanzania.


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