Tag Archive | "Tanzania"

Darling Arusha

1.1263222293.1_arushaFrom Tanzanian Corespondent Lute Wa Lutengano...
I had wanted to write something about our Arusha’s new status, that of its now being crowned a city, notwithstanding its sickening traffic jams; its garbage heaps and rotten drainage systems; its unreliable power and water supply systems; its foul smelling public markets; and its dilapidated public school structures lacking all essentials including desks. And more of the column could have dwelt on the city’s lack of public toilets.For example, the other day my visiting friend from Europe was jogging his way from the city centre to Njiro when he needed to attend to some urgent natural function of peeing. He could not find one single public toilet facility along all the six kilometre stretch to Njiro. He literally stormed into my house and into the washroom to relieve himself.And yet, I am told, the very wise city authorities decided to throw around more than 110 million/- to celebrate the city status. That included some twenty or so millions of shillings for some Bongo-flava artist and comedians from Dar es Salaam. And as if to cap it all that very same evening the whole city got engulfed in darkness. No power!A day or so later when the first rains pounded the Arusha streets there were floods and some rotten mud floating around all over city. The drainage systems were either broken down or inadequate. And this, mind you, is only the beginning of the rainy season.ArushaSE22_1329686281As for the traffic jams, I can only reveal that these days if one wants to make it on time to office in the morning one has to do so before 7:00 am. Otherwise after that it will take one more than an hour for the normal 15 minutes drive from Njiro to town. In the evening it is worse. No wonder most of the pubs in the city centre are these days doing a roaring business on account of the many clients who hang around until around 9:00 pm to outlast the harrowing traffic jams.But as I said at the beginning of this third rate column, today I am not going to talk about our suffering city. Rather, as I am in a celebratory mood following the sweet victory of Obama for his second term as President of the United States, I am just going to wallow in that joyous and feel-good mood.Watching the victory speech by Obama late last year I again got that titillating sensation which somehow makes me want to jump up in joy and tears want to flow from dry eyes; that feeling which makes me seem very light and at the same time very fulfilled.I have had these feeling four times in my life already. The first time was when I watched the live coverage of the South African icon Nelson Mandela emerge from the prison gates a free man on 11 February 2090.

The second time again had to do with Mandela. This was on 10 May 1994 when he was sworn in as President of the Republic of South Africa. As he spoke and as the Inkotsi Sikeleli anthem and the township jazz sounds from Soweto resonated from those powerful pillars of apartheid into the deep blue sky, I could not but let tears of joy flow on my chubby cheeks.

The third time was on 20 January 2009 when Obama was sworn-in as President of the United States. As this son of a former student from Kenya and a scholarly American lady Durhan spoke he ushered in a new era of a liberated America. The horrors and the tragedy of slavery were finally being interred. The same tears again ran on my now not so chubby cheeks this Wednesday morning as I listed to Obama’s victory speech from his Chicago head office.

My main worry though is I may not live long enough to shed such tears for an event in my own country. I wonder why?


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From Tanzania Corespondent Lute Wa Lutengano…

John, a friend of mine came by public transport on Monday this week from Dar es Salaam. He is from the United States of America. Actually he has been on the road all the way from Johannesburg, South Africa beginning mid-March. His, he says, is a journey of discovery.

This is the first time he has been to Africa. John is of Irish descent. His great grandfather migrated from Ireland to the US almost a century ago. We got acquainted in Atlanta, Georgia, in the early 1990s when I was attending some management course at one of the many colleges in that Peach City. Following my lengthy talk on Africa and its unique and amazing flora and fauna, John promised me he would one day make a point traversing through the length and width of the continent.

It was still a bit of a shock when I few weeks ago I got his message, through my e-mail – that indeed he had already landed in Africa, South Africa to be more precise, and was going to travel northwards to Tanzania, and meet me in Arusha.

I am saying his message took me by surprise because we had not been in contact for more than 20 years. But thanks to the wonders of the modern global information technology, he simply ‘googled’ my name and, voila there was my full contact.

Naturally, John has had some amazing and unique experiences in the various countries he has traversed through in his sojourn. These include Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia and now Tanzania. From his tales, I would not be surprised to receive a copy of a travel book on the same a year or so from now.

Naturally, I could not resist asking him of his lasting impression on the whole trip. To my surprise, he said it was the experience along the Moshi – Arusha stretch of the road which clinched the trophy.

John, said on arrival in Moshi town, he was very impressed by the city’s cleanliness and its greenery and gardens. However, he was also curious as to why the whole city, and in particular the Kiboroloni area, was swarming with thousands of red-blue-black flags. He says all motorcycles and public transport vehicles were zooming by and pedestrians running around spotting and holding aloft the unique flags.

The scenery became more clogged by the flags as the bus sped towards Arusha. Actually from a few kilometres after the KIA Airport, there was an unprecedented road traffic jam with more joyous people, all honking their motorcycles and vehicles and all spotting the flags.

Thousands of people were swarming in and around the road. To give way the driver had to flash a two finger salute at which the masses would roar back to some slogan “Peoples – Power!”

Reaching somewhere, which according to his description, should be Usa River, he found thousands more people swarming and hovering around all drinking joints and open spaces as they guzzled beer after beer in celebratory mood.

At one joint he was shocked to see two of these people in the crowd, who had bought several crates of beer, washing their saloon cars using the beer from the many bottles they had.

It was at this juncture that my friend John could not resist the urge to enquire as to what was going on. He was simply told that all these people were celebrating their party candidate winning the local parliamentary seat. Wow! What a celebration!


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Spark of Light


From Tanzania Corespondent Lute Wa Lutengano…

So we have just celebrated, or rather marked, 50 years of Tanganyika or Tanzania Mainland’s independence. There were several events to mark the occasion in all major towns and cities in the country and in all cities where our embassies are located be it in Asia, Europe, the Americas and Africa.

However, for the first time ever there were also similar festivities in almost all cities in the world where there is a sizeable community of Tanzanians. And thanks to the social media spearheaded by the likes of Michuzi and Mjengwa blogs we were also for the first time ever able to follow up on these events through pictures and narratives presented.

We have come a long way. Remember the time when we say we got our independence. Messages and letters were relayed using ground transport. A letter to my village, Chalowe in Njombe, would be posted in Tanga and ferried by train to Dar es Salaam and then again by train to Dodoma before being despatched by bus to Njombe. In Njombe it would either be ferried by bicycle to Chalowe or by the twice weekly bus to Chalowe. Hopefully it would arrive, after two months or so, in one piece.

The response would again take the same route. However, the letter from the recipient in Chalowe who in most cases would have been one of the parents or grandparents of the Tanga person would first require the services of the village official letter writer who would have to be one of already literate school boy or girl, to pen it. Hopefully he or she would have been faithful to the spirit of the parents’ or grandparents’ message. Yes! We have come a long way.

This time, however, I was able to follow up on the Tanganyika independence events from as far as Uzbekistan and Mongolia to Rio de Janeiro and Caracas in Latin America; from London and New York to Moscow and Beijing, by just punching a few keys on my computer.

However all these events had one thing in common; they had plenty of dishes and drinks for all the revellers as well as plenty of dancing but short on brain work. In some cases like Stockholm and Berlin they even had some young ladies strutting what was termed as Tanzanian fashion on stage.

I was bound to join this bandwagon in Arusha but thanks to the wisdom of some young men and women studying in the five or universities here who had other ideas. Under the umbrella of the Youth of the United Nations Association in Tanzania (YUNA), they decided to organise a brainstorming session on the role of the youth in the development of our country on that particular date, which was a Friday.

Under the leadership of their YUNA leader in Arusha, Mr. Kalinga, more than 500 university and college students from Tumaini, Arusha, Mount Meru, Open University, Tengeru Institute, Arusha Institute of Accountancy and several other educational institutions assembled in one of halls of the AICC for this event.

They deliberated on among other topics, the role of the youth in several aspects including development, fighting corruption and promoting international criminal justice. The enthusiasm was amazing. Here were the youth of Arusha, whose counterparts in the country were preparing to go disco dancing, eat ‘nyama choma’ and dabble in some alcohol consumption in the name of celebrating independence, seriously charting their role, under the able guidance of facilitators, in the future of this of this country.

This event gave me a fresh ray of hope for the future of this country. I should know best about this as I was the guest of honour. Merry Xmas and Happy New Year! And God Bless Tanzania – at least for another 50 hopefully glorious years!



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Netting Prison


From Tanzania Corespondent Lute Wa Lutengano…

So there is some distribution of mosquito nets going on in town. Presumably this is a multi-billion project funded by some western donors to alleviate the scourge of malaria in this part of the world.

Actually some smart brains have even set up huge factories to manufacture these special mosquito repellent nets to make some good money out of the project. Apparently they are already laughing all the way to the bank.

The distribution of these free nets, however, seems not to have included my family. The last time, about a year ago, I was told that a team from either the Municipal health office or from the Ministry itself, had visited my homestead and jotted down the number of residents therein, promising that each would qualify for a free net.

The nets have already been distributed, but none to my homestead. I am made to assume that maybe I have been de-nationalised or there is an overwhelming proof that my residence is mosquito proof.

Therefore, the other day I was, in my usual stride after a beer or two, complaining against this unhealthy segregation at our local ‘Police Jamii’ joint, the Police Mess in downtown Arusha when my more learned friend rubbished the whole ‘netting’ project as non-starter.

His argument: Assume that all of a sudden there is a proliferation of ‘vibakas’ or thugs in our community. Much as the ‘police jamii’ and all the other state organs put together try to stem this scourge there seems to be no end to it. Then someone comes with a bright idea to curb this menace, which is that all of us would from now onwards live in fortified cells where no ‘kibaka’ would manage to break through and steal from us.

Now that is quite an innovative idea. The only problem is that it is a very silly idea. The ‘vibakas’ will continue to be there and actually they will even celebrate that they have managed to exile, or rather imprison, all the law abiding citizens in the fortified cells. The only ones who will rejoice at this new arrangement, apart from the ‘vibakas’, are the cells building contractors, who will rake in billions of shillings out of these new cells project.

Rather the only rational choice in stemming the scourge of ‘vibakas’ is to fight them at their own game which include, in the short run, arresting them and sending them to prison, and in the long term creating societal conditions which do not breed them.
The same, my colleague argued, applies to mosquitoes. Why should we surrender to them and abandon our fresh air and free sleeping modes for the mosquito net cells? Why are we imprisoning ourselves in fear of the mosquitoes? And this, being done at the expense of billions of shillings to boot.

We should devise means of eliminating these mosquitoes from our environs. I happen to know that there are several countries, and in the tropical zones for that, which have managed to eliminate their mosquitoes.

I wonder as to what happened to all those yesteryear programmes to fumigate all mosquito breeding grounds? I do recall when I was growing up and in a primary boarding school; we would fumigate and or drain out all swamps as well as cut short all the grass in and around our school to curb this malaria scourge.

And I can assure you it was rare to hear one of us going down with malaria. Let us break out of this netting prison and begin to use our brains.


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Last Call


From Tanzania Corespondent Lute Wa Lutengano…

I was sipping my lager at this joint in downtown Nairobi. It is a famous joint, formerly Kengeles, but has since been taken over by new management. The joint is such that you can easily watch those strolling along Koinange street from the bar counter. This is in view of the fact that the shutters separating the two are pulled up when the joint is opened.

I was attracted to the many people from literally all walks of life that were passing by when out of the blue in walked my two young brothers, Nicodemus Ikonko and Sukdev Chatbar – the two Arusha-based ‘paparazzi’. It was a very pleasant surprise.

I was later to learn that each had come separately from Arusha and found themselves together in Nairobi. We set together ordered some more drinks and bites as we sampled the Nairobi life.

Talk soon veered to the vibrant politics of Kenya. The widening rift between Raila Odinga and his former colleague William Ruto in the ODM party, and the Kenyan MPs outcry over recently announced taxation of their hefty pay.

It was as if there would soon be fresh war in that country. But then Kenyans are smart, in the midst of all these bickering they make sure their country’s economy is not derailed.

We noted the elaborate road flyovers which are fast being laid down in downtown Nairobi, the vibrant press, the many new investments coming up in the travel trade industry and the new real estate developments taking place alongside all major highways off Nairobi.

There is no doubt for example that in just a few years from now we will see new urban structures all the way from Nairobi to Namanga, on the border with Tanzania.

This is in deep contrast with the land after Namanga into Tanzania. On this part there is stagnation. Nothing major is happening.

But by contrast, on the Tanzania side, bars and other drinking joints open soon after people wake up at 7:00 am or 8:00 am. These joints are teeming with drinkers as early as 10:00 am.

On the Kenyan side however, no public drinking is permitted until 5:00 pm. And this can last until 11:00 pm. only. On the Tanzanian side normally the boozing spree will last until the last customer crawls out.


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From Tanzania Corespondent Lute Wa Lutengano…

The other day I received a long distance call. It was from New York. Now who would be calling me from that land of Obama at this odd hour of the night? It was 3:00 a.m. Then it occurred to me that at that hour it was early evening the previous day in that city of cities.

The culprit who called me was a good schoolmate and friend of mine who now calls himself a Foreign Service Officer. This is a profession of people who, as part of their duties, basically put on their best suits every day and engage in small talk every evening on what are called diplomatic cocktail circuits. If you want to know what they talk about go to Wikileaks.

My colleague informed me that he was going to be in that apple city for the coming three months. Reason: Unga. That is the short form for the most powerful gathering of all mankind every year, the United Nations General Assembly, where heads of states and governments from all over the world troop there to vent off their obtuse views of our global world in the name of their peoples.

My friend, who for reasons of potential Wikileaks leaks I will not reveal, asked me what I wanted from his well paid sojourn to this city of lights. Drowsily, in my sleep, I muttered; “Just come back with a bloody red silk tie for me.” I had no reason for this specific request. For among other apparel, I do have more than 100 ties, and perhaps more than ten of them are very red.

But then, I think I do look forward to this very red tie from my friend. It will be my ultimate Christmas present.

I do recall many years ago, in my previous undertakings, I used to belong to this exclusive and famous Unga delegation. Then in Tanzania, there was literally nothing worth buying. Actually the shops were all very empty.

No wonder the delegations which saw me off at the Dar es Salaam airport were to say the least mammoth in size. All relatives; uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers and sisters as well as in-laws, would cut short their early morning sleep to escort me to the airport. Paramount in their minds was the basically clothing and footwear gifts I would come back with. No wonder each one of the 50 plus members of the escort group would surreptitiously hand me a chit of paper on which was scribbled one’s name and sizes of clothing and footwear.

It goes without saying that once in New York, in order to accommodate this massive purchase order, I had to necessarily find the cheapest accommodation available which was also near the UN headquarters. Now that was almost an impossible mission. I remember on one occasion, it was winter time, I had to do with a still-under-repair room on the 20th floor of a hotel located between the 1st and 2nd Avenue on 49th Street. I almost froze to death. Among other problems, the room heater was still under repair. But it was costing me a mere US$ 20. This was in contrast to the other room in the hotel whose rates ranged between US$ 150 to US$ 2000.

The room was so uninviting that I had to spend many hours inside the across the street pub. It was in here that I first experienced the American approach to alcohol. On my maiden visit I ordered the fist beer: Drank it. The second; Drank it. The third; Drank it. The fourth….and the Barman approached me wondering whether I had some problem which I wanted to share with him. No! I protested vehemently. I was just having a good time, I told him.

On my sixth beer, the Barman remonstrated that he would no longer serve me as I seemed to be on a mission of suicide. He did not want to go down with me. He was by law the guardian angel of all patrons in that pub. If they drank and committed any offence including dying he would be legally responsible. It was only after he learnt that I was from Africa, and Tanzania in particular, that he relented that I could go on drinking. “You should have told me earlier about your origins,” he complained as I drained my eighth beer bottle perplexed as to whether I should be proud or ashamed of this reputation.

Flying home some weeks later, I was forced to pay a total of US$ 879 for my excess luggage. I should have told them of my origins.


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The Chinese Are Coming


From Tanzania Corespondent Lute Wa Lutengano…

Those who are of my age will vividly recall the age of the ‘maxam’. This was the era when the shelves of the then RTCs or Regional Trading Companies and other ‘dukas’ had nothing, literally nothing.

There was nothing to buy from the many public and few private shops in the urban and rural areas of the country. Actually whenever there were any little amounts of flour, sugar or rice in the shops, one had to get a special permit – kibali – to get an allocation of the same to buy for his family.

I do recall how I actually bought my first Radio Cassette Recorder. I was then a young journalist with the Daily News in Dar es Salaam and as part of the privileges of a scribe you get to know some strategically positioned individuals in society. One of these individuals was Kapinga, the then General Manager of DABCO, a company which traded in among other items, electronic gadgets.

He easily issued a special ‘kibali’ for me to buy a Phillips Radio cassette. I went and bought one but, can you imagine that I never reached with my prized item home. As soon as I walked out of the DABCO shop, along then Independence Avenue, I was mobbed by scores of craving Dar es Salaamites, who all wanted my item. Naturally I sold it to the highest bidder. That evening I was the darling of all my friends at the Bonga NikuBonge Bar in Mwananyamala. And that is where my Radio Cassette dreams were buried.

In efforts to alleviate these acute shortages of almost everything, the authorities of the time decided to turn east and appeal to the Chinese. That is when the market got flooded with Chinese products. ‘Maxam’ the toothpaste, was the flagstaff of them all. All of a sudden all the shops in the country were full of ‘maxam’ toothpaste, ‘maxam’ soap, ‘maxam’ lotion and many other ‘maxam’ products.

I do remember when, one time my guardian angel smiled at me, and I chanced to come into possession of three tubes of ‘Colgate’ toothpaste and several ‘Rexona’ bathing soap pieces. I suddenly became a sensation, and actually very attractive to the ‘sisters’ of the time. This sudden stardom evaporated soon after they relieved me of my prized possessions. In no time I was back to my Chinese ‘maxam’ life.

Somehow the Chinese and their products disappeared for many years after that. But now they are back and with a vengeance. They are everywhere. They are building our highways, our cloud-licking structures, running restaurants and even selling items from small shops in Kariakoo. There are Chinese shoes, clothes, liquors, medicine and even chemicals to, I am told, even enable our sisters grow some voluminous bottoms. Somehow, though, I have to admit, I have never come across a huge bottomed Chinese lady.

I thought this was only happening to Tanzania. No! The same is taking place all over Africa. The other day, as I flew Air Malawi to Blantyre, I was worried I had entered a flight to Beijing. It was full of Chinese people. On enquiry I was told all those were small businessmen who run small shops in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Zomba in Malawi.

In Zambia, I read the other day, if you are going to buy some chicken for your evening ‘nsima’ – ugali – and you enter the Lusaka city’s main market, chances are you will do so from a Chinese run stall.

Writes Justin Rowlatt, “As you push your way through the crowds, the hawkers and traders will shout and cajole, offering you every product imaginable. You will probably not see a single non-African there. Until, that is, you get to where the chickens are sold. Here you will see a row of trucks piled high with cages, each packed with plump white chickens all fussing and squawking. The African shoppers will be weighing the birds in their hands and looking their prospective purchases in the eye.

In the background you might spot the owners of the trucks – Chinese men and women holding wads of money and making sure things go smoothly.” These Chinese men and women are chicken farmers in Zambia. They have travelled more than 11,000 kms from their homes to do just that. No wonder even the Americans and the Europeans are wary of the Chinese. It seems the Chinese are here!


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Sign Of The Times


From Tanzania Corespondent Lute Wa Lutengano…

The other day my eldest daughter, actually she has now become a young lady, was home for her holidays. You see she is in Form III now. For one reason or another, her latest stay with me was the first serious and close interaction with my daughter. In the end, I actually ended up learning a lot from her.

You see her world and mine are two different worlds. I am ageing man in his mid 50s who for reasons which I can not exactly explain now has a very young family for his age. I have two other younger daughters, one in class one and the other who will be starting her baby class next year.

Now you know I have a problem. It is called an age problem. One incident explains everything in a nutshell. A few weeks ago my class one daughter arrived home from school and asked me why I had been deceiving her all the time. I asked her why? “Today at school in our English language class they showed us drawings depicting relatives. We learnt about ‘sister’, ‘brother’, ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘grandfather’ and ‘grandmother’. You always tell me that you are ‘daddy’ or ‘father’ but from the drawings you are ‘grandfather,” she told me.

Without due notice she began, there and then, calling me ‘grandpa’. I was shocked. Something was wrong with our present schooling system. On further prodding I realised that the drawings in their school book showed a ‘grandpa’ who fits my profile – a balding head, greying beards and a wobbly generous tummy.

I am now beginning to worry that the youngest daughter will grow up believing that the school books are wrong. She will have grown up knowing that I am the ‘daddy’ but then in the books the drawings depicting a ‘daddy’ will show a completely different profile. This is all very confusing.

Back to my young lady; she was something of techno geek; always fiddling with the TV remote and actually coming up with programmes I never knew were part of my TV set; playing computer games with my mobile phone handset and even my TV and literally destroying my desktop computer set with her complicated games. She even had her own face-book page where she communicated with her many friends she had never met.

In a nutshell my daughter was spending almost all her time, that is, apart from that of sleeping either fiddling with my mobile phone handset, my TV or my computer. What was worrying me to death was that during her whole time with me I never saw her reading any book or magazine. Now that is very serious.

I remembered the time I was her age. I was at the then Mkwawa High School in Iringa. Yes I had friends I did not know. These were called pen pals. I learnt to write them letters telling them of my school and village life and sent them pictures as well. I remember I had four pen pals – one in the USA, one in UK, and two in Japan. They also used to write back sending me pictures of their schools and families and some comic books.

In due course I developed a hobby of collecting stamps, or in the refined language ‘philately’. I spent a lot of time studying in the school library and visiting the town public library. And wherever I went I had with me what I thought was a signature of having been schooled, a James Hardley Chase novel book. It was neatly stuck inside my back pocket but with a deliberate oversight that it was visibly seen by everybody I came by.

I went to the Highland Cinema Hall in town to watch western movies, and some of the ‘One Silver Dollar’ films, in huge reels were also screened at school. I went camping in the Ruaha River valley and learnt to fish in its waters as a member of School Boys Scout troop. I went mountain climbing on the hills surrounding Iringa town. I joined the school Christian choir which sang in the many churches in and around Iringa every Sunday. I leant to play…..Oh! How times have changed!


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A Taxi Cab Election Ride


From Tanzania Corespondent Lute Wa Lutengano…

Late Monday afternoon I left office and was rushing to a downtown shop to fetch rims of my eye glasses. You see at my age I need the services of extra eyes to be able to see like a normal human being. My mobile contraption, that is my car, rattled along Seth Benjamin a.k.a. East Africa road towards the roundabout with mounted elephants near the DC’s office.

But I could not reach it.

The place was jam-packed with thousands of seemingly very angry Arushans. They had overtaken all the open space and the ‘desert garden’ between the roundabout and the Municipal Council offices and spilled onto the Boma road to the Clock Tower area.

Fearing for the unknown I made a sudden u-turn and drove back to office where I securely parked my un-insured contraption. Knowing that I can never abandon my routine of reading my papers in the evening I decided to make a second attempt to reach the opticians shop, but now using a taxi.

I hailed one just outside my office and boarded it. It was in worse shape than my contraption. But Juma, the cab driver, told me not to worry. Even when I pointed to him the huge and now hysterical masses in the area, Juma was unperturbed. He actually explained that, in case of unrest, the angry masses would go for the sleek and posh cars because they believe those belong to those who want to snatch from their jaws the victory of their Member of Parliament for Arusha.

Apparently Juma was also a supporter of the assembled group for he went on to loudly complain why it was taking more than 18 hours to compile and announce the winner for the Arusha seat. He wondered why it had taken only a few hours to do the same for the elections of Ward Counsellors.

He likened the impasse to a time bomb which may unleash bloodshed in the centre of Arusha if for one reason or another foul play was suspected to have been committed in the whole process by the authorise and thus denying their candidate’s victory. He was of the view that they may even physically attack their candidate and his family if he consents to having lost the elections. No surrender, he concluded gloomily.

I had nothing to add but mumble something to the effect that I was in total agreement with all his views.

To make matters worse I could not collect my spectacles from the optician as his shop like many others in downtown Arusha was closed. Apparently most of shops had not opened last Monday for fear of the unknown.

Driving back we had to again pass through the huge mass of people. My heart jumped a beat, pumped faster and I felt some butterflies fluttering in my stomach when I noticed some of those in the group had hidden machetes, long knives and clubs inside their garments.

It could feel the tension in the air. It seemed all of Arusha was about to go up in flames. I swore I will immediately sneak out with my contraption and using back roads rush back home and go straight to bed.

Juma parked his cab and told me in almost threatening words that I had to part with 7,000/- for the trip. In appreciation of the mood I could not haggle as is always the case. I was on the verge of fishing out the ‘msimbazi’ note when the car radio spluttered out some news flash; the Election Returning Officer for Arusha has just announced that Godbless Lema of Chadema has won the Arusha seat!

Suddenly Juma waved me off saying he did not need my cab fare and instead urged me to go and buy myself a beer and ‘nyama choma’ with it. Honking loudly he zoomed off. Somehow his ramshackle of a cab had also suddenly come to life.


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On The Farm In Tanzania


From Tanzania Corespondent Lute Lutengano…

Necessity took me to Moronga and Imalilo villages, in Njombe district, up on the slopes of spectacular Kipengere Mountain Range, at about 3000 meters above sea level. The range also known as the Livingstone Mountains lies in southwest Tanzania at the northern end of Lake Nyasa.

From the town of Mbeya this range runs south-east and forms part of the eastern escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, extending about 100 km down the north-eastern shore of the lake to the Ruhuhu River. At the north-western end of the range they are known as the Poroto Mountains. And where they tower above the lake they are also known as the Kinga Mountains.

This time we drove from Njombe town along the Makete rough road for about 30 kilometers and reached Kipengere town, lying below the mountain ranges. Here we were instructed to proceed ahead for some five or so kilometers to reach Moronga. And sure enough we made it to this small village bordering Makete district.

We drove on to the Moronga primary school premises where we had a meeting with villagers. We were in time to see scores of villagers streaming into the school playgrounds from the surrounding homesteads. All around the school and the many homesteads were dense forests of well kept pine forests.

Actually all the valleys and mountain sides and tops were pine forested. There were a few open spaces where trees had been recently harvested and new seedlings planted. But these were now also teeming with healthy Irish potato plants and green peas.

At one end of the school were hundreds of ton-loads of timber while at the other end, under a huge tarpaulin roof, were thousands of bags of newly harvested potatoes. All these were awaiting collection for onward ferrying to the markets in Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Nairobi and Mombasa.

An elder of the village, one Mbilinyi, explained to me that every family had an average of about 10 acres of pine forest and five acres of potato and green peas. Truly I could tell by the physic of the children and the villagers that food here was no problem. Most of them were physically looking very fit and almost all were heavy set. They also wore heavy set clothes. The winter clothing of heavy coats and overcoats, balaclavas and woolen pants with heavy country boots would have been in order in places like the Scandinavian Alps. But here they were. The almost zero degree temperatures naturally necessitated this survival gear.

Actually, a few days earlier, I was told the mountain slopes and valleys had all been covered with white snow for most of the mornings. I wonder whether my compatriots from Bagamoyo or Kilwa and Pangani along the Indian Ocean coast, with their sweltering heat, can comprehend such a scenario.

At the meeting I commended the villagers for their hard work and health. But I wondered why their homes and other little luxuries of life including modes of transport were lacking in most ways. “It is the middlemen. The people who come and buy our timber and potatoes totally exploit us and pay very little for our produce”, explained Mbilinyi.

The only solution, we discussed later, was for the Morongans and neighbouring village communities in Imalilo, Kipengere, Igosi, Udzindile and Ulembwe to organise themselves and cut off the middlemen. They have to form cooperatives which would sell their produce directly to the local and international markets and secure loans to promote their forestry and agricultural industries. They could even secure loans to acquire packing and transportation facilities to the markets. This we agreed would totally transform their lives to lofty levels.

Later on, as I was negotiating around the village dirt roads in search of fresh ‘ulanzi’ – bamboo wine – a five year old boy came out rushing and greeted “Shikamoo Gari!” – that is ‘How are you car?’

We surely still have a long way to go before these kids will stop greeting cars and start aspiring to becoming car drivers and engineers. Don’t you think so?


Posted in Home Page, Tanzanian TalesComments (5)


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