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2011`s events to remain in memory

1st January 2012
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Chadema MPs walking out of the floor of the National Assembly on February 18th against `forced incompatible marriage` with the Civic United Front (CUF) in Parliament.
A paramilitary officer carrying the body of a child, one of nearly two thousand victims of the Mv Spice Islander sinking, in September.
A pile up of cups as retired Lutheran priest Ambilikile Masapila fills the cups for distribution to countless visitors at his hitherto unknown Loliondo abode around March, with hectic visitations from all over East Africa and beyond continuing for several months.
Gongo la Mboto residents walking past an exploded missile from the TPDF armory in the vicinity, on February 16.

The outgoing year will perhaps not be easily forgotten among Tanzanians. With it, packaged occurrences came up, that had either never happened before or resembled past disasters.

While history is not something to dwell upon fastidiously, it certainly provides a lesson to shape a better future. Thus, this week, The Guardian on Sunday delights in bringing you a flashlight of major events that rocked the just ended year, 2011.

From the Makonde carver on the shores of the sea to the fisherman on the banks of Lake Tanganyika, from the cotton dealer in the hillside city of Mwanza to the bottom of the country, Mtwara, there is going to blossom a sense of hope deep down in their hearts, today.

Even if the first of January is only a date, it carries more than other dates in the year, for upon it are bound the hopes and expectations of millions of people. Yet they will each require an appointed time to prosper or lay the basis for prosperity in the coming year, with January 1 only a collective day of hope, of the ritual of yearning and praying for a better year to come.

For one reason or another, most of us entertain the feeling that a new chapter has opened and it will be better than the previous year, 2011. The outgoing year will perhaps not be easily forgotten among Tanzanians. With it, packaged occurrences came up, that had either never happened before or resembled past disasters.

While history is not something to dwell upon fastidiously, it certainly provides a lesson to shape a better future. Thus, this week, The Guardian on Sunday delights in bringing you a flashlight of major events that rocked the just ended year, 2011.

January - New Constitution step of hope

The 2011 year broke with some good news. Though declared on the 31st December, the media shared the news on 01st January that the country’s president, Jakaya Kikwete has announced the will to form a Constitutional Review Commission that will take up the process of rewriting the mother law.

The president’s announcement followed weeks after the country was gripped by calls from citizens and various political stakeholders demanding the writing of a new constitution.

Though a handful of government officials were initially hesitant over the matter, the Head of State assured the public of his wish to make the commission formation part of celebrations of the 50 years of independence.

January - Arusha Political Crises

As fresh as the New Year still was, the hopes it came with were suddenly dazzled by reports from the tourist city, Arusha. On 5th January, police had clashed with Chadema supporters holding a demonstration, purportedly heading to take over the city’s main police station.

Sadly it didn’t end as just a ‘clash’ as it claimed three lives, two local youths, one identified as young garage entrepreneur Dennis Michael (24) and the last as George Mwita, a Kenyan national.

Chadema called the demonstrations in protest at the way the Arusha mayoral election was conducted. Police, however, banned the march on grounds that it was a threat to the peace.

February: Chadema walks out in Parliament

Dissatisfied with what they termed as forced and ‘incompatible marriage,’ Chadema, which this time around secured opposition camp leadership as it emerged the strongest opposition group in the House, thought that words were not enough and so it ‘walked the talk’

Chadema, on 18th February, walked out of the Parliament before the House voted to amend some Parliamentary Standing Orders. The party was protesting the amendment of a regulation that necessitated the inclusion of all opposition parties in the official opposition camp. Defiant party national chairman Freeman Mbowe is recorded as saying they were not ready to cooperate with parties with which they do not share ideological beliefs, referring to the Civic United Front (CUF).

February: Gongo la Mboto explodes

It was Monday February 16, when fear and confusion engulfed Dar es Salaam city and Gongo la Mboto residents in particular. Heavy and unusual blasts rocked and rumbled the area with many houses and other properties extensively damaged.

The explosions occurred at the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) barracks in the Gongo la Mboto suburb, claiming 20 lives and more than 100 injured.

Though hesitant to draw conclusions, TPDF’s head of security Brigadier General Paul Meda conceded that negligence could be one of the causes of the disaster.

March: Loliondo Herbalist (Babu)

You know the country’s health system is on its death bed when people turn their hopes on a cup, providing the same dosage regardless of neither the patient’s characteristics or the nature of diseases they are seeking to treat and yet ‘believed’ to be healing all kinds of diseases. Within a couple of weeks, Samunge village of Loliondo in Ngorongoro district hosted people from all walks of life, from MPs to street vendors, status did not matter at all. The cup is what prevailed.

However, the cup didn’t bring only healing in the country but also confusion and doubts. Despite the government’s move to clear the doubts by conducting laboratory’s tests on the plant, the cup’s credibility is yet to be concluded.

March: Accidents crushes Taarab Stars

The headlines of Monday, the 21st March, did not look good at all to the Taarab music fraternity in the country. The reports were: 13 members of the Dar es Salaam - based Five Star Modern Taarab group were killed in a grisly road crash at Mikumi in Morogoro region.

The accident claimed among others the lives of singers and musicians like Husna Mapande, Hamisa Omary, Mussa Mipango, Shebe Juma, Omary Hashim and one most popular lead singer, Issa Kijoti.

April: CCM’s historical meeting

The April month was largely dominated by the rumpus of CCM’s future after members of its key Central Committee resigned by request of the chairman.

The date was 09th April, when members of CC, a supreme body within the party as well as the secretariat were dissolved, and when they were reconstituted, Secretary General Yusufu Makamba was not part of the team. It was a move that many believed targeted radical changes in the party.

It was the first time meeting after the elections, with cadres urging party chairman Jakaya Kikwete to convene a historical meeting following the resignation of the central committee and the secretariat. The party should take ‘hard decisions’ on cadres suspected of corruption.

May: EPA convicts sentenced

After a long wait for organs of justice to make decisions, in May Tanzanians finally heard the court’s decision on one of the major financial scandals of the past. On May 23rd, the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court delivered the first ever judgment on the External Payment Arrears (EPA) account cases, sentencing Farijala Hussein and Rajabu Maranda to jail terms of 19 and 18 years respectively.

However, each of the two convicts was ruled to serve only five years in jail because the sentences ran concurrently. Apart from the jail term, the convicts were also ordered to return the stolen money to the government. Failure to do so, their assets would be confiscated.

June: Announced Government allowances raises public uproar

On 9th June, the government announced to set aside Sh 987 billion from the Sh 13.05 trillion 2011/2012 Budget for paying allowances to civil servants.

Analysts showed the set aside bulk was enough to finance 17 ministries and Parliament whose total recurrent budget is Sh 819 billion. This tickled Zitto Kabwe (MP) to announce forfeiting his allowance during the entire budget session and remit it to the Kigoma Development Trust.

“It is my belief,” the Kigoma North MP declared “that sitting allowance is not supposed to be paid to an MP or any civil servant as attending meetings is part of their jobs.”

July – Rostam drops out of “gutter politics”

For the first time in the country’s political history, the year 2011 saw a Member of Parliament resign from his duties. The date was 12th July, Rostam Aziz, a renowned businessman who represented Igunga constituency, threw in the gauntlet. .

Standing before a group of elders, party officials from the constituency and journalists, Aziz read out a statement. He said he had resigned as a member of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) National Executive Committee (NEC) over “gutter politics” and that he is “stepping down from all party posts to concentrate on private businesses.”

“My family and I,” said Aziz “as well as my business associates have contemplated this situation and decided that it will be in the best interest of my business, CCM and the nation at large for me to leave.”

July – The Jairo Saga

July was certainly a ‘bitter pill’ for David Jairo (later nicknamed DJ). On 18th, Beatrice Shelukindo, the Kilindi MP (CCM), revealed what appeared to be a shocking letter to individuals like the Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda and the majority of Tanzanians, of course.

Reading it loud (after asking God for protection) before the Parliament which was debating estimates of the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Shelukindo revealed that the ministry’s permanent secretary David Jairo had directed that over Sh 1 billion be spent to ensure ‘smooth’ approval of the ministry’s budget estimates by Parliament .

“In order to facilitate the smooth tabling of the budget, you are requested to contribute a total of Sh 50,000,000” part of the letter read. The letter was distributed to 21 departments and institutions under its wing.

July - Food Crisis

Last year also witnessed major food shortages in the country. Giving a picture of the magnitude of potential famine, the minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives Prof. Jumanne Maghembe cited 16 regions to be facing the problem.

The regions cited were Arusha (7 districts), Dar es Salaam (3), Dodoma (1), Iringa (2), Kagera (2), Kilimanjaro (5), Manyara (2) and Mara (4).

Others cited were Mbeya (1), Mtwara (1), Mwanza (5), Coast (2), Shinyanga (7), Singida (2), Tabora (3) and Tanga (1). He therefore announced a ban on grain exports in response to shortages that hit 42 districts in 16 regions.

Prof. Maghembe said there was a shortfall of 413,740 tonnes of grain in the 2010/2011 farming season, with 7,200,340 tonnes of cereals consumed in the country annually.

August – Sh 94 billion Infrastructure Rescue

On 4th August, the government lacked options but intervene to rescue the Ministry of Transport’s 2011/12 budget by announcing an injection of an additional Sh 95 Billion to beef up its estimates.

The rescue effort came a day after MPs from both CCM and the opposition rallied against the Sh.237.563 billion plan tabled by Transport Minister Omari Nundu saying it was too little to make meaningful impact.

“Following the passionate debate, I am pleased to inform Parliament that the Cabinet met last night and secured Sh95 billion in additional funding,” declared Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda without clarifying where exactly the money had came from.

August -Fuel Crisis

As the media on 04th August reported the transport sector rescue, the same day reported a big fuel crisis in the country, with major regional centres coming to a virtual standstill as motorists spent hours queuing for fuel at the few filling stations that were still operating.

The scarcity, especially of petrol, came after an announcement on 2nd August by the Energy and Water Utilities Authority (EWURA) to reduce retail pump prices of petrol by 9.17%.

The crisis, which lasted for more than a week, triggered a section of law makers to demand that traders release the fuel by 6pm that day or their trade licenses should be confiscated and the army be called in, was the ringing declaration by Zitto Kabwe, Kigoma North (Chadema).

“Some government officials are in the oil business,” speculated the Mkanyageni (CUF) representative. “We need to bring the Leadership Ethics Bill fast.”

September: Spice Islander Capsizes

September 10 will always remain in Tanzanians’ memory as a veritable knife twisted into the wound of grief as reports started flowing that the ship named Spice Islander had capsized off Zanzibar’s Nungwi Bay, about 25kilometers from Stone Town.

The infamous accident was later revealed to have claimed 2,976 lives earning the title of the worst marine disaster in Tanzania, and singularly the country’s worst tragedy since independence. The vessel made in Turkey had the capacity of carrying 600 passengers and 425 tons of cargo.

However, the ship was overloaded to 3,586 passengers whereas after the accident, about 203 bodies were recovered and 619 passengers rescued.

October: The Igunga election gymnastics

This time around, all eyes were leveled at Igunga. Events unfolded in the by-election campaigns in Igunga district (to replace resigned MP Rostam Aziz) which painted gloomy image to the future of multiparty democracy in Tanzania.

From chaos to corruption, from torching of houses to dramatic twist by some religious leaders about the humiliation of the District Commissioner, it was obvious that the people of Igunga witnessed the beginning of dirty politics in the country.

Not least, the three major parties in the country, CCM, Chadema and CUF, each hired a helicopter, making sure no stone was left unturned to win the constituency.

Yes, it was at this same campaign that the Tabora Urban MP Ismail Aden Rage was pictured with a pistol on a political podium.

November: Tanzania stance toughens on UK

In what was perhaps UK’s disbelief, Tanzania, despite her ‘short pockets’ grew tough on London when the latter threatened to cut aid should African aid recipients decline recognition of rights of homosexuals, lesbians and bisexuals (GLB). In what was observed as solidarity with the government and religious groups swept the country, that the UK prime minister’s call was un-African and contrary to Tanzanian values.

“We have our own culture,” stated Foreign Minister Bernard Membe, “and it should not receive any command from anywhere using whatever sanctions to undermine our way of living.”

December: The Golden Jubilee

Though listed last, it is certainly not least! Marked on 09th December, the 64 billion bill Uhuru celebration was unquestionably one gala that soothed Tanzanians’ grief that despite the 50 years sailing in few highs and many lows the nation has made it to half a century.

Though opinion and figures may vary, the country’s achievement in 50 years of independence can never be underestimated. In 1961; GDP stood at Sh 7.2 billion, per capita Sh. 766, referral hospitals 0, doctors 9, rural dwellers access 6%, primary schools 250, university 1 and tarmac roads of a length of 1,300 kilometers. Fifty years later: GDP amounts to 32.3 trillion, per capita Sh 770,464, referral hospitals 5, doctors 5,026, rural dwellers access 57.8%, primary school 16,001, universities 34 and tarmac roads of 6,500 kilometers long.

The president’s message on the day was simple yet very clear: As a developing country, we sometimes face challenges, but they should never discourage us from moving forward – President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.

Happy New Year and May God Bless Tanzania!

Compiled by Sammy Awami for the Guardian on Sunday

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY
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