Samia’s plan on ‘learning from the people’ laudable

The Guardian
Published at 05:42 PM Mar 07 2024

TOP officials in the ruling CCM secretariat have declared that President Samia Suluhu Hassan will be setting aside one day each month listening to people’s grievances.

The idea is thereafter to have the officials responsible with respect to the various issues emerging from the “consultations” take appropriate in a positive manner and without delay.

This is a step the president will have decided upon with an effort, as it adds a lot to the burdens of the country’s top office.

A top official with the party has gone to great lengths to explain that initiative, blaming lack of zeal among public administrators failing to fulfil their obligations or having no real interest in working for the people.

Often it has to do with wealthy people using public offices for their own interests, which the official said smeared the image of the government and generated hard feelings across a section of the population.

In that, case implementing the president’s idea will be making an effort to reduce pent-up feelings among the citizenry.

One reason calls to administrators to provide prompt solutions to various challenges come to little or no effect is that some public officials commonly live by the grace of others within their ranks or higher up in the governance hierarchy.

Such public servants are not proactive in intervening to effectively handle someone else’s wrongdoing as often it is visible who intervened, and the matter is taken as a personal affront – which is unhealthy.

Public officials usually prefer seeing issues resolved through bureaucratic or official mechanisms rather than through personalised intervention.

The plan is that the president will now occasionally meet people at the CCM offices in Dar es Salaam, Dodoma and Zanzibar, which the party’s secretariat says is part of an initiative to promote good governance and ensure people’s difficulties are suitably addressed.

How far people given an opportunity to meet the president will be able to open up on challenges they commonly encounter is one thing, as institutional prerogatives will have to be respected.

For instance, it may not be easy to say that a court judgment was faulty and ought to be investigated, etc. This will likely obtain even if one has suspicions that a particular case is clear enough by involving a public official doing wrong in a visible way.

It was also encouraging to hear that another reason for coming up with the special day idea is to honour late former president Ali Hassan Mwinyi, who developed a habit of similarly consulting the people in private, that is, on a one-on-one and case-by-case basis.

To an extent, it is CCM tradition to do so. For instance, it will be recalled that Zanzibar’s founding leader Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume was quite ordinarily available at Kisiwandui party’s offices and in nearby informal surroundings, listening to elders. Much the same was true of Mwalimu Nyerere, with numbers of those under him taking up the habit later.

Admittedly, this has never stood as a viable or sustainable solution to bureaucratic misconduct in its entirety.

It has however proved a useful reminder to officials that a deliberate misdeed may soon find its way to the president or “somewhere near there” – and that even just that could mean a lot.

So, here we go – and we wish the president the very best as she hopefully gets the full feel of the people’s fears and hopes and responds accordingly.

 Haiti is difficult test of African identity, governance capacities

 AT times events in history appear to repeat themselves. But there also times when the original heroes have no successors and, even if they are aware of the dire necessity for action, they would be tied up elsewhere.

That appears to be the case for Haiti, which in March 1983 welcomed Pope John Paul II on a final stop of a whirlwind tour of eight Central American countries.

The call the pope gave is even more applicable today than it was then, for he said ‘this place must change’ – and it soon changed.

 The current situation in that country is mind-boggling. And it concerns us as Africans, since Haiti was the first country among the few former Spanish and French colonies in the western hemisphere to free themselves.

There has always been some pride in talking of Haiti as the first Black slave rebellion that became successful and created a new country, but well over 200 years later it is in a horrendously sad state.

Haitian acting prime minister Ariel Henry has been in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, pursuing a United Nations plan to dispatch a multinational police force to his country. The idea was to help put down the rule of drug trafficking gangs that have largely taken over the country.

But while he was on the foreign “peace mission”, presumed gangsters encircled the main prison in Port au Prince, the capital, and freed most inmates, including numerous violent traffickers.

At the start of the week they had surrounded the airport, with their leader demanding that the premier stay away. It isn’t like a normal chaotic state but narco-anarchy, largely unparalleled.

 Some observers have been wondering why the army does not step in, but a check shows that Haitians grew tired of their armed forces following numerous coups and cases of infighting.

They went on to disband the military in 1995 at the time of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Seeing the worsening situation, President Jovenel Moise in 2017 sought to restore military capability after a UN peacekeeping mission was terminated. He was assassinated in 2021 – and the chaos has deepened.

When Pope John Paul II flew there in 1983 what he said still rings true up to today, as he condemned what he described as excessive inequality and misery, hunger and fear suffered by many people in Haiti.

He said there was a legitimate desire in the media and in politics for free expression, demanding that all those with power and wealth ‘understand their serious and urgent responsibility with respect to their brothers and sisters’. It is as if all this has been forgotten.

To be sure, most of South America has serious drug trafficking problems which in countries like Colombia or Mexico had often assumed the parameters of civil war.

In Haiti this has led to a generalised collapse of the state, for which there is little chance that outside forces may wish to intervene.

Neighbouring Surinam is solidly against the opening of refugee camps for fleeing, terrorised Haitians, and the United States just reminded its citizens that they need to ship out.

As in the Sudan right now, the people of Haiti will have no option but to gather in army camps, police stations or even schools for basic military training to fight the narco-terrorists taking over the country.

It is the result of generalised corruption when everyone looks aside as someone makes a buck the wrong way, until the entire civil order lies in ruins.