Also as people who use their influence and power to reconcile opposing parties, and to prevent hostilities in families, neighbourhoods, within countries and between countries. Some versions of the Holy Book call them the “children” of God, so there is no gender bias there.
The Zanzibar President, Dr Ali Mohamed Shein, is in my opinion, one person who fits that description. I don’t know him personally but his record speaks for itself. Ever since he sprang onto national politics, Dr Shein’s demeanour and words have always characterised a man of peace; a man in high office who regrettably shames many lesser mortals who quicken their feet to do battle where just the tongue would have been the most devastating weapon.
During celebrations at the Amaan Stadium to mark the 48th anniversary of the Zanzibar Revolution last Thursday, Dr Shein spoke to all Tanzanians when he urged tolerance and candid engagement in the process to write a new constitution for the United Republic of Tanzania. The president pleaded for the exercise to be held under an environment of absolute freedom and tolerance of each other’s views.
The wisest person of all times, King Solomon says: “The beginning of strife is like the letting out of water.” Dr Shein wants to see a non-emotional constitutional debate in which “the views of all people from all walks of life will be heard and be considered accordingly.” Emotions are like flood waters, which once let out, the trail of destruction left behind is oftentimes too costly to repair.
And, Tanzanians have already witnessed some of those traits of emotional outbursts, which in the context of an important social dispensation such as writing a new constitution, could be very destructive for the process and the nation. A major take-off point here is the appreciation of the fact that the United Republic of Tanzania is Africa’s longest enduring political union. It may not be perfect but it also leaves no doubt, even in the minds of the very skeptical, that it is a functioning setup.
That it needs to be bettered, there is no doubt. But that it needs to be torpedoed is probably demonstrating a fair degree of insanity. A clear way to torpedo the union is to go for a three-government setup. Again, that view is augmented by the unique nature of the union. Granted, all states are equal.
There is no smaller or inferior state when it comes to upholding the principle of the equality of states. But nations are not equal. The world is made up of big nations and small nations, and some rich and others poor. Both in terms of land and population, Zanzibar is just a fraction of Mainland Tanzania. Yet these have come together in a union of “equals.”
The formula that our Founding Fathers settled for was to retain the identity of Zanzibar but “killed” that of Tanganyika for the simple reason that Zanzibar nationalism was very much unlikely to rock the boat. The story would be different if Tanganyika’s nationalism also surged forward.
Without a shred of the doubt, “The Partner-ship” would sink. That is what this country came very close to in 1995 when a group of CCM legislators moved a motion in parliament for the formation of the government of Tanganyika. Some of us understood the matrix better when Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the main architect of the union, explained the dangers inherent in a three-government system. In simple terms, Mwalimu said, the structure would simply break up the union. Why?
There can never be any pretence of equality between the government of a mammoth Tanganyika and tiny Zanzibar. Sooner or later, Mwalimu explained, the government of Tanganyika would tend to regard both Zanzibar and “the union government” as irrelevant institutions and could unilaterally move to “vote” itself out of the setup without second thought to the cost and other implications of such a decision.
Our Founding Fathers also saw it wise to “kill” Tanganyika since such a move would not have led to complaints of “big” brother swallowing up “smaller” brother if the opposite were to be the case in that it was the government of Zanzibar that was “killed” in order to pave the way for union with Tanganyika. And, I think the wisdom of that setup is not lost on the daily reality of our nation to this day. Tanzania is the only country in the world with two presidents.
The people do not even seem to notice it. But I think the situation would have been very different if we had the Union President and the “President of Tanganyika.” A clear conflict of interest would not have taken long to ensue and the partner-ship seriously rocked. It is sometimes surprising therefore that the agitation for three-government structure oftentimes comes from Zanzibar.
Is it because those voices want to better the union or break it? Mwalimu Nyerere once said he would understand it if “Tanganyikans” also agitated for national identity but was baffled by the cries from Zanzibar, who under our setup have their own government and have retained their national identity. Tanganyikans, on the other hand, decided to trash their national identity and open their resources for use by all Tanzanians. If that is not enough price and sacrifice to pay for the cause of Pan-Africanism, then I know not what else would fit the bill.
Before conducting ourselves in a manner that threatens harmony, it is probably better first to heed the English proverb: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Long and most deadly misunderstandings might often be prevented by a little kind of interference in the beginning.
We in Tanzania have to thank God that we have a culture of mutual understanding even where no words are spoken. We need to support our leaders on their messages of peace for they too are servants of God to minister over our temporal needs on which emotional and spiritual bliss depend.