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Tanzania, Kenya and tribalism…

Traveling the length and breadth of Tanzania (which was no mean feat – the country is so much bigger than I thought… 4 days and counting…!) I realised that a lot of those early memories I had from my first trip to Africa when I was 17 that compelled me to come back again and again came from this country.  It really is stunning with views to take your breathe away again and again.. It almost feels like the gen pop as well have all taken a masterclass in how to excel at being warm and friendly…!

When you think of Tanzania – apart from the safari and amazing tourist things to do here – the general view though is that it is a lot poorer than its northerly neighbour Kenya.  Tanzania was home to 1 of Africa’s independence movements’ giants and 1 of the founding fathers of the Pan-African movement – Julius Nyerere.  He introduced a form of African socialism to Tanzania esp in agriculture which was widely said to have ultimately failed and nearly bankrupted the country…

While it has often been cited economically to be a disaster, Nyerere’s African socialism did something far more important for its people – it installed a sense of nationhood on the different groups of disparate tribes thrown together in the post colonial era that now make up Tanzania.

I remember from my time in Kenya meeting a few Tanzanians who were all perplexed when they were asked what tribe they came from (they would nearly invariably reply – I am Tanzanian as if the question made no sense) – a Kenyan though would always – and I mean always – tell you his tribe first followed by the country.  Yes Kenya may have been economically more well-to-do but living in the country in the run up to the violence in 2007/08 the tribal antagonism was there for all to see.  It was only after Kenyans stared over the precipice in 2008 that they realised the alternative and the troubles almost helped – in a horribly perverse way – start to install that sense of nationhood that was missing before.. I haven’t been back for a while so it will be interesting to see how Kenya is doing now – esp in the run-up to elections set for next year….

That sense of nationhood – imposed on disparate tribes not 50 years ago as borders were drawn up after independence throughout the African Continent I think is so important if a country is to succeed in general.  At every level esp in the civil service and govt – if you believe in that sense of nationhood – it will mean less corruption and a better functioning state.

It is also 1 of the reasons I am actually positive on South Africa (although I know I seem to be in the minority).  The most interesting thing in that weird and wonderful country with an unprecedented history – is that – it doesn’t matter how unbelievably different it’s gen pop is – from the vibrant townships to the lively Afrikaner bars playing their own version of sentimental rock (and I have spent time ample time in both!) – it doesn’t matter how much each of them bitch about their country, Government or fellow South African – they are all invariably so proud to be South African.  With that sense of nationhood – even if things don’t feel like they are going in the right direction – a country with such a strong sense of nationhood has a solid base to move forward at the very least…

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