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Happy birthday, my beloved, you’re 60 years old but incredibly young

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By ELSIE EYAKUZE

My dearest Tanganyika:

Upon the occasion of your 60th celebration of Independence from Old Blighty: Shikamoo, and congratulations. I thought I would write you a note of greeting as one who was fortunate enough to be born after you came into your independence.

First of all, please do not fret: you are still very much married to Zanzibar. In fact, technically, I should be addressing you as Mainland Tanzania but I cannot bring myself to do so. 

Mainlands are a geographical feature like an isthmus or an escarpment, in your case it is an adjective and hardly suitable as a name.

Tanganyika was, and is, an entity, a nation once and a storyied one at that. Tanganyika you are, as part of Tanzania. And if it is alright with you, that is all I will say about the State of the Union. 

As your child I am not always comfortable talking about that relationship especially during challenging times.

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Speaking of relationships and challenging times, I must tell you that Tanzania has taken a bit of a hit lately. You used to be a respected veteran of international diplomacy and African peacekeeping and pan-Africanism in general. Now, not so much. 

US President Joe Biden has invited a number of countries to a summit for democracy in America, where they will all hang out and applaud each other for their democraticness. Of course you are above it all: Too independent-minded and self-determined to care about being summoned hither and yon by superpowers. 

Still, why does Kenya get to go to the dance and we don’t? Not fair.

Honestly though, you don’t deserve to go. You have been rather mean lately, the government you put in charge of running the household has been stepping all over political rights as well as human rights in the past couple of years. 

It hurts because, for a while there, we were led to believe that we were on the right track and that my generation’s children, your fourth or fifth generation of post-Independence citizens, would inherit a healthy, vibrant and open democracy. 

I fear that this may not happen, but I also live in hope and do what I can to make it so.

Kenya is its usual self by the way: Great sense of humour, dubiously rich, somewhat unhinged. They will be holding an election next year. We pray for them. 

The East African Community family has grown. Remember how we were all like, together with Uganda and Kenya, and then the three-way broke up and then we got back together to try again? Well, there are more countries in the group now. 

Let’s see: the OG three, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and this year the Democratic Republic of Congo. That makes seven, a most excellent number.

Of course nobody knows how it is supposed to work with the two behemoths of South Sudan and the DRC, but when have we ever known what we were doing with the EAC?

How has this regional initiative worked out for regular citizens, you ask? I am not entirely sure, aside from constant bickering that makes it to the news. At one point a COW emerged, a Coalition of the Willing, then wandered off. Currently, you can’t seem to decide whether or not we are trading sugar with Uganda, a quibble. 

President Yoweri Museveni came to visit, by the way. He is well. He told us about the dairy industry in Uganda. Maybe that is where the COW went? Anyway, there are buildings and stuff in Arusha and you have this newspaper so I guess the EAC concept does produce something mildly useful from time to time.

I am sad to inform you that earlier this year you lost, for the first time, a sitting president of the United Republic of Tanzania. John Pombe Magufuli’s heart gave out close to the Ides of March. We buried him at his home, with great honour, as is only right. His successor started off on a solid note considering the situation she inherited. I am awaiting the two-year mark or maybe even the next election to make up my mind more definitively about her.

Many African sister-countries came to the funeral, they were generous to us in our time of grief. Out of this tragedy came some good: Many of our sister-countries are teaching Kiswahili in their school systems. Your dream of an Africa United inches along. I have to tell you though, pray for Addis. Ethiopia is struggling mightily right now.

I am not allowed to write you too long a letter, so let me wind down. You might be 60 years old but you are incredibly young — mostly under the age of 25 —and vigorous. Your economy is growing in patchily like the first beard on an adolescent boy: bits of scraggly money here and there but not everywhere. You have made mistakes, and you need to recover from them and make things right.

The land is healthy if parched, we’re trying to keep the trees on her and the animals. We caught the “rona” — there was simply no avoiding it — but with a bit of help from some Covax and your general robustness we seem to be pulling through. Sometimes, your citizens are even a little bit happy.

In conclusion, you’re a perfectly cromulent state in a less-than-stellar world. You are sailing upon the fickle seas of fate, and have not sunk yet. 

Have a most excellent birthday, my beloved country, and keep being your best self. 

Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report: E-mail: [email protected]



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