So, why did Tanzania’s ruling CCM attend a meeting of former liberation movements?
Answered simply, the reply would be, because Chama cha Mapinduzi once considered itself to be a liberation movement, the soulmate of such organisations as the ANC of South Africa, Frelimo of Mozambique, the MPLA of Angola and the Zanu/Zapu Patriotic Front (Zimbabwe).
This fact had its history. Tanzania was in love with liberation, quite literally. The nation’s founder, one Julius Kambarage Nyerere, was a liberation fighter who gave unwavering support to these movements, who were allowed to set up training camps around Tanzania, and who were accorded not only material support but also diplomatic solidarity in international fora.
A few years before the Independence of Tanganyika, Nyerere made a public declaration in which he stated his desire to light a torch and place it atop Mount Kilimanjaro “to shine without our borders and bring hope where there is despair, love where there is hate, and dignity where there is spite” (my own loose translation).
This was a declaration of war against colonial rule, especially in southern Africa, where white minority rule looked like it would never end and where apartheid had put down its evil roots. It was thus that Tanganyika, and later Tanzania, became the first destination, and home, for all those fleeing white supremacist regimes.
But that hospitality was not limited to African fighters. There were fugitives from the Black Panther movement and the Tupamaros of Uruguay, because the mantra then was “Freedom is indivisible; it is either everywhere or it is nowhere.” For all his faults, Nyerere was the benefactor-in-chief of all who sought justice in their countries.
And that is why he was among the first African leaders to recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation, going on to become a close friend of its leader “Abu Ammar” Yasser Arafat, who visited Tanzania quite often.
That was the Tanzania of then, and those of us who had the luck to travel widely across the world as young men and women found great pride in acknowledging the badge of honour of “liberators” wherever we went. I personally made lifelong friends among the freedom fighters with whom I collaborated in various fora.
But now I ask the question posted above, because today’s Tanzania has nothing to do with liberation in any sense of that word, and has in fact shifted its position to align itself with oppressive states that ride roughshod over our brothers and sisters.
I am talking of the new-fangled “friendship” with the kingdom of Morocco, to the detriment of the people of Western Sahara, and with the Zionist state of Israel, at the price of abandoning the suffering people of Palestine.
Now, I just happen to be a firm believer in the importance of constancy in whatever one does. The antonym of constancy is inconstancy. One of the dictionaries I consult often defines inconstancy as disloyalty, faithlessness, falseness, falsity, infidelity, perfidiousness, perfidy, unfaithfulness… These are all ugly words, words we should hate being associated with.
So, why did our ruling party decide last month to attend a meeting in Namibia called to bring together the secretaries general of former liberation movements in southern Africa?
I honestly cannot fathom the significance or utility of such a gathering, unless it was called for the purpose of reminiscing about the good fight fought some decades ago, and saying how great they feel about having made those great sacrifices.
But yes, perhaps there was a real purpose. Before they attained Independence (and democracy for South Africa), all these countries (South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique) were in the same boat as PLO and the Polisario Front of Western Sahara, and they used to give each other mutual solidarity and support.
So it is natural that they gather from time to express ongoing solidarity with comrades who are still under the yoke of occupation, by Israel and Morocco.
When that issue came up, the envoy of our ruling party, realising he had gone to the wrong gathering, decided to do the unthinkable (for those who were observing him) and express his reservations when the resolution of the meeting “reiterated their support and solidarity for the people of Palestine and Western Sahara in their struggle for self-determination and independence.” The report goes on to say, quite simply, “The reservation by CCM was noted.”
Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]