Saturday, August 11, 2012


I used to say that the international and regional rankings of Tanzania as one the best democracies are not doing this peaceful land justice, instead of seeing what it means categorically, many of us come out and brag how we are highly recognized as a role model to our neighbors and other countries in terms of media freedom.

Freedom of information as it is well known world all over is the basic to informed citizenry, hence informed consent when it comes to make land-mark decisions like voting, making the government accountable through questioning and critiques, coming with generational long lasting ideologies on what tomorrow should be for the future generations.

It is open secret that if people have been suppressed and oppressed for so long, it is not easy game for them to understand and nurture the fundamentals of freedom of information even if it is written on their doormats.

Banning of Mwana Halisi, a weekly Swahili paper reminds me one of Jenerali Ulimwengu’s article in October 2009 in a weekly Swahili paper Raia Mwema about four sided monster (jitu lenye miraba minne), a monster which is too much oppressive and like to be praised, whoever goes against him must face his anger, the monster by then and now is the government using suppressive and oppressive laws. Ulimwengu further noted that the oppressed are made to believe that oppression is the way of life and this is in line with Paulo Freire’ Pedagogy of the Pressed.

Now we see the monster crashing every bit of information it deems will awaken the sleeping giant, Tanzanians who are eager to know the truth, want to make informed decisions, want come up with constructive criticism, want to give their opinions of what is better for them in case we are to overhaul the present Constitution and come up with a new one, by banning Mwana Halisi!

People need a Constitution that will define nation’s principles. People centered Constitution that will guide them through decades and centuries to come with or without them. Eckhart Tolle once wrote in his book A New Earth Create a Better Future, just to paraphrase ‘nothing you will say or do which is out of your level of understanding developed out of your culture, people around you, religion, and everything around you’.

What is happening today still reminds us that the present monster, the government elite isn’t ready for a new dawn for new Tanzania. Using law which is out of touch with reality just exhibits its weakness and hypocrisy in terms of creating good grounds for freedom of information to flourish.

We should also keep in mind that this is not the first time the paper is being banned, its managing editor and managing editors of Mwananchi and Tanzania Daima has been taken to court to face the law over seditious stories. Dark part of the story about Mwana Halisi is that during the first time it was banned for three months there was no case filed against it in court; the editor, Saed Kubenea was once almost blinded by some unknown people pouring concentrated acid on his face.

If it is true about what the paper questioned, why the law could not take due course? The Media Council of Tanzania entrusted with power to summon and warn such unprofessional and unethical behaviors if any in the Tanzania media sector; if what the paper wrote was worthy mad action?

Towards the 2010 general elections the Citizen was almost banned without clear grounds, accusing the paper of being biased in publishing news tarnishing the government’s image. It is the same government that serves the same people who voted it in 2010 by mudslide votes of over 60 per cent? It seems politically motivated individuals are there to ensure the monster to survive the waves of changes!

Trying to understand the meaning of freedom of speech and freedom of information let’s take a look at what has been happening over the fence, Kenya.

Just a month or less ago Raila Odinga’s personal advisor on Constitution Affairs of the Grand Coalition government formed after contested election elections in 2008. Mr Miguna Miguna, a renowned lawyer wrote Peeling of the Mask what he termed as a memoir on the workings of the office of the PM, but mostly attacking the personalities and cooked allegations if I am to take the same opinion with other online commentators, it filled papers, YouTube with cartoons, bookshop shelves, discussed with both hate and love at the same length, some accusing the man, Miguna Miguna, questioning his motives behind the book just because decided to write it only after he has been sent packing on grounds of misconduct and unbecoming behaviors in his boss’s office.

Contrary to what John Githongo did three years back when he decided to leave the country, his family, belongings, friends and of course hefty salary he was paid as Permanent Secretary of Ethics and Good Governance, Githongo’s memoir was written by Michela Wrong It is Our Time to Eat in a way that it will stand a test of time due to its style and motive behind it.

Githongo did one good thing to the African populace and especially men who want see things changing by writing a book which tells what politicians are usually after, after winning general elections. During campaigns they give impressive pledges to do away with corruption but that is just a reason that sounds good as Brian Tracy (2011) put it. The real reasons for political positions or rather power, is the need for power to influence allocation of resources through any means available. The Kibaki’s National Rainbow Coalition, NARC came in 2002 by promising eradication of corruption and in that government which Githongo was placed at the helm of power and agency that oversees and that should choke corruption to death but it turned to be a nightmare for whistleblower to deal with, due to the powers that be.

In the land of all opportunities US there was a book written about Obama, questioning his citizenship, his love for America, his thoughts and some unbelievable allegations and that he revenging against Britons for torturing his father during colonialism in the colonial Kenya.

Prof Mark Mwandosya has also written Sauti ya Umma ni Sauti ya Demokrasia, it is a book worth reading for those who wish this country a better future in the political landscape, this tells you that, banning papers won’t do it good for the monster and other little monsters who are remotely controlled.
To put all these in context, it is only through well wishing government and people who will come with actions and issues that will stand a test of time and for the benefit of its citizens.

The way to go, freedom of information law should be enacted, freedom of speech need to be clearly defined and mostly the Constitution that will enshrine all these in an elaborate manner, doing away with the drawback clauses that gives you right using one hand and takes it with another hand, the current constitution has them but loosely defined that leaves room for the suppressive and oppressive monster.

By Joseph Ogana
Ogana is a sociopolitical analyst and blogger based in Dar es Salaam


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