This blogpost was first published in 2015 on the Chicamod site.
Someone teach me to be a Tanzanian. I am not that far away. I am just a neighbor from the north, here in Uganda. And yes I belong to the great East African Community. But there are things I failed to learn at a distance.
It seems Tanzania is not an African country. Look at the way they do their things. They don’t fight. They don’t talk a lot. And it seems they were all fathered by that Julius Nyerere man who they all adorably call, Mwalimu.
Every 2nd June is the day Julius Nyerere is remembered in the realm of the saints during the celebration of the Uganda Martyrs at Namugongo. On that day, the whole of Namugongo is thronged by the people of Tanzania who come at their cost in large numbers led by their leaders. For years they have been praying that Julius Nyerere is added on the list of the Namugongo martyrs.
When I begin learning how to be a Tanzanian, I will learn to speak Kiswahili, the original language. Then I will be an extra ordinary East African unaffiliated to the adage that Kiswahili was born in Tanzania, grew up in Kenya, fell sick in Congo, died in Uganda and was buried in Rwanda. I no longer want to be in that category. The Kiswahili spoken in Uganda is like that glass with a whitish content which you can see through and they say it is milk. That language is next to Kiswahili though it is different, I spoke it in Kenya and no one could understand what I was saying. Our Ugandan Swa (as we call it) is a stunted child. It is only the combatants that speak it fluently. Our army, the famous Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) even sings songs in Swa. I love the songs but I don’t know what they mean. We dropped the language at school because they said the language was used by robbers and indiscipline soldiers during the previous regimes. So every time our elders hear Swa, they are reminded of the dark past. So we hated the language on their behalf.
I want my president to speak a language we all understand not because one went to school and the other was just about when the opportunity withered.
You see our president said we have the most well trained army in East Africa and that is why we quickly restore peace in other countries whenever uproar breaks out. And I would wish our army to go to Tanzania but there are no wars there. I wonder whether they even know the meaning of that word war. Do they even have a “UPDF”? What for?
I want to be a Tanzanian to see a peaceful transition of power from one president to another without any threat but when people are hugging each other. There has never been one in Uganda since independence. I want to know what it feels like having former presidents attend national celebrations when their seats have been reserved in a VIP tent. I want also to see my president join the queue to go and vote along with the wanachi without minding of his security.
All I wish to see is that moment when elections end and everyone is waiting for the swear-in ceremony. I don’t want to see the things I have always seen where while one is going to the national stadium; the other is going to court or worse still to the bush. Our president talks a lot about the bush that at times I wonder what will happen of our country in case he is away and all bushes are tarmac grounds.
I want to be a Tanzanian so that the international media has no option but report what they see in our country other than what they always want to see.
Do you remember in 2011, when the reporters of those media houses staged camp here because there was news to report about Uganda every day? I want to be one of those people who don’t know that tear gas has different colors or that it even exists. I also want to be told stories. It is not a pleasant thing when you’re sharing some bits of your story. I want to learn how to play politics like a game not a battle of two warring factions atop the peaks of twin hills each warning how they are going to take on the other.
I want to be that citizen who has confidence in elections not the one I am today. A presidential candidate said the elections are not going to be free and fair much as we have not yet voted.
There is no war in my country and neither do I wish to see it but I want things to be better. I want to see my president driving around town, talking to people freely without having to move in company of an endless tail of the military. I want to see my president comfortable in his country, glad to be serving in that position.
I want to be the blogger who has to write about their country from a coffee house along the street not somewhere in Washington where the news of my country is third hand information.
The child in me would wish to study, work and gracefully age in my country with my parents not somewhere in a UN white tent where I have to be enclosed in a camp because I am a refugee.
Someone teach me to be a Tanzanian so I learn to be happy and content in my country without having to think of the attention-seeking politicians of my country.