When I gave a brief presentation at the African News Innovation Challenge in early June at TANZICT, I pointed out that there has in fact been a crisis/conflict/disaster within the past 1½ year happening roughly sort of every 2nd month in Tanzania, where 1) people are either being beaten up or die (sometimes both); 2) Where slack, traditional media, and too eager social media actors obsessed with breaking news, mess up what could've been heavy, decent and collective, investigative reporting (not just during but also currently); and 3) Government run low on either practical and strategic know-how of how to handle and communicate a crisis, on fuel (!) or rational decision-making, responding with police violence or occasionally leaving the blame on higher powers.
I am not saying it goes wrong all the time. Not at all. Events also vary, but still. Boil it down and the reasons for when it goes wrong may share resemblances:
- 2011 January: CHADEMA lead demonstration in Arusha conflicts with police
- 2011 February: Explosions in Gongo La Mboto
- 2011 July: Machinga class with police in Mwanza
- 2011 September: MV Spicelander sinks between Zanzibar and Pemba
- 2011 December: Dar es Salaam floods
- 2012 February: Police killings in Songea
- 2012 April: Land issues and bi-elections in Arumeru
- 2012 May: Riots in Zanzibar related to UAMSHO
- 2012 June: Doctors' strike (back in February and onwards) and the abduction of Dr Ulimboka.
- 2012 July: A ferry on its way from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar sinks.
- 2012 July: Riots in Zanzibar related to UAMSHO, and mourning of the dead from the ferry accident.
I may have forgotten some, this is based on my short-term memory, of what I have debated with Tanzanians over time. The combination however of the above mentioned charachteristics when they collide is a serious challenge for Tanzania, but it is also highly frustrating for the ones loosing out during these events. Short as well as long term.
This evening friends reported of fires and tear gas in Stone Town in Zanzibar, only one day after the death of many who didn't make it after an old, untrustworthy ferry sunk en route from Dar es Salaam to Stone Town. Now, on the first evening of the Ramadan.
After the ferry sunk, it was subsequently said 'that there was no fuel for rescue'; and the media gave the ferry 8 (!) different names, some social media actors were using indecent and non-constructive language in their eager to be first out there (or whatever their intentions were, they weren't informative in the right way), and a Zanzibari minister used 'mithali' (god's will) to explain the sad events where it may have been more appropiate to recognise the fact that a rescue team with fuel and a serious and less corrupt infrastructure system may have saved lives.
I am trying to join the dots. Oh, Tanzania. It will soon be time to edit the travel guides and the country profiles if you don't get i together. And you know what?!
The most heartbreaking part of it all, is that I know you have the potential to make it grand!