The Amka, Kumekucha story is one in which Tanzania struggles to redefine itself. External economic pressures and internal political and social tensions force Tanzanians to respond in bold and creative ways. Along the way, we learn to innovate, negotiate and compromise.
The story opens with the central government handing over more responsibilities for the delivery of social services (health, sanitation, education, infrastructure) to local communities through local government reform. But, real decision-making powers over the use and allocation of resources remains with the central government. Frustration grows at the local level as people must do more but have no resources with which to do it.
A global economic slowdown has a serious negative effect on Tanzania. Commodity prices fall, tourism receipts dry up and tax revenues shrink. With their budgets squeezed, donors reduce their aid and set tougher conditions. Tanzania fulfils these conditions, but there is no meaningful increase in aid flows. The government budget comes under pressure, as there is simply not enough money to meet the demands on it. Tax collection intensifies with such initiatives as requiring the small informal traders (machinga) to issue receipts. New taxes are introduced, but quiet resistance spreads, as people simply do not pay. The informal sector grows and succeeds by avoiding the state. Increased self-reliance increases political awareness and the confidence to challenge the state itself.
Within the ruling party, tension mounts as presidential succession looms in 2005. High-level corruption is a rallying point and varying responses expose deep and widening divisions within the party and government. Intense discussions and negotiations behind-the-scenes take place aimed at maintaining party unity. Concessions are made and senior party officials select a compromise presidential candidate.
Despite the compromises, this candidate is an unpopular choice! Tanzania’s unwritten constitution is ignored as the candidate is neither Muslim nor from Zanzibar. People talk, unhappy party leaders hint that they will not support him. The ruling party is in disarray and threatens to split up.
Seizing the opportunity, opposition parties propose a referendum on the Union. An alternative is suggested - the Federal Republic of Tanzania with greater regional autonomy within a federal system. The media and respected academics pick up the idea and openly debate the sanctity of the Union. To inform the debate, a group of eminent legal scholars, political scientists and leading civil society groups draft and publicise a pamphlet suggesting how a federal system would work. Weakened by internal division, the ruling party realises it cannot impose its will by quashing the debate. It agrees to a referendum in early 2005.
A Federalist coalition forms quickly made up of opposition members, and ruling party leaders who were quietly pro-Tanganyika. Also included are powerful regional civil servants and local leaders who see a more prominent role for themselves in a federal system. An opposing Unionist coalition retains strong ruling party leaders and some senior civil servants keen to uphold the Nyerere/Karume legacy. Religious leaders, who warn against the disintegration of Tanzania, and a business community worried about the disruption and cost of the Federal system, also join the Unionist coalition.
Both the Federalist and Unionists coalitions cut across ethnic, cultural and religious divisions. Campaigning for the referendum is intense and lively. Heated discussions are held in offices, schools, homes, and at social events. Federalists promise greater freedom for local government with real power and resources, and better regional representation at the national level. Unionists warn about the break-up of Tanzania, giving examples of other African countries.
The referendum on the Union is held. Enlivened by the union-federal debate and eager to chart a new course for the country, Tanzanians vote for a Federal Republic of Tanzania as the way forward.
A National Constitutional Conference, chaired by a panel of Appeal Court judges drafts the Articles of Federation and a new constitution for the country. Delegates to the Conference come from across Tanzania and represent our ethnic, religious, racial and class diversity. Wazee from the regions, who command respect and considerable local power, make an important contribution to the conference.
A new constitution creates a Federal Republic of Tanzania made up of five provinces: North Province (Mkoa Kaskazini) comprising Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Manyara, Mara and Mwanza; East Province (Mkoa Mashariki) comprising Tanga, Zanzibar (Unguja and Pemba), Pwani, Dar es Salaam and Lindi; South Province (Mkoa Kusini) made up of Iringa, Ruvuma, Mtwara and Mbeya; West Province (Mkoa Magharibi) comprising Kagera, Kigoma and Rukwa; Central Province (Mkoa Kati) made up of Morogoro, Dodoma, Singida, Tabora and Shinyanga.
The President of the Federal Republic and the federal parliament are elected by national popular vote every five years with the majority party forming the federal government. Provincial governments and Premiers are also elected by popular vote within each province. A federal Prime Minister with primary responsibility for Federal-Provincial Affairs is elected by the federal parliament. Dodoma becomes the capital of the Federal Republic of Tanzania and the seat of the federal government.
The Federal government retains responsibility for National Defence, Police and Territorial Integrity, Fiscal and Monetary Policy, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Basic Infrastructure, Health and Education Standards. Federal responsibilities are financed by import taxes and customs duties. Provincial governments set up departments of Health, Education, Provincial Treasury, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure Maintenance. Provincial expenditure is financed by income and consumption taxes.
The re-writing of Tanzania’s constitution is a new and divisive process. Some regions prefer not to be included in certain provinces; resource-rich areas lobby to maximise provincial powers to tax; a formula for inter-provincial financial transfers is painstakingly created; serious disagreement arises on whether each province will be allowed to determine the role of religion in its own affairs.
Cracks begin to appear in the national unity. The process of federalising Tanzania is difficult. This is new terrain for everyone. In some places, on some issues, leadership arises that is able to engage Tanzanians constructively. In others, parochial passions are inflamed, only to be calmed down with hasty but necessary compromises. The ideas of greater local autonomy are embraced before five strong regional governments emerge. People turn to their own resources, deepening their networks as they learn to depend on themselves.
In 2010, major oil reserves are discovered offshore and clean coal deposits inland in South Province. Investors are attracted to the energy industry and establish coal-fired power plants, oil wells and refineries. Invoking its responsibility for basic infrastructure, the federal government seeks to control this lucrative industry. South Province threatens to separate, confident of its economic viability as a major source of energy to the Federal Republic as well as to neighbouring countries. Intense negotiations, brokered by a former President, reach a compromise: the federal government gives up control in exchange for South Province guaranteeing a supply of energy to the Federal Republic at a negotiated and fair price.
Intense negotiations, dialogue, debate and compromise become a feature of the interaction between the provinces and the federal state, and between the provincial governments and local communities. Networks of interdependence – first created in the informal economy – grow as people move between communities, provincial and federal circles negotiating, building dynamic coalitions, and forging compromises. As their official and social paths cross, they help to hold society together.
As the central government shrink, older civil servants first look for work in the new provincial administrations, but find there is neither sufficient stability nor wealth to keep them employed. Many decide to go back to the rural areas where they grew up, forming a bridge between the different communities. Retiring teachers and nurses return with new skills, deep experience and national connections. Rural and urban skills grow as the new dialogue deepens. Some of the first generation of civil servants, with long memories of village life and belief, look for ways to address the decline of rural areas in ways that marry enduring traditions with modern needs and innovations.
Over time, increased provincial and local autonomy leads to the creation of locally relevant institutions and some economic gains. Local priorities take precedence and each province responds according to their resources. Some local communities and regions fare better than others.
North and South provinces benefit from increases in cross-border trade thanks to regional agreements, agreed in the 1990s. This trade boosts the local economies. East province and especially Zanzibar take full advantage of the maritime trade with the rest of the world. Kilimanjaro’s agricultural produce leaves through the revitalised port of Tanga. Export-processing zones and offshore banking services are set up. International investors continue to locate their Tanzanian headquarters in Dar es Salaam.
The Central and West provinces struggle. Their mineral wealth creates small pockets of prosperity around the mines. Trade with neighbouring countries is slow as civil strife hinders any real economic activity. Provincial governments negotiate directly with donors for greater assistance in improving transport and communications infrastructure. The federal government is called upon to subsidise recurring provincial expenditure.
Prompted by international agreements and lobbying by local environmental groups, some regions recognise the value of their environment and ecosystems. They learn how to protect them. Building on innovations and success at protecting reef and fishing areas communities, NGOs, government and donors expand the models beyond the coastal regions. The new learning is applied to developing low-impact use of the ecosystems through eco-friendly and scientific tourism in the highlands and lake zones.
The value of local knowledge grows as the rich countries begin to worry about climate change. New financial instruments are created which pay the poor countries to develop and use renewable energy technologies, to protect the environments that act as carbon sinks. Growing Tanzanian expertise helps local communities and provincial governments to claim genetic information on crops and species as a resource with financial value. Environmental pressure groups launch a variety of innovations to take advantage of these financial tools to bring new incomes to people living in rural areas.
Despite these innovations, the challenge of population pressure, climate change and the burden of AIDS and malaria on Tanzania’s food production remains. People continue to leave the land and move to the provincial capitals and Dar es Salaam, relying on their informal networks to sustain them.
Difficult but creative change takes place in Amka, Kumekucha, helped by the utu net. The utu net is recognised and celebrated as we accept both the security it provides and the discipline it demands. We strengthen our networks of exchange and sharing across the boundaries of tribe, race, religion and class. As the economic, social and political connections multiply, the gaps between us diminish – creating a stronger net of fine mesh. The process is slow, however, and many young and ambitious people are tempted to leave.
Ultimately, the Federal Republic of Tanzania becomes a patchwork of different experiences and outcomes. Negotiation and compromise, innovation and learning are features of our community and national life. There are pockets of success and failure all over the country. Success is determined by the capacity to learn and to apply this learning to the local circumstances. Instability and uncertainty are constant companions. But rather than ignoring or resisting them, we learn to use them to our advantage.