Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What are we about?

We read in Mwalimu Nyerere’s book, Uhuru na Umoja, that during the 28th June 1962 Parliamentary Debate on the Government’s Motion on the Proposal for the Republic of Tanganyika, Mwalimu argued that it was impossible to create a foolproof constitution, and that the only real protection against tyranny is a national ethic. This is what he said:

"Mr. Speaker, Sir, the point must be made that ultimately the safeguard of a people’s right, the people’s freedom and those things which they value, ultimately the safeguard is the ethic of the nation.

When the nation does not have the ethic which will enable the Government to say: “We cannot do this,that is un-Tanganyikan.” Or the people to say: “That we cannot tolerate, that is un-Tanganyikan”. If the people do not have that kind of ethic, it does not matter what kind of constitution you frame. They can always be victims of tyranny…. What we must continue to do all the time, is to build an ethic of this nation, all the time to build an ethic of this nation, which makes the Head of State whoever he is to say, “I have the power to do this under the Constitution, but I cannot do it, it is un-Tanganyikan.” Or for the people of Tanganyika, if they have made a mistake and elected an insane individual as their Head of State, who has the power under the Constitution to do XYZ if he tried to do it, the people of Tanganyika would say, “We won’t have it from anybody, President or President squared, we won’t have it.”

I believe, sir, that is the way we ought to look at this constitution. We have got to have a little amount of faith, although I know that some Members have been questioning the idea of faith. But, sir, democracy is a declaration of faith in human nature, the very thing we are struggling to safeguard here, the very idea of democracy is a declaration of faith in mankind. And every enemy of democracy is some person who somewhere has no faith in human beings. He doubts. He thinks he is all right, but other human beings are not all right".


Now, ladies and gentlemen: what is our national ethic? What are our core principles as a people and as a nation. Can one say that the main reason for some of our problems is not so much the imperfections of the architecture of our laws and institutions but the lack of a national ethic which makes it difficult to organise our society?


Anonymous said...

Dear fellow Bloggers,

Well, I do believe that both the lack of national ethics and the imperfections of the architecture of our laws make it difficult to organise our society. But I would put the lack of national ethics first and unreliable judicial system second in terms of their prevalence as the problem. The judicial system is best when it is glued together by "trust" amongst the people upon which the judicial system was designed to serve. Nyerere's wisdom words to Speaker are exemplified quite eloquently by the book written by Francis Fukuyama called "Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity" which I read years back.

The lack of trust obliges a society to set up law enforcement institutions. And Maintaning law and order is not cheap! It is even more expensive, and this where our "Bongoland" comes in, when these law enforcement instituions are corrupt and unethical! I mean, where do we start fixing this problem? And by law and order I mean the judicial and executive branch of the government. Nadhani ni kwa watoto wanaozaliwa sasa. Wanasema...kijiti kikunje angali kibichi...generation ya mimi na wewe tunaweza kukunjika kweli at this point??

Heri ya Mwaka Mpya!


Anonymous said...

To answer January's question,

I'll start with asking a question, do we even have National Ethic or core principles anymore?

It's kinda sad that, what Mwalimu started for the good of our country is no longer valued in the eyes of many. And, I would totally agree that, the main reason for many, of our problems is not the imperfection of the architecture of our laws and institutions, it's the weak base, the lack of ethics and core principles which Mwalimu wanted our constitution to be built upon.

As Inno mentioned, trust is the core issue. With lack of national ethics, It's so scary to even mention how much our law enforcement is corrupt. God!, then where do you run for help? If the key part of the government is like non-exist!, Does this mean we are on our own??!! SCAAAARY!

Prez. Kikwete has a lot in his plate, and he started cleaning up the mess. Hopefully, what he started will continue.

Inno to add to your point, our generation is done, there's nothing we can do. I think we're at the point we trying to figure out ways to even corrupt ourselves for that case. In order to heal, we need to dig even deeper. Now the question, where's the Deepest?

Anonymous said...


What is our National Ethics in Forming our Constitution? thats a good question ?

But, it is very hard to answer it, everyone would interprate it differently, so do Marehemu JK Nyerere. He did actually meant it differently, and the same apply to what I or anyone else would interprate it, so in my understanding we dont have the foundation, and we urgently need to renew it now, and form a new one.

The problem with JK Nyerere in understanding on this subject then, I believe that, he tends to narrowly focus on certain specifics, and thats where we failed in understanding my own National Ethics as A citizen and a child of that Generation.

My understanding of National Ethics, should solelly based on values of DEMOCRACY, as we understand it and secondly the love of progression of this country whatever it takes, within the means.

and thats why I like the constitution fomented by the leaders of USA, and thats the good model to take it, based on national ethics, and thats I would say the near perfect example, thats why they are where they are now, based on those values, despite the facts it is precisely clear to them, but others tend to ignore or interprate it differently.

And another thing that you may notice, the perfection of USA constitution or for our neighbouring country like RWANDA for that matter, came about after passing the civil wars or certain turmoil, but WE DEFINETELY DONT NEED THAT!, But it is unfortunate we take our position and understanding of ourself for granted, and thats is our MISTAKE!

By Mchangiaji.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, forget to sign off, on Question of our National Ethics in Forming our Constitution? commented above

As Always it is me!
By Mchangiaji

Thuwein said...

Mwalimu as always had brilliant ideas and a clear vision of where as a nation we need to be heading. Reinforcement of some of these ideas has been impractical to say the least. I love the idea of constructing our constitution basing on Utanganyika, it sounds great but how are we going to implement that? and what would be the markers of success and failures? You see, unlike everything else, ethical reforms start from the leaders and trickling down to wananchi wa kawaida. If MOST of our leaders are unethical in everything they do-from being elected to the style of their governance, then it is kidogo difficult for me to be ethically correct and there goes the platitude of national ethics.

Besides, it is really hard to play nice with the level of poverty we are in.

Anonymous said...


I agree with you on this, He had a vision, but HE DEFINETELY LACK a constructive methodology to get there, and for any leader who is missing this point, He lose credibility BIG TIME. Similarly you can see what happens in Zimbabwe, you need to play smart on politics, not just straight talk, and that’s the reality, and I don’t mean by any means deceiving and throwing insults, but rather work together for a constructive idea for the better of its people, empowerment of its people, economic progression and love of the country. He allowed emotional to get on his way, and that’s another problem.
He was rhetoric and missing in actions. He itch the opposite of his views, on any aspects of the matter whether that may be political and economical and he took it personally, he WAS DEFINETELY not economists, and the drive of perfect moral and democracy on any nation would need both political and economic policy (country progression fits in) that should be running parallel in time. In other words, we needed to work hard, the nation needed it then, but based on his policy we went to sleep instead, to be honest we are only now start to wake up, but we have got long way to go, because we still don’t know our priorities, we still don’t have a clear idea where the nations wants to be in 50/100yrs from now, and nobody in this nation would explain that to us!. UNTILL WE UNDERSTANDS OUR FALURES, AND THEN WE WILL BE ABLE TO STRAIGHTEN THINGS UP, FOR THE BETTER, and build a new foundation, a new constitution that will lead to a rapport of a new national ethics in time.(it needs time to build this core values).
Let me ask this FUNDAMENTAL question, why having all these BIG TIME CORRUPTIONS cases (MAFISADI and so on) in our country, particularly to the leaders who were pretty much given and doctrine siasa za UJAMAA NA KUJITEGEMEA and CHAMA for that matter, they were prepared, taught and learnt the art, but failed on corruption, and this is the failure not just for them but for us a nation, if you understand.
Some may say it is only minorities, but that is not the point. They negotiated our souls, our only national strategic resources which would brought us wealth in this nation for self indulgence, this to me underlining failed policy in understanding the true leaders which have compassion and sincerety of this country, BECAUSE WE LACK THEM, OR DONT HAVE THEM, or partisan play BIG ROLE in achieving your POSPERITY, and that’s the policy we have taken in this country in this recent years, I sometime wish Marehemu JK Nyerere live to see these days.
But here is the POINT, I am very optimistic about the future, it looks very bright! BUT WE HAVE LIMITED TIME.

"What are we about ?" STILL REMAINS, God knows in 20/50 years time our children will articulately answered this question with heart and mind, but FOR NOW, I DONT KNOW THE ANSWER MYSELF!

You will know the sign, once I go to young children in schools and give the me the answer to this fundamental question, and then I will say yes this what we are about.

By Mchangiaji

Anonymous said...


I have read that speech of Mwalimu andI am totally in agreement with him. I as well believe that myriad of problems we face today in terms of leadership and irresponsibili that goes with it are result of lacking of national ethics.

I remember to have read a peace of poem from one British politician who claimed that written constitution are for societies with no well established set of values and ethics. That was in defence of british unwritten constitution and how it works in United Kingdom. He demomstrated that, british people and leaders knows what is british and what is not (in terms of conducts)and it has no need to be written down.

Such thinking was not far from what MWalimu suggest.Without set of values and ethics to guide society, constitution is merely a piece of paper, with no much sence unless the power might be have a good reason to defend it by both carrot and stick.

In understanding that, Mwalimu took deliberate efforts to entrench the values in the name of 'Ahadi za Mwana TANU'. Those ahadi were mainstreamed in education curriculum, JKT and inform leadership code of conduct. It was those values which united us and gave us the sence of being Tanzanians including inculcating us a sence of write and wrong.

However, the changes that took place in 1990s incuding the introduction of multiparty system led us to abandon them and try to fit into new set of values imposed by democracy. It does not mean that democractic values are in contradiction with then 'ahadi za mwanaTANU', rather, we somehow failed to accomodate the same ahadi into the newly introduced set of principles guided democracy and good governance.

Unfortunately, the 'ahadi za mwana TANU' which Tanzanians had no problems with were taken by CCM and became ahadi za CCM. They lost a sence of national pride and became CCM ethics. They were withdrew from education curriculum. I remember that i studied the subject called Siasa in primary school which was banned in 1992 after the introduction of multilarty. By then i was in standard five. The Civics subject which came to replace Siasa, talked nothing about our political history and values which shaped us including ahadi za mwana TANU. That was the beginning of the end.

Today, 'binadamu wote ni ndugu zangu' as it was perceived then. The current generation can not make sence out of such value based statement. Off course, the then JKT came to an end and things changed all together. Slowly but surely we started to loose sence of values which bounds us.Today it is common to hear people making noise that there is no uzalendo.As if, uzalendo is a natural phenomena and not product of ingenius efforts.

It is my opinion that, without going back to review Ahadi za Mwana TANU and find a concesus across wider political spectrum, we will completely loose our meaning of being as a nation. It is important for such concensus to be put into a constitution and be mainstreamed into our current education curriculum. We have lost a generation or two, however, we can help shape many generations to come in future in line with new national ethics.

Today, as far as constitution, democratic and good governance values are concerned, we are not different from other states. What is then distincts us? my answer is, our political history and set of values and ethics that shaped us from 1960's to 1980's.