Kulikoni, one of Tanzania’s Swahili Weekly has been banned for 90 days. Why? It exposed an examination fraud in Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF)! The story Kulikoni published alleged that the process of setting and sitting for exams in the army provides easy chances for officers who are not qualified.
In its issue number 812 of November 27th, 2009, the paper further alleged that TPDF exams of 25th May, 2009 in Dar es Salaam, Ruvuma, Tabora, Arusha, Mwanza and Zanzibar centers were leaked out and that Ruvuma and Tabora were the leading culprits.Remember, Tanzania is also dogged by exam forgery allegations involving ministers and Members of Parliament. Were Tanzania soberly against this abomination, this would be welcome in order to act decisively against this alarming criminality. But nay!
With regards to this surging purge against press freedom and accountability, the minister for Information, Culture and Sports, Capt. George Mkuchika, argues: “The country's army holds respect across Africa, because it has been tested in different circumstances, including fighting in a war against the Idi Amin regime in Uganda. TPDF is also among peace keeping forces in United Nations and African Union units.” What nonsense!
In trying to get away with it, the minister adds: “The editor could not substantiate his claims in the story after he was formally asked by the registrar of newspapers. Kulikoni editor refused to provide evidence but instead asked TPDF to form a committee that would look into the matter and the newspaper would publish (in verbatim) the committee's report (as it is for everybody to see).”
How can we believe this conflicting hoo-ha from the minister? Did the editor fail to substantiate his story or the government and the army refused to take in the method proposed by the editor? Good enough, the minister himself is an army captain. Even if the editor would furnish all water-tight evidence, would it help with this frozen thinking given that what he reported is against the ‘sacred’ army? He was in a straight jacket and the verdict is vexatious.
You can’t say that the army is highly respected compared to the Wananchi simply because it fought wars or participates in the UN peace keeping force. It does so as its duty and it is enabled by the taxpayers to do the same.Everybody in the country has the share in whatever achievement the nation makes. Therefore, the country must hold respect for all of its citizenry regardless of their trade.
What’s more, the minister argues that the said paper breached the National Security Act of 1970 and the Newspaper Act of 1976, "which prohibits publication of seditious stories that might cause unrest within the army. Was the story seditious or informative? Should we keep quiet if the army embezzled public money for fear that they can wreck havoc on us! If this is the practice, aren’t we hijacked by the said armies in Africa? Aren’t we under military regimes acting behind the curtains?
What dismays and discombobulates is the fact that the army officer demanded that the editor disclose his source under the pretext of substantiation! Nowhere in a democratic country on earth, is the media duty-bound to disclose its source. It is totally against ethics and rule of law.
The effecting of this ban shall make Tanzania to join other dictatorial regimes in Africa that curtail press freedom. The army is a sacred cow and untouchably noble and the authorities can not keep their cool when they are touched. Everybody is rubbed the wrong way in our continent especially when catawampus steal from us in broad daylight thanks to being protected by corrupt armies.
Befuddled as we are, should we show them what a daughter of Ares did to Hallirhothios when justice failed her? How can we fail short of thinking doing that if at all what we evidence is nothing but their naked self interests in the name of leadership? The armies we wrongly thought are spending our tax to guard us are there for a kit and caboodle of corrupt rulers.
Now that bloom appears to be off the rose as far as rule of law is concerned, it is time we face it head on. Though in many countries people care about the luge than the legislature, this issue of favouring the armies even when they contraband the law, must awake us. Fear of armies does not help any of us except rulers and their cronies. We need to stamp out all those thieves who cling to power and accumulate dubious wealth. Though many people were killed in Guinea last year, their message is still crystal clear. And this can act as an early wake up call. To know how their voices added up, refer to how the tyrant in that country wanted to victimize his aide who decided to shoot him as a result.
We’re talking of one incident in one country where the army is alleged to have allowed its members to openly forge. Remember. Almost all armies in Africa are enjoying illegal privileges such as getting bigger hidden budgets than other dockets, traveling free and what not. This sums it up that albeit claiming that Africa is democracy, it still is under military rule.
To evince this, I will cite an example from my own country where military officers dominate some positions such as Regional and District commissioners. Most of our RCs and DCs are soldiers whereas the multiparty constitution stipulates that no military personnel or civil servant should serve in political capacity for the fear of favouritism.
It’s no wonder thus to find that police people and military personnel have strong ties with the ruling party. And this is why in Tanzania; two bodies are: the army and the ruling party. This marriage of hoity toitty plus military is the great barrier for hoi polloi in Africa to forge ahead.
By Nkwazi Mhango
Mhango is a Tanzanian living in Canada. He is a Journalist, Teacher, Human Rights activist and member of the Writers' Association of New Foundland and Labrador (WANL)
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