- Multiparty democracy has only nurtured hate and divisions, and building economy is no longer a priority
We continue to cherish the Father of the Nation Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, because of his wisdom and love to his people. Now 15 years after his death, the nation still cries as they remember the leader who assured peace and protection for the poor and disadvantaged majority.
Today national interests and values which Mwalimu upheld are vanishing. Mwalimu didn’t believe in multipartyism, for he knew it would divide Tanzanians.
When asked about single and multiparty democracy, he had this to say: “...Democracy is not a bottle of Coca-Cola which you can import. Democracy should develop according to that particular country. I never went to a country, saw many parties and assumed that it is democratic. You cannot define democracy purely in terms of multi-partist parties...”
Many scholars also agree that it is not proper to simply take Western models of democracy and paste them over African countries. Africa needs some type of democracy that will encourage unity so that as the economic level of Africa grows, democracy grows too to propel people to a brighter future. Democracy must gradually develop, it must not be imposed.
Indeed as the Indian historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in his book “Makers of Modern India” a democratic revolution should be a staggered process that must be preceded by nationalism where nationhood and unity of a nation are built and strengthened, followed by economic revolution where industrialisation and urbanisation must take place.
Guha cites US which proclaimed its national independence in the 18th Century, urbanised and industrialised in the nineteenth century, and became democratic only in the 20th century, after women and African Americans were allowed to vote, and on the other hand, Europe that was a continent broken up into many different nationalities, the pace of these different revolutions towards democracy varied greatly across countries.
Crucially in every European country the nationalism and economic revolution preceded the democratic revolution by several decades or more.
On democratisation of Tanzania and Africa in general; and without a strong economy and nationhood Mwalimu commented: “...Multiparty democracy is alien, it is a Western thing, a luxury Africa could not afford and it will create opposition among us, this is an imperialist dogma...”
Yes, Mwalimu was right. Building multiparty democracy in a poor country is synonymous to nurturing division and hate between the opposition and the ruling parties; between different communities with different cultural origins such as tribes and clans who in most cases create political parties to secure their interests.
The fulfilment of Mwalimu Nyerere’s vision on the danger of multiparty democracy in Africa and Tanzania is today unveiling before our eyes when democracy becomes a source of conflict among the people of nations in Africa.
This situation creates a political imbalance that destabilises most African countries trying to build a democracy. Practising Western democracy in Africa is now a fragile endeavour. Africa has witnessed the West trying to forcefully institute democracy in relatively peaceful countries.Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia are countries that looked economically better and harmonious under their limited democracy and sometimes dictatorship; today hate and division and fragmentation are a real threat to these once tranquil countries. In the name of democracy these nations are falling apart.
Countries south of the Sahara like Kenya, Zimbabwe and Tanzania are also not spared either, where we see the effects of Western democracy at work in a poor country, creating hate and division among its citizenry.
According to Mwalimu Nyerere: “... Tanzania, divided up into 112 distinct ethnic groups, is not a fertile ground for multiparty democracy. Tanzania is not ready for multiparty democracy as would descend the country into tribal and regional infighting...” Although Mwalimu did not believe in multiparty democracy but the power and grip of imperialism forced him and the ruling party to embrace multiparty system against the public views that rejected the system by 80 per cent. The global political wind of change was too much for Mwalimu and he surrendered.
Even though Tanzania embraced (against its will) Western-type multiparty democracy in developing nations, I believe, after two decades of practice; if Mwalimu was alive, he would have continued believing that Africa wasn’t yet ready for this type of democracy.
Look at Tanzania today: multiparty democracy has only nurtured hate and divisions, and building economy is no longer a priority.
Capitalistic freedom promoted by secular ideology in which individuals became free to experiment whatever they want as long as it is a fundamental human right is very dangerous. Free democracy, free press, free everything, so free in a poor country only erodes community and national unity and brings division and tension.
Mwalimu believed in the kind of democracy that gives space to citizens to develop their nation. He wanted Africa to embrace democracy in single-party systems or multiparty systems that ensure governments of national unity, in which after any election parties would bury their differences and take national interests to a sweeter height. Keep the people together and work hard.
The kind of democracy practiced in China, Russia and the Arab countries that forces people to build the economy by instilling in the citizens the sense of nationhood, pride and upholding taboos of that nation could build national unity and tranquillity.
As we continue to remember and cherish the Father of the Nation Mwalimu Nyerere, let us uphold his good vision, hopes and optimism on democracy to inspire us once again, nurture and keep our unity as a nation and as a people.
Dr Dalaly Peter Kafumu, MP (Igunga-CCM), is a former commissioner for minerals