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Tuamke! (Let’s wake up!)
In the newsletter for March 2010 the director, Kristian S. Petersen, reflects on civic actions in Tanzania.
Photo by Pernille Baerendtsen
25. februar 2010
If you want to see my six year old daughter dance, just put on Bob Marley’s ‘Get Up, Stand Up, Stand up for your right’…, turn up the volume and you will see a little explosion of energy.
As if she understands the message and wants to dance for all those who the song was meant for. Makes you think that dancing empowers.
Was Bob Marley’s message naïve? Were his texts just a product of a time in history when dreamers from another planet still existed? Or is it actually possible for the oppressed, poor and marginalized to “stand up for their rights”
In today’s development business there seems to be a consensus that poverty comes with powerlessness. Poor people have very little or no power.
But what if the late French sociologist Michel Foucault was right in claiming that power is everywhere? That the right question is not whether you have it or not, but whether you actively seek power?
How was it possible for Mandela and co. to take South Africa from the rotten Apartheid society to where it is hopefully moving? What started the civil rights movement in USA? The fall of despotic leaders in the former East bloc countries? How much power did these groups have before the changes? More or less none, I should think. And they weren’t given power. They looked for it and used it.
In my reading of history, these societal changes were, admittedly, not only a result of bottom-up pressures. Without allies in the top and on the outside, it would not have been possible. But where would Gandhi have been if the Indians hadn’t stood up? Martin Luther King? The Orange movement in today’s Ukraine?
Maybe power is everywhere. Maybe it will actually have an impact when poor farmers join hands in demanding from district council members that adequate budgets should be set aside for District Agricultural Development Plans. Maybe it will actually change life for the 80% Tanzanians who live from the land when they demand the implementation of the 1999 land laws. When poor farmers, pastoralists, agro-pastoralists, women and men join hands and say NO to land grabbing.
Maybe it will actually institutionalize the rule of law when enough Tanzanians demand that not only the poor but also the bwana wakubwa (“big men”) who are mafisadi (corrupt) should be held accountable and prosecuted. If enough wananchi (citizens) decide so, maybe it is possible to hold politicians accountable to their promises!
The above is of course in no way a comment on the Tanzanian elections in October… Maybe it’s just an encouragement to put Bob Marley or some other music on the loudspeaker.
Tuamke! Turn up the volume, and let’s get on the dance floor!