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The Power To Make A Difference

Tanzania politics as seen through the eyes of the young

Jacob J. Selengia  Aug 30, 2010

TANZANIA - “Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.” - Plato (Greek philosopher, 428 BC-348 BC)

I think Plato was absolutely right, because if you don’t vote then you should not complain about the elected leaders. With light to what happened in America and the fact that a black American now leads the free world, we now know the power voting plays in our society. The main point I want to explore is the fact that most young Tanzanians have a power to bring about change but do nothing about it; in the Tanzanian presidential elections of 2005 the voter turnout was around 72.4 percent, but how many young voters took part in the elections?

There are now more youth voters who could not vote then but are now eligible to do so and may even be encouraged by how the young voters went to the ballot boxes in America. The main argument in our political system is the fact that most African countries (Tanzania included) are run by what I would say is the aging population, and because of this there is no dynamism or connection with the youth who will be the leaders of tomorrow. One can call this narrow mindedness on the part of political parties who avoid engagement with the young voters for fear of not relating to them; this fear or anxiousness will eventually come to cost them, as generation X and Y should be major considerations for politicians in this day and age where mass voting power is required.

I remember watching the parliament sessions with my parents, and I can still remember thinking that there is only a handful of Members of Parliament (MPs) who I can relate to and, therefore, say that they represent my interests and what I stand for. Most of the time, I saw MPs passing notes, having their own conversations, nodding off, etc; I mean we are all human beings and no one is perfect, but if you have been elected to represent a group of Tanzanians, you owe them at least full concentration when you’re attending parliament.

Another issue I noted was the fact that some MPs did not contribute to any topic from start to finish of parliament, which I find most disheartening, because I find it hard to believe that there are regions of Tanzania where everything is perfect and people have no problems. With this in mind, it is very hard for the youth of today to connect with politicians, not because they don’t want to, but because the barriers to enter politics are very strong - so much so that you can compare them to trying to enter the European business markets where the EU member countries have a tight grip on who comes in and what goes out.

The youth of today want exactly what our parents wanted for themselves when they were our age - job security, economic stability, proper justice, freedom of speech, and a better Tanzania for our children. Our concerns mirror the concerns of the general population. However, unlike the older population who are half-heartedly involved in democracy, we don’t realize the purpose in any involvement at all, which may destroy us and the things we wish for ourselves and our children. The truth of the matter is that the younger voters don’t trust the government wholeheartedly; I’m sure Tanzanians who are older would agree that our current leaders hardly inspire faith, but they have memories when things were totally different, and the government worked for the people. If I look back to the time where I started to understand politics, I think I will be going back 10 to 15 years, and most of what I can remember is lies, false promises, and scandals. It is because of this we have become disillusioned and don’t believe in the power of the ballot.

Politicians in Tanzania may say that the youth of today lack the diplomacy and the maturity to carry themselves to higher pressure and tense situations, which are common in politics, and this is the reason why there are few young politicians in the country. With this attitude it is quite difficult for Tanzanian youths to have a voice in the political affairs of the country, and with the level of corruption apparent in our politics, the youth who hold influential power among their peers may even be corrupted by them. I don’t believe necessarily in political opportunities coming to us, but I believe that we all have the ability to change the course of our history by creating an atmosphere and environment that is conclusive for us to be heard. Even if there is little commitment and leadership in Tanzanian politics, we still need to equip ourselves using our votes to contribute meaningfully to Tanzania. It is extremely vital for us to have a say, because like I said, before we are the leaders of tomorrow, who will pass on the values we want passed on to the future generations? What our country needs is a new breed of young intellectuals with talents and visions to uplift the lives of our people.

To sum up, the youth like me don’t trust the government fully, and we don’t believe that our vote can change this nor can it build trust. We don’t full-heartedly support the political parties, thus we have become alienated from today’s factional political atmosphere. In its simplest terms, today’s youth have given up on traditional ways of participating in politics. We believe that the political world will get worse for Tanzanians, but our lives will continue to get better - the only problem to this foresight is that we fail to see our connection to those ideals and politics. Most of us don’t see the point of politics and are apathetic to it. As a generation, we are on the verge of giving up on the ability of politics in Tanzania to bring about change. I feel that our greatest challenge will be to either engage with current political systems or to help transform it into a system we can trust. Either way, something has to change, and if we can’t figure out how to participate meaningfully in Tanzanian politics, no change will ever come. We must all vote or we will lose our voice, our impact, and our power.

We need to look beyond the many failures of our political system and not give up on it but continue to cast our votes for the people who stand for what we believe in and not those who want to buy our votes.

“You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.” - Abraham Lincoln (American 16th US President (1861-65) who brought about the emancipation of the slaves; 1809-1865)

Tanzania politics as seen through the eyes of the young
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