31 Jan 2012

Who will drive change in Tanzania? Young people?

By Daraja's Monitoring and Research Officer, Eric Kalunga

Last week Twaweza hosted a panel discussion. The theme was ‘who will drive change in Tanzania?’ while the country is at a crossroads and faces unprecedented crises. It was proposed the choices that are made in the next few years may be pivotal to moving Tanzania forward.  But to do this who do people turn to? The government? CCM?  Chadema? Religion?  NGOs?  The media or an enlightened private sector? The three panelists represented three sectors among our potential saviours; Maria Sarungi, John Ulanga and Zitto Kabwe.

“Frustrations are so huge we are in a situation of hopelessness,” said Zitto Kabwe (MP Chadema) when he was invited to speak by the moderator Ayoub Warioba. He spoke of a leadership crisis, lack of accountability and citizens who do not trust each other anymore. The way out according to the MP was a strong accountability system, an independent media (not the ‘mercenary media’ we have now) and evidence based civil society organizations. But above all this he said we needed to place all our hopes in the young and upcoming politicians. Create a code of ethics for young politicians and have periodic reviews to ensure no one steps out of line. According to Mr Kabwe, this is the way to avoid the crisis looming over Tanzania.

25 Jan 2012

Deputy Minister for Local Government, Agrrey Mwanri, visits Njombe

Deputy Ministry for PMORALG, Aggrey Mwanri (left)
I got an invitation last week to a meeting with the Deputy Minister for Local Government (PMORALG/TAMISEMI), Agrrey Mwanri, who was visiting Njombe. The invitation said he had requested to meet with local government leaders, religious leaders and "wazee wa mji" (town elders). Since I'm neither a leader of local government nor any religious group, I supposed I must have qualified for "elder" status, and thought I should go along. Plus, Mwanri has been making quite a stir locally with his unusually hands-on approach to his role (see photo, and the links below), and I wanted to see what the fuss what about.

I was not disappointed. The Minister spoke at length (around 3 hours) without notes on issues of local governance, and was clearly in confident command of his brief.

18 Jan 2012

Running a hybrid - NGO and media cultures combine

A little while ago, I posted an old op-ed column by Rakesh Rajani, in which he asked "What if NGOs were newspapers?" And I promised to follow it up with some thoughts on our situation here at Daraja, where we are an NGO that runs newspapers, to see how accurate Rakesh's ideas were. Well, here goes.

Rakesh's main point was that NGOs are not subject to the strict deadlines that rule newspapers' work, or to the same kind of pressure that newspapers face to give readers what they want. A reporter who misses a deadline finds that their story isn't published. A newspaper that comes out late risks missing out on sales and undermining their readers' trust. And if a newspaper writes about things that don't interest their readers then that paper won't get bought again. The nearest equivalent pressures on NGOs have often very little to do with the community - their "beneficiaries" - and more to do with keeping their donors happy.

In other words, NGOs aren't as strongly accountable to the community as newspapers for doing their work on time or for doing it well.

6 Jan 2012

A good start to 2012

2011 ended with a disappointment - the loss of Mzee "Njoo Uone" Augstino Hongole, the chair of Kwanza Jamii Njombe's Editorial Board and inspiration to Daraja, was hard to take.

But he would have been delighted with how 2012 has begun, with our Kwanza Jamii newspapers getting wider exposure in the UK. The Journalism Foundation, a recently-established body headed by Simon Kelner, respected former editor of The Independent newspaper, has published an article by Daraja's Executive Director, Ben Taylor, "Local newspaper project putting the community first in rural Tanzania". This is one of a series of first-person accounts from people "on the journalistic front line," introduced here by Simon Kelner.