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.

I would not have enjoyed being a council official, as he repeatedly either criticised them for some specific failure or spoke in terms that framed local government officials as "the problem". I lost count of how many times he talked about "ili halmashauri zipone ..." (in order for the councils to recover ...), with the clear implication that the councils were currently sick, and of the number of times he put officials on the spot, demanding answers without warning in front of around 200 watchers.

He spoke on the need for councillors to be more demanding, to put pressure on the council management team, to insist on being given full information, particularly on procurement issues. "Dai mkataba, dai BOQ" (demand the contract, demand the bill of quantities), and "kazi yenu ni kupaza sauti ya wananchi" (your job is to raise citizens' voices), he said.

I used the opportunity he gave me to speak to ask what progress was being made on Njombe becoming a region, to which I got a very political non-answer of the "these things take time", "we will get there" variety.

Three quotes stood out from the meeting for me, two from Mwanri and an excellent (and twitter-friendly) snippet of wisdom from a Catholic Priest.

"Nchi yako italiwa mbele ya macho yako" (Your country will be eaten in front of your own eyes) - Mwanri

"Demokrasia ni uongozi wa wengi, lakini ni ulinzi wa wachache" (Democracy is government by the masses, but requires special vigilance by a few - not a literal translation, but that's how he explained it) - Mwanri

And keeping the best for last:

"Mizizi ya amani ni ukweli, haki na uwajibikaji" (The roots of peace are truth, justice and accountability) - Naibu Askofu

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Further reading from Francis Godwin's blog, on some of the waves Mwanri's tour has been making in Njombe and Iringa: