By Dikembe Disembe
A debate brought to the fore by the launch of Raila Odinga’s new book, The Flame of Freedom, has seen Tanzanians demanding, in a sense, of their leaders to write books which contribute to the political develop of a country and knowledge resource for future generations.
It emerged that since independence in the sixties, none of the Tanzanian leaders – presidents, prime ministers, corporate magnets – and emminent diplomats have written autobiographies of their time in power and politics.
According to critics of “code of silence”, the culture of leaving public service with no record of the events which formed a leader’s public life; the Tanzanian leaders, they charge, have no ‘stories to tell’ to their compatriots as many of them ‘didn’t struggle to be where they are’.
â€œYou write a biography if you have a story to tellâ€¦some of our leaders have no story that can interest readers,” said a senior lecturer from Dar es Salaam University.
The country’s academicians contend that the this intentional silence by their leaders is a manifestation of the culture of patronage in the national body politic and public fabric.
They argue that party allegiance, as opposed to merit, is the main requirement for the movers and shakers.
â€œLegitimate achievers all over the world would want to share their stories,â€ said Prof Melchior Mlambite of the Saint Augustine University. â€œMost of our leaders did not climb the ladder after debating issues but because they are staunch cadres of some political party.
In Kenya, leaders writing about their experiences is becoming the norm, rather than the exception. From Jomo Kenyatta to Raila Odinga, a great many other Kenyans have written books covering various aspects of our country’s political development.
Already, a deviation from the norm saw former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who foreworded Raila Odinga’s new book, to urge former Attorney General Charles Njonjo to pen a memoir.
Not only is book writing a culture by Kenya’s political leaders but also distinguished and decorated former military personnel. The recent book from this quarter was A Noble but Onerous Duty by Dr Fransis K Sang, the last intelligence chief under Moi who was among the many Kalenjins purged ruthlessly by Kibaki’s men in the reconstruction of GEMA politics after 2002 elections.
Again, in Kenya, even a political fallout between a master and a student can produce a book, like Peeling Back the Mask by Miguna Miguna the shambolic aide.
It will shock you, a Kenyan born with all the books our leaders have written for the half a century of our independence that our neighbours in the South can only count ONE book: From Goat-Herd to Governor, an autobiography of the country’s former Bank of Tanzania governor, Edwin Mtei. The Bank of Tanzania is our equivalent of the Central Bank!
Meanwhile, Raila Odinga, the loved and most adored father of modern democracy in Kenya is leaving the country this evening to attend a series of events in the United States of America. Odinga who is a free man with no legal baggage like some people we know will be accompanied by six CORD governors including Mombasa County’s stalwart Ali Hassan Joho, the oil producing governor of Turkana, Josephat Nanok four other governors and a host of CORD party operatives and Jakom’s handlers.
While in the US, Odinga will popularise his book, a practice which is common among in Western countries where writing a book is an ‘unwritten rule’.
At Harvard University, one of the best higher education institutions in the world, Odinga’s autobiography, The Flame of Freedom, will be studied alongside that of Kofi Annan, A Man of Peace in a World of War.
Annan, a distinguished African, recently jeered at the bunch of African despots currently running down a dying hapless fraternity called African Union, which , in the words of another great African prelate, are wary of the ICC, the world court of justice, because they want a free licence to continue killing and maiming their voiceless, faceless citizens.
Join me in wishing Agwambo safe journey and to the Tanzanians, tunawaomba muandike vitabu!
Dikembe Disembe comments on topical social and political issues in East Africa.