After living in Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania I have come to the conclusion that we need to have a new look on development cooperation in Africa. After analysing these societies I came to the conclusion that there are things going on in African countries which are not being seen or ignored and play a significant part in the reason why after 50 or sometimes 60 years of development cooperation people are still living in extreme poverty.

I think it is time to face reality and start looking for solutions for problems which have been ignored for so long and, in my opinion, are growing by the day. My analysis is based on my observations, conversations with people and analysis of the media. The story will basically evolve around Tanzania, where I live now for 3 years. This does not mean these are problems only existing in Tanzania. Many problems I also observed in Uganda and Rwanda (although this country is a special case due to its history). Newspapers write stories about other African countries having similar problems as the ones in Tanzania.

Up till now poverty has been seen basically as a problem of financial and material resources and lack of knowledge & skills. However, in my opinion we are overlooking something more important that needs to be solved before any of these resources can take effect and alleviate poverty. What I see around me is a traumatised society with people who are psychologically barely surviving. Without tackling this problem there will never be a poverty-free Africa. In this blog I will lead you through 1. Causes for Trauma; 2. Behaviour of People; 3. The Cause-Effect Chain; 4. Solutions.

Alex Bakara

21 June 2011

1. Causes for Trauma

Causes for trauma are oppression, violence and psychological, physical and sexual abuse. We will pass along them all. First of all let us discuss oppression. In Tanzania I can see four levels of oppression. The first three will be discussed here. The fourth will be taken up in the cause-effect chain. The three levels of oppression are 1. Government; 2. Religion; 3. Culture.

1.1  Oppression by the Government

The people of Tanzania are under firm control of the government. The apparatus is far reaching into society with a government leader on District, Division, Ward, Village, Hamlet and street level. It controls the movements of people and keeps an eye out for people who are walking ‘out of the party line’. The government does not like criticism and airing your grievances or criticism can lead to losing your job, house, freedom or life, depending on the gravity of your ‘crime’. People are scared to talk about anything that relates to the government or politics, it is an absolute taboo. Besides this zero-tolerance for criticism there is zero-tolerance for anything that might breach the peace.
            Tanzania is known as a peaceful country, a description which according to me it absolutely does not deserve. It is true there is no widespread violent conflict in this country; this however is a far stretch from it being peaceful. But according to the government and the Tanzanians you meet on the streets, they live in a peaceful country. And people do anything and are forced to do anything to prevent any conflict, even verbal. This means that there are never arguments between people; everybody always agrees with everybody, there are no discussions or debates and no one will ever criticize or blame anybody. People can do terrible things to other people this will not lead to any conflict, because the peace has to be preserved, always, no matter the consequence.
            Analysing the actions of the government I am more and more convinced that they follow a poverty-strategy in stead of an anti-poverty strategy. It shows in last year’s budget and this year’s budget proposal, which are written to benefit the rich and lack any sign of trying to reduce the burden of the poor. The Kilimo Kwanza (agriculture first) strategy is written for businesses and large scale farmers, but there is no mention in the document how they plan to get the subsistence farmers out of poverty. MKUKUTA I (National Strategy on Growth and Poverty Reduction I) finished in 2010 and has for a large part not been implemented. A shortage of budget leads to a reduction in investment in development, not in curtailing the enormous overhead of the government.
The majority of people in Tanzania are poorer now than just after independence 50 years ago. The government works in English, a language 80% of the Tanzanians do not master as they only speak their tribal language and Kiswahili. People cannot read what the government writes, so people are unaware of their rights and the duties of their government. Any attempt by the opposition to address the fact that people are unnecessarily poor ends in a, sometimes violent, breakdown of peaceful protests with the accusation that the opposition is breaching the peace and has a pro-violence agenda.
            The people in Tanzania are unnecessarily poor because Tanzania is a very rich country. It is one of the top gold producing countries in Africa (Since every report seems to state a different rank, this is unclear). It has diamantes, metals, minerals, oil and gas. Tanzania is endowed with fertile soils, nature, wildlife, lakes and rivers and is located near an ocean. Tanzania has everything a country could wish for. There is for billions of dollars in and on the ground. Where is all that money?
Almost all raw materials have been sold off to foreign companies by top leaders of the government. For decades large amounts of gold, diamantes, minerals, etc. are dragged out of this country due to some sleazy, under the table million dollar deals this small group of top leaders have made with these foreigners. Tanzania itself gets a very small amount of all this richness they own. The amount of tax on the labourers for these companies far exceeds the income of the resources.
 This is not all, a large part of the budget disappears in the same pockets; money for healthcare, money for education, money for roads, water, etc. on top of that every government official or highly placed civil servant gets his or her salary topped up with allowances for writing reports, supervising, sitting in a meeting, attending a training or workshop or just because they are important. Further on, the allowance they receive for going to a village for one day is the same as the minimum monthly wage of the private sector. Every week you find another article in the newspaper how millions of dollars have disappeared in a certain sector. Here we come to why a government would keep its citizens deliberately in poverty: to protect current and future corruption.
What do you need as a government to make sure you can keep going like this: 1) An uneducated and ignorant citizenry; 2) A citizenry who is so occupied by trying to stay alive they do not have time to engage themselves in finding out what the government is doing; 3) A citizenry that is too scared to ask any questions or criticize their government; 4) As government working in a language people do not understand; and, 5) Forcefully (even with bullets if necessary) stop all criticism of the opposition in order to win the next election. All this has convinced me that the government is deliberately keeping the people in poverty making sure they stay uneducated and ignorant and are too scared to criticize, air their grievances or give their opinion, in order for the government to be able to go on uninterrupted with stealing the money of the citizens of Tanzania.

1.2  Oppression by Religion

In Tanzania are two major religions: Islam and Christianity. When I talk about religious oppression I am not talking about the religions itself. A religion is meant to support people and give them hope. However, the way religion is misused in churches and mosques is what leads to oppression; it is the messages which are spread by these institutions. People are being told that God or Allah controls their every movement. Everything that happens, good or bad is God’s or Allah’s doing. In Rwanda I asked once a poor man who worked as a guard and housekeeper in the house I lived if he did not want to try to get out of poverty. He told me: “God has decided I have to be poor, so that is what I have to be.”
            People are made absolutely powerless because apparently they have no say in how their lives will be, God or Allah decides. On top of that in Lushoto, where the majority is Islamic the women have been told they are not allowed to get out of their houses or are allowed to receive visitors. This means these women will never be self-sufficient. They are not allowed to go to the market or hospital when they or their children are sick. Setting up a business is impossible because they cannot leave the house and customers cannot come to her. They are only allowed to go to their vegetable garden (shamba) to provide food for the household.
            What the two religions have in common is the immense pressure they put on women to have as many children as possible. Children these women do not want to have and they are not capable of taking care of. Family planning methods are not allowed, only spreading children with the help of ‘natural’ methods is acceptable. Not only leads this to generations of children nobody wants and are not able to take care of, the prohibition on the use of condoms means that AIDS can freely spread around. In MKUKUTA II is written that the government wants to reduce the fertility rate from 5.9 to 5.7 in 2015. They have made faith based organisations in charge of family planning. The amount of unwanted children will not reduce in the coming generation if it is up to the government and the church/mosque.

1.3  Oppression by Culture

In most countries culture is considered a description of what the majority of people voluntarily do in terms of eating, habits, arts, expressions, etc. However in Tanzania culture is a whole different concept. Culture is seen as a set of rules, unwritten laws, people have to obey by. There are rules for everything and then really everything: what you do, see, eat, dress, cook, how to behave and everything else that you can think of. Nothing is voluntarily, the saying here is: “you have to do it, because it is our culture”. There is enormous pressure to do exactly as the rules prescribe. You can ask any Tanzanian what is your culture and they will all come with the same (standard) answer: “Tanzania is a poor but very peaceful country. Tanzanians are very nice and polite people. We have respect for important and older people. We take care of each other and share everything. Tanzanians love children and these children are raised in extended families.”
            This all sounds very nice and on the surface it does look like this. However, under the surface there is a lot going on that gives a complete different picture of the culture that exists in Tanzania. I have already explained that Tanzania is not a poor country, nor is it peaceful as will become more clear in the paragraphs to come. Before explaining the rest let us first take a side step into communication, as much of a culture originates in the way people communicate. In Tanzania, as in most African countries, there is a lack of communication skills. This originates, in my opinion, from the school system in which the teacher talks and the children listen. There is no interaction between the two.
In addition, the teacher feels him/herself all knowing and does not allow criticism, opinions, questions or any other expression of him/her not being able to give a clear explanation. Violating this rule can lead to being punished with a stick. Asking questions is something you try to avoid in any case because people here believe that asking questions is an expression of being stupid, so the other children will laugh about your stupidity. The only thing you are allowed to do is listening. As parents are brought up the same way, you see this same pattern in families and communities. Children are not allowed to voice their questions or opinions, any expression can lead to being beaten. But also adults refrain from expressing their opinions or asking questions since they have never learned to do this. On top of that, as we read above, you have to keep the peace and expressing your opinion can lead to a disagreement or conflict, which has to be avoided at all cost.
People are nice and polite. Yes they are, because they will never express any disagreement because they have never learned to do that and you have to be nice otherwise you can start a conflict. People never have an argument here, nobody ever disagrees, nobody ever questions other people’s motives or behaviour, because they cannot and are not allowed to. So, everybody is nice and polite. This also means that people do not know each other; they never talk about anything relevant. People call themselves best friends but have no idea about the occupation, interest and sometimes even the name of the other person. Normally you are nice to people you like, in Tanzania you do not even know who you like because you do not know each other, you are just nice to everybody, even the ones you probably do not like because he or she has done something bad to you. However, you are not allowed to voice your grievance, so you play nice and polite; that is the rule.
Having respect for older and important people. This is an interesting concept. First an explanation of older and important people: older people is everybody who is older than you: brother, niece, aunt, parent, grandparent, and any other person who was born before you, important people are people with important jobs (government officials, businessmen, police, doctors, etc.) and white people. Having respect for somebody means in other cultures that you treat that person with respect, it is about your attitude and behaviour towards that person. I got confused in Tanzania because the people they claim they have respect for are being lied at, robbed, beaten or even killed just like any other person.
What is going on? Having respect for somebody in Tanzania means you say ‘Shikamoo’, and that is it. This is how you express your respect. It has nothing to do with what we understand with the word respect. According to the Tanzanians ‘we’ (foreigners) have no respect for other people because we do not have an equivalent in English for the word ‘Shikamoo’. What does ‘Shikamoo’ mean? It appears that you use the word for people you are scared of. It is a way of establishing the power relationship. When you say ‘Shikamoo’ to somebody you tell that person: ‘I am less than you, you have power over me, I will do everything you ask me to do.’ A lot of cultural practices are based in this concept and leads to poverty on household and national level. We will come back to that.
‘We take care of each other’. Up till now I have not been able to determine what they mean by that. As you will read in the next paragraphs you can only come to the opposite conclusion: that they do not take care of each other because they do not care about each other. My guess is that it is related to another rule in this culture: you have to share everything. People share everything not because they want to, but because they have to. This means if one person in a family has a salary he/she has to share it with their extended family, ending up paying for the school fees of nephews and nieces. This sounds nice but it prevents this person and his/her household from getting out of poverty and, in addition, no middle class can develop which is essential for an economy. In Tanzania there are very rich and very poor people, there is hardly any middle class and this cultural rule is one of the reasons for that.
If you are one of the younger members of a family it gets worse. Not only do you have to share also the ‘Shikamoo’-principle works for you. This means any older relative can demand you to do or give something. This leads among other things that children of older relatives are being made the responsibility of the younger members of a family. Sometimes it is contribution for expenses but it can go as far as that children are placed in the house. Many stories go around of older relatives producing more and more children and placing these children in the households of their younger siblings or cousins. Here we end up by children being taking care of by the extended family. Yes, but not they want to but because they have to. Very often these households already have too many children for their limited budget and they receive an extra burden by being forced to take care of children of older relatives. These unwanted children run a great risk of being abused or killed.
Tanzanians loving children is expressed only by the fact that they have lots of children. According to the people that is how you show love for children. People in the US and Europe do not love children because they only have a few. However, expression of real love is completely absent. Children are treated as third-class citizens; they are being yelled at, beaten, raped and murdered. They have absolute no value until the time they start earning a living. Love is a concept that is unknown to people as they have never learned to love, it is something you are supposed to learn when you are a child. For generations children are being treated this way, so parents from now do not know anything different then the way they were brought up. The rule is you have to love children, meaning: put as many children as possible into this world.
Concluding we can say that what on the surface looks like a nice culture is actually a culture prison. People have to obey by these rules whether they can afford to or not. There are a lot of cultural and traditional practices that result in the oppression of women and children. This paragraph is by far not the complete picture of the strain that is weighing on people, put on them by the government, church/mosque and themselves. Themselves: because this culture is what they themselves have created. This is a prison they have built with their own hands and keeps into existence by their own choice.

1.4  Violence

The amount of violence in Tanzania is rising at alarming rates. We can identify several categories: Violence by the state, Mob justice, Gender based violence, Violence against minorities, Witchcraft, Conflicts about land and Human Rights violations. Let us pass along all of them, one by one. Violence by the state is very broad. In former paragraphs we can already read the psychological and physical harm done to people due to oppression, control and the poverty strategy the government is pursuing. In addition, we see more and more police violence, authorized by the state. Violence against the opposition is displayed by forcefully breaking up peaceful demonstrations. Violence against suspects of crimes resulting in suspects being shot at in stead of arrested. Violence against pastoralists whereby cattle is relocated by the police in non-grazing zones and people are charged huge bribes to receive a part of their livestock back. The rest stays in possession of the police officers. Harassment of citizens by for instance the traffic police, whereby citizens are demanded to pay bribes for whatever the police officer has come up with.
            Mob justice is a common theme in newspapers whereby citizens take the law into their own hands and beat up or kill suspects of crimes. If this is instigated by the fact that the police and justice system are inadequate and corrupt, or if it is just giving people an excuse to release an already existing rage is not clear.
The reports on gender based violence (GBV) are slowly giving a more complete picture of the situation prevailing in Tanzania. The amount of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is shockingly high up to 80% of girls and women in a certain area being mutilated. 25% of 18 year old girls are pregnant or already have a child. This is the top of the iceberg as we do not know how many under age girls were bribed into having sex with or were raped by paedophiles, as not all of them have become pregnant. It gives a very grim picture. In addition there is a culture of oppression of women and girls that prevents them from having an education, receive proper healthcare resulting in a higher number of maternal deaths, becoming economically independent or be free from any form of violence.
            Violence against minority groups is widespread and somehow acceptable in Tanzanian culture as most minority groups are seen as less human. People with albinism are mutilated and killed as according to traditional believes their body parts make you rich. Old women are killed after being accused of being a witch. Disabled children are locked up in houses and neglected and abused as they are born under the influence of the devil, according to a traditional believe.
In the past witchcraft was mainly used for traditional healing, however nowadays their practices have moved to the more lucrative business of aiding and inflicting bodily harm or death of people. As this goes by distance nobody is ever responsible and the practice can continue with impunity.
            Conflicts about land are becoming more violent. As the livelihoods of a growing number of people are threatened by the lack of poverty reduction, people are getting more and more desperate to protect the little bit they have. As tensions are rising the way people deal with conflicts becomes more violent. Destruction of property and inflicting bodily harm becomes more apparent.
Human Rights violations are widespread. As mentioned before the rights of women, children and minority groups are violated on a large scale. In addition there is human trafficking, forceful evictions, the violation on the right to basic needs, development, justice, freedom of speech, freedom of joining or supporting opposition political parties, the right to life, the right to self-determination, and so on and so on. The list is endless.

1.5  Psychological, Physical and Sexual Abuse

The most accepted forms of violence in Tanzania have not been mentioned yet and will be discussed here: domestic and community violence. Domestic violence has its origin in three areas. The first area is the lack of communication skills. Since people are not able to express their feelings verbally this often leads to the use of violence as expression form. As a result wives and children are often beaten by husband and father, but children are also beaten by their mothers. Teaching children good behaviour is not by means of explanations but by verbal and physical abuse for bad behaviour.
Secondly, people have more children than they can afford. Women are pressed to put as many children as possible in the world by their husband, society and church or mosque. However, these households do not have the money to cater for all these children. Children are expensive and most rural households have no or a very small income. This leads to enormous pressure to keep the family alive and pay all the bills. This pressure leads to tension, frustration and anger and is expressed by psychological and physical abuse of children. The abuse is even worse for children growing up with guardians not being their biological parents, to the point of being killed. This is a rising trend in Tanzania.
Thirdly, the Tanzanian view on women and children: women are perceived as 1) sex object; 2) children producers; and 3) domestic worker. They are second class citizens with no rights. Even women themselves see themselves as stupid and deserve to be beaten. Children are perceived as third class citizens and have absolutely no rights. They are worthless until they start making money and are being told so. As a result the number of women and girls being raped rises at an alarming rate in the households in Tanzania. As domestic violence has a great potential for recurrence in the next generation, as nobody knows what is ‘normal’, this is a vicious cycle going on already for decades and will only increase in future generations.
Community violence is domestic violence spread out into the community. Since the same norms and values as within the households are shared in the community also the violence against women and children spreads out into the villages and living areas. Children are being beaten by any relative, community member or teacher if they decide it needs to be punished. Girls are at great risk being raped by paedophiles in the extended family, community and school. The psychological abuse of diminishing women and children to lesser human beings is portrayed all around.

2. Behaviour of People

What follows are descriptions of negative and destructive behaviour noticeable in Tanzania.

2.1  Lying

In most countries people lie for two reasons: 1) to prevent being accused of any wrong doing; 2) to gain something. Not in Tanzania. Lying is a way of live, a means of communication. People lie about everything. Most of the time you wonder why they were lying in the first place because they did not gain anything out of it, on the contrary they just made other people being angry at them. The most reasonable explanation seems to be that they say what they think you want to hear. People like to hear nice stories and expect you to tell them nice things, they do not want to hear that you refuse to do something or any other message they do not want to receive. In addition, telling people what they want to hear prevents you from entering into a conflict.
            Many people have already told me if you want to become the president of Tanzania you have to tell people that they will become rich, have water, electricity, jobs, etc. etc. If you tell people they have to work hard you will never become president. It is amazing because everybody is complaining that politicians are lying, but is that not what they expect from them? Then there are people who take it to the next level and promise people, mostly women, they will do something for them for payment. These women pay and nothing ever happens. These conmen can easily go about their business because nobody is allowed to complain because that might create a conflict.

2.2  Jealousy

People are very jealous in Tanzania. But not in a good way. They do not think: ‘I want that too, so I work hard to achieve the same.’ No, it is a destructive jealousy that causes people to destroy other people’s properties or life. Stories are numerous of women destroying the new businesses of other women. Cooperation between people is almost impossible in Tanzania because people are afraid that the other person might gain more out of the cooperation than they will.

2.3  Discrimination

Discrimination is rampant in Tanzania. Everybody who is not a healthy adult male from a certain tribe is being discriminated. The worst affected groups are women without children, people with albinism, people infected with HIV/AIDS, disabled people and homosexuals. However, discrimination extents also to: children, women, people from other tribes, non-Africans and members of a family where somewhere in the past a mixed marriage took place.

2.4  Feelings of Being a Victim

In Tanzania, but also in other African countries, most visible by men have the feeling they are a victim. Women show this in a lesser extent but it is certainly not absent. This is demonstrated in the fact that men are never to be blamed for anything. Whatever bad thing they have done, it is never their fault: they were forced by other people, God or circumstances out of their control. Unfortunately the whole society aids men in this feeling by giving excuses as why men did what they did. For instance, last year the fact that men are waiting outside schools to bribe girls for sex was prominent in the news. Not only blamed everybody (including the president) the girls for this practice, no it got worse. Men could not help themselves because they were attracted by the colours of the school uniforms, and wives of these men were advised to wear clothes in the same colours as the uniforms.
            This feeling of being a victim leads to another phenomenon I have never seen on such a large scale as here in Tanzania: Begging. Everybody begs in Tanzania: poor people, rich people and extremely rich people. People are the victim of ‘our’ involvement in their affairs that made ‘us’ rich, starting with colonialism, and now they feel it is their right to receive what ‘we’ have. They demand your money, clothes, bag, and payment of their hospital bill, lunch, dinner or whatever else they can think of. Here in Lushoto people are very angry that the tourists (mostly backpackers) who come here only pay for their own meals and not give the people of Lushoto a meal.

2.5  Laziness

If you ask women why Tanzanians are poor one of the first answers you get is laziness. Men are capable to sit the whole day, every day on a bench doing absolutely nothing. I have asked some of these sometimes very young men how they are able to sit on a bench or hang around a bar drinking Konyagi or beer every day. According to them there is nothing to do. Amazing because I look around and I see so many things that can be done. There are plots laying idle, holes in the roads, garbage everywhere and grandma’s who could really use some assistance carrying heavy bags from the market to their houses. However, in Tanzania people do nothing for free. If you want them to do something you have to pay. Unfortunately the prospect of receiving money if they do something for you is no guarantee they will show up. They might prefer to stay in bed or sit in a bar.
            Quite a number of people who do have a job portray the same attitude. They always complain they have too much work, but are actually rarely in the office. If you enter an office in Tanzania you have to tell the person ‘Pole ya Kazi’: Sorry you have work. Work is something you have to avoid at all cost in Tanzania. This problem is partly created due to some strange idea people have here that people in the US and Europe do not do anything but receive huge salaries. According to Tanzanians ‘we’ have machines doing the work and ‘we’ sit the whole day watching these machines and at the end of the month ‘we’ receive amazingly high salaries for that. Tanzanians want that too. It is very unfair that they have to work for little money while ‘we’ receive large amounts of money by doing nothing.

2.6  Egocentrism and Egoism

The people in Tanzania are very egocentric and egoistic. Egocentric means people think they are the centre of the universe. This is shown in the fact that they perceive that what other people do or not do has something to do with them. If a person has not been greeted on the street he/she is very upset and thinks that the other person does not like him/her. It also results in the demand that other people look after them. They expect other people to feed them, take care of him/her or his/her family. The rest of the world exists to take care of you.
Egoism means that you take whatever you need regardless the consequences. The most extreme forms of egoism in Tanzania are the large scale and widespread corruption, which goes literally over dead bodies, and rape of women and children. Especially men take whatever they need or desire regardless. Whether that leads to death of people, unwanted pregnancies or spreading of the HIV virus is not relevant; they have a right to have their needs fulfilled.

2.7  Irresponsibility

Egocentrism and egoism leads to irresponsibility. Since women as young girls were forced to take care of younger siblings and (a part of) the household they have been taught some sense of responsibility. However, boys do not get these tasks and this leads to a complete absence of responsibility in adult men. They drink the household money, do not take any action as to take care of or provide food for their wives and children and leave the payments of school fees and other expenses to their wives. Although there are exceptions, this is a widespread phenomenon. The lack of responsibility is also shown in the figures of traffic accidents. Men use the roads as racetracks for their own pleasure, taking over when it is not possible and when the situation gets complicated they accelerate in stead of slowing down; a recipe for disaster.

3. The Cause-Effect Chain

Let us put together what we have so far:

Causes of trauma:
  • Oppression by the Government (peace enforcement and poverty strategy)
  • Oppression by Religion
  • Oppression by Culture
  • Violence
  • Psychological, Physical and Sexual Abuse
Behaviour of people:
  • Lying
  • Jealousy
  • Discrimination
  • Feelings of Being a Victim
  • Laziness
  • Egocentrism and Egoism
  • Irresponsibility
Looking at the list of behaviour we can conclude they are all the result of the list of causes of trauma. Let us try to unravel this cause-effect chain. As you can see there are three levels of oppression: government, church/mosque and society (cultural oppression). All this oppression and control leads to the fact that people do not have a free will, own opinion, own preferences or choice. Everything is preconceived in rules, and people have to walk a path that is prescribed by others. People have the feeling they have absolutely no control over their own lives because they keep being told that the government, God or Allah determines their lives. People feel completely powerless and this leads to depression and apathy.
            People get angry at and are jealous of other people who were able to escape this depressive stage, or where never in this stage because they were never poor in the first place, and have achieved something they can only dream of. In addition, humiliating other people (discrimination) is a tool often used to make you feel better.  Due to the complete lack of efforts of the government to relieve people from the burden of extreme poverty their situation seems hopeless and never-ending. They are trapped in a vicious cycle they cannot break because they themselves have built with their culture high walls which makes an escape impossible.
            This situation is in existence for generations now as a result of the determination by all layers of oppression that women need to give birth to as many children as possible. Poverty is being transferred to the next generation and the next. The children born will have a lack of healthcare and education leading to poor health and being doomed to engage in subsistence farming. This causes enormous frustrations, anger and hatred visible in the rising amount of violence towards: women, children, minority groups, marginalised groups, suspects of crimes and adversaries in conflicts.
            The psychological, physical and sexual abuse of children combined with emotional neglect has serious consequences. First of all, consistently beating children for their opinions, views, ideas and questions has as effect that as an adult people perceive any opposition towards their comments as a personal attack. This is very visible in politics where any criticism from people on policy ends in an accusation of it being a personal attack. Many parliamentarian discussions are ending in this kind of useless battles about why this MP was attacking that MP (or the President or a minister).
            Secondly, all this violence in a child’s life ends often in a generation long spiral of violence as people have not learned to resolve their conflicts differently, or have any reference as to what is ‘normal’. Thirdly, all this violence, oppression and control feeds the feeling of being a victim. People grow the idea that the whole world is against them. Even after becoming a perpetrator the feeling that he/she is a victim persists. Fourthly, the lack of time mothers have to spend with their children leads to a lack of upbringing. Nothing is being taught, the child only receives punishments. A child needs to learn responsibility, respect others, sharing, cooperation and caring for others. If this is only taught in a negative way, children will refuse to learn or only do it under pressure. Hence, the enormous pressure from culture on adults to behave like this. Unfortunately it has never become a characteristic of people so it is only by appearance not by heart.
            Fifthly, the emotional neglect of parents has as consequence that emotionally children do not grow up. Adults are emotionally still in a child stage. When you are born you are extremely egocentric, you need to be otherwise you will not survive. You demand by screaming that the people around you feed you, clean you and pay attention to you. Till the age of 4/5 years children think they are the centre of the universe. And other people are there to fulfil their needs. It is the job of parents to teach them that this is not the case.
Parents have to teach their children that they are not the only one in the world and that there are other people with needs, wishes and feelings. By giving children positive attention and love children learn to respect others, not to hurt others and behave socially. Emotional attention also teaches children to love other people, care for other people, trust other people and make friends, meaning really connect with other people. Unfortunately this does not happen so the adult population of Tanzania behaves like 5 year old children. They are egocentric, irresponsible, asocial, are not capable of imagining what other people feel, are not capable of making friends, love and care for others or really connect with other people.
Sixthly, lying is a survival technique a child learns to please its parents. Making sure that parents only hear what they want to hear prevents punishment. Herewith, the circle is closed: the causes of trauma lead to the behaviour observed which in its turn leads to the causes, to behaviour, etc. It is a spiral which becomes longer and stronger every generation.
This analysis is by far not extensive. The effects of abuse and neglect are numerous and complicated. Symptoms vary and include continuous fear, identity crisis, lack of initiative, feeling dirty, sleep disorders, eating disorders, lack of confidence, feeling powerless, feeling less human, never feeling safe, nightmares, depression, feeling angry and being suicidal. The extend and intense of symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder varies per person and most plays out inside the heads of the victims, not observable to the outside world. Although numerous books are written about PTSD, the effect it has when a large segment of a society suffers from it is unknown to me. I fear the worst.

What is the end result of all this?
  1. A population locked up in a prison of oppression and control;
  2. A population in poverty feeling completely powerless to change anything about their situation;
  3. A society that shows all signs of a traumatised population;
  4. Women who feel worthless to such an extent it becomes almost unbeatable;
  5. A population completely filled up with anger, hatred and frustration;
  6. A population who’s only means known to them to release this anger, hatred and frustration is the use of violence;
  7. A population that not only not feels connected to each other but even hates each other;
  8. A government which is getting richer on the expense of its citizens;
  9. A government that does not show any sign of responsibility.
This is not the end of it since we have not discussed yet the fourth layer of oppression that in the past 50 years maybe unintentionally but nonetheless has reinforced the spiral, and with that has made it even more complicated to break it. We are talking about development aid. What has development aid contributed to this situation?

  1. With the help of donors the same government has been able to stay in power for 50 years and has without complications been able to execute their poverty strategy;
  2. Since NGOs are doing the work of the government (build schools and hospitals, implement health and economic programme’s) the government has been enabled to do absolutely nothing and pocket the money which was meant for these projects and programmes;
  3. Because in the world of development cooperation culture is elevated to a higher, untouchable level never to be changed, the culture of oppression, control and all harmful cultural and traditional practices have been allowed to stay in place and develop. For 50 years now ‘we’ have allowed that the rights of women and children are grossly violated every day of their lives;
  4. With all ‘our’ foreign aid ‘we’ have explicitly and implicitly told the Tanzanian people that they need ‘us’ to solve their problems and lift them out of poverty;
  5. De population has been made even more powerless than they already were, since apparently even their government is not capable of solving the problems;
  6. De citizens of Tanzania are now patiently waiting till these foreigners take their responsibility and lift them out of poverty.
Before we go to the solutions let me clarify something first. The above reasoning gives explanations as to why people behave the way they behave, these are not excuses. There is never an excuse for abuse and rape of women and children. Never. It is unacceptable behaviour. Even though you might have grown up as a victim of abuse it is your own choice to continue the spiral or stop it. Being rude, asocial, corrupt, a liar or egoist is your own choice. It does not cost anything to behave differently; being poor, as is the excuse given here for bad behaviour, is not a valid excuse.
            People are locked up in a culture they created themselves. It is they who put all this pressure on themselves; they have built this prison and maintain it. It would help if ‘we’ would stop romanticising the African culture. The African culture is not a mature culture; it is created and designed by people with an emotional level of a 5 year old. Therefore this whole culture is full of child games. Games to establish who is more important, games to establish who has more power, games to establish who has control over who, games to humiliate people. We see destructive jealousy, ostracising people, discrimination, beatings, doing what ever you want regardless the consequences, egoism, egocentrism, playing the victim. It is all childish behaviour. This is a destructive culture, not a mature culture designed to empower and develop people.

4. Solutions

The cause-effect chain ultimately leads to people feeling powerless and worthless and results in depression and apathy. This brings us to the answer of the question why development aid is not working. As you can conclude from the above people are trying to survive on 2 levels:

  1. Material (water, sanitation, health, education, food, etc); and
  2. Psychological.
Up till now most actors in development aid have only focused on the material level. But as has been made clear above, it is the psychological level that keeps people in poverty. No matter how much you invest in the material level, it will never get people out of poverty. Even worse the more you invest in the material level the lower the psychological level becomes. This is one step forward, three steps back.

What is the way forward?

First of all, all budget support should stop immediately. At the moment this feeds the pockets of an immature, greedy elite and prevents the government from ever becoming responsible. In stead a group of responsible UNers (with the emphasise on responsible) should take over the functions of the government and get things back on track, in the meanwhile build the capacity of responsible Tanzanians who are able to take over after a few years. This may sound as colonialism and non-democratic (as the Tanzanians are chosen by the UN in stead of the people) but I like to call this common sense. We need a rigorous and forceful eradication of corruption and have a government who knows how to lead a country.
            All contracts with foreign companies now owning all natural resources of Tanzania should be shredded and new contracts in which the Tanzanian people actually gain from living on a ‘gold mine have to be drawn. In addition, all offshore bank accounts of current and previous top leaders should be broken open and the money returned to the government coffers. This should easily fill up the gap the cut in budget support leaves behind for the coming years.
            Secondly, all actors in development cooperation should leave the country. As at the moment they are part of the problem it is necessary to take a break. All actors should go back to the drawing table and look closely at the causes of poverty and start designing projects and programmes that actually address these causes. But for all these new efforts to be effective it is necessary that that there is an enabling environment, hence the implementation of the first action of addressing the government issue.

A new paradigm.

There is a need for a rigorous change in the concept of development cooperation. For more than 60 years development aid was based on a romantic picture of the African culture, drawn by anthropologists and others who did not realise what they were looking at. It is important to shift our ideas about the people, we should move from seeing them as victims to looking at them as actors in the process that keeps them in poverty. That opens up the opportunity to address the psychological level. As it is the psychological level that prevents people from getting out of poverty, that is were the focus should be.
What is needed is a complete cultural and behavioural change. The violence, oppression and control have to stop. People have to learn to communicate, deal with conflicts peacefully and respect the rights of women and children, among other things. People need to feel in control again over their own lives, they need self-confidence and respect, and people need to live in a safe environment free from violence. Only then will they be able to use the opportunities, tools and means which are available in an effective way to improve their lives.