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.

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