Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Letter from Butiama: The peace march

This is one of numerous articles I wrote for the Sunday News (Tanzania) column "Letter from Butiama" between 2005 and 2011. Publication date: 3rd July 2005.

Last Wednesday* and Thursday the villagers of Butiama were co-hosts, together with the Mara regional authorities, to a group of young men and women who spent the previous one-and-a-half months walking in a peace march from Dar es Salaam to Butiama.

The march was organized by an NGO called Parents Association for the Advancement of Students. From an initial group that had set-off from Dar es Salaam in May, 133 made it to Butiama covering more than 1,300 kilometres on foot.

After arrival on 29th June they delivered a speech in front of invited guests and handed a national flag carried along from Dar es Salaam to the guest of honour and acting Mara Regional Commissioner, Mr. Ernest Kahindi, who is also District Commissioner for Musoma Rural district.

Mr. Kahindi handed the flag back to the next person behind him, Tarime's District Commissioner Paschal Mabiti and Mr. Mabiti did the same and handed the flag to me as I stood behind him. Standing with the national flag made me feel part of an imporant event in history. If only they knew they would have probably requested that someone else should hold the flag.

I began this year with a resolution: I had to exercise so that I could maintain what I still possess of my physical and mental capacities. The least demanding exercise, I learnt, and one which one takes part in with almost no investment was walking. It was ideal for those who had not taken part in physical exercises for a long time and the pace and distance could be increased after the body became accustomed to the physical exertion.

For about two weeks in January, I began with a short walk of a little more than two-and-a-half kilometres which I managed to complete in about thirty minutes. I realized it was too little exercise and I doubled the distance which I measured to be 5.8 kilometres. I also began to look forward to logging some 2,000 kilometres by the end of the year. By the end of January I began to skip my daily walks.

At the end of January I began recording the distances I was walking each day. For the month of February I walked for two days and those two days closed the chapter on my new year's resolutions. That is why I believe if those marchers knew I had managed to walk only 11.6 kilometres for the entire month of February they would most likely have  chosen someone else to hold the national flag.

One of the organizers later told me he had unsuccessfully tried to contact me to join the march in Dar es Salaam. It is just as well he failed; from my experience with the failed new year resolution, I would probably still be somewhere near Morogoro with more than a thousand kilometres to cover.

The idea of nurturing the peaceful co-existence that prevails in Tanzania is not new. Political and religious leaders have constantly preached the importance of nurturing and protecting our relative peace and stability, especially during elections when matters sometimes reach boiling point. The concept of walking for a cause is not new either. What is unprecedented for Tanzania is the vast distance that the marchers covered.

Tanzanians possess what many elsewhere in the world do not have. The peace marchers not only reminded us that it is not enough that we live in relative peace, but that we must also take deliberate measures to ensure that the peace and stability endures. It is also crucial that we all defend that status quo to the best of each one's ability from those who may wish to destroy this harmony.

Some of the invited guests who included former Prime Minister Judge Joseph Warioba, Minister for Defense and National Service Prof. Philemon Sarungi, Member of Parliament for Musoma Rural, Hon. Nimrod Mkono, and Member of Parliament for Musoma Urban, Hon. Ibrahim Marwa, raised other important points. There are prerequisites to peace and stability: justice for all, the rule of law, zero tolerance of corruption, and a hunger-free population.

Butiama went down in history as a place where important marches begin and end. In 1967 Mwalimu Julius Nyerere led a group of Tanzanians in a walk from Butiama to Mwanza in support of the Arusha Declaration which outlined Tanzania's socialist development path. When Judge Warioba winded up his address to the marchers he told them that Mwalimu Nyerere, wherever he is, would be proud of their accomplishment. I only hope that Mwalimu doesn't find out about my failed new year's resolution.

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