Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Kiroyera Campsite in Bukoba

When in Bukoba one of best locations for whiling the time away is the Kiroyera Campsite situated along the shores of Lake Victoria.

For those who prefer more traditional forms of accommodation there are traditional mshonge (grass) huts that remind the visitor of the older bullding traditions of Kagera.

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Monday, 29 October 2012

Visitors to Butiama: Asha and Abdul Salvador

The easiest path to fame is to have a musician friend.

Many years ago my friend and musician Abdul Salvador and his wife, Asha, visited Butiama and performed a number of live shows with their band, Hisia Sounds. They traveled from Dar es Salaam by bus through Arusha and Nairobi, Kenya, and re-entered Tanzania at the Sirari border post before arriving in Butiama, which is about two hours' drive from Sirari.

On their arrival in Butiama, I recall Salvador's comment, who was traveling to northern Tanzania for the first time: "Tanzania is a huge country. Imagine you have to travel through another country to reach parts of this country!"

Those were the days before the Government of Tanzania executed a decision to rebuild and improve the road from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza, particularly the section between Singida and Mwanza. As a consequence bus operators introduced daily bus services between Dar and Mwanza and even up to Musoma. As a further consequence there is no bus company that serves the longer Dar - Nairobi - Musoma/Mwanza route.

For this number, from left to right, the author of this blog, Evaristus Nchia (stage name, "Dokta Nchia"), Asha Sa;vador, and Abdul salvador.
When Hisia sounds performed at what was once the Makuti Bar in Butiama I was one of the chorus singers on stage. I admit that I danced much better than I sang. Many in Butiama still recall with fond memories Hisia Sounds' visit and my brief moment of fame.

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Singida choir members visit Butiama

Members of the St. Cecilia Choir of the Catholic Church in Singida yesterday paid a visit to Butiama and visited the mausoluem of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere.

They were winding up their tour of Mara region and were traveling from Musoma to Isenye on their way to Singida through the Serengeti National Park.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Yes, Mt. Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania and Hans Meyer is from Leipzig

Late last year I had the best elements converge for putting together an interesting blog post and I did not find out until much later. Maybe not of interest to everyone, but certainly of interest to people who read about Mt. Kilimanjaro.

I visited the German city of Leipzig in November 2011 and my visit had a lot to do with Mt. Kilimanjaro. I visited Benjamin Leers and Maurice Housni with whom in December 2011 I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro while they filmed a documentary that is about to be released. To promote the climb and the documentary, we were interviewed at a radio station. Mt. Kilimanjaro was on the subject of most conversations during those few days I was in Leipzig.

Several months after I returned to Tanzania I discovered that the genesis of the mountaineering chronology of Mt. Kilimanjaro is rooted in Leipzig. Hans Meyer (1858 - 1929) is the first European to reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro on 6th October 1889.

The monument at Marangu Gate on Mt. Kilimanjaro in honour of Hans Meyer.
He worked at his father's publishing house in Leipzig and later became a professor at the University of Leipzig. He was buried in Leipzig.

Meyer reached the summit with Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller. Their climbing team included nine porters, a cook, and a guide called Yohani Kinyala Lauwo (1871 - 1996). Lauwo is described in some literature as the first person to reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Next to Hans Meyer's monument at Marangu Gate is a monument that honours Yohani Kinyala Lauwo and his team of porters who accompanied Hans Meyer to Mt. Kilimanjaro's summit. 

Friday, 26 October 2012

The exotic flowers of Mt. Kilimanjaro: Protea kilimanjaro

The Protea kilimanjaro is one of many variations, said to be close to 1600 species, of the plant family

It looks like a unitary flower but is actually a collection of flowers that are densely packed into a bulb that opens up at a certain stage of its maturity.
An 'open' Protea kilimanjaro plant on the Lemosho route of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
While on the lower slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro's Marangu route the hiker can view this unique plant.

At maturity the flowers dry and open up and the lifeless form appears to have been burnt by a bush fire.
I am tired of hearing stories of Tanzanians whining about Kenyan tour operators luring tourists to Kenya with the false claim that Mt. Kilimanjaro is in Kenya. I believe Tanzanian tour operators ought to counter these Kenyan operators by their own aggressive marketing campaigns.

I was surprised nevertheless while seeking information on the Protea kilimanjaro that the little information available includes an entry in the Wikipedia which describes the Protea kilimanjaro as found "...in the chaparral zone of Mt. Kenya National Park." Without any mention of Mt. Kilimanjaro? Makes you go: "mmmhhhh."

Just in case it is still not clear: Mt. Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Akamwani: A traditional welcome gesture in Kagera, Tanzania

A guest to a home in Kagera region will normally receive the traditional snack of coffee beans, known as akamwani in the Haya dialect.

Akamwani is made from Robusta coffee beans and is served to the visitor immediately after the exchange of greetings. Robusta coffee beans are smaller compared to Arabica coffee beans.

When coffee is almost mature but is still green in color it is harvested and washed, and mixed with special herbs to augment its aroma. The mixing of these herbs is known in the Haya dialect as akachumba mwani. The mix is then boiled in a pot for about eight hours and then dried in the shade.

Akamwani was traditionally used in various social events, such as during ceremonies for joining two friends in a covenant that transforms their friendship into a family bond, or at the conclusion of a mourning period.

Both the outer shell and the bean itself can be eaten although I found it easier to chew the relatively softer bean.

Traditionally it was taboo for children and those living with their parents to eat akamwani. Children were warned that if they ate the snack their parents would die. The more probable reason for this taboo is that because coffee induces insomnia it would prevent children from sleeping and also prevent their parents from freely engaging in acts whose effect was to produce more offspring.

The traditional Haya house, or mshonge, consisted of a single thatched-roof round building with a single entrance, a central cooking space, and various sleeping compartments made of straw or wicker partitions for the parents and female children. The male children slept in the open spaces around the mshonge.

Parents seeking privacy in the mshonge could only get that privacy when the children were asleep.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Mwalimu Nyerere: the person, lifestyle, and personal philosophy

On the ocassion today of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere's 13th death anniversary, I share a few thoughts on Tanzania's founding president, a leader who has not olny left a lasting impression on Tanzania's political landscape but has captivated the attention of admirers and detractors beyond Tanzania.


One common thread that unifies the persona of Mwalimu Nyerere was his unwavering devotion to the advancement and welfare of his fellow human beings. He repeatedly drove home this point in his public discourses by saying that the ultimate purpose of all social, economic and political activity must serve to provide benefits to all citizens.

I quote extensively from one of his speeches, delivered at the launch of his the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation in Dar es Salaam, as the words encapsulates some his most fundamental beliefs:

“There are many good and honest people who believe that those ideas, which in this country are associated with my name are now dead and should be properly buried. You will not be surprised to hear that I disagree! Great ideas do not die so easily; they continue nagging and every human society in history ignores them at its own peril. And I can say this without inhibition or pretended modesty because in a very real sense they are not my ideas. I never invented them. I am simply a believer, like many other believers, in the world and in human history. I believe in the equality and dignity of all human beings, and the duty to serve, their well-being as well as their freedom in a peaceful and co-operative society. I am an ardent believer in the freedom and welfare of the individual. As I speak to you now I am asserting my own individuality, in a sense of community and fellowship with all other human beings wherever they may be. “Binadamu wote ni ndugu zangu”. That was not something that was said lightly. It came from a firm and profound belief in the nature and dignity of the Animal called the Human Being. I repeat: those ideas are not mine; but I am a believer. I have articulated them and will continue to articulate them with passion.”
A dedicated proponent of the primacy of the community as the driving force for transforming the welfare of the individual, Mwalimu Nyerere saw in socialism the means to express his beliefs.

That he should favour communal policies rather than policies that focused on the individual could have been a product of his upbringing. His father, Chief Nyerere Burito, was a chief of the small Zanaki ethnic community located south west of Lake Victoria. His mother, Mgaya wa Nyang’ombe, was the fifth of 22 wives of Chief Nyerere’s homestead, where tradition continues to elevate the needs of the community above the interests of the individual. He reportedly came under the influence of the Fabian Society during his studies at Edinburgh University, although it is evident that influence found congruence within his own upbringing.

He believed that the peaceful and long-term survival of humanity depended on the continued promotion and implementation of such policies. What is not shared can be, in the long run, the source of agitation, conflict, and even civil strife.

Throughout his political career and in his personal life he remained committed to the promotion of human equality and dignity, qualities that were ingrained in the Arusha Declaration, the policy framework that he proclaimed in 1967 to introduce a socialist path for his country.

The Declaration emphasized the abolition of exploitation of one individual by another, a reduction of the income gap between the rich and the poor, the establishment of a democratically-elected government, but of fundamental importance, ownership of the country’s natural resources was to remain under the ownership of the people through their government. The Arusha Declaration was anchored on the principle of equality.

The struggle for human equality and dignity was not confined to Tanzania only and even as the country prepared for independence from Britain on 9 December 1961, Mwalimu Nyerere was already looking beyond the country’s borders to the millions of Africans who remained under the domination of Portuguese rule in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Cape Verde, and Guinea Bissau and to those under white minority rule in Zimbabwe and South Africa. He believed that his country’s independence should serve as an impetus to those under the shackles of colonialism and white minority rule when he addressed the Tanganyika Legislative Assembly on 22 October 1959 saying: 

"We, the people of Tanganyika, would like to light a candle and put it on top of Mount Kilimanjaro which would shine beyond our borders giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate and dignity where before there was only humiliation".

While the general thrust for supporting the liberation struggles of African countries came from the Organization of African Unity, Tanzania under Mwalimu Nyerere’s leadership provided crucial moral and material support to the liberation movements.

While Mwalimu continued to vigorously defend action and policy based on his personal beliefs and philosophy, that defense was sometimes tampered by his view on human equality and dignity. At the end of the Tanzania – Uganda war, fought in 1978 –79, rejecting the views of his advisors, he released Libyan prisoners of war without claiming compensation from the Libyan government. Libya had sent troops to fight on Uganda’s side against the Tanzanian army. The dignity of the human being, even one who had fought against Tanzania, remained paramount.

A quality that even his critics have acknowledged was Mwalimu Nyerere’s integrity and his unflinching belief in the duty of a leader to serve those who put their trust in his leadership. He believed it was not enough that a leader should be of the highest integrity but that those surrounding him – family members, friends, colleagues – should also be consistent with that image.

Perhaps even more telling than his own words and the policies he pursued, Mwalimu lived his beliefs. He shunned materialism stating that the amassing of wealth, whether by the state, or by an individual was useless if it did not serve humans. He may possibly have been the lowest paid head of state during his time and, consequently, came close to losing a house built in Dar es Salaam from a bank loan. He failed to keep up with the interest payments and surrendered it to the bank. It was only through the intervention of his successor, President Ali Hassan Mwinyi, that the government paid off the loan and gave him possession of the house.

Authors have often written that he attended church daily, which is testament to a strong spirituality between him and his creator and, yet, a spirituality that did not blind him from recognizing the disadvantages faced by other faiths.

At independence the Church in Tanzania, unlike other religious organizations, had a well-established system of primary and secondary schools. After independence these were promptly nationalized under his administration, allowing Tanzanians of all faiths access to schools that could have remained under the exclusive control of Christians.

His spirituality was centered upon doing well for his fellow humans, a quality that is reflected both in the policies he pursued in his political life and in his personal life; his faith was not limited to Sundays only.

After his retirement in 1985, and in response to a plea from the Moslem cleric of his village, Butiama, Mwalimu Nyerere who, by coincidence was on one of his overseas travels that included a visit to Libya, asked Libyan leader Col. Muammar Ghadaffi to donate money to repair the Butiama mosque. Col. Ghadaffi is reported to have said he had no money for repairing a mosque but had money for building a new one. The donated funds were handed to Mwalimu and applied towards the construction of a large mosque in place of the small, dilapidated one. 

The mere act of seeking the assistance from an individual who had committed arms and men against Tanzania during the Ugandan war suggests that in Mwalimu, issues transcended personalities. The issue arose when Idi Amin ordered Ugandan troops to invade Tanzania; Tanzania, under Mwalimu Nyerere’s leadership, responded by waging a war against Uganda and, in the process, reclaimed its territory and resolved the issue.

When I was approached by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 2009 to participate in a week-long series of broadcasts to mark the 30th anniversary of the war against Uganda, a commemoration that would also include my meeting with Jaffar Amin, one of Amin’s sons, I accepted without hesitation. When Jaffar stepped out of the car and I embraced him in salutation, a stone’s throw from Mwalimu’s final resting place, I was convinced that no minor tremor would be recorded around Mwalimu’s mausoleum.

Mwalimu remained firm when defending Tanzania’s interests and after those interests were protected he found little difficulty in advancing acts of reconciliation to those who threatened these interests.

One cannot distinguish the person, from his personal philosophy, and from his lifestyle because he practiced what he believed in; he did not preach moral principles on the podium and practice the opposite in his private life. There was little to differentiate between Mwalimu, the leader, and the person. The two were fused into one character and that character was founded on his personal beliefs and philosophy.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Clash of cultures on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Once, a long time ago while studying in Milan, I was in car with some Italian friends and one of them broke wind, very publicly and quiet loudly. It should not be a subject that demands attention, but it offers a study on the stark contrast in cultural norms.

It happened again during my recent climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I have for my past six climbs climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro on the Lemosho route where only tented accommodation is available on the trek. This time I used the Marangu route, which is unique for its scenic landscape and stunning views of both Mawenzi and Kibo peaks. The Marangu route offers accommodation only in shared log cabins. I have never shared tents on my Lemosho climbs and for a good reason; the privacy of one’s tent provides flexibility to the climber, from changing dirty clothing to staying away from the noise of a snoring neighbour. As one climber mentioned recently: “If a snorer sleeps before you you’ll have great difficulty falling asleep.” Sleep is most essential in recovering from the daily hikes from one camp to another.

Mawenzi peak as seen on the Marangu route.

So, I found myself sharing a cabin with four other European climbers who had absolutely no self-restraint in how much foul air they allowed into the atmosphere. I am not sure about how much they contributed to Global Warming, but I admit I was uncomfortable. For Tanzanians it is taboo for grown-ups to break wind in the presence of others. If an adult does so accidentally and a child happens to be nearby the child will be blamed for the act and scolded for such unbecoming behaviour.

I understand from my experience in Italy that, from the perspective of some cultures, it is acceptable behavior. But I suspect there are certain circumstances that may limit this behaviour. I cannot imagine that at a summit of G-7 leaders discussing the limiting of carbon emissions that you’ll have the same VIP delegates, heads of state and government of the world’s seven leading economies, liberally firing off some of the same gases that they are trying to limit.

The Tanzanian Tourist Board issues tips to foreign visitors on acceptable practices that conform with Tanzanian cultural norms. I wonder whether it is time now to caution visitors against restraining themselves - at least while in the cramped logged cabins on the Marangu route.

Friday, 5 October 2012

End of the Lake Victoria cruise

As the sun rises over the vast expanse of Lake Victoria, we are minutes from docking at Bukoba port after an overnight cruise from Mwanza.

Experts predict that if current environmental negative practices by humans living around Lake Vitoria remain unchecked, the lake will dry up in the future.

The irony is that future travelers between Mwanza and Bukoba might have the option of driving to and fro on a dry lake bed.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Sailing: Mwanza to Bukoba

Onboard MV Victoria.
I am on a night cruise on M.V. Victroria from Mwanza to Bukoba and am looking forward to some sound sleeping, courtesy of the gentle waves of Lake Victoria.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Could our cabinet ministers please shut up!

About two weeks ago a Tanzanian cabinet minister during a visit to one of Tanzania's ports was reported to have issued a directive to the port manager on an operations issue.

I understand ministers should only meddle in policy matters, not on day-to-day management of the public corporations under their ministries.

The lie that a political appointee is an expert on all matters under the jurisdiction of his/her ministry and is able to dispense, off the cuff, valuable advice and rulings is an impediment to placing responsibility on the experts and management teams tasked with implementing the ministry's projects and programs.

It's about time Tanzania's political cadre shuts up and allow the experts to work and earn their pay.

Policy formulation will then get the attention it deserves. And the politicians will also deservedly begin to earn their pay instead in poking their noses in other people's work.

The bonus to taxpayers is less travel by politicians and some savings on government expenditure.