Just days before we left for Africa, there was a public demonstration in Arusha, the larger of two towns in the foothills of Kilimanjaro. Several thousand supporters of the Chadema party had gathered in the town centre to protest what they say is the fraudulent re-election of President Jakaya Kikwete at the end of October. Two protesters were killed by the police and several officers and more protesters were injured.
On our final day of hiking, Sylvester asks us how many political parties there are in Canada. This leads to a long discussion about the structure of Canadian and Tanzanian governments. In Tanzania, he explains there are seven political parties, but the same one is always elected. The implication is that the fight is not always a fair one — hence the frustration that leads to protest. In his opinion, what Tanzanians want from their government is to “build the country”: update the roads, improve access to services like health care and education and manage its resources. The people are most angered by government corruption. He describes what he considers “big government” and how the old school politicians readily use taxpayer dollars to feather their own nests. Because education has traditionally been very expensive in Tanzania, only the rich could afford it and only the educated could become politicians, so comparatively wealthy men have been making themselves wealthier on the backs of their poorer countrypeople. But the younger generation, Sylvester says, is starting to speak up and he thinks change will come — although polepole.