On 12th February 2002 the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania denied JENERALI ULIMWENGU citizenship. Earlier in February 2001 Ulimwengu was declared by the Government to be stateless. This came as a big shock and surprise to many in the country and outside for Jenerali Ulimwengu has been a prominent member of the civil society and has served the country in various Government positions, including being a member of parliament. Please add your support by emailing or faxing your comments to THE GUARDIAN
'WHERE IS JENERALI ULIMWENGU
SUPPOSED TO GO - TO THE MOON?'
A PETITION BY CONCERNED PATRIOTIC INTELLECTUALS
On 12th February 2002 the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania denied JENERALI ULIMWENGU citizenship. Earlier in February 2001 Ulimwengu was declared by the Government to be stateless. This came as a big shock and surprise to many in the country and outside for Jenerali Ulimwengu has been a prominent member of the civil society and has served the country in various Government positions, including being a member of parliament.
JENERALI ULIMWENGU was born on 4th April 1948 in Ngara, Kagera Region of Tanzania. He went to school in Kamachumu, Katoke and Nyakato in Kagera and high school in Tabora from 1955 to 1968 and was a student of the then University of East Africa from 1969 to 1972. As a post-Arusha Declaration student at the premier academic and activist University, Ulimwengu was one of the activist radical students espousing progressive causes of African liberation and human emancipation. After leaving the University, he became an active member of the ruling party, then TANU (Tanganyika Afican National Union) and later CCM ('Chama cha Mapinduzi') as the following brief profile of his post-student service shows.
Daily News, Government Newspaper, from 1972 to 1974;
Mwanza Area Office, 1975;
Pan-African Youth Movement Tanzanian representative in Algiers, from 1974 to 1985;
TANU Youth League, from 1986 to 1987;
Director of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Culture and Sports, from 1987 to 1989.
District Commissioner from 1989 to 1993.
Member of National Executive Committee of the ruling party CCM, from 1992 to 1997; and,
Member of Parliament from 1990 to 1995.
In November 1993, Ulimwengu who is the Chairman of Habari Corporation, together with other committed journalists, established among the first independent weekly in Kiswahili called Rai, which immediately became very popular as the most informative, investigative, analytical and fearless news magazine in the country. In September 1995 and February 1998, their publishing venture launched a Kiswahili daily, Mtanzania and an English daily, the African respectively. Their publishing venture also owned two sports newspapers by this time. In all these, Jenerali Ulimwengu ran personal columns, which were very widely read and appreciated for their singularly patriotic and progressive positions. Ulimwengu did not pull punches in taking critical, but constructive, stances against politicians in the interest of the oppressed, the disadvantaged and the marginalized people of the country, the continent and the world.
Ulimwengu's newspapers have been leading in bringing to light some of the vices in our society including corruption and scandals within the Government. No wonder, in the process of seeking and exposing the truth and serving the best interests of his country and the continent, Ulimwengu's activities have inevitably and unintentionally treaded on powerful toes, earning the wrath of a few politicians who survive on corrupt practices and politics of nepotism.
There can be little doubt that Jenerali Ulimwengu has been denied citizenship because of his Pan-Africanist, patriotic and progressive politics above factionalism and unscrupulous partisanship; because of his unwavering struggle for the rights and dignity of the dispossessed and the marginalized in our society; because of his integrity and principled stand as an intellectual, journalist, publisher, writer and publicist.
It is very embarrassing for Tanzanians, who gave to Africa and the world a leading Pan-Africanist, a great humanist and a statesman of integrity and principles, like Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, to see one of their own committed and dedicated sons being denied to serve his country on the devious ground of lack of citizenship, in a manner most arbitrary and unreasonable.
Jenerali Ulimwengu has not been given reasons for the denial of citizenship nor has he been furnished with the content of the objections said to have been raised against his application. It is a trite principle of natural justice and fair administration that a person who is denied of his rights - and citizenship is a fundamental human right - is entitled to know the reasons and given an opportunity to defend himself against any allegations made against him. These basic rights are found in all international human rights instruments and the Constitution of Tanzania and it is the cornerstone of Rule of Law. The present Chief Justice of Tanzania, Mr. Barnabas Samatta, observed in one of his judgements that:
In my considered opinion, it is a matter beyond rational controversy that …. fundamental requirement of fair play requires that parties should know at the end of the day why a particular decision has been taken. I think it is intolerable in a democratic society that the law should allow a decision-maker to whom an appeal or reference is made to make his decision without giving reasons why he has reached that decision. [Tanzania Air Services Limited v. Minister of Labour, in 1996 Tanzania Law Reports at page 223].
ALL PEOPLE ARE EQUAL AND AFRICA IS ONE
The TANU/CCM creed says: '"All Men Are Equal and Africa Is One". Mwalimu Nyerere indefatigably put this principle into practice. In the 1970s, he even declared that it is a shame to have refugees from within the continent and gave them citizenship for which the country was honoured with an award from the UNHCR. In 1972 when addressing the Chang'ombe Teachers College, Mwalimu said these unforgettable words in relation to General Idi Amin's expulsion of Ugandan Asians:
What does it mean, to say to a large group of people 'From today - or tomorrow, or next week - you citizens are no longer citizens'? It means that they are people in the world who have no state, nor country; no place where they have a right to live.
Physically what do you do with such people? If you give them thirty days to get out - or any other period - what do you do when it is expired? Where are they supposed to go - to the moon? Suppose we in Tanzania were to decide to get rid of some citizens, what do we do? We herd them to the border with Kenya, and Kenya says, ‘No, they are not our citizens’. Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Zaire, Burundi and Rwanda all say this—what do we do? Do we kill them? That is what Hitler did in Europe in the 1930s and 1940…. Sometimes we in Africa adopt the attitude that we have suffered so long it will be good for other people to suffer and see what it is like. But it is necessary to remember that we are talking about people. The first statement of the TANU Creed says, ‘All men are equal, and Africa is one’. And the very first part is that all human beings are equal.
'Where is Jenerali Ulimwengu supposed to go - to the moon?' Have we forgotten the words of Mwalimu Nyerere so soon?
Let us not be complacent. Today it is Jenerali Ulimwengu, tomorrow it could be his clan, neighbours, political associates, etc. History has a way of avenging itself. Discrimination, whether based on citizenship, race, ethnicity, gender or political views is a ghost that can never be exorcised. As Mwalimu Nyerere was fond of saying, once you have tasted human flesh, you cannot stop.
Once you indulge in discrimination, it can never stop! Let's us tell our politicians to stop getting rid of uncomfortable messages by labelling the messenger by citizenship, race, gender, ethnicity, clan or tribe … On this, Mwalimu Nyerere never compromised.
We owe it to him, to keep, at least, that heritage alive: "All men are equal and Africa is One."