I am on the train from the Stockholm airport after 6 days in Zanzibar, Tanzania. These days were the kick off of a two year project, meant to bring the two communities closer to each other. Appropriate to make a short reflection over impressions so far.
Makunduchi. The leaders of Makunduchi are eager to help their villages develop. Some of these leaders work in the capital and are no longer residents. But they want to contribute and have moved to increase foreign presence. The Makundushi area has not benefitted from tourism as other areas have. The standard of living, due to lack of jobs and lower education is lower. The levels of education have to improve so that Makunduchians can get jobs. Interest and commitment from such people as Mr.Mohammed Muombwa and Mr. Abdella Ali Kombo are important. Participation from former minister for Zanzibar Mr. Shamsi Vuai Nahodha might show itself valuable being someone that moves on highest circles of political power in the country. The people of Zanzibar have a long history to relate to. The will from central government to deliver solutions transforms itself into new challenges when resources are not applied. The friendly and hospitable Zanzibarians need to see to it that their schools have toilets, running water and enough competent teachers for the many learners.
Sundsvall. With this project the municipality of Sundsvall takes part on the generous cooperation budget, that the Swedish State puts aside, to have a positive voice in the world. Why it became Zanzibar is more connected to coincidence, as contacts were established by teachers and Swedish students before we could formalise the cooperation. In order to participate on this type of project Swedish authorities require that a steering committee is elected to supervise and lead. This committee is to be formed by politicians. Local parliament (Kommunfullmäktige) chose the education committee to form this group with me as chairman.
Mr. Hans Zetterkvist, Mrs. Ina Skandevall and myself went to Zanzibar as a first delegation. We did our best to represent our Community. We saw our task not as telling our friends what to do, but rather tried to find applicable examples on how we solve political questions at home. Important in this context is history, as our people in Sweden have also been poor. This is what interchange is all about. All political parties except Sverigedemokraterna, approved our participation. Sweden Democrat’s no to this project is in itself a paradox, considering they always say that we should not allow people to come to Sweden and instead help them in their own countries. But from populist parties like this one, nothing surprises any longer. It is worse when Elin Nilsson (Moderates) herself member of the steering committee for the project, suddenly changes foot. I understand that some people think that Sundsvall politicians should not leave the municipality.When we choose to get involved in politics is beacuse we have an interest for human beings and to help get ourselves a better and fairer World. This is what first motivated me to become a member of the Social Democratic party of Sweden. And it still is.
It is my hope to engage people from the civil society of Sundsvall that aim at contributing to the same goals by helping to solve some of the vital and basic needs in the field of education in Makunduchi, such as putting a new roof in a school, help to build a toilet or drill for water.
We must by now have met hundreds of women in the villages of Makunduchi. The purpose of this cooperation project is to strengthen local government with focus on education. In this perspective it is extremely important to meet villagers and specially women that are those who take responsibility for school matters. We learnt that no schools have running water, they are overcrowded too. A school, for example, has 800 students and twenty teachers. Some teachers come in as voluntary. This means they do not get a State salary. Teachers take money out of their pocket to finance these teachers. With classes having about 60 learners it is not surprising they need the extra help. Shortage of teachers is a problem. So is the quality of premises. In Kawenja they have locally built the walls for a new school but the government won’ t come and put the roof on.
We have just finished a meeting with 5 local teachers. Much of what was said at this meeting confirms what we have heard from local leaders and parents.
Sundsvall is not alone from Sweden, here in southern Zanzibar. Yesterday came a number of students from Celsius school in Uppsala. They are on an exchange program just as our own students from Sundsvall’s Gymnasiet will do later this week.
I do not know today to what extent our participation will make an impact. I am however impressed by the level of dialogue we can see, exists here. Mr. Mohamed Muombwa and Mr. Abdella Ali accompanied us yesterday which was valuable for our meetings and communication.
Right now I am expecting a call from a radio journalist back in Sundsvall eager to learn more about what we are doing here.
Well, here I am in Stone Town Zanzibar. This city stands in the center of a long historical trading period with the drama of slavery included. A certain Dr. Livingstone played an valuable part in abolishing slavery here. I was shown the appalling conditions created to keep men and women as prisoners before being auctioned out.
I am posing in front of the house where Freddie Mercury (Farough Bulsar) opened his eyes for the first time. Freddie’s father was a British Civil servant who came to the island from India. The Bursars belonged to an ancient minority that left Persia when it became Muslim, keeping their Zoroastrian traditions and religion through centuries during their India exile. Events to overthrow the Sultan from the island in 1964 sent the Bursars to London where they first settled in the Heathrow airport area where Mr. Bursar took up employment.
Queen’s music is the favorite in my home and Freddie Mercury’s voice and creative musical genius has had a strong standing throughout my life.
My mind boggles a little extra, when I consider that I might very well have crossed a young Freddie in any of the streets around West Kensington where we both lived in the beginning of the seventies.
I wonder if any of those eccentric looking guys standing on underground platforms would not be the upcoming world artist oblivious of a famed future and destiny.
Curiously I do reflect on the fact that the most famous Zanzibari was not a real native the same way as Portugal’s most famous personality in the sixties – soccer player Eusebio- was an African arriving in Lisbon as a teenager to play for Benfica.
Immigration is not something you can ignore. It is instead a goldmine for development of the human race, provided immigrants are given opportunity to develop their skills.
At the aftermath of media convulsion at home, our day continued with exchange of ideas and study of the new education act. It was difficult to forget what was going on at home. It crossed my mind that perhaps people from Sundsvall should not leave the municipality. Bearing in mind that the only newspaper in town spares no ink on critizing the newly started this SiDA financed cooperation project. Same press that kept quiet when previous mayors did not even bother to leave municipal boundaries to create good relationship at regional level. Rather stay at home, seems to be the motto.
For our part we do our tasks for the benefit of our town and country to the best of our ability. Thanks Ina Skandevall and Hans Zetterkvist for your commitment.
The day business was comprehensive. The leaders of Makkunduchi gathered and an introduction to the history of the island was presented by former chief minister for Zanzibar Mr. Shamsi Vuai Nahodha. The topic of development targets, was described in a context of education. Skills needed were many for the young people of Zanzibar and vocational courses were referred to. Next week’s visit of principal Mr. Trevor Fisher, heading restaurant school might lead to interesting development within tourist related professions.
Questions were asked and participants discussed what the responsibilities of local government were and ought to be, taking into account that there is no real method for local financing. After that discussions continued with the reduced number of members of the committee getting into more limited and concrete ideas for cooperation between our two local authorities.
Mrs Christin Strömberg met a number of bee keepers. Bee keeping being a possible development area in Makunduchi.
Tomorrow is Sunday and we have a day off which we will use for a visit at the capital of Zanzibar- Stone town.
According to right wing Sundsvall politician Elin Nilsson we are living like kings in Makunduchi. Well, everything is, of course, relative and I have small means to compare quality of hotels here on Zanzibar. If we compare with Sweden the standard of the hotel is not high.I have in my life stayed in luxury hotels. La Madrugada is not among them. It is also the hotel where our Swedish students and teachers stay when they come to Makunduchi. But what would Elin Nilsson know about that? By allowing herself to get elected to the steering committee by the municipal assembly one would have thought that she had some sort of a commitment to this type of work. But then again I was wrong…The reason why she chose not to travel here has obviously different versions, depending on the receiving end.
The electricity is now back after being down three times this evening.
Zanzibar is beautiful. Wherever we are along this island’s coasts. ..But people are extremely poor. The effort needed to raise living standards bring us back many years in the Swedish perspective. Yesterday we were invited for dinner in a typical home in Makunduchi. We sat on the floor and ate together in traditional way with our hands. Our hosts are eager to improve life here. Meeting the young people today brings hope that coming generations can get improvement to their villages by getting running water and electricity in the homes. Education for all! The meeting between our students in Sundsvall and students from here has a special importance. They are the future!
Today we are meeting the leading committee to further our discussions with themes such as history of Zanzibar, new local government act and challenges of local government. I am particularly interested to hear about the new rules and responsibilities for local governance. As it stands today municipalities have no resources and no clearly defined responsibilities.
Our first twenty four hours in Zanzibar south. Many meetings with leaders and villagers from Makunduchi. By the way it is pronounced Makundutchi as taught by friend and colleague Mr . Mwita Massemo. Yesterday we were met at the airport by project colleagues Mr. Hafith Ameir and Mr. Moh’med Moumbwa. A mini van took us to the La Madrugada hotel under the guiding expertise of Miss Zaina. Zaina has education in business administration but was very pleased to have this job as guide.
On our afternoon tour of Makunduchi we met women groups in the different villages. They meet under trees once a week on a money saving scheme. By the time night came we all needed a good night’s sleep. This first delegation to kick off the project is a political one. Composing it besides myself are Hans Zetterkvist and Ina Skandevall. Christine Strömberg is the Coordinator for Sundsvall.
This morning a large numbers of youngsters came to see us at the Hotel. I asked them what were their dreams and goal with life.At the beginning everybody was rather shy but eventually each and everyone stood up presented themselves and described what they would like to do in the future. Many wanted to become teachers, others wanted to work in construction , medicine and law, feminist philosopher, and acting were also targets for the Makunduchi youngsters. They would rather have met people in the same age which is completely justifiable. My overall impression is that these young people do not differ from our own in Sundsvall concerning their ambitions and dreams. In Sweden it should be much easier to accomplish them though.
I now resume my account of the historical events in December 1989 and the outcome of a new and more promising period in the history of Chile. Waking up in Concepcion we were surprised by the Lucia singing by two of the swedish girls in the delegation. Lucia is celebrated on the 13th December in what is the darkest, gloomiest part of the year when the sun hardly shows up. In Chile however it is summer in December!
The bus trip back to Santiago was done in the hottest conditions and after arrival we dragged ourselsves to a reception at the Swedish embassy where both member of Swedish parliament Hans- Göran Frank and journalist Anette Kullenberg were present.
Finally, the most awaited day came. It was now that the Pinochet dictatorship would start to be dismantled and replaced by democratic elected representatives. At the head of it all Patricio Aylwin who would also become president. 17 parties united behind the candidate in an electoral system designed not to allow centre and left parties to succeed. The largest parties in the Alliance (Concertacion por la Democracia) were the Christian democrats and left coalition PPD.
We visited many places where elections were taking place. Everything was going on peacefully and orderly. Night came. Our hotel was just in front of president Aylwin’s headquarters . It was all but easy to grasp all that was happening but I sensed that despite an orderly election many people were anxious that the process would not be carried through.
Next morning as we were being briefed on the outcomes of the election day we sensed a sticky smell. Teargas and water cannons were being used by police to scare off some demonstrators. Chile would from this day return to a slow normality building up a new hope.
As to us “swedes” it was time to leave, conscious that we had experienced historical moments in Chile but also in the rest of a new Latin America.