Reflections & Commentary – 2010-11, Romania and Tanzania

Part 1

It seems hard to believe, but Mosaic is celebrating ten years of partnership with IMPACT, the international alliance it helped establish in August 2001.  Mosaic had been involved in international development in England and Latvia during the mid-1990s, but it was not until the past ten years that we started to learn about working in Eastern Europe, the Caribbean Basin, India and Africa. 

Flash forward to the present, and we find ourselves preparing for our second year of calling Romania and Tanzania home.  There are clear differences in the two cultures that impact our work there.  In today’s blog, we’re going to give you a short and recent history lesson about each country.  In Part 2,  we will add our own commentary. 

Romania has been an independent democracy since December 1989, trying to grow a free market economy when Communist President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena (who was the Deputy Prime Minister), were overthrown and executed.  The Romanian people had lived under that repressive and ruinous regime for 24 years, and under Communism since the end of WWII.

Tanzania, on the other hand, has been a democracy since December 196`1 when it gained its complete independence from England.  Julius Nyerere became Prime Minister at that time, and in 1964, he became the first elected president.  By October of 1964, he brought the peoples of Tanganyika and Zanzibar together, forming the United Republic of Tanzania.  Former President Nyerere served five terms, resigning in 1985.  He had four primary goals:

1.      Form an egalitarian socialist society

2.      Provide education for all

3.      Disband the many tribal groups, and

4.      Make Swahili the official national language

Success is seen today with some of his goals, while others are still in process.  Tanzania was a very poor nation then, and it continues to be today – regardless of policies.  The Tanzanian people continue to view and speak of former President Nyerere with pride, admiration and respect.  He was often called mwalinu (“teacher” in Swahili), which was his first profession before writer, orator ad politician.

So why do we give you this little piece of history?  For one thing, we often forget how recent these dramatic changes occurred.  The West sometimes gets frustrated because change seems to take place so slowly.  In the period of time since 2001, the world has learned that “planting” democracies in the Middle East or elsewhere is not easy and must come from the bottom up.  Several political and economic observers tell us that self-governance is influenced not only by the desire of the outside world, but also by internal issues related to culture, religion, tribal infighting and existing infrastructure. 

See Part 2 tomorrow for our commentary and perspective. 

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