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Being of ‘One Heart’: Power and Politics Among the Iraqw of Tanzania

  • Katherine A. Snyder

Abstract

This article explores local understandings of and experience with democracy in an Iraqw community in northern Tanzania. At independence, President Julius Nyerere in his development of a one-party state, argued that democracy in this new nation state would be modelled on that which is found in indigenous, pre-colonial political systems. In the Iraqw homeland, pre-colonial ‘democracy’ was expressed in elders’ councils in which male elders made decisions on behalf of the rest of the community. Differences of opinion were voiced but eventually the group would come to one opinion to achieve the state of being of ‘one heart’ before decisions could be put into effect. While Nyerere claimed that this practice of democracy and achieving consensus would provide the model for the post-colonial state, in actuality the state drew more on colonial models characterised by top-down decision-making and autocratic governance. Overlaying both the pre-colonial and post-colonial political systems is an ideological emphasis on ‘unity'. This article explores how the central notion of unity is expressed and perceived among the Iraqw in Tanzania and how it forms the screen through which people view démocratisation.

Cet article explore les interprétations locales de la démocratie et l'expérience de celle-ci dans une communauté iraqw du nord dem la Tanzanie. À l'indépendance, le Président Julius Nyerere soutenait, alors qu'il développait un état à parti unique, que le modèle de démocratie de ce nouvel État-nation serait celui des systèmes politiques précoloniaux indigènes. Chez les Iraqw, la «démocratie» précoloniale s'exprimait au sein de conseils d'anciens dans lesquels les anciens prenaient des décisions au nom de la communauté. Des divergences d'opinions s'exprimaient à cette occasion, mais le groupe finissait par arriver à une opinion unique pour être d'«un seul cœur» avant de pouvoir appliquer les décisions. Alors que Nyerere affirmait que cette pratique de la démocratie et de la recherche du consensus servirait de modèle à l'État post-colonial, l'État s'inspirait en réalité davantage des modèles coloniaux caractérisés par un modèle de prise de décision descendant et un gouvernement autocratique. Ce qui recouvre le système politique précolonial et le système politique post-colonial, c'est l'importance idéologique accordée à l'«unité». Cet article explore la manière dont la notion centrale d'unité est exprimée et perçue chez les Iraqw de Tanzanie et sa manière de former le filtre à travers lequel les personnes voient la démocratisation.

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Being of ‘One Heart’: Power and Politics Among the Iraqw of Tanzania

  • Katherine A. Snyder

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