The Waarusha are Seething with Anger
by lute wa lutengano
A few days ago I came across a very historical picture showing an Arusha elder presenting a special award to the late President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere for his effective leadership in the war against Uganda in 1978-79 which saw the ouster of the dictator Idi Amin from power.
I then came across another older picture, actually taken on 14 January 1948, of the same elder posing with a group of British colonial officers, after the Mzee assumed the first leadership of the United Waarusha community.
The mzee is none other than Chief Simeoni Laiseri Kokan Benne who became the first ‘Orkasis’ of the Waarusha community. The then British colonial rulers had decided the Waarusha tribe was rather small to have two Chiefs Mzee Simeoni of the Boru and Simon of the Burka.
To honour the Chief for his contribution to the development and leadership of the Waarusha, the then fathers of this town named a road after him this is the one which connects Goliondoi roundabout and Sanawari via the Arusha International Conference Centre.
Chief Simeoni who died in April 1983, aged 95 years must now be turning in his grave. Many bonafide Arushans are also very upset by new developments as far as the road is concerned. On the 2nd of March this year the current city fathers, hopefully in their wisdom, decided to dump the historical Chief’s name from the road and re-christen the same to a rather mouthful name of ‘Barabara ya Afrika Mashariki’ (East African Road). The occasion was the signing of the new East African Customs Union by the three heads of state of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
The ceremony itself was officiated by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museven. He unveiled the substandard structure re-naming the road at the Sanawari junction. The city councilors sweating profusely inside their dark gowns, a brass band, some children and curious residents witnessed the occasion. President Museveni rightly thanked the municipal authorities for ‘donating’ the road to the EAC.
An official procession led by the brass band then marched along the ‘new’ road. I do not know whether those who attended the ceremony noted the pathetic state of the road they were re-naming. It was dusty, dirty and the once cream traffic lines had faded under the Arusha weather. I wonder why nobody thought of cleaning it up and putting some fresh paint to befit the occasion.
But more serious; I am not against naming roads or streets in honour of some important institution or establishment. But do we have to discard and dump our historical heroes to do so?
I have heard talk that Chief Simeoni will be given another road, that connecting Phillips and Impala Hotel roundabout. But that will be another very serious historical oversight that road is named after the first President of Tanzania Mwalimu Nyerere.
If I had the powers I could have urged for and decided to name the Nairobi road after the EAC. After all the EAC is talking about modernising it and it so happens it is also an important link between the three East African states.
In the meantime the Waarusha are seething with anger. This is
a serious development. The Mayor and his councilors must have forgotten that
next year is an election year.