a tanzanian celebration: song and dance for the president

“Oh, are you and Carson just getting back from having seen the president?” Kulwa asked as we stepped out of the truck.

“The president?  You mean President Kikwete?!  THE President?  As in, of Tanzania?  He’s in Geita?”

“Yeah,” Kulwa responded, “He’s coming to Geita today, but I’m not sure when he arrives.”

Geita, Tanzania is not a big town.  Basically it’s an overgrown village center.  But it’s an overgrown village center that’s continuing to overgrow.  And big things are on the horizon.  It’s been known for some time that Mwanza region in Tanzania is getting too big, and so, another region will be formed — and the widespread rumor has been that Geita will indeed be the capital of this new region.  [Region::Tanzania as state::U.S.A.] So we’ve kind of been expecting President Kikwete to arrive at some point and make the whole thing official.

Elections are also coming up, so it certainly doesn’t hurt to get a really big crowd together and wave some flags for the Chama Cha Mapinduzi.  The CCM (Party of the Revolution) is one of the political parties in Tanzania, though it might as well be the only political party in Tanzania.  It was established in 1977 (one month before this author’s birth) by the first President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, and was the only recognized and legal party until 1992.  The CCM has won every single election on the regional and national level in the history of Tanzania (and I’m guessing all others as well, but have no facts to support such a theory).  Jakaya Kikwete is the current chairman of the party and president of Tanzania; each of the other three men who served as CCM chairman also held the office of president.

So what follows is a photo essay (with video) of a CCM rally and presidential visit in Geita, Tanzania.  Karibu Geita, wageni.

these are the most western-looking tanzanians to ever walk the streets of geita

First there was a performance.  The “Tanzania Number One” band and dance group entertained the crowd, who started gathering by 10:00 am for the president’s 4:15 pm arrival.

an umbrella shades these young women from the shining radiance of the president's face

Finding a pleasant place to await President Kikwete’s arrival; where better than underneath this life-size poster of the man himself?  [I neglected to tell you that the president is a giant among men.]

a gathering crowd

There were actually a whole lot of umbrellas in the crowd… despite the fact that I was the only individual present who is actually capable of being sunburned.

he wore a black felt beret, the kind you find in a second-hand store

And we all know you can’t have crowds without crowd control.

strike a pose. there's nothing to it. vogue, vogue, vogue, vogue.

Photography Rule #1 in Tanzania:  Either people really, really want their picture taken… OR they really, really don’t want their picture taken… OR they don’t care either way, but really, really think you’ll pay them to pose for the camera.  Guess which group these guys fall in.

"world leader kangas" are available in 'kikwete' or 'obama.' oh, and nice placement of the double image president's face; was that purposeful?

CCM’s colors are green and yellow.  So there was a lot of green and yellow.  And lots of chants and cheers for CCM, President Kikwete, and Geita.  This event was the closest thing I’ve found here to an Auburn football game or a high school pep rally.  [Probably closer to the high school pep rally, except for the number of people present.]

president jakaya kikwete

In true African fashion, President Kikwete arrived more than two hours late.

"traditional" witch doctor dress, complete with pet monkey

But still the welcome was a warm one.  There were several groups who had been previously selected to “officially” welcome the president.  Some groups wore traditional dress, others green and yellow, and still others tanzanian flag attire.  But all danced.

Oh, there was dancing.

there's got to be a zacchaeus in there somewhere... or at least a waldo

I feel like in the states we often call something “standing room only” just because there aren’t any chairs.  But this was literally standing room only.  About halfway through the president’s speech, I snapped a few pictures with the camera — and then realized I could no longer put my hands down by my side, I was being pressed against so.  I did manage, though, to cross my arms in kind of a hug-myself fashion for the remainder of the speech, giving my arms a place to rest (and my heart a nice, warm feeling).

there are our zacchaei (plural of zacchaeus). and the guy on the bike may indeed be the tanzanian waldo minus his hat.

After the President and his entourage left, everyone just kind of hung around and talked.  It was a lot like a Sunday evening after church (not a Sunday morning, because that’s when everyone’s in a hurry to get to PoFolks).  I chatted with several people I knew, and I think I was seen as more a real part of the community than I often am.  It was really nice.

a geita sunset, coca-cola rooftops and all

I left shortly after this picture was taken, in order to be home before dark.  But it seemed most people weren’t planning on leaving anytime soon.  Everyone was so excited to share in this important time for our town.  Geita will officially become a region, and the capital of that region, on January 1, 2011.


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9 Comments

Filed under culture, just photos, living in africa, tanzania, updates from geita

9 responses to “a tanzanian celebration: song and dance for the president

  1. So you are living in the soon-to-be capitol of the soon-to-be region! Impressive! Could you have imagined this would happen when you made your first visit to Geita? Sounds like you are in a strategic location and God got you there before the announcement–He is good!

    • i definitely could not have imagined it. when christie and i got off the bus to survey here, we looked at each other and said, “you think we can just get back on that bus and leave?”

  2. JMF

    I agree with JKK: this must be exciting for you guys. Things are happening.

    Further thoughts:

    1) I’m not sure how you feel about witchdoctors, clowns, and the like, but that guy scares me. Then again, he has a monkey on his shoulder, which is one of the most peaceful things imaginable. He is an enigma, and I don’t know quite what to do with him.

    2) Without question, America has to be the more boring country on the planet, as was proven by the the video.

    • 1) i’m not a big fan of witch doctors, especially those who would call on the power of evil spirits to do their work. and monkeys are not peaceful creatures. i’m actually incredibly afraid of them.

      2) oh, there are some interesting things here. that’s for sure. but i’ve been some pretty strange places in the states as well.

  3. Enjoyed the vibrant photos and description. The umbrelas and dresses are fabulous

  4. And I love th e dancing . My sister and family lived in Nigeria for 17 years and they can dance like this (smile)

  5. Beka

    What an amazing experience you got to be a part of! THanks for sharing!

  6. LL

    I LOVE reading these posts about Tanzania. So cool. I see the obligatory ‘peace’ sign has made it over to the youth of Tanzania as well. Globalization, baby.

  7. Daniel

    I was in Kilolo (Iringa – end of September) with a couple of friends, where we visited an orphan village and we found ourselves in the middle of a CCM rally.
    President Kikwete was expected around noon (some say even before noon……) and he finally arrived at around 4pm (pretty much the same timing as in Geita:-). Altough the waiting was extremly long, it was a exiting to see the crowd, the dancing and (only in the beginning;-) the music. It was actually the music, that brought me to your blog. I was surfing the web , looking for the CCM song:-).

    Anyway, this was my first political rally that I attended and the first President I have seen in person – a very special day indeed!

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