The destruction arising from Gongo la Mboto’s exploding munitions dump, as well as the lack of clarity in official responses, has highlighted civil military relations in Tanzania in a bloody and unwelcome way. Such relationships have been stable for the most part, but they haven’t been static. The attempted coup in 1963 shook Nyerere and ensured that TANU (CCM’s forerunner) brought the army in from the cold.
As a result, the military is set deep and wide in Tanzania: most people over forty have National Service tales. And the military’s business interests are not to be sniffed at: the golf course at Lugalo, Msasani Beach Club and the JKT furniture factory in Chang’ombe are the least controversial.
The issues around the Gongo la Mboto blasts – demands for accountability, issues of control and working out when public safety trumps national security – will work themselves out for better or worse in the short term. In the medium term, the test of the seriousness of the upcoming constitutional review will be how the issue of civil-military relationships is tackled – if at all.
In the meantime, get reading. Abillah Omari gives a useful overview of shifting relationships in “Civil-military relations in Tanzania“, a chapter in “Ourselves to Know“, published by South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies in 2002.
Stefan Lindemann has done a useful piece for DfID, examining the “persistent exceptionalism” of Tanzania and Zambia. In other words, why no coups? He’s quite clear: the military has been cut into the elite bargain through shifting combinations of inclusive recruitment strategies, political control through the ruling party and access to state patronage.
Neither Omari nor Lindemann conclude optimistically.