24 July 2024
Day 3428 December 2019 in Tanzania ⋅ 🌧 21 °C

Today was a typical overlander day where we had to travel a long distance from one campsite to another. Our last site was 415km away and the truck cannot travel fast on bad roads with a cargo of human beings bouncing around the back. There were also regular stops for lunch, to answer calls of nature etc.

We left Mikumi Bush camp at 6am and arrived 12hrs later at new campsite on northern tip of Kipengere Mpanga Game Reserve. We weren’t in the reserve but near it. The weather was good with warm sunny or cloudy weather. Around mid to high 20s

One reason our trip took so long was due to corrupt police here in Tanzania. We were stopped several times for imaginary traffic offences. Often, our driver and a Kenyan man who speaks Swahili and doesn’t suffer fools gladly, talked his way out of them without paying any bribes. The fact that they were being observed by tourists might have expedited their decision making process.

There’s a certain rhythm to long distance overlanding journeys. Most people snooze or read and there are long lulls where there is no conversation and then times when we all seem to come alive at the same time and laugh about something. Then there are times when something interesting happens and someone comments and a desultory conversation occurs and then fades away to silence again. I tend to snooze a lot and read on my kindle at other times. The journey soon passes.

After over a month on the road, its hard to get excited about the scenery we pass unless it’s spectacular, which indeed it often is. The scenery is quite amazing to my Irish eyes but after a while, it becomes normalised. Some of my favourite views are long distance ones across flat plains or gently sloping slope to distant hills or, better still, mountains. A lot of the landscape is hilly on this trip so we get lots of views of both nearby wild and wooded or farmed and cultivated land. Every 20km or so, we pass a village which seems spread out at the side of the road and not in a cluster, as I imagined African villages would be. They seem chaotic and very poor but, I’m sure they have evolved to meet the needs of the local people as well as the demands of the environment, as well as political and economic necessity.

We generally haven’t seen any animals except in game reserves. We saw impala, wildebeest and giraffes in Mikumi National Game Reserve.

The roads are generally 2 lanes, one lane per direction. I know there’s a specific name for such a road configuration but the name escapes me at the moment. The Tanzanian government is supposed to be widening the roads but not a lot seems to be happening. I did notice that many houses near the road had an X painted on them. One of the guys said that all buildings within 30 metres of the road are due for demolition. I wonder if the inhabitants are being properly compensated or rehoused. It’s unlikely.

Human rights are generally not respected here. As a gay man, this impacts me directly. Throughout Tanzania, sex acts between men are illegal and carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.  Until recently, it was the death penalty.

According to a 2007 Pew Research Centre survey, 95 percent of Tanzanians believed that homosexuality should not be accepted by society. I expect you would get similar results if you carried out the same survey in Ireland in 1907.

People with albinism living in Tanzania are often attacked, killed or mutilated because of superstitions related to the black-magical practice known as muti that say body parts of albinos have magical properties. Tanzania has the highest occurrence of this human rights violation among 27 African countries where muti is known to be practised.

In December 2019, Amnesty International reported that the Tanzanian government annulled the right of NGOs as well as individuals to directly file any case against it at the Arusha-based African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Around halfway through the journey, we had to climb a fairly steep mountainside. No problem for a well maintained truck like Chui with a skilled and trained driver like Often but less so for the old crocks on the road here with maniacal unskilled drivers who treat the oncoming lane as an extension of their own one. We saw several nasty truck crashes on this section of road, some were so badly damaged that’s its highly unlikely the driver survived.

There are official weighbridges every few metres, it seems, where trucks have to pay a fee “for the upkeep of the roads”. Either the fee is miniscule or the money goes elsewhere.

According to a Wikipedia article, both grand and petty corruption are serious problems in Tanzania yet various comprehensive laws are in place to prevent corruption. It is largely due to a weak internal control and low or non-compliance with anti-corruption regulations within different government agencies. For instance, public procurement, taxation, and customs service are areas that are prone to corruption.

Foreign companies have identified that corruption within those sectors poses potential obstacles for doing business in Tanzania as bribery is often demanded. It is also believed that the existing large informal sector, amount 48.1% of GDP, is associated with cumbersome business registration process which have created opportunities for corruption. 

President John Magufuli has launched a campaign against grand corruption and established a special court to handle the matter. As a result, corrupt officials have been fired and President Magufuli is working to instil a general sense of discipline in public service. These efforts and similar projects are internationally supported by Germany and the European Union. There are fears that such anti-corruption efforts will end when President Magufuli steps down.

Anyway, we arrived at our bushcamp, set up the tents and the cook group started dinner. We were asked to show no lights as we were fairly near the public road and didn’t want to invite unwelcome attention. Dinner was ready just before darkness fell so we didn’t have to eat in the dark.

Then, my rain detection early warning system, my bald head, detected rain so I retired to my tent to read.

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