The Case For Increased Civic Awareness & Improved Communication-Education And Advocacy

Steven Spielberg

Since Tanzania got independence more than four decades ago, poverty, ignorance and disease have remained outstanding thorns in the back of any government in power. Until today, these so-called arc enemies can be seen, read and experienced on many faces. At the same time, as a member of the international community, Tanzania has committed itself to achieving internationally accepted standards related to these very issues, like the Millennium Development Goals. This is why the government came up with the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty, trading under the Kiswahili acronym of MKUKUTA.

The implementation of such programmes revolves on the axis of tackling growth, income and non-income poverty and ensuring good governance and accountability. This is what downloads everything to the local government level of action. This is why the Local Government Reform Programme is such a vital tool.

The four areas due to be addressed, under the programme, involve making fundamental changes in the way powers and resources are allocated within government. No where in the world have such proposals been implemented without encountering problems.
The decentralization by devolution process within the environs of the local government in Tanzania is a massive undertaking. On top of that, it requires the participation of a wide range of stakeholders at national, regional and local levels. It cannot leave anybody behind. Even the input of ‘those who would lose their stake (stake-losers?) in the process is required.

As of now, there is a strong platform for local government reform in Tanzania. On it are central government and line ministry representatives, the regional administration itself and its Association of Local Authorities of Tanzania (ALAT), the civil society, academic institutions e.t.c.

Because of the weak financial muscle of the country, the so-called development partners and donors have reserved seats. They need to fully not only understand but also appreciate the programme if they are to explain it to their taxpayers at home before embarking on supporting it.

At the end of the day, whether this programme is to succeed or not will depend on the performance at the ground level. And that is the crux of the matter.

The extent to which this programme can succeed or fail will depend on the amount of information available to all the stakeholders, not a few selected
ones. Every means of carrying information across must be exploited. That is, seminars, conferences, print media, electronic media and even drama so as to achieve the following:

To increase people’s awareness on the reform so that it can get wider understanding and, therefore, support.
To identify areas of success in one area and publicize them as a way of opening up eyes of other performers in other areas.

To identify aspects those have not been fully understood by stakeholders and mount their popularization programmes through various media.

To pick positive and negative experiences from other countries that have tried to reform their local government system to help keep the Tanzania exercise on track.

To monitor the democratization processes and disseminate information on it as one of the major instruments for attaining good governance and accountability at the level of councils.
Therefore there has got to be increased civic awareness, improved communication, education and advocacy on the proposed local government system. A comprehensive media strategy must be put in place and vigorously implemented.
The whole country must be covered. No district should feel having been left out of the process. Experiences from one district must only be an eye opener for others. They are not items of copying like a blotting paper. The districts are supposed to work out their reform programmes drawing on their own circumstances.

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