Putting religious differences aside, Tanzanians craft new constitution

From a society split between Muslims and Christians comes a model for peaceful political change.

Maria Kashonda pages through her copy of the proposed constitution she helped draft as a member of the Constitutional Review Commission. She says People are putting aside their religious differences to fight for guarantees of rights like education and health, which she says are universal. (Jacob Kushner/GlobalPost)

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania – Political divisions in this East African nation are so profound that to achieve some sort of unity may, paradoxically, require dividing the country even further—into as many as three governments within a single state.

That’s the proposal put forth by a group of politicians drafting a new constitution intended to usher in prosperity for all Tanzania’s people, urban and rural, rich and poor. That task appears even more daunting given that Tanzanians are further divided by religion, split between Christians and Muslims and those who are animist or practice local religions.

And yet the one thing nearly everyone in Tanzania agrees on is that religion should have little or nothing to do with the constitutional process.

“Wherever you are, you want good education, health services—these things are universal,” said Maria Kashonda, member of the Constitutional Review Commission. “People are putting aside their religious differences for these.”

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For Tanzania’s albinos, superstition leads to violence

People with albinism in rural Tanzania live in fear of attacks by those who believe their body parts will bring them riches.

Zainab Muhamed’s daughters play in their Dar es Salaam home, where the family fled after unfamiliar men attempted to enter their previous home in southern Tanzania. One year ago, a different group of men arrived here demanding to see one of the daughters, presumably with sinister motives relating to her albinism. (Jacob Kushner/GlobalPost)

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — One October night in Tanzania’s southernmost Mtwara region, a group of men with their faces covered pounded on the wooden door to Zainab Muhamed’s home and told her to open up. They would not say what they wanted — but it was obvious.

Muhamed had just given birth to the second of two daughters with albinism — a genetic abnormality resulting in an absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes that makes the bearer appear extremely pale.

Today, many in rural Tanzania still believe that procuring the arm, leg, fingers, skin or hair of an albino person and brewing it into a potion will make them rich. Tanzania’s deep-rooted superstitions about albinos surfaced in 2006 as a wave of violence against them erupted across rural parts of the country.

Since then, “these myths have resulted in 71 documented deaths in Tanzania, 38 attacks including deaths in other African countries, 32 attempted murders with some victims left mutilated in Tanzania and other parts of Africa,” particularly Burundi and Kenya, according to a 2012 report by the albino advocacy group Under the Same Sun.

Read the full article as it appeared at GlobalPost and NBC News.

Tanzania’s perplexing youth unemployment crisis

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — By almost any measure, job prospects for young people in this East African nation should be bountiful.

Tanzania ranks among the world’s 30 fastest growing economies and spends a higher percentage of its GDP on education than all but 26 others. In theory, this should correspond to the rapid creation of new jobs and an abundance of well-educated young people to fill them.

But Tanzania is facing a youth unemployment crisis rivaled by few other nations in the world. In 2012, Tanzania was home to more unemployed 15 to 24-year-olds per capita than 109 other countries. In a survey by the non-governmental organization Restless Development, out of over 1,000 young people across Tanzania, only 14 percent reported working a formal, wage-earning job.

Read the full story at GlobalPost.