Covid Sage

Covid Sage

Truth is growing! Even in the covid-denial island known as Tanzania a courageous voice has sounded: “The chief medical officer and the rest of officialdom [in Tanzania] have been hiding Covid-19 related deaths, [but] now the funerals are exposing us.”

Jenerali Ulimwengu has been a thorn in the side of established Tanzanian governments for years. He survives the brutality and imprisonment of most other local critics because he hunkers down when he needs to, constantly extols as his guiding star the father and founder of the Tanzanian country Julius Nyerere, and … because he’s very popular on YouTube.

Radically progressive Ulimwengu is one of the remaining proponents of Julius Nyerere’s very communist notions of society. I disagree strongly with some of his attempts to justify to this day the ujamaa or collective villagization, for example. But he commands quite a following among younger Tanzanians who are fed up with the country’s autocracy.

In 2002 the Tanzanian government revoked his citizenship. “WHERE IS JENERALI ULIMWENGU SUPPOSED TO GO? … to the moon?” one publication ranted at the time. The revocation remains disputed in the Tanzanian courts and Ulimwengu remains in Tanzania.

However, with the growing consolidation of power that has occurred under President John Magufuli, Ulimwengu found his outspokenness increasingly difficult.

His last English post was shortly after the current president’s last “successful” election:

“Do we want a dictatorship in Tanzania? Don’t forget debate is officially prohibited.”

After that Ulimwengu fell out of the spotlight. I couldn’t determine why, but he stopped all English publications and I suppose, therefore, stopped attracting attention from the outside.

He proactively kept his posts and other published articles in Swahili, but the government eased up.

Four years later he began testing the waters over the truly crazy government covid-denial policies. I can only presume there were enough sane people left in the halls of power who were waiting for someone like Ulimwengu to speak out.

Choosing his international publications carefully, Ulimwengu began with the Dutch and then the Germans, both countries highly critical of Tanzania’s covid-denial policies but both still major donors.

Ulimwengu is now a regular columnist in an English-language regional newspaper, the East African.

“The most senior government surgeon has said this past week,” Ulimwengu confidentially reported yesterday, “that only fools will wait to be told what it is that is confronting them when they themselves can see it is a serpent.”

“Now, this is interesting. .. a government whose stance has been for almost a year that Covid-19 has been eradicated from this country through prayer and fasting… It has become almost anti-Magufuli to say you have lost a relative to coronavirus.

Primum non nocere, goes the Latin injunction to medics, first do no harm. I say they do harm to all of us [when they] do not tell us we are being killed.

“Too often, the power of the crowned head inspires awe among those at the feet of the throne, and many choose to keep their counsel to themselves and live out their miserable little existences as timorous souls…

“The howling and prancing sangoma, dancing in the midst of his buffalo bones and ostrich feathers, becomes the scientist ahead of our PhD holders.”

The above references President Magafuli’s often stated remarks in large public gatherings that herbal medicine (prescribed by “sangomas”) is all they need for any ailment.

“These matters will not be kept under wraps for too long. The whole of the eastern African region did not suffer what the Europeans and Americans suffered… We did not witness the apocalyptic scenes people were fearing.

But “it was wrong for our governors to attribute the low levels of infections and deaths to prayers, because that is, simply, silly…

“And while we are doing whatever else we might want to do in the enhancement of our obscurantism, maybe we should remind our medical experts to remain medical experts and to shun any temptation to play politics with their people’s lives.

“If you are too scared to tell your bosses that you know what is killing your people, at least don’t tell your people they are idiots because they follow you.

“Meantime, if anyone has a Covid-19 vaccine, please holler!”

I hear a roar arising from Tanzania.