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Browsing by Author "Gahnström, Carl Sebastian Laurentius"

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  • Gahnström, Carl Sebastian Laurentius (2012)
    Ethnicity and religion have never occupied a prominent role in the politics of Tanzania. This was particularly the case during the one-party era, during which a strong emphasis was put on the undesirability of religious and ethnic politics as part of the efforts to consolidate national identity and unity. With the introduction of multi-party politics, both forms of identity seemed to come increasingly to the fore, and accusations of ethnic or religious bias are today commonly voiced in the political discourse of the country. This thesis gives a current account of the role of ethnicity and religion in the politics of Tanzania, using the 2010 General Elections, the region of Mwanza and the support structure of opposition party Chadema as case studies. The main focus of the thesis is on ethnicity and politics, but the conceptual framework developed in the text is relevant for the analysis of religion-politics connections as well. The research is based in part on fieldwork conducted in Mwanza region and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania in the summer of 2011. The fieldwork consisted of semi-structured interviews with researchers, politicians, religious leaders and 'ordinary' Tanzanians. In addition, both the theoretical and analytical parts of the thesis are based on an extensive body of literature concerning ethnicity, religion and Tanzanian political history. On the basis of this literature and augmented by the interview material, this thesis presents a framework for the understanding of ethnic identity and ethnic politics in Tanzania. It is suggested that ethnic identity may be divided into three separate categories: cultural, social and political ethnicity. Political ethnicity, or ethnic politics, is defined as the use of ethnic identity in the pursuit of public resources, and is divided into two further categories: political tribalism and the politics of origin. The former refers to evocations of the particular ethnic group identities that emerged out of colonial rule, and that are alluded to in political competition with other ethnic groups. The latter then connotes political references to identities of origin that are not reducible to political tribalism. These distinctions are important to make in order to assess the nature and the consequences of any case of ethnic politics. The research results suggest that the social significance of ethnicity in Tanzania has not translated into political tribalism to any larger extent, but that other forms of political ethnicity, related to the politics of origin, are indeed rather prevalent. In particular, interviews in Mwanza region suggest that ethnicity and common origin might be important factors of political representation and inclusion. More specifically, it is argued that ethnicity is related to judgments regarding the trustworthiness of political candidates. However, it was also clear that respondents in general tended to downplay the role of ethnicity as a political factor. It is suggested that in part, this is attributable to the fact that ethnicity in Tanzania – in whatever form – has never evolved into a decisive or indispensible factor for the political distribution of resources. This in turn may be traced back both to the rather inclusive political system that was put in place in Tanzania after independence and that inhibited the emergence and articulation of group-grievances, and to the prevalence of a strong resentment among the population against the use of tribalism. Religion and politics in Tanzania is analyzed using the same categorization into its cultural, social and political levels. Religion has assumed a rather more prominent space in the political discourse of Tanzania, involving at times severe tension between Muslims and Christians. It is suggested that the context of economic and social crisis in Tanzania enabled the emergence of religious revivalist groups, which increased the social and cultural saliency of religion. The emergence of political religion in turn was facilitated by the presence of group grievances, in particular on the part of the Muslims. Nonetheless, religious relations in Tanzania remain cordial and the research results from Mwanza suggested that religious politics were confined to accusations among political parties and competition between certain religious groups. It is suggested that similarly to ethnicity, religion has not constituted a decisive factor in resource allocation in Tanzania, and imbalances between faith groups has been addressed at least to some extent. As with ethnicity, this is attributed to Tanzania’s political history and the prevalence of the notion that religious politics should be avoided. However, it is emphasised that these conclusions are valid mainly for the region of Mwanza, and cannot be generalized for the whole country. Finally, concern is expressed regarding the future of religious relations in the country regarding the increasingly inflammatory rhetoric among religious leaders and politicians, and it is argued that these issues should be addressed politically.