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Should our Presidents images reserve the sanctity they deserve?

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It is half past three under the scorching sun in the afternoon and everyone feels quite exhausted. Our stomachs are crying for something to eat as we nervously look around for someplace we can at least get anything to cheat hunger.

Our first impression along the way to Mara region was sort of bitter experience. The whole story started with several pieces of boiled maize which a colleague had bought at a highly populated business centre in Ramadi. The maize was split among us but what followed was a real mess.

Each of us was complaining of stomachache the whole day. This was followed by regular toilet visits within our self contained rooms which persisted throughout the night. The situation could tell story on something suspiciously wrong with the boiled maize.

So a few days later in Butiama, a small village where the late father of the national was born, someone had to take some extra precautions before having the right choice for something to eat. Luckily, three of us secured some location where Fatu, a local female entrepreneur trading a variety of groceries, was serving a group of young men with drinks.

Incidentally, the enzymes in our stomachs quickly reacted to pieces of fried Irish potatoes on the display before we moved on and placed our orders.

But while we enjoyed our meal, an interesting conversation was going on among a group of young men. The main topic revolved around Butiama politics. Most of the younger men in a hot conversation seemed to be staunch worshipers of contemporary political ideologies except a quiet old man seated at the extreme right corner of the gathering who seemed not quite interested.

One of the young men speaking at the top of his voice pointed at a huge billboard which was placed in the District Commissioners office premises. “Why does a person spend a lot of money erecting such huge billboards everywhere in his administrative area instead of doing the same efforts to ensure his constituents had the basic social services” he said.

The comment from the guy seemed to have struck hard in the minds of those following the conversation! Practically, he reminded us of another such billboard along the way from Musoma to Butiama where we had asked our driver to stop for us to take some photos. All these billboards have one common feature. On the left side is the image of His Excellency President of the United Republic of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete and on the opposite there is the image of the area Member of Parliament Nimrod Mkono.

mkono-kwa-mkono

WOW! One of the billboards erected within the District Commissioners office premises in Butiama. Other than the two smiling faces, the purported message on the billboard is to provide some kind of guidance to newcomers that they were now in the proposed site of Butiama City.

On the billboards, the smiling face of Mr President appears in greenish ruling party attire and the relatively faint smile of the MP is recognized with a marked uniqueness of his brownish hut. At first one can hardly tell a message on the billboard other than a broad catchword “MKONO KWA MKONO” scribed on it. All such billboards placed elsewhere in Butiama have the same catchword and the two images. It appears the billboards were primarily intended to deliver a political message which could well be understood by someone who sponsored their installation and not someone unfamiliar with the political background of the place.

Besides the bold face caption “MKONO KWA MKONO” which literally means “hand to hand” with a two hands symbol, there is nothing more than small font captions indicating some designated localities where such billboards have been placed.

By appearance, the MKONO KWA MKONO billboards are more or less same with the typically commercial adverts by business companies which are often placed in potential areas with the prime goal of marketing products.

According to a hot conversation that was revolving around a group of young men, the billboards could have been placed sometime during the previous election campaigns. If the conversation was something to rely on, the MKONO KWA MKONO billboards were something to do with marketing the political product. They were not practically intended to provide some kind of guidance for newcomers to some localities where they exist.

Under normal circumstances such adverts on billboards would have some lucrative source of income for local government authorities. It was not immediately understood how much revenue the newly established District of Butiama was earning or losing from existence of such billboards.

But that the product advertiser decided to use the image of our president on the billboard is something that is not only amusing but also amazing. It is something that would always strike the mind of any inquisitive observer. And also if such billboards were meant for election campaign, which are long gone, one wonders why they should not be demolished simply because the message they were primarily intended to convey was now immaterial.

The scenario in Butiama gives some impression probably suggesting it high time to come up with some restrictions to make the images of our beloved presidents reserve the sanctity they deserve. Should people be given the free rein to use our presidents’ portraits on whatever anything they wish, it was not strange to find them on cow milk packages or other fishy products someday-as long as they serve the purpose.

Recently in Kigoma I found a signboard along hair cutting salon with an artistic portrait of the late father of the Nation Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere which was drawn alongside the deceased Bongo movie celebrity Steven Kanumba.

Various lawyers consulted on whether there was anything wrong to use of the President’s Portraits anyhow declined to make any observations asking for some more time to peruse through their law books.

Mr Christian Byamungu who is a professional lawyer said a lawyer is not supposed to know the law but what he/she is supposed to know is where to find it. “As a lawyer you cannot claim all the laws, you are supposed to know where to find the laws” he said.

However, he said there were possibly some public administrative regulations which restrict the presidents’ images in awkward places. He said the images of our presidents could be possibly referred to as national symbols or emblems like flags whose use have to be restricted within the country’s existing legal frameworks short of which he feared massive misuse of the symbols.

In a news report filed with a local television station on 4th February this year (2013), the ruling party councilors threatened to drag the Musoma town Executive Director in court for his alleged endorsement of funds to cater for substandard construction of Mwalimu Nyerere’s stature.

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