A Rough Week for Dar

For those of you who keep up with international news, you may have heard about Dar’s recent armory accident.  Late on Wednesday night, I began to hear a series of explosions that I initially thought was thunder.  After about 30 minutes, I became concerned that the City was being bombed.  My suspicions weren’t too far off.

I learned from our night guard via his radio that a munitions accident near the airport was causing explosives to ignite one-by-one.  The bombs detonated slowly over the course of approximately two hours, while I sat at home and bit 9 of 10 fingernails down to the quick.  Though our home is 9 miles from the Gongola Mboto military base, it felt like bombs were being dropped on our next door neighbors.  I could see, hear and feel the explosions.  Meanwhile, Matt was enjoying what he thought was a “fireworks display” at an outdoor restaurant where a live band masked the bomb-quality noises and vibrations.

My immediate reaction was to Google the local Tanzanian news sources where I learned nothing about the current situation, but instead learned that a similar explosion occurred in Dar less than 2 years ago in April of 2009.  Really?  This mayhem happened twice?  How is that possible?  Over the past few days, the official death toll has risen to over 30, but there is a general sentiment that the actual number of deaths is higher.  Homes collapsed, hundreds were injured, and hundreds more were separated from their children in the panic.  The government has yet to compensate the 2009 victims for their losses, so I don’t think there is hope for the current victims, most of whom are already extremely poor.

I’m not one to blame the government.  I do feel strongly about personal responsibility, but as the news has unfolded in the days following, I confess that I am shocked at the government’s response.  The local paper reported that in reply to citizens’ requests to have the munitions stored farther away from dense neighborhoods, the military has said absolutely not.  I searched for assurance from officials that safer munitions storage practices would be instituted, but I did not find any such claim.  Certainly, it appears that no precautions were taken after the 2009 incident and none will be taken now.

On the flip side, I am equally surprised by the response of the citizenry.  In a climate where other African nations are currently overthrowing their governments, Tanzanians don’t seem the least bit empowered (or motivated) to change their circumstances.  Maybe they feel that their efforts will be fruitless.  Maybe they’d rather count their blessings and move on…I’m not sure.  Or Maybe I am just used to the Alexandria, Virginia population which gets worked up over something as innocuous as a grass field being converted to synthetic turf.

Anyway, friends, be thankful for a government that does try to protect you.  And please pray for those affected by the explosions in Tanzania, that they would draw close to God during this time.