We, the people of Tanganyika, would like to light a candle and put it on top of Mount Kilimanjaro, which would shine beyond our borders giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate, and dignity where before there was only humiliation.
So said the plaque the first President placed atop
the snowy peak after the British finally left.
Kaiser Wilhelm complained his grandmother
had two mountains in Kenya while he had none,
so Victoria gave him Kilimanjaro for his birthday,
but botching the Great War, he had to give it back.
The original Kaiser crossed the Rubicon
with a single legion to chase Pompey
and bring plebes the good only he could,
packing the patrician Senate, sharing land,
until stabbed twenty-three times he fell
to the hard floor, cloak covering his head.
New to creating a country, a common language,
Nyerere translated Juliasi Kaizari and proposed
ujamaa, familyhood, where all cared for all,
nationalized factories and hemmed big officials,
the “waBenzi” driving their Mercedes,
by banning extra income, even rental houses.
Nyerere wished equality and African union,
but ahead crouched Mobutu in his leopard hat,
Mugabe and Crocodile crushing the Ndebele,
al-Bashir cleansing Darfur, Field Marshall Amin
amuck in Uganda, and Emperor Bokassa,
whose coronation mimicked Napoleon’s.
Is the fault in our stars or in ourselves?
Ending one-party rule, Nyerere stepped down
gracefully. On hot, open plains
the wind sings through thorn trees
while the white hump of Kilimanjaro
fills the sky, shining, serene, always there.