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December, 2019 When the fool gets enlightened, the shrewd get into trouble. Pare (Tanzania) Proverb

Mfuthu newamanya itu, newaniha wandia utija (Pare)
Mjinga akierevuka mwerevu anakuwa mashakani. (Swahili)
Quand le sot devient ruser, le malin se suspecte. (French)
When the fool gets enlightened, the shrewd get into trouble. (English)

Pare (Tanzania) Proverb

Background, Meaning and Everyday Use

The Pare people, pronounced as Pahray, are members of an indigenous ethnic group that inhabits the Pare Mountains of northern Tanzania, that is, Mwanga and Same districts, Manyara, Tanga and the Kilimanjaro Region. They speak a language called Asu, which is also known by alternative names - Ashu, Athu, Casu, Chasu, Chiasu, Kiathu, Kipare, Pare, Pare-Asu. The Asu language has two dialects: Gonja and Mbaga. Pareland is also known as Vuasu. Its location lies on one of the northern routes of the historic East-African long-distance trade, connecting the hinterland with the coast of the Indian Ocean. The residents of northern Pare recognise two sub-areas based on ethno-linguistic differences: The Gweno-speaking Ugweno to the north and Chasu-speaking Usangi to the south. The Pare are said to have their origin in western Cameroon. Although it is difficult to ascertain the migration date, it is estimated to be four millennia ago. Before colonialism, the Pare lived in the low lands, where they practiced farming.

The Pare community had their own culture, though it favored the powerful and the economically well-endowed. As a result of colonization, the community was stratified into social units according to their socio-economic status. As years went by, the people started to notice the inequality, unfairness and oppression practiced by some members of the community. As such, they started demanding their basic human rights. And this is how this proverb originated. Another English translation is: The enlightenment of the fool is trouble for the shrewd.

This Pare proverb brings out the fact that usually when people are denied their basic human rights, they will find a way of demanding for them. They will want to be treated equally and fairly, and be included in decision making regarding matters that affect them in the community. It is also important to note that every human being was born with inherent rights which should not be taken away from them. Those who are in power should not discriminate and prejudice people by their social status, age, color, ethnicity, race, religious affiliation or any other standards. This Pare proverb was therefore used, on the one hand, to warn those who were prejudiced against others just because they were not like them, and on the other, to encourage brotherliness in the community.

Biblical Parallels

Zechariah 7:10: “And do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.”

Psalm 146:7-9: “Who executes justice for the oppressed, Who gives food to the hungry. The LORD gives freedom to the prisoner. The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises those who are bowed down; The LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and the widow, But the way of the wicked He turns upside down.”

Contemporary Use and Religious Application

In the modern world, a lot of effort is being made to ensure equality, inclusiveness and fairness among members of the society. Through the United Nations, governments the world over have been urged to make efforts through legislative action to ensure these values are embraced. Laws have been created to put emphasis on this. Since Christians make the largest population in the world, they need to embrace each other as one.

We should not be like the Pharisees, chest thumping and acting as though we are more righteous than others. Nobody is without sin; therefore we should be supportive of fellow Christians and those who are not Christians. This proverb teaches us that there is neither a perfect person nor one more righteous than another in the eyes of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We all have our weaknesses and we need to love and help each other as we are all children of God.

It is the mandate of the Church to stand with the poor and the weak, and to be the voice for the voiceless in the world. Those in authority can be changed to positively listen to their people, and to help them lead better and fulfilling lives. In His teachings, Jesus affirmed that whatever we do for the hungry, the naked, the incarcerated, the outcasts, we do to Him. And whatever we omit to do for them, we omit to do for Him.


NOTE: This proverb is No. 40 in the booklet A Collection of 100 Pare (Tanzania) Proverbs and Wise Sayings published by Annastasi Oisebe in collaboration with the African Proverbs Working Group, Nairobi, Kenya. It is an Ebook No. 54 on the African Proverbs, Sayings and Stories Website at:

Annastasi Oisebe
Nairobi, Kenya
Cell No: 0705-600979
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Bcz Mabuto, Ed.

Photographs provided by: 

Elias Bushiri Elie 
Nairobi Kenya 
Cellphone: +254-735-973-276
+254 792 556 909
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