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Today is a day that is difficult to hold back some thoughts running through my mind about my country Tanzania and my continent Afrika.
Just in what I would call the aftermath of the electoral process, the balloting, the ghost that has raided Afrika of precious lives seems to knock at the doors of Tanzania. And as I write this, I tremble and experience thin cold sweat of the unbeknown.
In 2005 around this time, Jakaya Kikwete, the current president of Tanzania won popular voters’ hearts to become the presidential office victor with the highest percentage of votes. I dare say that I was among the supporters who worked day and night under CCM’s social enterprise, then called Tanzania Green Company Ltd (TGCL). My role was to ensure that campaign materials were distributed countrywide. I worked and traveled long hours. I met CCM’s stalwarts in every region either at CCM’s offices in Dodoma and Dar Es Salaam.
Finally, we had the president who many believed, learned politics at the feet of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere. The people of Tanzania, including myself had high hopes that finally, social and economic wounds inflicted on the people of Tanzania will now be no more.
Jakaya Kikwete, the buzzword
Generally, Jakaya Kikwete wears a pretty face. Traveling from one end of Tanzania to another after the 2005 elections, the name Jakaya Kikwete was a buzzword. Just like God peddled the righteousness of Job to Satan, so Tanzanians peddled the attributes of Jakaya Kikwete. ‘Have you considered our new president Jakaya Kikwete, that there’s none like him in Afrika, a man with pretty face, a beautiful smile, one who ‘shuns’ corruption and delights in the promotion of democracy and equity?’
In my many travels around Afrika, and after every presentation I made, ladies came and greeted me. ‘They are coming to thank me for a cohesive presentation and contribution to the subject matter, so I thought in self gratification! No. My hopes and expectations were dashed. These ladies only wanted to tell me this, “You guys have a handsome president”. Indeed he was a ladies’ man. No offence meant to women. I am a feminist. And I think a world without women would mean a world where only fossils live. No newness.
Jakaya Kikwete in Tanzania has been known throughout his tenure in the presidency as one who loved dancing. He promoted local music industry. He also supported pageantry in the land. In doing so, he danced with all the beauty pageants in the land. He is indeed a good dancer, just as much as he appeared to be a good politician.
In the eyes of the international community, he was among the top leaders in Afrika who held what would be termed as ‘progressive’ politics. On the Society for Recognition of Famous People’s website, these are the attributes given to Jakaya Kikwete: “The lively East African President is credited with a lot of changes and transformations in the East African state. The President is hailed to be out going, down to earth, accessible and media friendly”. This is who he presented himself to be, not only at home but abroad as well.
Hopes Trampled Underfoot
As years have passed, Jakaya Kikwete’s popularity have dwindled significantly among the ‘common’ Tanzanians. This happened, not only because of the falling economic stability trends and rising levels of poverty among the people of Tanzania but also, visible are the contentions at party levels. Within Party circles, he seems to have created new friends and abandoned the old-stock CCM cadres. Among the citizenry, he has lived a lie. The prosperity he promised through the slogan “Maisha Bora kwa Kila Mtanzania” (Better Livelihoods for Each Tanzanian) in 2005 turned into the worst nightmare to the majority of the people of Tanzania. In the minds of many Tanzanians, now, this was the very opposite of what he was saying. The reality proved that Jakaya Kikwete’s government followed the colonial pathways. All he has done is to accumulate wealth for himself, his family and playing an active role of bedfellow with multinational companies who are busy ‘expatriating’ the country’s resources.
May be many at home and abroad are asking, “where did things go wrong?” A few ‘speculatory’ views would help. One, as assumption would have it, he may have learnt his leadership skills early in life from examples that were set from his close family members. As historical narratives inform us, “His grandfather, Mrisho Kikwete was a local chief. His father was a District Commissioner during the colonial days, Regional Secretary and then an Ombudsman when Tanzania got its independence”. Two, the people of Tanzania may have just been dead wrong. Taking into consideration the ministerial portfolios he held previous to his position as the nation’s most powerful man, there seem to be no memory among the citizenry about his role on crimes such as the Bulyanhulu Massacres. He was the minister who stamped off the operation. When you think of other scandals, including Buzwagi gold mine’s shady contract signing at a hotel room in London, Richmond, Dowans etc. In all these accounts, he had no muscles strong enough to make difficult decisions. Even Edward Lowassa who I believe is one of the topmost corrupt public figures in Tanzania, said so.
Jakaya Kikwete not ‘just’ a Pretty Face
Seriously, many of the most informed Tanzanian populace believed that he was different. The people of Tanzania both big and small believed that things will change. But nothing changed. The last hope was that he would be as democratic and civilised as he made the world believe to see that government transition from his hands to another was done smoothly. But alas and behold, all such expectation is wrong! In the ‘aftermath’ of the electoral process, and seeing the news, especially of the cancellation of Zanzibar’s general elections results; Jakaya Kikwete is more than just a ‘pretty’ face.
For the last 54 years, Tanzania has been known as one of the most politically stable countries in Afrika, and perhaps in the world. While the neighbouring countries experience civil unrests, recording hundreds of thousands of deaths of innocent citizens, Tanzania have sailed ‘peaceful’ election after election. This does not mean there has not been any unrests and unsatisfying political trends. No, this would be stretching optimism beyond the limits. But one thing is for certain, the peaceful coexistence Tanzania has enjoyed so far can only be attributed to the great work done by Mwalimu Nyerere. He (Mwalimu Nyerere) United the people of Tanzania.
In what seems like CCM is losing its popularity as evidenced from the just ended elections, Jakaya Kikwete is faced with difficult realities. First, is the reality that he will be the CCM chairperson stepping down and leaving behind a trail of unresolved leadership contentions. CCM is divided now than ever. So many young ‘tucks’ who are capable to inject new political blood but are kept at bay by ‘tired’ sit-tight politicians. Second, Jakaya Kikwete is faced with the reality of leaving the presidency after messing up the Union treaty between Tanganyika and Zanzibar. Why is the CCM government so scared about Zanzibar having a president from the opposition party?
For once, it is clear from the recent cancellation of the electoral results in Zanzibar that something is not right. There’s a rat in the kitchen – CCM’s kitchen. And the burden weighs heavily on Jakaya Kikwete’s shoulders. Third, is the reality that Jakaya Kikwete is leaving the Presidency at a time when Tanzania is at its economic lowest and with most of its natural/mineral resources almost exhausted. Forth, is the reality that Jakaya Kikwete is not only a ‘pretty’ face but soon might be one of Afrika’s, if not the only, political laughing-stock for not living to the expectation of his many admirers. Above all, he has not lived to the belief that his government was going to be another positive block of socioeconomic and political stability as well as environmental sustainability. He has failed.
There may be more reasons that could be pointed out. But the aforementioned are the most evident right now. The fact that Tanzanian voters, election observers as well as the international community have decried the manner, in which electoral process has been carried out, is a big disappointment. This is an open ‘firefighter’ call to Jakaya Kikwete to put the political blaze out in a peaceful and democratic manner.
It is a call for him to clear his name off such crimes that are now being committed in Tanzania and against the people of Tanzania in the name of protecting CCM from public dishonour. In a democratic and progressive political environment, it is far better to put a political party and personal aspirations in disrepute than to land 50+ million citizens in danger. It is a decision for Jakaya Kikwete, his party CCM and government to decide which path to go.
Actually, Jakaya Kikwete must be extremely politically naïve if he thought for a moment that such ‘monkey’ tricks make him one of the prettiest and best presidents in the Tanzanian and Afrikan history. This would be the highest, if not the absurdest self-conceitedness. He should borrow a leaf from the man we all thought he learned politics from, Mwalimu Nyerere. People, near and far still love Mwalimu Nyerere because he was not only smart enough to know what to say, when to say it and how to say it.
Mwalimu Nyerere knew when to demand self-rule from colonial rule, and how to make sure that there was no bloodshed during the transition from colonial to self-rule. He also reflected on his political strengths and weaknesses. Finally, he showed the world that he also knew when to step down. This he did for the sake of protecting the people of Tanzania. Is Jakaya Kikwete ready to see a country whose first stage of liberation was bloodless shed blood to claim their second stage of liberation? Their right to demand their voices to be heard, even through the ballot box?
In a speech he gave in 1959, Mwalimu Nyerere is quoted saying these words, “We would like to light a candle, and put it on top of mount Kilimanjaro, which will shine beyond our borders, giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate, and dignity where there was humiliation” (Clagett Taylor 1963).
May this same patriotic and Pan-Afrikan spirit be reclaimed in our land. May Jakaya Kikwete listen to his patriotic senses and stop what may turn to be the worst elections in the history of Tanzania. Lest he becomes Tanzania’s sociopolitical laughing-stock.