Saturday, 7 November 2015
Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete: Tanzania’s laughing stock?
With the elections concluded in mainland Tanzania last week, President Kikwete has retired after 10 years in power. In that period, the high expectations Tanzanians had of him have largely been betrayed by his regime, which accelerated the country's integration into global capitalism. Kikwete leaves behind a struggling ruling party and his legacy could be tainted by perceived shenanigans that cast a dark shadow on the electionsAfter the tightly contested elections in Tanzania, there must be different thoughts running through the minds of the people of Tanzania. Besides, citizens of other Afrikan countries must be left wondering, ‘is there democracy in Tanzania?’
The general political climate in Tanzania during the electoral process, when the results started flowing in and even now, days after the electoral process ‘concluded’ suggests a strong sense that a political bloodbath is slowly knocking at the doors in Tanzania.
Even though it could be said that the electoral process has actually concluded, it should, however, be remembered that only Tanzania mainland’s electoral process has ended. Zanzibar’s electoral process is not yet concluded. This is due to conflicting results, which led to the electoral process being annulled. ‘How has Tanzania reached here?’ perhaps you are asking…
In 2005 around this time, Jakaya Kikwete, the outgoing president of the United Republic of Tanzania, won popular votes to become the fourth president of Tanzania from the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). His rise to the presidency saw involvement from Tanzanians from all walks of life and economic tiers. The shared hope of the people of Tanzania at the time was that Jakaya Kikwete was going to change social and economic policies for improved livelihoods of the citizenry. Every Tanzanian, even the opposition parties, knew that Kikwete was going to win the presidential race.
Finally, the people of Tanzania installed in the presidency, through the balloting box, the person 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 would be no more.
JAKAYA KIKWETE, THE ‘BUZZWORD’
Generally, Kikwete wears a pretty and jovial face. Traveling from one end of Tanzania to another after the 2005 elections, the name Jakaya Kikwete was the ‘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?’ This great hope was not only shared among the people of Tanzania but across the region.
At a personal level, and in my many travels in Afrika, Europe and the Americas, people approached me and talked fondly about Jakaya Kikwete. I remember vividly at one point, in Lusaka, Zambia, a woman approached me after a seminar and told me, “You guys have a handsome president”. At another point, after making a presentation to a sizeable group at a Church in Washington Indiana, Davies County – USA, a few politically critical fellows followed me after the event and said, “I hope your president will warm up to social and economic transformation as his personality”.
Jakaya Kikwete in Tanzania has been known throughout his tenure in the presidency as one who loved dancing. He the 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 outgoing, 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 passed, Kikwete’s popularity 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 due to the visible contentions at the 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 life 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 Kikwete’s government followed the colonial pathways. All he has done is to accumulate wealth for himself, his family and played an active role of bedfellow to multinational companies who are busy ‘expatriating’ the countries resources.
Maybe many people at home and abroad are asking, “Where did things go wrong?” A few speculations could help. One, 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, mostly taking into consideration the ministerial portfolios he held previous to his position as the nation’s most powerful man. No one remembered 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 instances he had no muscles strong enough to make difficult decisions. Even Edward Lowassa who is believed by the Tanzanian masses to be one of the topmost corrupt public figures in the land said so.
NOT ‘JUST’ A PRETTY FACE
Seriously, many of the most informed Tanzanians believed that he was different. The people of Tanzania both big and small believed that things would 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 lo 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, perhaps in the world. While the neighbouring countries experience civil unrest, sometimes recording thousands of deaths of innocent citizens, Tanzania have sailed ‘peacefully’ election after election. This does not mean there has not been any political unrest 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, it may be suggested, 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 more than ever. So many ‘young tucks’ who are capable of injecting 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? It should be remembered that since 2000s, Zanzibar has been riddled with electoral scuffles.
In the quest for a second term by the third-phase government led by Benjamin Mkapa, Tanzania, for the first time registered the beginning of what could now be termed as the historical electoral frictions in Zanzibar between the ruling party CCM and Civic United Front (CUF). It was the beginning of partisan and politically inclined “violent protests which ended in tragedy in 2001”.
CCM was blamed for shedding the blood of innocent citizens. One of the reports read, “After the elections of 1995 and 2000 we have seen in Zanzibar two terms of human rights abuse. Salmin Amour started it and Abeid Amani Karume and Benjamin Mkapa made it even worse by letting their security organs kill and maim scores of people on January 26 – 27, 2001 in various places in Zanzibar”. After this, a settlement was negotiated in what is famously known as the “Muafaka Negotiations”. These were done in two phases: on June 9, 1999 and October 10, 2001 respectively.
But following recent happenings in the Zanzibar election, there seems to be more that needs to be done. Once again, 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 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. Fourth, is the reality that 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.
IS THERE A NEED FOR A THIRD “MUAFAKA?”
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, especially in Zanzibar, is telling. This is an open ‘firefighter’ call to Jakaya Kikwete to put the political blaze out in a peaceful and democratic manner. How this will be done is not clear. May be a third “Muafaka” is needed.
This is a call for Kikwete to clear his name off such crimes that have been committed 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.
Kikwete may be evidencing extreme political ‘naivety’, if he thought for a moment that prolonged silence on the matter as urgent as this makes him one of the prettiest and best presidents in the Tanzanian and Afrikan history. This would be the height of conceit.
The Presidency stated that: “President Kikwete, who is also Commander-in–Chief, has instructed the Inspector-General of Police Ernest Mangu to investigate [claims by CUF leader, Seif Shariff Hamad that the presidency has ignored his quest to meet Jakaya Kikwete]. Accordingly, [Jakaya Kikwete] has also instructed his office to facilitate a conversation between General Mwamunyange and CUF officials.” While this is commendable, it cannot be said to be enough. The people of Tanzania residing in Zanzibar have been swindled of their electoral rights. Is Jakaya Kikwete ready to see a country whose first stage of liberation was bloodless shed blood to claim their second stage of liberation through the ballot box? Are there any lessons he can learn from former presidents in Afrika, the likes of Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan, by listening to the people and conceding defeat?
Evidently, people near and far still love the late Mwalimu Nyerere. They love him because he was not only smart enough to know what to say, when to say it and how to say it. Mwalimu 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.
Kikwete and the CCM government lack the urgency needed to correct the recent electoral errors. This is needed to curb the growing political insecurities in Tanzania as well as the ‘indisposed’ political trends within the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.