Wednesday, October 27, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

October 27, 2010

A few weeks ago I complained that the rest of East Africa, Kenyan and Ugandan media in particular were giving the Tanzania elections a raw deal. Now, just three days to the elections, there are hardly any stories capturing the mood of Tanzanians with regard to the possible outcomes.

However, to be fair to the media in Kenya and Uganda, I must admit that my online scans on what Tanzanian media are saying on their own elections are not much to go home with. There is a tendency on the part of Tanzanian papers to take partisan stands depending on which party one supports. For this reason, the emphasis has been on who caused violence in a political rally or who really is trailing in this or that opinion poll.

Attempts by Mujadala organizers to get presidential candidates to debate issues at public forums have met with stiff opposition from the ruling party CCM. Instead the party has chosen to go directly to the electorate rather than sell its policies and programmes through the electronic public debates.

The Tanzanian elections this year are crucial in one sense. It is the first time that there is a real possibility that the CCM that brought independence to the country 48 years ago may lose power to an opposition candidate that has not been on the political scene for long. It is worse if you imagine that the man under threat is Jakaya Kikwete whose first presidential election was an absolute landslide.

Much as Wilbroad Slaa caused a lot of political ripples in the past few weeks, Tanzanians, especially the CHADEMA supporters must remember that one week or even one day can be a long time in the life of a politician. Opinions can change overnight to the benefit or detriment of a single candidate. And like they say, in politics, it is not over until the fat lady has had her last dance.

We in Kenya know better than to celebrate either way. We must be mature enough to support our brothers in Tanzania in their efforts to elect their new leaders. In so doing, we must respect their political maturity and believe that after 48 years of Uhuru, they have indeed come of age and are capable of electing their leaders in a transparent, fair and free process. What we would advise against is a chaotic situation like we witnessed in our country in 2007.

If in the opinion of Tanzanians, they feel that time for regime change is now, let that be their decision. However, if Tanzanians are happy and are satisfied with Jakaya Kikwete and CCM leadership, it is their prerogative to make that choice and proceed with continuity.

Early next year, possibly four months from now, our neighbors in Uganda will be holding their elections. Unlike in other years, this time around, the number of presidential candidates has risen to 50 that includes the four main contenders; Yoweri Museveni, Kizza Besigye, Bidandi Ssali and Norbert Mao.According to this newspaper, Ugandans can only think of the four top candidates as worthy of attention while the remaining 46 are mere jokers.

It is true Uganda is just going through the second face of multiparty politics, having tested waters in 2006. And the lesson these political parties seem not to have learnt is what Kenyans went through between 1992 and 2002 during which, despite its unpopularity, a fractured opposition could not dislodge KANU from power.

As things stand, Yoweri Museveni is almost assured a return to the State House for another five years considering that no matter what happens , the opposition votes are already fragmented to unviable units. In fact, some of these presidential candidates will be lucky to garner enough votes in their constituencies to get them to parliament. It would appear as if some of them are already headed to the peripheries of political activism until Kaguta decides to retire from active politics.

As I sat in my house watching a local TV news bulletin, I was amused to watch in the man of the moment, Yoweri Museveni rapping away in his first music album. Whatever the circumstances, the man who put together that piece of work is a brilliant political operator. That song alone, despite its quality that may not make it go past the first week of Tusker Project Fame, is a sure political campaign master stroke that the NRM has come up with. I’ll not be surprised if it becomes a hit song in the entire region if not a global phenomenon with M7 being the first head of state to release an album while in office!

As East Africans, let us pray that the Tanzanians go to the polls and elect their leaders in a peaceful manner this week. In the same manner, let our Ugandan brothers and sisters shun violence, ethnicity and hatred and conduct a peaceful campaign so that the best man or woman may win the election. As Kenyans, we urge them not to go the way we went. In stealing elections and killing each other thereafter, everybody loses and comes out with a bloody nose!