Wednesday, October 13, 2010



Tuesday, 12 October 2010 20:40
Azaveli Feza Lwaitama
The Citizen
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Events in the last couple of years in Zimbabwe and Kenya demonstrate that whoever fiddles with the votes in a major election needlessly courts disaster.

Election rigging scuttles the people's democratic right to effect peaceful regime change when the citizens feel it is for the public good. Where there is no justice, the only peace that can exist is that of the graveyard!

No power on earth can permanently silence the voices of people united in their resolve to achieve justice. India’s Mahatma Gandhi and American civil rights leader Martin Luther King demonstrated that there could be no peace without justice.

When people fighting for their rights are forced to adopt direct action and engage in peaceful civil disobedience, it is those who use State-sponsored violence against peaceful protesters who are the true enemies of peace and the people.

The election process unfolding in Tanzania suggests that there are people that are still unable to accept the logic of the maturing of a multiparty democratic dispensation. Some independent observers have noticed that a good number of Tanzanians would wish to replace the ruling party of close to 50 years with one or a coalition of parties that have been in opposition for more than 15 years.

However, some people seem reluctant to accept such a peaceful regime change. It’s such anti-democratic elements that would appear keen to interfere with the October 31 election results. They wouldn’t wish to see a peaceful transfer of power, both in the Isles and on the Mainland.

Two recent events illustrate this sad observation. First, there was a daily newspaper that declared in an editorial that “the truth of the matter is that Dr Willibrod Slaa (Chadema presidential candidate) will not become the fifth president of Tanzania”.

Whoever wrote this seems to have chosen to forget that the country is currently going through an expensive multiparty democratic election process that will determine who will become “the fifth president of Tanzania”.

He also didn’t seem to care that such sentiments could cause annoyance among the people intending to vote for Dr Slaa on October 31, so that he can become the next President.

Some of Dr Slaa’s supporters could have been quite justified to feel that there was a plan afoot to ensure that their candidate does not win the election. And such a move, if there was any, would deny the voters their basic right to participate in free and fair elections.

The second issue is the unprecedented joint press statement issued recently by the military and the police. It was couched in a language that seemed to suggest that the military had a mandate to prescribe to journalists and civil society institutions, including the faith-based ones, what positions they could or could not take regarding the conduct of the ongoing election process. It is obvious that only the National Election Commission and the Police Force have such a mandate.

The statement could have easily been viewed as a veiled threat against voters who planned to effect peaceful regime change by voting for opposition presidential candidates, including Dr Slaa, who, the newspaper editorial declared would never become the fifth President of Tanzania.

The statement could easily have been interpreted as threatening grave consequences for those contemplating challenging the election results, even if, presumably, such voters were thinking of using the “people’s power” enacted through acts of peaceful civil disobedience.

One possible political consequence of that editorial, especially followed by the military’s statement, was that the two events might have created the impression that there is a plan to rig the forthcoming elections.

If there are people contemplating such vote fiddling, they ought to be condemned in the strongest terms by all peace-loving Tanzanians because it’s they, who would be courting violence and bloodletting.

Dr Lwaitama is a senior lecturer,
Philosophy Programme,
University of Dar es Salaam