By Jerry Okungu
October 13, 2010
Three different newspapers published in Dar es Salaam cannot be wrong especially if one of them, the oldest, belongs to the CCM. They are all saying more-or-less the same thing; that there is uncertainty and anxiety in the air. They are all expressing fear that Bongoland’s elections may be rigged in favor of the ruling party based on the mood in the country that seems to be craving for regime change in the land of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.
Signs that all is not well are clearly brought out in the latest opinion results conducted by Research and Education in Democracy in Tanzania(REDET), a state owned research center housed at the University of Dar es Salaam, Synovate of Kenya and several online surveys conducted by Daily News, Uhuru Publications and ThisDay newspaper published by Reginald Mengi’s outfit.
In the run-up to the Kenyan elections in 2007, we had a similar scenario where opinion polls became the centre of vicious debates, claims and counter claims of doctored results depending on who or which party was favored or dismissed by the polls. Whenever an opinion poll favored PNU, other parties and their supporters dismissed it as cooked. On the other hand, if another pollster published results that favored ODM, other players routinely dismissed it as bogus.
On the other hand, the Kenyan public were routinely treated to a measure of the popularity of presidential candidates and their parties through the sizes of their rallies that at times were beamed live on local television stations. Therefore if the polls did not reflect what the masses saw on TV, they always disputed such results.
Claims of preplanned rigging of results as already alluded to by Wilbroad Slaa were typical in Kenya just months before the elections. Plans to use the police and the provincial administration to be election monitors for PNU the ruling party were equally on the cards. It was these strange developments, coupled with public pronouncements that PNU would not concede defeat that led ODM to announce very early that the party would only accept defeat if the elections were free and fair. On the other hand, if the results were rigged, the party would mobilize its huge following countrywide for mass action to protest the results.
Looking at the Tanzanian election campaigns this year, there are signs that the country is reading from Kenya’s script. If already, a CCM high ranking official has declared that Wilbroad Slaa will not be the fifth Tanzanian president, it must be because there is something he knows about the election outcome that other Tanzanians are not privy to.
On the other hand, the intervention of the military chiefs to warn Tanzanians against causing chaos must have sent chills down the spines of many people in that country. Ordinarily, the military in Tanzania just like in Kenya are supposed to be apolitical in such circumstances. To meddle in the political arena at such sensitive moments can only remind us of the Zimbabwe scenario where prior to the elections, the military came out to announce that they would not mount a military guard for anybody other than Robert Mugabe.
In East Africa, Tanzania has had the best history of political stability despite its population being highly politicized. For this reason, it has earned the respect of many international organizations because of its peaceful political transitions. In fact it is only in Tanzania where we would have had four retired former heads of State had Mwalimu Nyerere not passed on suddenly in 1979.
Regime change like we have had in Kenya and Ghana in the recent past is not something easy to achieve in Africa especially if a whole ruling political party has to be thrown out of power. In Tanzania’s case, the task is even more daunting because CCM is the party that ushered in independence 49 years ago and many Tanzanians born after independence now nearing their 50s have grown up knowing only the ruling CCM.
In 2000, Ghanaians resolved that Jerry Rawlings’ party had to leave power after two decades. They gave power to John Kufuor’s opposition party. Eight years later, Ghanaians made another about turn and returned power to Jerry Rawlings’ party by electing Atta Mills in 2008 as Ghana’s new president. Such regime change can only take place once multiparty politics, democratic governance and political maturity has taken root in society.
In Kenya, the only time we effected regime change was in 2002 when the nation overwhelmingly voted KANU out of power after ruling the country for 40 years. Had the opposition parties not resolved to work together, perhaps this feat would not have been realized.
As we wait to see the outcome of Tanzania’s results on October 31, a few facts must be driven home for our brothers and sisters. They must be reminded that Tanzania is bigger than Jakaya Kikwete or Wilbroad Slaa. If it is the will of the people of Tanzania to return Kikwete to power through majority vote, so be it. However, if the same Tanzanians decide that the moment for regime change is now; their decision must be respected by those in power including the armed forces.