Wednesday, October 13, 2010



Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
By Morice Maunya

Our reactions to Lt. General Abdulrahman Shimbo, the Chief of Staff of Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF)’s utterances, which have aroused such heated reactions with regard to the ongoing election campaigns—analyses, comments, criticisms as well as praises--- must be frank, fair and without fear.

In order to do that it is important to put them in their proper context and time-frame.
On Tuesday September 21, 2010 the Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) Judge Lewis Makame held a media briefing in Dar es Salaam to tell Tanzanians about NEC’s assessment of the ongoing election campaigns.

Judge Makame was reported to have said: “Political parties have focused on educating voters on their policies and manifestos, as well as introducing their aspirants.”

It was reported that NEC had “hailed” the campaign trend up till then, despite some reported violations of campaign ethics, such as skirmishes after some parties violated their rivals’ timetables, some parties conducting campaigns after the 6pm deadline, some political parties harassing journalists and some media airing or publishing distorted information contrary to media ethics.

“NEC hails campaign trend” summed up a newspaper headline, and that was the correct assessment of the overall campaign situation thence far. Some irregularities were there, but the general picture was nonetheless commendable.

On Friday, October 1, 2010 came Lt. General Shimbo’s “stern warning”, in which among other things he declared that the security organs had noticed that there had been signs of violating the law during the campaigns, instigating violence and threatening the peace that has endured in the country for so long.
Given that General Shimbo’s statement—reportedly on behalf of all national security organs—came exactly ten days after NEC’s assessment, we must critically examine what transpired during those 10 days—between September 22nd and October 1st to warrant the validity and sincerity of the security threat assessment.

The “major” security incidents reported during that period included an event in Musoma where the chairman of Civic United Front (CUF) in Musoma Urban District, Didi Msira Koko reportedly narrowly escaped death after he was attacked by unidentified persons.

Koko, who is vying for Iringo ward councillorship under CUF ticket, claimed that the attack was politically motivated although the police ruled out political motive.

But Koko was reported to have said: “The attackers were mainly youths who had attended a campaign rally addressed by the CCM presidential candidate. They asked me why I had attended Kikwete’s campaign rally and demanded that I must declare that I agree with CCM’s policies”.

During the same period, some members of Tanzania Labour Party (TLP) allegedly caused chaos and injured one Makale Joseph, a member of CCM at Himo town in Kilimanjaro region. The incident reportedly took place soon after TLP Chairman; Augustine Mrema had unveiled a new party branch at Njia Panda area in Himo constituency.

During the same week, two CCM members were reportedly stoned and injured at Mtoni area, Zanzibar shortly after leaving a campaign rally addressed by the CCM residential candidate in Zanzibar, Dr. Ali Mohammed Shein.

These were the main security incidents reported by the media during that period. True, there could have been many other unreported security threats, because the security organs have their own intelligence reports and other means of gathering information, which are usually a secret.
But by any measure, the reported incidents neither hindered the continuation of political campaign peacefully elsewhere in the country nor amounted to escalation of violence.

However, it is also during this period that the CHADEMA presidential candidate, Dr. Willibrod Slaa announced having “discovered” an alleged plot to ensure that the ruling party, CCM wins the forthcoming presidential general election by whatever means.

Dr. Slaa claimed to be in possession of a waraka (circular) dated 19th September 2010 to security organs, regional and district commissioners and directors of district councils “instructing” them to ensure the ruling party’s anticipated victory.

Lt. General Shimbo’s statement came a week after Dr. Slaa’s damaging allegation. Neither the government nor the security organs have refuted or challenged Dr. Slaa’s claim—at least in public.
It is under this context that we have to try to critically examine the top-ranking army officer’ utterances, supposedly on behalf of all the security organs.

The first question is whether the security incidents reported above warranted the army’s intervention in the campaign process. That is, whether the isolated skirmishes and violence reported in Musoma, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar were likely to cause generalized instability and threat to national security and peace.

In the case of Musoma, the police were reported to have ruled out political motive, so it should be treated as a criminal incidence which the police are obviously capable of and effective in dealing with.
The Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar incidents were apparently readily contained by the police and did not degenerate into further violence. The assumption here as well was that the police were able to take appropriate measures in time to contain politically motivated violence from spiraling into generalized chaos.

This is the reason many people have argued that the army’s statement is “superfluous” under the given circumstances, unless they had some undisclosed security threat reports. But for the ordinary citizen, nothing extraordinary really transpired during those ten days after NEC’s assessment of the campaign trend to justify Tad’s posture.

On the contrary, NEC had not expressed concern that the campaigns were heading in the wrong direction; that the country was likely to succumb to election violence and chaos. If that was the case, then there would have been enough justification for TPDF to decide to team up with the police and other security organs to ensure peace.

Those praising Lt. Gen. Shimbo’s remarks have reminded Tanzanians that TPDF, in addition to its prime function of securing the country’s boarders, has a role to help ensure internal security.
A weekly newspaper last week reported an interview with an undisclosed retired senior army officer who spoke about TPDF internal rules which authorize “aid to civil authority” when the country’s internal security is at risk.

Nobody is questioning those internal rules, which could help the country to maintain peace and security when needed, but obviously what is troubling the minds of many people is whether the security status in the country at present justifies the concept of “aid to civil authority” or the idea is far fetched for the moment.

Also, civilians are not aware of the army’s internal rules or their code of conduct during election campaigns, so it is upon the soldiers to explain up things so that they are not wrongly accused.
But the people are aware of the provisions of the constitution under which the Armed Forces as well as National Electoral Commission were created.

One would suppose that the security services should provide the necessary intelligence and support to NEC to ensure that it gives the correct assessment of the campaigning situation, because it is the institution entrusted with monitoring the conduct of the election campaigns as well as announcing the election results.

But if NEC gives it assessment and after ten days the security organs also comes up with their own assessment, which do not totally augur with NEC’s opinion, this apparent contradiction gives room to multiple interpretations.

There are people who are now inclined to believe Dr. Slaa’s claim that the security organs have been instructed through a “circular” to ensure that CCM wins in the forthcoming general election.
In their press briefing, the representatives of the top army and police brass did not categorically refute those claims, although Lt. Gen. Shimbo said they were not aligned to any political party. But that is not enough to discount the allegation that a “waraka” was sent to them.

By the time of writing this article there were reports that CHADEMA had appealed to the international community—through diplomats based in the country—to help ensure that fairness prevailed during the forthcoming general elections.

We were once again thrown back to the typical African syndrome where fairness in elections is only guaranteed with intervention from outside, as we have seen happening in many other countries including Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Why is it so difficult to sort things out ourselves? To borrow from Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni: “What is Africa’s problem?”

For Tanzania, fears about the army’s thinly veiled participation in politics is not good at all for our international reputation as a democratic and peaceful country.

Worse still, it is just a few days ago that we heard in the news that US President Barrack Obama had showered praise to our president, Jakaya Kikwete for good governance.

Now, with the emerging allegations of political dirty tricks left hanging in the political atmosphere our reputation for “good governance” is certainly on the spotlight.

Those challenging the presumption of “our smooth façade” are not only the activists like FemAct—which represents some 50 local human rights organizations—but even some distinguished intellectuals as well as neutral observers.

FemAct insist that Lt. Gen. Shimbo’s statement on behalf of the security organs was meant to intimidate voters and must have been instigated by a certain political party.

But CCM's campaign manager, Mr. Abdurrahman Kinana, has denounced efforts to implicate his party with the alleged plan to enlist the security forces to help CCM win.

Mr. Kinana, himself a retired army colonel, has said such talks are tantamount to questioning the integrity of our uniformed corps who know very well that they are not supposed to be biased.

The constitution says: “It shall be forbidden for any soldier to be a member of political party; but he shall have the right to vote as mentioned under section 5 of this constitution…
“For the purpose of this section ‘soldier’ means a soldier employed under temporary or permanent terms by the Defence Force, Police Force, Prisons Force or National Service”.

If our security organs want everybody to ensure peace, they must stay neutral in politics as the national constitution demands.