Friday, November 5, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

November 5, 2010

On Friday afternoon, the D- day came to pass in Tanzanian history. Its fourth president, Jakaya Kikwete was reelected for a second and last term.

After so many weeks of anxiety and uncertainty within the political circles, this breath-taking and suspense that lasted almost one week was finally over. It was the kind of waiting that could have triggered off some dangerous scenarios in a politically charged nation like Tanzania.

With rumours flying around that the National Electoral Commission deliberately delayed announcing results in order to doctor them, as a Kenyan, I remembered those tough moments in 2007 when our own Electoral Commission delayed the results as the then ECK Chairman mockingly told Kenyans that some of his officers were still cooking the results!

If some Tanzanians went to the streets in various parts of the country to protest delays and even claim that their votes were stolen, they should be grateful that these disturbances did not degenerate into uncontrolled lawlessness as we had in Kenya three years ago. It also shows that they may not have reached their tipping point with the current regime that they so “overwhelmingly” returned to power in a popular vote.

Yes, there were claims that the powers that be may have lent a hand in Kikwete’s victory considering that he ran his campaign as an incumbent however, this kind of claim has been standard practice in Africa whenever a sitting president faces a credible opposition such as the one that Dr. Slaa offered to Kikwete. However, there is one fact that all political observers cannot afford to ignore; sometimes massive crowds at political rallies can be deceptive. Unless the cheerleaders actually take the vote and walk to the polling stations on a voting day to vote their candidate, such crowds will always remain crowds.

Jakaya Kikwete faced two strong opponents. Among them, Kikwete garnered 61% of the votes, leaving the two opponents to collect the remaining 39% between them. It therefore implies that even if the two main opposition candidates joined forces against the CCM, they would still have lost badly to the ruling party.

The other lesson for Tanzanians is this; they have yet to find a winning formula for regime change. The CCM is still too entrenched to be shaken by any party and if they are not careful, they may just produce the fifth president from the grand old party of Mwalimu Julius Kabarage Nyerere.

Having observed the campaigns in Tanzania through the eyes of the Tanzanian press, one wonders where Dr. Wilbroad Slaa went wrong when in the early stages of the campaign he appeared to have had the upper hand. Did he really have the right message for Tanzanians? Did he underestimate the mood in Tanzania? Did he underrate the power of CCM and an incumbent president?

Watching Jakaya Kikwete hit the road in the last days of the campaign, I got the feeling that the CCM supremo had borrowed a leaf from President Kibaki when the then ailing president hit the road for his reelection in 2007. In our situation, Kenyans marveled at the energy of President Kibaki who adopted a door to door campaign in search of votes to the extent that even if he lost, it would not have been for lack of giving it his all.

In Tanzania’s case, Kikwete perhaps led Slaa to think Jakaya could be a pushover, allowed so much politics of slander to cloud his presidency then came from behind to campaign on the platform of a vilified innocent victim. And when he started playing the victim, sympathy votes swung the pendulum to his side leaving the seemingly popular Slaa completely confused and lost.

Talking to one Rosemary Mwakitwange in Tanzania, she explained that there were two problems with Dr. Slaa’s team. The first problem was that it was composed of relatively young Tanzanians. Secondly, when the vote counting dragged on for nearly a week, most of his young supporters manning the booths got tired and left even before counting started, trusting that the returning officers and the NEC would do the honourable thing. They didn’t. In elections in Africa, you don’t take chances with your votes let alone trusting others to keep vigil on your behalf.

Now that it is all over despite Chadema protests; there are only two options for Dr. Slaa. He either loses gracefully and waits for another five years or contests the elections in a court of law. In my opinion, it is better to go with the former because winning an election petition against a sitting president in Africa can be a tall order, even taller than Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Meanwhile, congratulations President Kikwete on your victory. You fought the good fight and won like a true warrior!