Will Zanzibar become Kikwete’s Northern Ireland?

In his column this week in The East African, Jenerali Ulimwengu reflects on what happened at the recently concluded CCM’s national convention in Dodoma. Here he is on the nomination of Mohammed Gharib Bilal to be President Kikwete’s running mate in the upcoming general election in October:

Many Bilal supporters […] believe that this nuclear scientist — one wonders what he’s doing in all this — has been cheated.

Although Bilal has found himself a slot — Kikwete picked him as his running mate — few of his people are dancing with joy, because they recognise that the office of the vice president is largely ceremonial and the person holding it wields little power, a far cry from what the president of Zanzibar can do.

And therein lies the brilliance of this move. Here is why.

As I wrote before, by all accounts, Shein was seen to be the only CCM candidate who could be trusted to provide continuity on the Karume-Hamad ‘Maridhiano’ deal reached in November 2009. More importantly CUF believed so too. However, the same could not be said for Bilal.

But the former Chief Minister had a real shot at winning the nomination. After all in both the 2000 and 2005 presidential primaries in Zanzibar, Mr. Bilal defeated the then establishment candidate Amani Abeid Karume only to have his victory rescinded by CCM’s National Executive Committee (NEC) both times. And since many within CUF did not trust him – they felt he was an ally of former Zanzibar President Salmin Amour who they perceive to be obstructionist – that possible eventuality would have dealt a serious dent to the future of the reconciliation process currently in progress in Zanzibar.

So it seems that President Kikwete and his party were confronted with quite a conundrum. How were they going to negotiate an outcome that on the one hand will guarantee that they get Shein in Zanzibar but at the same time work to placate the potentially destabilizing grumblings from Bilal and his camp? And what the President and CCM did, one has to admit, was political genius. By offering the Vice Presidential spot to Bilal – a position that is ‘largely ceremonial and the person holding it wields little power – they gave up essentially nothing but in the process, may have hopefully found a way  of ending one of the most intractable problems facing our young democracy: the political impasse in Zanzibar. And if the rapturous welcome Shein and Bilal received in Zanzibar is anything to go by, then it is already proving to be a huge success.

There are a great many things that this President falls short on. And we should hold him accountable for that and always challenge him to do better. However, we have to acknowledge what he and his party have accomplished here. This could very well turn out to be President Kikwete’s Northern Ireland moment. To paraphrase what Tony Blair said at the time, of the Good Friday Agreement one hopes that the burden of history can at long last start to be lifted from the shoulders of our Zanzibari brothers and sisters.

(Photo: President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete greeting school children in Dodoma recently. By Michuzi Jr)


In the News: Bharti Airtel in shares tug-of-war with TZ government, Is January Makamba Tanzania’s version of Obama?

  • BHARTI Airtel of India, which recently completed a US$10.7 billion purchase of Zain African operations from Kuwait’s Zain Group, could be heading into troubled waters in Tanzania, as the government has apparently blocked the release of its 40% stake in Zain Tanzania.
  • The honourable Zitto Kabwe, Chadema’s MP for Kigoma North, revealed on Twitter yesterday that his party had nominated its Secretary General and MP for Karatu Dr. Willibroad Slaa to challenge the incumbent Mheshimiwa Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete for the presidency of The United Republic of Tanzania.
  • Is President Kikwete’s speechwriter and personal assistant Mr. January Makamba, who is trying to unseat four-term member of parliament and the chairman of Energy and Minerals parliamentary committee William Shelukindo from Bumbuli, Tanzania’s version of Obama?
  • Perennial candidate and CUF’s nominee for the presidency, Professor Ibrahim Lipumba, challenges President Jakaya Kikwete (CCM) to a presidential debate as the general election campaign officially gets underway.

Things that make you go hmmmmm…(UPDATED)

From today’s The Citizen:

A staunch supporter of the Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, businessman Mustafa Jaffar Sabodo, yesterday contributed Sh100 million to the opposition Chadema “to strengthen democracy in Tanzania”.

Mr Sabodo presented a cheque for the the donation to Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe, who was accompanied secretary-general Willibrod Slaa and the party’s director of finance, Mr Anthony Komu.

A press statement issued by Chadema yesterday in Dar es Salaam quoted Mr Sabodo as saying that although he was a cadre of the ruling CCM, he wanted liked see that a strong opposition and thriving democracy in the country.

The statement, signed by Chadema director of communications and publicity Erasto Tumbo, said Mr Sabodo termed Chadema as “a serious opposition party”.

The businessman has not hesitated to criticise the CCM government, particularly on good governance issues.

“I am a member of CCM, but I want to see a thriving democracy and growing opposition with a sizeable number of MPs in the National Assembly,” Mr Sabodo said.

Now, as Nathan Chiume pointed out to Zitto Kabwe earlier today on Twitter, while this may help transform the up coming general elections, giving CHADEMA a real opportunity to compete with CCM in close parliamentary seats across the country, it does nothing to curtail the big money influence in our political culture, a real problem in our still infant democracy.

Furthermore, why is a CCM supporter giving money to the opposition, presumably after giving money to CCM as well? Yes, I know that Mr. Sabodo says it’s because he wants to forster democracy etc, but the manner in which he went about it only works to re-inforce a pervasive idea permeating in the public imagination that the political elites are working hard to consolidate power and make sure it remains within an exclusive clique of self-perpetuating and self-serving individuals. A self-described CCM kadre giving considerable sums of money to another political family does nothing to counter-act that perception, if anything it adds fuel to that fire.

And then came the shenanigans of this weekend’s CCM national convention. We were forced to endure, live, on four different TV channels, the extraordinary sight of a former opposition presidential candidate, standing up at his rival’s national party convention and cheering him on, ‘Mrema atia fora mkutano wa CCM’ [Mrema steals the show during CCM’s conference] (Mtanzania Jumapili, 11th July 2010). Also, there attending the meeting was Civic United Front (CUF) Chairman Prof. Ibrahim Lipumba, cozily mingling with delegates. It should be noted that both Mr. Mrema and Mr. Lipumba are former CCM stalwarts, the former was a Home Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister during the Mwinyi administration, the latter was ‘Mzee Rukhsa’s’ Economic Adviser. So it’s no surprise that their presence there felt like a homecoming of sorts.

It does not end there. In Zanzibar, we are about to have a coalition government between CCM and CUF,  no matter the outcome of the election, meaning that, essentially, the notion of an opposition party as we currently understand it, will cease to exist in the Isles.

My worry is, with this new-found entente-cordiale between the major political parties , who then is supposed to hold the government of the day accountable? What credibility amongst the electorate will the opposition have, now that it looks like money is flowing in both directions and from the same people?

It simply makes you go hmmmmmm.

UPDATE: Mr. Mustafa Jaffar Sabodo apparently has a wiki page. This is his entry:

Mustafa Jaffer Sabodo was born in Lindi, Tanzania to Muslim Gujarati Indian immigrants of the Khoja sect. He is an economist, consultant in international debt-finance, philanthropist and a businessman. He has business interests in India, France, Kenya, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

In 2003, he offered to finance the growing of pulse for export to the tune of TZS 100 million.

The Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation National Lottery was the brainchild of Sabodo, who donated TZS 800 million towards a project that established the lottery.

Last Sunday, he published an amendment of his will as an ear piece ad in the Sunday News, ‘Sabodo’s Will’ (Sunday News, 11th June 2010). It is also alleged that Mr. Sabado built the first private statue of Mwalimu Nyerere following the latter’s death and then mysteriously took it down from where it was erected – in the car park of the New World Cinemas. Who is this man that is funding our political parties and what are his motives?

(Photo: Chadema National Chairman Freeman Mbowe (second left), receiving a cheque worth  TSh100 million from a Dar es Salaam businessman Mustafa Jaffar Sabodo. Looking on is Chadema Secretary General Dr Willibrod Slaa. By The Citizen)

‘The evil that good men like Mo Ibrahim do’

As some of you may already know, The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has ‘failed’ to find a winner for its good governance award for the second year in a row. Writing in The East African today, Charles Onyango-Obbo laments this turn of events and suggests that at this rate, the award may end up undermining its own good intentions:

[T]he impression that the Mo Ibrahim Foundation is creating whenever it doesn’t award the prize undermines the very sensible reason why it was set up.

Most people don’t read the fine print.

When they hear there was no winner for the second time in a row, it only helps play up the prejudices about Africa; that all the leaders in Africa are hopeless and that this is still a dark continent where there is no light.

That is wrong. While quite a few are bad apples, the progress in many African countries is remarkable.

Even in Nigeria, which once seemed doomed to be burdened with dysfunctional governments and whose political class is among the most corrupt in Africa, they fought attempts by Olusegun Obasanjo to amend the constitution and lift term limits, so he could stand for a third term in 2007.

When his successor Umaru Yar’Adua died in May, the transition to his vice president Goodluck Jonathan was one of the smoothest ever in Africa, instead of being the bloodbath some feared.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation says it has “very high” standards, but you can’t have standards in a vacuum.

If you have a prize for the top student in a class, in one year the best student can be the one who gets four A+s.

If the next year the best student gets a C+, he or she still gets the prize…[T]here is a growing suspicion that the Mo Ibrahim Foundation was too ambitious to put up the richest prize in the world; that it can no longer afford it and is hiding behind the excuse that there are no worthy candidates.

For me, when I heard of the concept behind this award it reminded me of this joke that President Obama paraphrases from Chris Rock:

Blogger Shout Out: The Kenyan Urban Narrative (Updated)

I have been a huge fan of Potash’s writing since back in 2007. No one in the East African blogosphere has been able to articulate, with such biting humor and eloquent, self-righteous indignation, the cynical, almost apocalyptic, nature of the times we live in. His writing is imbued with a tragic tone, a sadness at the way our leaders, and it has to be said with our complicity, are leading us to the precipice of cataclysmic disaster.

Here he is, at his lacerating best, capturing beautifully, and with some anger, one of the defining milieu of post-colonial Africa, the life and times of the development worker:

“My name is Kamau.” That was the lanky English volunteer introducing himself to me. He was wearing authentic maasai bracelets: beads from Brazil and craftsman from Kikuyu-land, on each arm, the ubiquitous Bob Marley T-shirt and what I call Volunteer Denim (Jeans so perfectly worn out and dyed an even shade of dirty.)

His hair, as is common with that of mzungus who try to go the dreadlocks way on a backpacker’s budget, was caught somewhere between dishevelled Merino and Dagoretti Market’s official madman.

About him was a lingering smell of pussy- black pussy- and the way his squinty eyes lingered on and caressed every swinging backside (said backside being clearly swung for his exotic attention) on the dance floor told a tale of the taste he had recently acquired. After eight months (never mind the prolonged periods of Rest and Recuperation spent lying on top of a local bitch… sorry, lying on a local beach) of drinking warm beer in the intrusive heat of Kakuma where in his sober moments he was expected to palpitate the distended bellies (though he could swear by Hippocrates that breast cancer was the bigger risk that he should have been examining for) of refugee girls, he had acquired a taste for the distended backsides of local women.

“I love the way people, wherever you go, give you a new name.” I responded.

We swigged our Tusker Malts then looked into each others eyes, smiled and nodded in unison. At that moment I knew that if these had been our great grandparents, his ancestor would have asked mine that they be blood brothers and soon after asked him (he that couldn’t read or write) to sign the deed of blood brotherhood- a deed that the quick passage of time would hold as evidence of his signing away all our ancestral land from here to EnoKumamayo.

“So, yourself, have you been places?” he asked. “Been given a new name?”

“Yay, mmmhh…of course,” I mutter a wee bit distracted by the red headed Canadian who had moved to the seat next to mine and was trying to tell me something. “When I went to America, Kamau…” I began, “When I went to America they called me Crow. Jimmy Crow!”

That wiped the avuncular grin off his face and while he fumbled in search of a vacant spot on the bar’s walls to stare away his embarrassment, my ears staggered closer to the cutely perky mouth of the Canadian. But if those home made gaffs she is smoking taste as awful as they smell, I thought to myself, then there is no way I am kissing this chick.

“I hear you write.” She stated. “So what do you write?”

“Words, mainly,” I answered. “Sometimes I get lucky and manage to write sentences and even paragraphs.”

“That’s so cute.” She laughed pursing her lips and clogging my nostrils with acrid smoke.”

“Not as cute as you are…!” I choked and managed a wink. Of course I was winking at myself for having managed to have a corny moment. (The Word Smith needs those to avoid taking his trade seriously and calling himself a writer id est: a boring fellow with an ego inversely proportional to his ability to use words.)

“Thanks. You are so nice.” She responds and I marvel at her ability to swallow my non-garnished lumps of corny. Though it is rather early in our conversation, I cannot help approaching the conclusion that she is one of those girls who are so stupid it is cute. Like really, the kind you want to shag as a service to mankind because you once read in a respectable journal of Sexology that: Ceteris Paribus, intelligence can be sexually transmitted.

“Oh, Potash writes a blog.” That is the German guy interrupting. He is still nursing his first beer. Maybe he cannot afford another- the poor guy is a UN Volunteer. What surely can one do with that 100 USD a day stipend? This business of saving the millions of Africans living on less than a dollar a day is such a thankless pursuit. Only heroes like our friend here, Individuals blessed with a great spirit of volunteerism can get that work done.

“Hey, you are Potash…Like, The Potash… Potashius Nairobus?” A Belgium girl buggers into the conversation and suddenly I realise that I am the only local on the table. The strange feeling that gives me can only be shared by that Savage Woman with her engorged pudenda flung wide open to the scrutiny of the civilised world. Noble (savage) Potashius put upon a pedestal; representing at this moment every African from Cape Town to Cairo- even though he has never met them.

“I cannot believe I am meeting you… you know, like this. Like when you said your name was Potash, I thought it was a common Kenyan name…” The Belgian rambled. “…But really, I love your blog… and when I was planning my trip to Africa…”


“Hehe… vintage Potash.” She laughs. “Kenya, I mean. I was planning my trip to Kenya and I was thinking: I want to meet this guy. I want to be a character in his blog…”

“But it takes lots more personality than you have to be a character in my blog.”

“Oh, that’s great! Now you have gone and blown away all the chance you had of getting laid by me.”

“Oh, and you just took away- from a world already devastated by the effects of Britney Spear’s hair cut on Global Warming- a most anticipated moment of succour: The sequel to the White Maasai!”

Please go read his blog. It will be the most provocative and challenging read you would encounter today.

(Image: The front page header of The Kenyan Urban Narrative)