After Burundi, Tanzania should give us better lessons on political civility

The noise around Kenya importing sugar from Uganda doesn’t seem to be going down anytime soon and is starting to border on noise pollution if I can call it that. While this noise has reached the levels of ‘let’s boycott Brookside Diary products’ in Kenya, in Rwanda the same company is sponsoring the East African Post - Primary Games. Interesting times we live in, don’t we?

The noise around Kenya importing sugar from Uganda doesn’t seem to be going down anytime soon and is starting to border on noise pollution if I can call it that.

While this noise has reached the levels of ‘let’s boycott Brookside Diary products’ in Kenya, in Rwanda the same company is sponsoring the East African Post – Primary Games. Interesting times we live in, don’t we?

One of the biggest stories that often come out of Zanzibar has turned into a sad one. It turns out that East Africa’s most popular international music festival, Sauti za Busara has been cancelled because of lack of funding. It has been running for the last 12 years but now the 2016 edition seems off the cards at a crucial time when we are often caught whining about the onslaught of West African music.

Such festivals are good for promoting the arts industry as well as the tourism industry since they attract lots of tourists and music enthusiasts almost in same measure. I am not sure if other music festivals like Fespad (Rwanda) or the Bayimba festival in Uganda can in a way fill the vacuum created by the troubles of Sauti za Busara.

In Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza was sworn in for a third term after an election that has kept the country in the news cycle for all the wrong reasons. A huge number of Burundians are still refugees while those back home live in fear of the mysterious targeted killings and disappearances. 

The swearing in ceremony for President Nkurunziza can only be compared to that of Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki in terms of regional leaders not being in the audience or making the usual speeches on regional cooperation. It also took place earlier than scheduled like Mzee Kibaki’s.

All in all, the camera crews seem to have Burundi to look for other spots that have better news bytes to sell to editors. South Sudan is one of those areas and the peace talks held in Addis Ababa the other day seem to have turned into the proverbial peace jokes when President Salva Kiir asked for another 15 days to decide whether his signature would look good close to that of his nemesis Dr Riek Machar.

Uganda and Kenya are both anxious to develop their economies using the growth of South Sudan but the pace of the peace efforts continues to be a worrying factor. For example I have seen reports in some media that some rebels linked to the Riek Machar group want to close the road linking Uganda to Juba.

It takes no genius for anyone to acknowledge the fundamental role political stability plays in a country’s development process. For a country that is coming from years of civil conflict and whose future is linked to that of East Africa as a whole, South Sudanese leaders need to get their act together.

Anyway, now that Burundians are done with their controversial election, it remains to be seen how the country will forge ahead with all the political tension and probably donor aid cuts. It would also be interesting to see how the country’s leadership will navigate the waters of the EAC after putting the region through a shameful phase and exporting thousands of refugees to its neighbours.

Tanzania is now in the spotlight with a general election slated for October 25, this year. The country’s National Electoral Commission has cleared Dr. John Pombe Magufuli and Mr Edward Lowassa to run for the country’s top job. Dr Magufuli is the ruling party’s candidate while Lowassa defected from the ruling party to represent the opposition’s united front (Ukawa).

At the end of the race Tanzania will have its fifth president after what is expected to be the closest political contest for the occupancy of Ikulu, the official residence of the President of the United Republic of Tanzania. 24 million Tanzanians registered to vote in this year’s election and a 60-day campaign period kicks off today.

I personally believe that no East African should have to flee his country before or after an election. I remember finding Kenyans of Indian origin crossing the Namanga border into Tanzania before the 2007 election in Kenya. I have seen Burundian refugees here in Rwanda. It is heartbreaking when things take that unfortunate route. 

We need political civility from now on if we are ever to achieve the grand dreams we share as a community. Good luck to the Tanzanian presidential candidates.

 

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