Tanzania now officially has a new leader in John Pombe Magufuli. President Magufuli was sworn in on Thursday at a ceremony witnessed by the leaders of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Comoros, Zambia as well as representatives from other countries in Africa and beyond.
I followed the ceremony live on Tanzania’s state broadcaster TBC, and I must admit it was nice to see outgoing president, Jakaya Kikwete getting up from his seat and beckoning Magufuli to sit as he (Kikwete) moved to another seat and more importantly to a life as an ordinary Tanzanian citizen. Another commendable achievement is that Tanzania now has its first female vice president in Ms Samia Suluhu Hassan.
Magufuli now has a huge task of reconciling a nation that was polarised by the election, a party that urgently needs reforms and a country that needs to harness its potential and embark on real development that will benefit its people and the region as a whole.
Kikwete has bequeathed to him a house that needs serious repairs if one is to look at things like the stalled constitutional reforms, the Zanzibar question and corruption. What is encouraging is that Magufuli from all we have heard is built for such challenges. We wish him all the best in that endeavour.
Attention now turns to Uganda but not before we talk about Burundi. During Magufuli’s swearing in fete at Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam, many observers understood the absence of the bitter losers of the election but not the absence of Burundi’s leader, Pierre Nkurunziza. Of course we understand that he must be jittery since a coup was staged during his last visit to Tanzania. Once beaten…
However the situation in Burundi is quite worrying lately and is probably a better explanation of his absence than the fear of a coup since he could afford to fly to India for the India-Africa summit. The increasing violence and targeted killings in Burundi make it hard for Nkurunziza to just sit among his peers and smile for cameras as though all is well in his backyard.
Every day we wake up to horrific pictures of dead bodies littering the streets and inciting rhetoric from those who wield power in Burundi. The kind of toxic rhetoric that evokes memories of what the region witnessed over 20 years back. The international community led by the UN, US, Belgium and others that we often expect to do more in such situations have issued several warnings to the leadership in Burundi.
The African solutions to African problems mantra risks further impotence now that the AU and EAC besides issuing statements periodically no much progress has been made in solving the conflict. President Museveni who was to mediate in the conflict is already preoccupied with the election programme in Uganda. In Burundi, political civility has been thrown out and political differences now amount to death wishes.
Similarly in Kenya, the Chief Justice recently warned about the rising cases of hate speech by some political leaders. A keen follower can almost feel like the country could go down the 2007 road again. Political leaders are not ashamed to publically call on certain communities to use machetes to deal with others or that if their leader loses an election people will die. They have the sickening guts to claim they were quoted out of context and to boisterously insist they owe no one an apology.
Time and again we have seen how this polarising talk results in intense hatred and later violence between communities. The 2017 general election for Kenya is not as far as we would imagine and if the hate speech is not nipped in the bud then we shall agree that nothing was learnt from the 2007/8 post election violence.
Ugandans are now fully in the election mood with the nomination of presidential candidates done with. Just like in Tanzania, Uganda also has eight people contesting for the presidency. These are the incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, Dr Kiiza Besigye, Maj. Gen Benon Biraro, Dr Abed Bwanika, Professor Venansius Baryamureeba, Joseph Mabirizi and Faith Maureen Kyalya Walube the only female in the race.
The real contest is expected to be mainly between President Museveni, Dr Kiiza Besigye and the former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. It would be nice if the campaigns remain civil and focused on issues rather than people or communities. The election date is set for February 18, 2016.