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Ever-calm Tanzania hits turbulence

By PETER WANYONYI | Sunday, Jun 29th 2014 at 20:56

Tanzania city

Tanzania has always been the calmest of the East African triplets, with Kenya and Uganda the more chaotic, and more politically tumultous, respectively. Every few years, usually tying in with the electoral cycle, Kenya dissolves into ethnic violence to one extent or the other.

People are killed by their fellow citizens, some flee into exile in Tanzania, and eventually the Tanzanians get tired of all the noise next door and send their president to help negotiate peace in Nairobi.

Uganda is not much better. Blessed or cursed, depending on your perspective, with a stable but boringly long Museveni presidency, our Kampala kin are far less political than Kenyans, but far more cynical.

Seemingly united

Opposition and government in Uganda tend to emanate from more or less the same Western Uganda tribes that President Museveni is a member of, and which have complicated serf-ruler tribal arrangements not dissimilar to the poisonous historical associations between Hutus and Tutsis in nearby Rwanda and Burundi.

This has ensured that Uganda, like Kenya, exists in a permanent state of political crisis: Museveni is forever either dishing out money to “cadres” to support his quest for another presidential term in 2016, or locking up one or other opposition leader for daring to breathe and dream of a truly free Uganda.

And so East Africans have always looked to Tanzania - poor but peaceful Tanzania - for an example of a country that is truly a nation, seemingly united in purpose, calm and collected, and working slowly towards making good use of its massive natural endowments. They have uranium, gold, diamonds, gas, oil, farmland, peaceful people, name it.

They also have one of the most mature, unspoken governing agreements in Africa: a Christian president is always succeeded by a Muslim, and vice versa.

It has been stable, and good going for the Wandugu. Until now. Tanzanians, like other Africans, have decided that their constitution is no longer sufficient for their needs.

They agitated for a constitutional review, and President Jakaya Kikwete agreed. And then it all went south from there. First, Tanzanians could not agree on how many levels of government they wanted to have. Thus far, Tanzania has been run by a two-tier government – a union government running the whole country, alongside an autonomous Zanzibar government.

Massive corruption

Tanganyika, the bit of Tanzania minus Zanzibar, thinks this is unfair, so Tanganyika leaders have proposed a three-tier government, with autonomous governments each for Tanganyika and Zanzibar, and a union government to run the two together.

The likely costs of this arrangement have created opposition, and Zanzibar wants to break away in order to control more of the gas and oil revenues it is expecting from the many gas finds around the island.

Throw in President Kikwete’s demand that civil servants should be banned from earning extra income apart from their salaries, the open conflict within the ruling party’s leading Christian figures – one of who will be elected to succeed President Kikwete – and the emergence of a divisive figure.

And former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, as the frontrunner to succeed Kikwete despite allegations of massive corruption against him, and Tanzania is suddenly looking at some rather unwelcoming headlines.

Misery loves company, though, and Kenyans will quietly be smiling that they are not alone with Uganda in being the political pariahs of the region.


 

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