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Tanzanians must maintain peace as they exercise right to vote

By The Standard | October 25th 2015

Tanzania goes to the poll to elect Members of Parliament and a new president to replace Jakaya Kikwete, who steps down after serving a maximum two terms.

The contest for the presidency will largely be centred around two candidates, Chama cha Mapinduzi’s (CCM) John Magufuli — the front-runner according to two opinion polls — and Edward Lowassa of Chama cha Demokrasi na Maendeleo (Chadema), who quit the CCM ruling party led by Kikwete to run on a political party that has for the first time managed to unite the main opposition parties of Tanzania.

Tanzanian leaders have called for a peaceful election, and we here in Kenya will impress upon our neighbours about the need to have a violence-free poll, having learnt critical lessons from the bloody post-poll conflict that we saw in 2007 and 2008.

As neighbours of a friendly nation, Kenyans also have a stake in this election. Therefore, we urge voters in Tanzania to exercise their democratic right to vote freely, well aware that in other neighbouring countries of the region, this right has been largely taken away from voters as presidents seek to extend their stay in office.

The 2015 elections in Tanzania is considered pivotal in many ways because CCM has never received this type of challenge before. In the last few weeks, Lowassa, who quit the ruling party in July, has tapped into some of the frustration of millions of Tanzanians.

These Tanzanians have called for change and demanded that growth should reach the poor who have been unable to benefit from the country’s vast mineral wealth and natural resources because of official red tape and pervasive corruption.

Despite its huge reserves of liquefied natural gas and vast tracts of arable land, Tanzania has been unable to push economic growth beyond 7 per cent a year, largely as a result of the sluggish rate of investments by the state. According to the World Bank, its per capita of $930 in 2014 was well below the sub-Saharan African average and Tanzania’s growth has lagged behind Ethiopia and Mozambique, once torn apart by war.

Voters in Tanzania will have studied the effect the change of guard in Nairobi had on Kenya’s economy — Kenya’s GDP increased significantly since the post-independent party Kanu was replaced by the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc), Party of National Unity (PNU) and now Jubilee. By contrast, CCM has ruled over a relatively stable Tanzania since independence in 1961 but shifted away from socialism in the 1990s to embrace the doctrine of a free market when economic stagnation all but crippled its growth.

Both Magufuli and Lowassa have pledged to create jobs — the economy needs to raise about 700,000 jobs to match Tanzania’s growing population of 47 million.

For Lowassa, a promise to review the energy and mining contracts has won him approval from a public that has often complained the local people face discrimination when such contracts are awarded, with regulators giving preferential treatment to foreigners.

Magufuli, on his part, has been touted as an anti-corruption crusader owing his firm hand in dealing with graft cartels in a ministry he managed. These are traits the Tanzanian people cherish.

Kenyans, on the other hand, will be keen to see a new administration in Dar es Salaam that pursues full economic integration for East African Community partner states, and a neighbour who will want to allow trade to flourish between the two nations. That is why we must congratulate Tanzania for allowing the democratic culture to flourish even as they vote for new leaders.

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