Can Magu­fuli bal­ance State with re­gional in­ter­ests?

Nairobi Law Monthly - - Briefing -

There is a new sher­iff in the United Re­pub­lic of Tan­za­nia and his name is Dr John Pombe Magu­fuli. The be­spec­ta­cled 56- year old for­mer Chem­istry teacher de­fied the political un­der­cur­rents in the rul­ing party, Chama Cha Mapin­duzi (CCM), to rise to the high­est of­fice in the land, suc­ceed­ing Jakaya Mr­isho Kik­wete.

Through his elec­tion, Magu­fulli, who has been nick­named the “Bull­dozer” ow­ing to his zeal in build­ing roads dur­ing his stint at the min­istry of Works, clearly has his work cut- out.

CCM, the rul­ing party, came into ex­is­tence af­ter the Tan­za­nia African Na­tional Union (TANU), the party that led Tan­za­nia to In­de­pen­dence un­der the found­ing father Mwal­imu Julius Ny­erere and the Afro-shi­razi Party (ASP) which were the sole op­er­at­ing par­ties in main­land Tan­za­nia and the semi-au­ton­o­mous is­lands of Zanzibar re­spec­tively merged.

As such, CCM is not only a political party but an in­sti­tu­tion. It's “in­de­pen­dence” is per­haps ex­em­pli­fied by the fact that Magu­fuli, a rank out­sider even in the party hi­er­ar­chy, could be cho­sen to fly the party's flag in the elec­tions at the ex­pense of Ed­ward Lowassa, who had been deemed to be the blue- eyed boy of the coun­try's political set up.

From a hum­ble back­ground, Pombe Magu­fuli rose through his ca­reer faster than an­tic­i­pated, cul­mi­nat­ing in his elec­tion on Oc­to­ber 29 as the fifth Pres­i­dent of the United Re­pub­lic of Tan­za­nia.

In the hotly con­tested polls, Magu­fuli gar­nered 8,882,935 votes trans­lat­ing to 58.46 pc of the votes cast, while Ed­ward Lowassa of the Ukawa party came se­cond with 6,072,848 – 39.97 pc.

In his book, “The Prince”, Ital­ian political the­o­rist Nic­colò Machi­avelli ar­gues that a leader must com­bine the at­tributes of a fox and a lion. Sim­ply put, for one to be a suc­cess­ful politi­cian, one must be cun­ning and brave– the stand­out traits of a fox and a lion re­spec­tively.

Machi­avelli be­lieved that if a leader had th­ese traits, he was half-way through the murky wa­ters of pol­i­tics. Machi­avelli also ar­gues that the state is supreme and noth­ing should su­per­sede it.

An anal­y­sis of the re­cently con­cluded CCM pres­i­den­tial pri­maries and the sub­se­quent elec­tion which saw Magu­fuli, 56, tri­umph over Lowassa, 62, one gets the im­pres­sion that Magu­fuli, who is by all stan­dards a sci­en­tist by train­ing must have read “The Prince” and mas­tered the tricks as ad­vo­cated by Machi­avelli.

Aware that ab­so­lute am­bi­tion hurts, he be­came cun­ning like the fox, han­dling one political prob­lem as it came. He used his stint in the Works, Land and Hu­man Set­tle­ment, and Fish­eries min­istries to an­a­lyse the trend and vot­ing pat­terns of the elec­torate and also warmed his way into the hearts of the vot­ers.

Aware that dili­gent per­for­mance, more so in pub­lic ser­vice, would be the trump card to win­ning an elec­tion, he built his rep­u­ta­tion as a no-non­sense min­is­ter, pulling down struc­tures built on road re­serves hence the ori­gin of the nick­name “Bull­dozer”.

In ev­ery multi-party democ­racy, Africa be­ing no ex­cep­tion, the fight for power is al­ways fierce. The dy­nam­ics and trends keep chang­ing while the real power hold­ers – the in­cum­bent pres­i­dents in many cases than not play ma­jor roles in de­ter­min­ing who suc­ceeds them.

In Kenya, for in­stance, Uhuru Keny­atta's as­cen­dancy to State House was largely dic­tated by the real power hold­ers – for­mer pres­i­dents Daniel Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki who,were not com­fort­able with hav­ing op­po­si­tion chief Raila Odinga get into State House.

And just like Tan­za­nia, the real power wield­ers in this case were Pres­i­dents Jakaya Kik­wete and Ben­jamin Mkapa. Al­though not too ac­tive in the day-to-day pol­i­tics, Mkapa still wields im­mense power and in­flu­ence within CCM.

Lowassa, him­self, a bril­liant leader with a good track record, had be­come too am­bi­tious and for­got­ten the fact that the wings he had used to fly high did not nec­es­sar­ily be­long to him. Viewed as a pos­si­ble suc­ces­sor to Kik­wete, he had the courage to run for the top seat af­ter de­fy­ing the party chiefs, but lacked the cun­ning­ness to land the party ticket.

This proved costly as Kik­wete threw his weight be­hind Pombe – a fringe force in the party ranks; the silent nod of Mkapa helped to tip scales in his favour.

Hav­ing been handed the tools of power, Magu­fuli will quickly re­alise that lead­ing East Africa's most pop­u­lous na­tion is no walk in the park. The need to glue a party that has been torn down the middle af­ter fiercely con­tested pri­maries which saw Lowassa quit to run on an op­po­si­tion ticket, the pres­sure to ex­pand the econ­omy and the need to work to­gether with other East African states to ful­fil the East African Com­mu­nity dream are some of the chal­lenges that he will face.

Kik­wete was seen by other East African lead­ers as a stum­bling block to the full re­al­i­sa­tion of the EAC dream and though Magu­fuli may not be the best of friends with his re­gional coun­ter­parts, he faces the acid test of pro­ject­ing a dif­fer­ent im­age of Tan­za­nia as well as be­ing seen not to fear com­pe­ti­tion from mem­ber states.

It re­mains to be seen how the stu­dent of Machi­avelli will jug­gle the in­ter­ests of an ex­pec­tant na­tion with the need for an “open EAC”.^

—Ti­jan Jens

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