Magu­fuli-fi­ca­tion and Kenya’s cranky flywheel

Kenyan pol­i­tics demon­strates a dis­dain for in­sti­tu­tions. What we have for par­ties are shrines for wor­ship­ping in­di­vid­u­als

Nairobi Law Monthly - - Review - KENY­ATTA OTIENO

Ihave fol­lowed Tan­za­nian pol­i­tics keenly since Free­man Mbowe caused waves as the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date for Chadema (Chama Cha Demokra­sia na Maen­deleo) in 2005. It looked like CCM had met a wor­thy op­po­nent but Mbowe man­aged a pal­try 5 per cent of the vote. What hap­pened in the 2015 elec­tions, first in the rul­ing CCM (Chama Cha Mapin­duzi), then af­ter the gen­eral elec­tion has brought out the best and worst of Tan­za­nian pol­i­tics, but to the ben­e­fit of the coun­try.

Jim Collins, in his book “Good to Great” de­scribes change in or­gan­i­sa­tions as a process rather than an in­stant event. It is sim­i­lar to the bor­ing ac­tion of turn­ing a flywheel over a long pe­riod. The se­cret is in in­creas­ing the speed of turn­ing around the wheel, at first it is te­dious but over time the mo­men­tum of the wheel will kick in favour of the or­gan­i­sa­tion. The Magu­fuli phe­nom­e­non is not a hap­pen­stance, but a prod­uct of a not-so-per­fect ro­ta­tion of the CCM flywheel.

Tan­za­nia, like Kenya, in­tro­duced mul­ti­party democ­racy in the early nineties. Be­fore that, CCM ruled as the only party and has won ev­ery elec­tion since. Ev­ery­body be­lieved that 2015 was the year for CCM to suf­fer the Kanu fate of 2002, but they won against a strong can­di­date in their for­mer mem­ber Ed­ward Lowassa of Chadema un­der Ukawa, the Coali­tion for the Peo­ple’s Con­sti­tu­tion.

I am an ar­dent Ny­erere ad­mirer. I liked his cool, calm but firm de­meanour which al­ways dis­torts my lenses when I am look­ing at Tan­za­nian pol­i­tics. Where Idi Amin could jeer at Kenya and Jomo Keny­atta could look the other way for some time, Ny­erere did not take the Ugan­dan dic­ta­tor’s non­sense with a pinch of salt. CCM lead­er­ship has never hes­i­tated to in­voke Ny­erere’s spirit for political mileage de­spite go­ing against what he stood for.

When CCM nom­i­nated Dr John Pombe Magu­fuli, some­thing hap­pened in Kenya. Our tribal based political group­ings went into frenzy. Ju­bilee sup­port­ers bound by na­tion­al­is­tic lenses were pushed out of sup­port­ing the rul­ing CCM can­di­date by Cord sup­port­ers. Dr Magu­fuli hap­pens to be a close friend of Cord leader Raila Odinga. Ju­bilee sup­port­ers had to set­tle on Ed­ward Lowassa of Chadema just to counter Cord sup­port­ers.

My take was that Kenyans should leave Tan­za­ni­ans alone be­cause po­lit­i­cally we are as dif­fer­ent as Kil­i­man­jaro is from Mt. Kenya. If Cord and ODM in par­tic­u­lar had a strong and elab­o­rate party struc­ture like CCM, we would never hear of Raila Baba, Mwana and Roho – (Raila the father, son and spirit). If Ju­bilee and TNA for that mat­ter was se­ri­ous then they would make it easy for a Maa­sai like Lowassa to get the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion in­stead of party owner Uhuru Keny­atta get­ting a blank ticket.

Magu­fuli’s pre­de­ces­sor Lt. Col. (Rtd) Jakaya Kik­wete had to make an of­fi­cial visit and ad­dress our Par­lia­ment to ex­plain that the govern­ment of Tan­za­nia would con­tinue work­ing with the govern­ment of Kenya af­ter his exit. The Kenyan govern­ment was get­ting jit­tery over Magu­fuli’s link with Raila. Magu­fuli was a guest dur­ing ODM’S un­veil­ing of Raila as their can­di­date in 2013, a mat­ter which was later raised in the Tan­za­nian Par­lia­ment. To Kik­wete, the party had picked Magu­fuli and he had to sup­port him even though his pre­ferred can­di­date was one Bernard Membe. If the same script had played out in Kenya, CCM would have dis­in­te­grated.

The run up to CCM’S choos­ing of Magu-

fuli was full of in­trigues like any political bat­tle. Jakaya Kik­wete is said to have stood his ground that Ed­ward Lowassa would not get the ticket de­spite be­ing the most pop­u­lar. He pre­ferred Bernard Membe, but first party del­e­gates had to meet for a whole week in Dodoma for him to get his way. The bat­tle was be­tween Membe and Lowassa; no one was talk­ing about Magu­fuli. Some peo­ple were push­ing him as a pos­si­ble run­ning mate for who­ever wins.

Lowassa, a wealthy Maa­sai from the Kil­i­man­jaro area, on the other hand has har­boured am­bi­tions of be­com­ing pres­i­dent since the days when Ny­erere was still alive. It is ru­moured that his de­sire to be pres­i­dent reached Ny­erere and the old teacher asked him where he got his wealth. Kik­wete is said to have promised to back Lowassa in a political deal they made ear­lier. When the time came to pay back, the for­mer army of­fi­cer is­sued a bounc­ing cheque.

Down Magu­fuli Road

As the del­e­gates gath­ered in Dodoma, CCM’S cen­tral com­mit­tee had nom­i­nated five pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates out of a long list of as­pi­rants where they claimed some as­pi­rants (read Lowassa) had been re­jected by the ethics com­mit­tee on in­tegrity grounds. They short­listed Jan­uary Makamba, Bernard Membe, Asha-rose Migiro, John Magu­fuli and am­bas­sador Saida Salum as the op­tions for the Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee’s (NEC) 378 mem­bers to pick one.

Sup­port­ers of Lowassa, and they were a good num­ber, were left in a cri­sis mode. They had to sal­vage some­thing be­fore the con­ven­tion ended. For­mer pres­i­dent Ben­jamin Mkapa, sens­ing a fall­ing out, con­sulted other party el­ders and they propped Magu­fuli as a com­pro­mise while the Kik­wete camp stood with Membe. Lowassa sup­port­ers de­cided to cast their vote with Magu­fuli as pay back to Kik­wete for tripping their horse. Lowassa and Kik­wete lost in Dodoma but CCM won. The rest is his­tory.

Ed­ward Lowassa paused to ab­sorb the shock then an­nounced he was quit­ting pol­i­tics. He made a turn around and joined Chadema. Both Magu­fuli and Lowassa at­tracted huge crowds ev­ery­where they went. For once in the his­tory of Tan­za­nian pol­i­tics, peo­ple saw the pos­si­bil­ity of an Op­po­si­tion win. In the end Magu­fuli, gar­nered 58 per cent of the vote and Lowassa got 39. This was the best ever per­for­mance by an Op­po­si­tion can­di­date.

Look­ing back, Ben­jamin Mkapa won the 2000 elec­tion with 71 per cent of votes cast. Jakaya Kik­wete took it much higher with 80 per cent in 2005 but slumped to 62 pc five years later due to dis­con­tent over his per­for­mance and cor­rup­tion in govern­ment. In brief, CCM the party with struc­tures deep into the vil­lages has been los­ing ground es­pe­cially in ur­ban cen­tres to the Op­po­si­tion. Trav­el­ling around Tan­za­nia, you will see the green CCM flag next to Tan­za­nian flag in ev­ery vil­lage, with ded­i­cated of­fi­cials push­ing the rul­ing party agenda.

The cur­rent Magu­fuli wave in Tan­za­nia, based on his aus­ter­ity mea­sures, may just be what CCM needed to re­as­sure Tan­za­ni­ans that cor­rupt elites have not taken over the party. Chadema and the Civic United Front (CUF) have been steadily in­creas­ing their seats in par­lia­ment in ev­ery elec­tion, and Magu­fuli is what CCM needed. But is his course sus­tain­able?

What would Kenya do?

First and fore­most, Kenyans must put political par­ties above in­di­vid­u­als. Plans to wind up all the par­ties in Ju­bilee Coali­tion and merge them into Ju­bilee Party are al­ready at an ad­vanced stage. This is a big mis­take and a set­back to our demo­cratic gains. The merger has got noth­ing to do with ide­ol­ogy or even the good of the coun­try but to con­sol­i­date votes go­ing to the 2022 Gen­eral Elec­tion, os­ten­si­bly for one Wil­liam Ruto, or so he be­lieves.

This is not the first time that the rul­ing party is ask­ing other par­ties to close shop. Kanu swal­lowed Kadu just be­fore in­de­pen­dence – to unify the coun­try, they claimed. The coun­try set off on a more di­vided path be­cause of greed than political par­ties. Then Kanu asked NDP to close shop and join it af­ter the 1997 Gen­eral Elec­tion. The re­sult was that Raila bolted with a good chunk of Kanu into LDP just be­fore the 2002 elec­tion. Kanu lost that year to NARC (LDP and NAK) and slowly slipped into a shell of its for­mer self. It is URP’S turn to wind up and join TNA in Ju­bilee Party.

This clearly demon­strates our dis­dain for in­sti­tu­tions. We sac­ri­fice long term ben­e­fit for short term self­ish goals. CCM, with its mis­giv­ings – the del­e­gates in Dodoma were un­happy that the ethics com­mit­tee was asked to vet can­di­dates yet it is not in the party con­sti­tu­tion – still has some ideals. They still went ahead and picked a can­di­date. CCM is not per­fect, but with ev­ery elec­tion, the party and Tan­za­nia are mak­ing clear steps to­wards a strong demo­cratic cul­ture.

The rea­son why some­one like Magu­fuli could slip through the party sys­tem and turn around how Tan­za­nian govern­ment op­er­ates is be­cause the wheels of CCM are turn­ing. There are bet­ter lead­ers than Raila, Ruto and Uhuru in ODM, URP and TNA re­spec­tively but they will never come through the sys­tem be­cause the party leader will stop the wheel if he re­alises the party is out­grow­ing his in­flu­ence. What we get when URP closes shop to join JP just


when it is gain­ing mo­men­tum is set­back in build­ing strong par­ties as ma­jor play­ers in our demo­cratic growth.

Free­man Mbowe has been an as­tute op­po­si­tion leader since he en­tered Par­lia­ment on Chadema ticket be­fore be­com­ing the party chair­man. He ran for pres­i­dent in 2005 and won 5pc of the vote. The party nom­i­nated its for­mer Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Dr Wil­brod Slaa to run in 2010 where he gar­nered 27 per cent of the vote. In 2015, the party ac­cepted to adopt CCM de­fec­tors and nom­i­nated Ed­ward Lowassa to run for pres­i­dent where he bagged 39 per cent of the vote. Mbowe is still party chair­man; can such a thing hap­pen in Kenya?

Joke is on us

Kenyans set the so­cial me­dia ablaze with #Whatwouldmagu­fulido, a hash tag that made fun of Magu­fuli’s aus­ter­ity mea­sures to save money for ba­sic education and health­care. Some of the posts were as hi­lar­i­ous as our cre­ativ­ity out­side for­mal work can get, but the joke is on us. How can we con­vert the hash tags into magu­fuli­fi­ca­tion proper?

We must bring to an end th­ese shrines for wor­ship­ping in­di­vid­u­als that we call political par­ties. We have political par­ties that if the leader leaves, the party dies a nat­u­ral death. Our political lead­ers must be­gin to build political par­ties that will out­live them. Un­less our par­ties walk the long me­an­der­ing road of democ­racy over time, we will be stop­ping in the middle of a good run to go back to the start­ing point of our democ­racy jour­ney with a new party at ev­ery elec­tion.

Such a sce­nario will re­cy­cle old faces and deny us good lead­er­ship. Magu­fuli’s win was not a fluke, it was a prod­uct of Tan­za­ni­ans ded­i­ca­tion to demo­cratic ideals since adopt­ing mul­ti­party democ­racy and I can bet the bar has been set high. #Whatwillkenyansdo?

Ed­ward Lowassa.

Pres­i­dent Magu­fuli.

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