Taking sides in the Kenya campaign for Tanzanian leaders logical

12Aug 2017
Ani Jozen
The Guardian
Taking sides in the Kenya campaign for Tanzanian leaders logical

WHILE current president John Magufuli made some headlines in the previous general election in Kenya, it is his opponent in his own election as president in2015 who has made even bigger headlines in the recent polls across the border, in more ways than one.


When he set out to conduct some campaigning in favor of opposition leader Raila Odinga in the face of ruling party candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, Dr John Magufuli was just performing a ritualistic, feel good exercise in relation to the campaigns in Kenya on account of traditional good ties of Tanzanian  leaders with the Kenyan left wing, its socialist wing. 

The participation this year of opposition leader Edward Lowassa in favor of the incumbent was substantial.

The veteran Monduli MP and well known clan elder among the Maasai people of Tanzania and Kenya,, where their clan links are more or less unbroken despite a sort of interiorizing of outlook on account of territorial boundaries, had an effective  role in the campaign.

 It is not because he won over a section of those he talked to as that can’t be measured,  but he was needed by the Jubilee Alliance leadership to help convince the divided Maasai as to where their loyalty lies, or why they should trust those in power, more or less as their ‘natural allies. 

The reason is that in the violence early 2008 the Rift Valley as a whole was allied to opposition leaders but in the course of the trials at The Hague the two rival warlords pitched tent.

They reached that conclusion as they had each for a different reason but allied at the class level, plenty to distrust of opposition leader Odinga, when the camp leader for William Ruto. 

Again, in pitching up with Kenyatta and becoming his most important ally, Rutto linked his own fate with that of the strongest candidate, and like his role model, second phase president Daniel arap Moi, he has healthy suspicion for Odinga’s left leaning policies, though the latter is arguably no revolutionary, far from it.  

This is the sort of conservative alliance that has survived two elections, the first as a tentative and need-based alliance, and then as an established, relaxed alliance of the breadth of conservative political forces in the country.

Just as what usually appears to be ethnicity in Kenyan politics has unquestionably solid and rational class parallels, so is it the case in Tanzanian politics on the one hand, and definitely in the sort of alliances that politicians this side of the border have been taking in campaigns on that side. 

President Magufuli has a pronounced relationship with Odinga, and not so long ago welcomed him at his Chato home in the lake side region of Geita, and while they don’t belong to the same ethnic groups (as that would mean the president has Mara region ancestry where those close to Odinga are found) they have clear Interlacustrine affinities. It is Burundi president Pierre Nkurunziza who has the closest affinities with Dr Magufuli here.

This sort of inter-territorial affinities was being heard of in a loud manner, even as a strategic paradigm of sorts, that those of Hima ancestry, which include the Banyankole of Uganda and the Congo as well as the Tutsi of Rwanda and Burundi, and some say the Luos are linked to them, and are bent on expanding their reach.

They had taken over Rwanda, and implicitly rule Uganda, pushed into the Congo and put in place Laurent Kabila (whose adopted son still rules there), and were bent on holding on to Burundi, despite the challenge from the Hutu  majority. 

After this alliance petered out as the triumvirate in Congolese politics collapsed in the wake of the killing of President Kabila after four years in office or less, the worry eased.

No such ethnic plot links politicians in Kenya and Tanzania, but cross border affinities of various hues and stripes, at times dangerous liaisons have always existed. 

For instance the Mau Mau had its active wing in Tanga region, with Osale Otango. Zanzibar Revolution leader John Okello was a native of far off Uganda, while Laurent Kabila and Yoweri Museveni spent decades living here and plotting.  Uganda is in many ways an ethnic continuity of South Sudan and the latter’s politicians know Uganda more or less as a second home. In Tanzania worries about Al-Shabaab don’t look at Somalia as the source, but Mombasa.

Despite that they had their differences, the Interlacustrine region leaders who teamed up against the regime of ailing ex-Zairean president Mobutu Seseseko had a free market idea in mind, and they put up structures of the sort to the best they could. 

Uganda is a bigger place and slightly more chaotic, so plenty of decentralization took place and a restoration of chiefdoms, such that ex-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was sometimes visiting Uganda and talking  to kings of Uganda’s kingdoms in the absence of the president, as if he were Africa’s paramount chief.

With durable peace, President Paul Kagame could have done more or less the same in the Congo, as he would be counted among the closest allies of the state, etc.

That is how the links at territorial level between Tanzania and Kenya are also expressed, where it was unmistakable that the links between Dr Magufuli and Odinga are found in a history of shared radicalism between the Kenyan opposition and Tanzania’s leadership. 

In like manner, there are intense sympathies between first phase leadership in Kenya and its second phase sequel, continuing in the third phase with President Mwai Kibaki, and then the fourth phase with Uhuru Kenyatta and Tanzania’s opposition. 

The old version of CHADEMA, before Dr Wilibrod Slaa became secretary general, discovered the EPA cash issue in the internet and used it to radicalize the party then having few followers, is where the party finds itself again. Earlier, a top CHADEMA leader would hardly campaign for a billionaire leader like Uhuru.

There is also a dimension of personal wealth where both Raila and Uhuru are rich people, just like Lowassa and even Magufuli, but they belong to different strata in that regard. 

Here the relationship is perfect, that Magufuli has intense affinities with Odinga, and they both belong to upper middle class situations, not the top level bourgeoisie. Lowassa for Tanzania belongs to those who are noticeable in their capacities without being an industrialist like Kenyatta, but in Tanzanian terms he is much like him.