This appeal was made at an interfaith symposium in Moshi towards the end of last week, convened especially by good offices of Norwegian Church Aid, and intended to cement an understanding as well as the spirit of consensus on attitudes of religious leaders during the campaign period. It is a timely appeal which can’t be ignored.
The concern about the conduct of religious leaders in preparation for the late October General Election comes in the wake of other intense worries as to the situation in the country given that neighbouring countries have an intensified coronavirus situation, while Tanzania has been all but spared.
At the same time the clerical agencies represented had concerns with issues of social justice, underlining that this is the premise on which peace and harmony can be assured, where governing authorities are doing a lot in that direction. There wasn’t audible criticism in the area, an improvement from the past.
As Tanzania has been practising multiparty politics since 1992 and a series of general elections have taken place during this period, most sections of society have learnt crucial lessons, which should help to orient their action towards the best possible results.
The elections are meanwhile being organised under conditions that sum up what has been taking place in the past five years, and for most purposes we could say the pace of change and supervision has been exemplary. It is not exaggerated to say it didn’t happen earlier.
Plenty of avenues that used to lay the basis for excessive scheming as to what should happen when people exercise their right to choose the leaders they want have been closed off.
It isn’t far-fetched to say that when corruption is rife in the country those who sit on the top of the rubble have solid avenues even in religious organisations for they become noticeable in deciding affairs of community groups. In that case, corruption is toxic even in religious organisations because they need cash, and swindlers have most of it.
In an earlier period the seminar in Moshi would have been a platform to cool down partisan minds and seek a measure of level headedness while different religious groups have their persuasions.
But one good thing about election politics in Tanzania is that we have never had clear-cut religious and tribal divides in any election or indeed any period in the country’s post-independence experience.
We have been fortunate in that regard but it has also taken plenty of single-minded focus on unity by Father of the Nation Mwalimu Julius K Nyerere, a path that others followed. This phase of government is cementing unity by eroding corruption.
Much as there is no real danger of partisan politics from religious leaders on the horizon, it is still relevant that they are reminded – as an aspect of reminding the public as a whole, that partisanship by religious leaders will do us no good to conduct peaceful elections.
The nation hopes that important projects that touch the lives and welfare of the majority and are currently being implemented will be completed smoothly even with the lingering threat of the Covid-19 pandemic. Disunity induced by partisan or divisive activity by religious leaders will not do the public any good.