Laura Seay, assistant professor of political science at Morehouse College in Atlanta, writes an informative blog called “Texas in Africa”—apparently because she admits to missing her Texas home whenever she visits Africa. In a recent post explaining how social scientists think, she amused me by pointing out that “what your driver says isn’t evidence,” only five days after my own October 15 post had cited my safari driver’s dislike of Tanzania’s “corrupt” President, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of the CCM (Chama Cha Mapinduzi or Party of the Revolution).
Whether or not my driver had his finger on the pulse of the Tanzanian electorate ahead of the voting on October 31, an opinion poll released two weeks ago showed challenger Willibrod Slaa of the Party for Democracy and Development leading Kikwete by a slim margin of four percentage points. Slaa has since complained about the failure of Dar es Salaam police to clear the roads for his campaign entourage, implying an effort to obstruct his candidacy.
Meanwhile representatives of other opposition parties continue to accuse Kikwete’s ruling CCM of using state resources to promote its campaign. Ismail Jussa, deputy secretary general of the Civic United Front, says demographic surveys suggest no more than sixteen million voters in Tanzania even though the Electoral Commission counts nineteen million. Hashim Rungwe of the National Convention for Construction and Reform reports CCM politicians making small cash payments to voters, while charges persist that the CCM has trained militias in advance of the election.
Near Lake Victoria, politically motivated beatings and machete attacks—none resulting in death so far—have fed concerns of an explosion of violence after the election. And the Tanzania Episcopal Conference, the Christian Council of Tanzania, and the Pentecostal Council of Tanzania have repeatedly had to deny rumors that their pastors have exhorted congregations to vote for a Christian presidential candidate in this country which has roughly equal Christian and Muslim populations. The Tanzania Muslim Council’s Chief Sheikh, Mufti Issa Shaaban bin Simba, has responded by calling on voters to make their choices without religious bias.
Tanzania boasts a distinctive record of political calm for postcolonial Africa. But the hundreds of deaths which followed the disputed presidential election less than three years ago in a relatively stable neighbor country, Kenya, has raised doubts about the reliability of Tanzania’s peace and put many of its citizens on edge.—Don Stoll