Opinion: Edward Lowassa is not Tanzania’s Buhari

Tanzania may well need change, but the incumbent party in the upcoming elections looks more likely to bring in that change than the opposition.

Waiting for a bus in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Photograph by Paul Scott.

Waiting for a bus in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Photograph by Paul Scott.

In debates about democracies in Africa, the victory of an opposition party in elections is often seen as a great indicator of progress. This makes sense up to a point in that it suggests a degree of political openness. But getting overly preoccupied with the idea of the incumbent losing can lead us to ignore the quality of leadership across competing parties.

On 25 October, the people of Tanzania will elect a new president, and as usual in elections, many candidates are presenting themselves as bold reformers and the harbingers of “˜change’. However, this election is not a referendum on whether the country needs change for the sake of change, but a referendum on “quality of leadership” and a choice between different potential presidents and their ability to lead. The new president will face major challenges both at home and abroad, where Tanzania’s role as a stabilising actor in Great Lakes region will be tested with the crisis in Burundi and a political transition in the DRC.

Simply put, Tanzanians are faced with two key questions. Which qualities of political leadership are most important for Tanzania to succeed? And which candidate has those qualities?

Inside the race to the presidency

The two main political parties in Tanzania’s presidential battle are the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) on the one hand, and the opposition CHADEMA – which is part of the opposition alliance Ukawa – on the other. Both of these parties have undergone some significant changes over the past few months, some for better, some for worse.

At the heart of these shifts has been each party’s choice of presidential candidate. During CCM’s nomination process, the ruling party knew that if it failed to make the right decision, it could be held captive by powerful factions, vested interests and influential foreign actors. Aware of the importance of the decision, CCM’s leadership used its veto power as a “custodian of national interest” in an attempt to rebalance the political playing field and end uncertainty caused by dangerous competing political factions. This process ended with the selection of Dr John Pombe Magufuli as its candidate.

Part of this selection saw former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who was linked to a struggle between reformists and vested interests within CCM, depart the ruling party. Lowassa had long been a party stalwart, but reformists were willing to upset some elements within the party if it meant they could get back into public’s good books regarding issues such as a corruption.

Lowassa’s history has been tainted by serious allegations. Firstly, he was relieved of his duties as a land minister under President Ali Mwinyi because of accusations of graft. And after he bounced back to become prime minister under President Jakaya Kikwete, he didn’t last long again as he was implicated in a high-level energy scandal. Lowassa is seen by many as an icon of corruption in Tanzania, and as a former US Ambassador put it in a leaked cable in 2008, “Lowassa’s corrupt activities have been an open secret throughout Tanzania for many years”.

On the other side of the political divide, CHADEMA had long portrayed itself as an alternative to CCM and in the past was credited for its ethical political stances and anti-corruption platform. However, the party under the broader Ukawa alliance had an eventful nomination process too, and in an unexpected twist of fate, arguably squandered its best opportunity to offer Tanzanians quality leadership when it decided to appoint Lowassa, who had by now defected from CCM, as its own presidential candidate.

Tanzania’s Buhari moment?

While political analysts stress how this could be Tanzania’s closest ever election, the reality is that a huge swing would be needed to unseat the ruling CCM. Two recent opinion polls show that some two-thirds of Tanzanians are planning to vote for CCM’s Magufuli. The opposition coalition led by CHADEMA has offered the electorate with old wine in new bottles. And by choosing Lowassa, the opposition has lost more than it has gained. Lowassa and Ukawa have had to drop an anti-corruption platform.

The election in Tanzania stands in stark contrast to Nigeria’s historic election in March in which the electorate was frustrated with President Goodluck Jonathan but saw his electoral rival Muhammadu Buhari as capable of solving the nation’s security crisis and of tackling corruption. Buhari’s campaign focused heavily on graft and, unlike Lowassa, he was able to make his case because he had a strong anti-corruption record. Similarly, when Mwai Kibaki ran as the candidate of a united opposition group in Kenya in 2002, he was only able to defeat ruling party candidate Uhuru Kenyatta with a campaign centred on anti-corruption because his reputation was relatively unsullied.

Unlike these victorious opposition candidates, Lowassa represents for many Tanzanians the very ills that the country wants to see addressed. This is evidenced by a group with vested interests still allegedly pouring money into his campaign with the assurance that these are investments will yield great fortunes. Moreover, Tanzanian national unity must be preserved as is an issue of national security and unfortunately Lowassa is seen to be a divisive figure with a ‘divide and rule’ mentality, locally  known as “stand up and be counted”.

Tanzania may well need change, but, perhaps paradoxically, it seems that voting for the incumbent CCM – Africa’s longest-ruling party – is more likely to usher in that change than the opposition.

Emmanuel Tayari is a geopolitical analyst and an editor for The Continent Observer. You can follow him on twitter at @mtanzania.

For more on the Tanzania elections, see:

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34 thoughts on “Opinion: Edward Lowassa is not Tanzania’s Buhari

  1. Your clueless imbecile who knows nothing about those allegations.. . this article insults my intelligence now I wonder how much CCM paid you to publish article.. . It was a waste of my time going through ur ridiculous B.S!!

  2. You really don’t know nothing about what is going on in Tanzania ,whoever gave you that information has taken you on a long ride

  3. Interesting article, expressing some very commonly felt fears. Did Chadema lose more than it gained in welcoming Lowassa to join them? Until we get the results in a couple of weeks from now we cannot know for sure, but it was certainly a gamble.

  4. The results won’t really tell us if it paid off. The comparison would be with what Ukawa would have got with a different candidate this year, not what they got in 2010.

  5. You really know Nothing about this country, you forgot one thing when you made comparison between Tanzania and Nigeria, This country has never been ready for changes since independence as it is now, besides, whether the opposition win or loose, CCM will know that we’re no longer ignorant like we used to be!

  6. Bottomline: The author is a big lier. Entirely uninformed.
    CCM is for status quo and not change, and CCMs oficial campaign slogan is “CCM NI ILE ILE ” which literally translates ” CCM IS THE SAME SAME THING”. Google that. Jinga kabisa.

  7. Well said….. I lost all hope in the opposition once they took in the father of corruption in Tanzania.

  8. Chadema spent years making Tanzanians believe that Lowassa is corrupt and not fit to rule, yet it took them days to clear his name and say he is no longer corrupt…what changed their mind?…..yet you still speak of people being paid off…lols

    What happened to the popular ‘List Of Shame’ where Chadema had all the so called big sharks in corruption which included their now presidential candidate?

    Like really….you still think Tanzanians need that kind of change? A change in uniform?

  9. Interesting piece really. But you do us wrong by not mentioning the shortcomings of CCM’s presidential candidate as well. We all know there is no such thing as a clean man in Tanzanian politics.
    And you write like someone unfamiliar with Tanzanian politics. Much as Lowassa may have his own agendas as you claim, he must stick to and be guided by the policies of the party that put him there. Which means CHADEMA really did not lose much in the way of voters.
    Bottom line is we Tanzanian are sick and tired of endless CCM promises. We want change, and now is the time for it!
    There’s nothing personal in politics. If UKAWA underperforms, we kick them out too!

  10. Well done..
    Your article Did a good job expressing reservations that most serious Tanzanians holds over Lowassa.
    Further to that, the uncouth nurture of some of his supporters (as expressed in their comments in here), is worrying! Obviously, they think they can win by intimidating those who harbour different opinion from theirs. Unknown to them, is the fact that, their behaviour actually proves a point!
    It would have been more useful to spare the rest of us their coarseness and vulgar behavior. If one has a valid point, it is always much easier and smarter to focus on building a case to support that point, and defend it in a civilized manner.
    Jiongezeni, mjenge hoja! Acheni matusi.

  11. Every great vision needs great input of people, we don’t care how many allegations against hon:Lowassa but we have to do it, I mean he’s our choice

  12. Lowassa had an ambition to be a president but he didn’t consider about timing is it right time for him to contest , I think motives behind made him to be where he is right now but is too late aged and healthier problem he can’t compet with Dr Magufuli who is healthier and strong to fight against corruption!

  13. Emmanuel Tayari you have echoed what I have been saying ever since ENL was taken by CDM-Ukawa as their Candidate. I wrote CDM-Ukawa has misdirected itself- WAMEBUGI STEP” . I wrote and talked on the Buhari Factor, Kibaki’s Success Story and departure from the Anti-Graft and Corruption Agenda that raised the fame of the Opposition Partied. Its no wonder JPM Stands a High Chance of Wining the coming elections.

  14. This article is written without much research on the ground. While admitting Tanzanians need change NOW, then what is CCM offering is not REAL change but a change of PERSON. Tanzania is clearly tired of same old tricks of politicians promising change as lip service while their intention is to keep their interests and keep robbing the national cake.
    The writer is trying make us believe the opinion polls that are orchestrated by CCM and otherwise banned for others by laws that are incompetently made by CCM government. How stupid is that?
    Lowassa clearly represents DECISION POINT for the nation. His defection to the opposition has posed a REAL danger to CCM. We can observe this based on the concluding campaigns. CCM, instead of clearly elaborating their policies of “SO CALLED CHANGE” have focused their entire campaign on one man “LOWASSA”. Ask yourself, Why should LOWASSA be everything they look at??

  15. Did this Emmanuel character write about Tanzania while in the country? Did he speak to mwananchi who are living under a dollar a day with no clean water, school and medical facilities and no hope for tomorrow? All these brought by the ccm rule of over 30 yrs in this country. Ccm machine is old and dirty and has long malfunctioned. There’s nothing they can do right now to change that. Tanzanians we need a complete change of regime not a new face at the old party.

  16. It is obvious what you say if you look at tanzania during its days preaching socialism. Its for only were there during those days could explain what we went through.
    A few llike lowassa could not talk loud but believed in living well. Because of that policy then he was seen as a traitor. His risks are qualities of being enterpreneur today. While he clearly used the opportunities accordingly he was seen as acquiring property. Today those who did not use the time frame appropriatley are catching up with the lost time and its horriffic.
    The policies have not tricled down to a normal citizen. The youth are suffering from the modes which eversince or every 10 years adjustment are focusing structures while they guys are growing.
    Onething you have forgotten lowassa has just decided to win the people who are desperate. He is. Giving his effort internally and thats what struck the deal. Thats primary 4 us now.
    Therefore. I afraid your perspective have lost the human face which lowassa is running away with it cross bord. And opposition realised the people needs to survive sumultaneously with fighting corruption

  17. Emmanuel Tayari, with great certainty you should declare your interest that of being CCM cadre. We could have really forgiven you! Sorry to say that your article is full of lies…. this article of yours if full of lies and lies and I’m thanking those few other readers who have commented on this rubbish that you have wrote. Are you really considering yourself to be a geopolitical analyst and an editor for The Continent Observer? This is sad, please stop misleading people and the world at large… for me you are just another Blogger who is at the forefront in carrying forward propaganda for the CCM ruling elites. … Maybe you’re one of them or they have paid you well to mislay your senses. You lack credibility, and this is a kind article that can be used to instigate violence. The time of propaganda are over my friend, Tanzanian are tired of corrupt CCM leaders and of course of the entire system, be ready as the changes are coming in Tanzania, and the person behind driving both political, economic, constitutional , and social changes is MR. EDWARD NGOYAI LOWASSA…
    Emmanuel GET LOST

  18. Tayari,
    You are very right. The real change in Tanzania cannot come out of Ukawa but the reformed CCM. Between the two, Dr. Magufuli is the real hope – and the future – for this wonderful country. We can’t risk bringing in Ukawa. We will be the most irresponsible people on earth.

  19. Lots of Ukawa knows that the push they gave was very hard. No proper strategies are one this side.
    That hard liners of CCM are more than 12 m voters of the 22m does not strike their minds that the battle of minorities in democracy should really be played in really good thinking and not HOPES. And sorry very phalse hopes. Hopes that TANZANIA a developing country can find a short cut to LOWASSA’S rich side. >40 m people on his side to be honest what can he bring to call it change?
    So the change he speaks is not change at all….it is just opposition normal polical point of view and norrowed to a few dukawala owners only. Look CHADEMA may have good things to offer to the Nation…. but it is a narrow thought that remains a simple manifesto. The smaller parties are too tinny to measure and CCM WAS NEVER TORN IN TWO . NEVER… this has cemented them just like ANC. I sometime thought with the donors issue they could MUGABELIZE US….no…. that changed them and things went well. Now what will they do with LOWASSA if he takes the lead? Freeze all loans? So, the vote is given not to UKAWA FOR IT’S NARROW POINT OF VIEW AND THE FACT THAT THEY DO NOT HAVE NO NATIONAL AGENDA IN ANYTHING THAN ….MANIFESTO …ORIGNAL THOUGHT OF ONE HOUSE. This is seen in who is who in CHADEMA.

  20. t is so sad Tanzanians are now developing the culture of choosing what information sound better to the ears rather embrace the spirit of tolerance and argument. This opinionated article instigate a very question that everyone is trying to find answer, that’s did UKAWA made a right move to trust LoWASa to lead their battle? Well I don’t think so, the bases of opposition in Tanzania got favourable support follow a campaign to woe out the so called “mafisadi” of which LoWASa was among the notorious listed. If we acquitted him on the bases of no evidence argument then how far are we sure the rest won’t claim same right to trial before condemned. Either case, a week is left to find out. Thanks for this article

  21. I am still wondering as to what was wrong with Dr. Slaa and Prof Lipumba. After all, before Lowassa joined CHADEMA, they both were elected by their respective parties to run for presidency. I believed they were the real revolutionists with relatively clean record. I wonder, something should be wrong somewhere!!!

  22. Magufuli is where he is because he has continually guaranteed the ruling elite and the “hands that forced Kikwete” to nominate him, their share of theft.

  23. I have read the article and comments on those who commended and criticised. With six days to election on 25th Oct and if this is taken as a sample of voters then Magufuli will get 39% (11 supporters) and Lowasa 54% (15 supporters). Two comments I could not establish their side equivalent to 7%. Mr. Tayari have you achived your objective?

  24. This analyst seems to know little about Tanzanian politics and the root cause of grand thievery and corruption (ufisadi) of public funds and resources.
    There is no way CCM can champion sustainable changes that can transform the country by ending ufisadi. The reason being, it is the same party CCM which benefits with ufisadi that is why it blocked the nation’s process of writing a New Constitution which among others—would allow separation of powers among three organs of the state—the government, the Parliament and the Judiciary.

    Lack of separation of powers among the organs is the root cause of systemic ufisadi which has enabled CCM hang on power in the expense of generating millions of impoverished Tanzanian. The CCM government has been engaging in ufisadi simple because the current constitution is week.

    For example in 2014 the government was implicated in the Tegeta escrow ufisadi of 306 billion shillings.

    Yet the CCM Presidential candidate Dr John Magufuli seems not know why ufisadi has become a major enemy in Tanzania today. Dr Magufuli in his campaign rallies has been promising that he would establish a special court for mafisadis (people accused of corruption and thievery).

    Today in Tanzania judges are Presidential appointees and Ministers are members of Parliament. How can in this arrangement the Parliament and Judiciary be free from the government? In my view, Dr Magufuli’s strategy to end ufisadi will make a negligible difference in ending grand corruption and thievery of public funds and resources because the ill act is committed by the same government. Can such a court be free from the government pressure?

    This is why ordinary citizens think that Lowassa’s government can make change because CHADEMA under Coalition of Citizens Constitution (UKAWA) have promised to write a New Constitution based on the citizens Draft Proposed Constitution. The draft Constitution stipulates how the powers of the three organs will be separated.

    The question is: Will 25 October elections be free and fair ( the Tanzania government will refrain from its plan to use state security organs to intimidate votes) to allow democracy—-people’s power to elect the leaders they want?

  25. Corruption is rife and pervasive in Tanzania because the people allow it. If the people begin to demand for good governance against all odds and act in this direction the corrupt animals will not have any choice but to desist from the nefarious act.
    Tanzania is where you find people eulogizing and respecting those who plunder them and put the future of their unborn generations into jeopardy. They swines go to churches and mosques with their ill gotten wealth and they are made leaders in diverse dimensions. Until the people manifestly express disgust and disdain towards those who prey on them poverty will never become a thing of the past in Tanzania.

  26. i dont know much about articles but i think its unethical to give statistics with no evidence even if its an analysis…the two thirds you talking of that are on ccm’s side…doesn’t exist. im no politician and politics ain’t my cup of tea but as Tanzanians we come a long way to even be willing to put ourselves out their and cry for change. ccm has been in power for more than 50 years and honestly tunaendelea tu kuwa maskini yani population inaongezeka na umaskini unakeep up, and tutaonekana wajinga sana kama tutakaa chini and vote for mtu ambaye kashatutishia the one thing we are known good at i.e. Peace. it could be talk from Ukawa but in the end its The REAL TALK, we want a person who is not all personal about his business but recognizes our problems and is willing to do anything to address. he might not be the best, he has flaws, and even worse he is known as a corrupt person but then again he took a stand kept everything behind and dared to ask for your votes one more time to do it right and ma fellow Tanzanians right there is what we call transparency. 25th October 2015 sio mbali Mungu atujalie uzima and kila mtu amake the right choice. #FreeAndPeacefulElections

  27. Progress is impossible without change. And those who cannot change their mind, they cannot change anything. Tanzanians it’s your time to change.. You need an establishmentarian.. For elites your smart enough.. To detect the truth.. For a few, who were taking Lowuassa as their choice, May God give you manifold wisdom and knowledge to show the entire population of Tanzanians the way.. I’m surprised for an elite in the 20th century still advocating for CCM leadership in Tanzania.. May God forgive you The zombie of the people of Tanzania..

  28. count who comment here than you will get your answer who will win
    stop copying and paste what other articles have said

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