Dear Ndugu Musyoka, many thanks for the advice, but perhaps another time..? By Jenerali Ulimwengu Posted Monday, October 25 2010 at 13:28 I believe some things are simply not done. For instance, at a moment when a neighbouring country is having a particularly intense electoral campaign you do not, just do not, weigh in on any contender's side if you are anyone of importance in your own country. Whatever your preference in the neighbours' political contest, you do not go public with it, for that makes for extremely poor neighbourliness. That's a simple lesson that the Vice President of Kenya, Kalonzo Musyoka, would do well to learn, and learn well. He recently went on record as saying that it would be good for Tanzanians to re-elect President Jakaya Kikwete because, according to him, the East African Community still needs him. As sentiments go, there is nothing in Mr Musyoka's statement. Indeed, there are millions of people, in Tanzania and elsewhere who would like to see Kikwete returned in the October election, and that wish goes down as being absolutely legit. What falls short of basic propriety, however, is the station occupied by the maker of that statement. Mr Musyoka, in case he has forgotten, is the Vice President of Kenya, Tanzania's neighbour, and whatever he says in public on Tanzania is construed to represent what official Kenya thinks on matters Tanzanian. So, by a very small extension, one would be forgiven for thinking that the Kenyan government has already made up its mind as to whom it would like to see attend EAC summits after October. I strongly suspect this is not so, and that Mr Musyoka "misspoke," in Hillary Clinton's parlance. But this "misspeech" on the part of a ranking official of a neighbouring country can have grave diplomatic consequences. A little recent history of the region comes in handy here: Suppose that, in December 2007, when the citizens of Kenya went to those fateful polls, the vice president of Tanzania had voiced his support for one of the candidates in that particular election, and that the results had been the same as they came to be. Would President Kikwete have had the legitimacy and moral authority to play the role he came to play when matters soured? Would the contestant, have agreed to be mediated by a party that had already shown its hand in such a partisan manner? Mr Musyoka may not know this, but there were many people in the region who thought that Raila Odinga, leader of ODM, was the Kenyan leader most suited to help the region consolidate co-operation and foster greater integration. Needless to say, Mr Musyoka had other ideas, and his attitude crucially affected the outcome of that election, with the consequences that we all know, and which brought Kikwete to the rescue. Tanzania is engaged in perhaps its most hotly contested election in a while, and passions are wont to rise now and then. There have been unfortunate accusations and counteraccusations, calumnies and vituperations flying in all directions, involving the main contenders in a contest that is long on rhetoric but short on ideological substance, a heady mixture that could, mark my word, could, lead to trouble. In such circumstances, people of goodwill and wise counsel in the region are advised to follow the developments with care, get to understand the intricacies of the campaigns and the personalities behind them, even though most of what comes out of the campaigns will be promises that cannot be delivered. The Community now boasts five member states, and each one of these will be holding periodic elections. We are going to have elections every year (almost), with the terrible toll that elections tend to take on Africa's fragile polities. What the region needs least are politicians who misspeak. Let's remind ourselves again, that all politics is local. Mr Musyoka would do well to - what else for a born-again gentleman? - pray for Tanzania's elections to pass off peacefully, but to otherwise let well enough alone. Jenerali Ulimwengu, chairman of the board of Raia Mwema newspaper, is a political commentator and civil society activist based in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org The East African: *- Comment*|Dear Ndugu Musyoka, many thanks for the advice, but perhaps another time..?