THERE is a serious rift within the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) establishment despite assertions to the contrary being made by ruling party elites, Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation Executive Director Joseph Butiku has asserted. He told THISDAY in an exclusive interview ahead of next weeks tenth anniversary of Nyerere Day, that an underlying political battle is currently rocking CCM as the countdown gets underway towards the 2010 general elections. Butiku, a close and trusted aide of the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere right up to the founding Father of the Nations death in 1999, traced the roots of the internal rift simmering within the ruling party to the 1995 presidential nomination race. He said CCM has to this day never fully recovered from the deep divisions that emerged then, after rival groups were formed within the party to campaign for their preferred presidential candidates. Although Benjamin Mkapa won the CCM nomination ticket to succeed Ali Hassan Mwinyi as head of state in that year, it was only by a slim margin and after a second round of voting, following a strong challenge mounted by Jakaya Kikwete. Mkapa subsequently served for two full presidential terms (1995-2005), and was eventually succeeded by Kikwete who is currently the incumbent. According to Butiku, the current rifts within the ruling party are �mainly attributable to one individual who missed the chance to become president after his name was dropped from the CCM presidential nomination race (in 1995). �Almost 15 years have passed since the events that transpired during the 1995 CCM presidential nomination process in Dodoma, But the divisions that emerged way back then are still affecting the party today, he said. He cited incumbent President Kikwetes recent public acknowledgment that the level of mistrust among some CCM bigwigs, especially members of parliament, has reached a point where some MPs are now even fearful of being poisoned by their colleagues. Butiku further asserted that CCM lawmakers are now split into two rival groups � one that opposes corruption in its entirety and another that defends such graft, whether as bribery givers or takers. Without offering any names, he said the same �individual� whose name was dropped from the presidential nomination race in 1995 �is still bent on becoming president, and is to blame for what is happening within CCM now.� When pressed to identify the �individual� concerned, he said he preferred to �discuss issues rather than people.� But he hinted that the �individual� was rejected by CCM in 1995 because of his unexplained wealth amassed within a short period of time working in the government. �He was dropped from the nomination process because of corruption allegations against him. He also did not meet the partys ethics criteria for public leadership,� Butiku explained. He suggested that the �individual� remains influential in the ruling partys higher echelons, is apparently as ambitious as ever to become president, and has not dismantled his campaign team within the party from 1995. Butiku sought to emphasize that the current divisions within CCM, if not quickly addressed and smoothened over, constitute a serious threat to the ruling partys sustainable well-being, and could eventually lead to the party splitting apart altogether if allowed to get worse. Making reference to reports of ugly events that transpired during last Augusts CCM national executive committee (NEC) meeting in Dodoma, he said although some CCM leaders have since been trying to carry out a public damage control exercise, much is still going on beneath the surface. The unusually highly-charged NEC meeting appointed a three-man committee of CCM elders, led by ex-president Ali Hassan Mwinyi, to try and analyze reasons behind increasing incidents of CCM legislators criticizing government performance from the parliamentary floor. Other members of the committee are former National Assembly Speaker, Pius Msekwa, and former Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly, Abdulrahman Kinana.