UK THINK-TANK WARNS: High-level graft cases likely to harm government\'s popularity THISDAY REPORTER Dar es Salaam A UK think-tank, Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), has warned that the popularity of President Jakaya Kikwetes government will likely suffer if prosecutions of high-level corruption cases do not happen sooner rather than later. Although forced upon him by circumstances, the decision by the President, Jakaya Kikwete, to undertake a major cabinet reshuffle in February (and a mini-reshuffle in May) has given his popularity a boost, after his government seemed to be losing steam in the second half of 2007, says the EIUs latest country report on Tanzania. The report cautions: ...despite the cabinet reshuffles, the continuing lack of a high-level prosecution means that the president has been unable to shake off the issue of corruption and demonstrate that he is not beholden to powerful factions within the (ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi) CCM. Moreover, allegations of corruption about senior members of the party (CCM) continue to circulate, creating a wider sense of crisis over the issue. The EIU is part of The Economist Group, which has organized a business roundtable conference scheduled for Dar es Salaam next month. The conference was recently thrown into controversy after the organizers declared businessman Yusuf Manji as one of the key players shaping Tanzanias future. Manji has since been forced to withdraw from the conference following growing public criticism of his involvement. The EIU, which is a research and advisory company, says the recent Cabinet reshuffles have given President Kikwete the opportunity to announce a leaner and meaner cabinet and one that seems, to the public, less beholden to powerful forces within the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). Mr Kikwete has also been able to present the resignation of the former prime minister, Edward Lowassa, and the earlier sacking of the governor of the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) as evidence that he is committed to fighting high-level corruption, says the report. Combined with the public perception of him as a dynamic individual with a popular touch, these developments place Mr Kikwete in a strong political position. The EIU also sensationally declares that there is a campaign against former President Benjamin Mkapa within CCM. The report says the political whispering against Mkapa gathered pace in recent weeks, when the former First Lady, Anna Mkapa, along with the former Chancellor of Mzumbe University, Ibrahim Kaduma, were named as owners of financial services company, Bayport Financial Services. The key point of the saga is not that Mrs Mkapa or Bayport have done anything wrong, which seems unlikely; rather, following the corruption allegations that had been circulating in the Bunge, it indicates a growing anti-Mkapa campaign within the CCM, says the report, adding: Whether the (anti-Mkapa) campaign escalates further will only become apparent over time, but it is likely to fade away unless a major case with sufficient evidence, and few links to the current government, is found. Other concerns about Kikwetes presidency outlined by the UK think-tank include perceptions that the president spends considerable time travelling overseas. The report says high inflation rate in the first half of 2008, notably rising food and fuel prices, has raised questions over the governments failure to act promptly and effectively. According to the report, Kikwete is also suffering from the fact that, having centralized power around himself and his advisers, the governments ability to make important decisions in his absence seems somewhat limited. In its political outlook for 2008/09, the report cites the Zanzibar political situation as another area of concern. It had seemed in mid-March that the ongoing muafaka talks between the CCM and the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) had reached an agreement on some form of power-sharing government. However, the CCM on Zanzibar rejected the deal, arguing that it could be ratified only by a referendum, something the CUF is deeply opposed to, says the report. It adds: Although a breakthrough is possible, notably if the referendum is organized by an independent body, rather than by the Zanzibar Electoral Commission, this would probably require Mr Kikwete to intervene directly in the dispute, something he has been reluctant to do. The report also notes that pressure on the CUF leadership from hard-liners seeking a radical solution will increase. However, given the strong police and army presence on Zanzibar, any violent protests are likely to be defused quickly, says the report.