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Will the real Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete please stand up?

Discussion in 'Jukwaa la Siasa' started by PELE, May 10, 2010.

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    PELE JF-Expert Member

    May 10, 2010
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    Will the real Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete please stand up?

    By By Elsie Eyakuze
    Posted Monday, May 10 2010

    It was around December of 2005, shortly before President-elect Jakaya Kikwete was sworn in, at one of the many parties that CCM threw to celebrate its resounding defeat of the anaemic opposition.

    President Mkapa was up on a podium holding hands with a somewhat stiff Abeid Amani Karume and other CCM top dogs, smiling and singing and dancing.

    His blissful expression said it all: Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I'm free at last!

    I'll let you in on an open secret: A significant part of Tanzania's successful transfer of presidential power rests on the fact that Julius Nyerere had a gift for handpicking unwilling successors who wouldn't mess too badly with his legacy, and who wouldn't go tripping gaily down the path of rapaciousness.

    Sadly, the Father of the Nation was graceless enough to pass on in 1999 and leave us intellectually orphaned. We now have to think, sift through election manifestos and vote for ourselves, and as the saying goes: You get the leaders that you deserve.

    In 1995, high off the fumes of our first multiparty elections, we narrowly avoided enthroning Augustine Mrema - then of the Tanzania Labour Party.

    You would think that we would remember from that time the perils of populist leaders and the euphoric frenzy that they can whip us into.

    Evidently the communal memory is extremely selective, and thus did we deliver ourselves into the hands of Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, with 80 per cent of the vote.

    Jakaya Kikwete, popularly known as Jay Kay, is a media-age president. The camera loves him, and he loves it right back.

    An incomparable jetsetter and baby-dandler, he squeezes his statecraft in-between bouts of PR-friendly activities.

    Of note: Fighting the emergent wave of armed crime, treating gently with many of our political freedoms, building the Sekondari za Kata (secondary schools in every ward) and the University of Dodoma, launching the agricultural manifesto Kilimo Kwanza... Still, the wananchi are growing restless.

    In comparison with his predecessor, Jay Kay is coming across as somewhat flaky on the Big Policy Initiative front. Of late, some of the chattering class are even singing Mkapa's praises.

    "At least he had spine!" they warble. "At least you knew exactly what he stood for!' We have conveniently forgotten how little we liked him when we called him Mzee Ukapa.

    But the point is made, and Mkapa will be remembered, by some if not all, for his willingness to make difficult and unpopular decisions for what he saw as the good of the nation. A spine is a fine thing to have.

    Indeed, Jay Kay has helped to reintroduce us to the idea of electoral politics as a blood sport. Members of Parliament will not be thanking him for this.

    According to a University of Dar es Salaam Research and Education for Democracy in Tanzania poll conducted in March, 60 per cent of our MPs stand to lose their seats in October.

    But what about Jay Kay's performance in upholding Nyerere's impossibly towering legacy?

    Take a look at the East African Community. You know how it goes: You get promoted to general manager of an organisation you've worked for all your life, and inherit a white elephant project because the founding members had a yen for it back in the Stone Age.

    Pan-Africanism is a Generation Independence dinosaur that the African Union dusts off from time to time to justify its continued existence.

    What to do? When polled by the Wangwe Commission in 2007 over 80 per cent of Tanzanians were unimpressed by the notion of an East African Political Federation, "sensitisation" programmes be damned.

    If there is one country that knows about the pitfalls of hooking up with a neighbouring state, it is Tanzania.

    But has Jay Kay killed off this lumbering giant? No. After all, there would be unwanted economic ramifications to deal with, not to mention angry neighbours.

    Has Jay Kay championed the EAC? Um. I know a lot more about his views on malaria than what he really thinks about the EAC. How well do the EAC countries play together? We're about to find out.

    Tanzanian incumbents always get re-elected, so let's not waste time with election talk. Here's what you can take to the bank for the next five years: Jay Kay is going to keep serving his nation to the best of his ability as he perceives it.

    More importantly, here is what Tanzanians want for the next five years: Unleash your superpowers, Mr President, for the good of the country. We've read your CV. We like you. We believed the campaign promises and we're still suckers for that toothy white smile. It is way past time to fulfil your potential.

    Elsie Eyakuze is a media associate with Serengeti Advisers Ltd, Dar es Salaam. E-mail: elsie@serengetiadvisers.com