EA is halfway its elections

Thursday June 4 2020


By Karoli Ssemogeree

2020-2022 is a busy period for elections in East Africa. Burundi may end up with two co-presidents, including the incumbent for President Nkurunziza designated in some elder role as a support for Evariste Ndiyashimiye, a former army officer who was declared elected in May.
Next door in Rwanda, President Paul Kagame plans to leave in 2024. Uganda’s polls are set for February 2021 even though some musings are mentioning it may not be possible due to coronavirus. This will unleash a lot of “research” in the Constitution. The term of both Parliament and the President are some of the few remaining entrenched articles in the Constitution.

Grassroots support is likely to retain President John Magufuli in power in October. Magufuli has steered his country over a difficult period when infections, deaths were all rising at the same time.
Tanzania is a big country and isolating populations is not very easy. People in Tanzania after years in Ujamaa, democratic socialism which worked on their national values, seem to have charted a new destiny. At the onset of outbreak of the virus, government had a problem hushing down social behaviours.
Tanzania did not embrace the restrictive lockdown in force in Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. Tanzania’s policies have been controversial. Tanzanian drivers have been flagged for being infected even though the number of deaths are relatively minimal, nothing close to pandemic levels.

Tanzania like many other countries, are reporting modest spikes in corona deaths. President Magufuli has a style that is both terse, but has stamped his authority on so many government agencies.
The Tanzania of 1980 was on its knees after the Uganda war nearly bankrupted its economy. In 2020, Tanzania received $100 million in royalties from Barrick.
Julius Nyerere, after an authoritarian decade, was ready to leave after his advisers told him the economy was doing worse than he thought. Nyerere had many advisers, including foreigners. When Nyerere left, he took the name of the founding party, TANU, with him.

Six years ago, I attended a legislative drafting class with students from all over East Africa and met a Tanzanian friend. We share exchanges on media. Magufuli gave civil servants an option to retire and many did. My friend’s most memorable posts are farming. Farming in Tanzania is done on a big scale. My friend grows rice, labour and input expensive, but it has quite a return.
The second image was that of his family going to visit their grandmother in the village. The family was flying in a jet. Everything seemed relaxed and normal. Barring a surprise Magufuli whose base is rural, is likely to win a second term.
Kenya’s election is still far away in 2022, but tables are turning on the political class. The ruling party has raided the former Opposition to recruit supporters from parties it defeated in 2017. Former leader of Opposition Raila Odinga is playing a Nkurunziza kind of role without being president.

Kenya’s politics is different but the economy has not been doing so well. Uhuru Kenyatta has come to the realisation he wants a more seasoned successor, but such a change may tip the cart. The image of Kenya focuses a lot on Nairobi, but the rural areas are haemorrhaging people. A number of tribal outfits of the past elections like GEMA are loosening credit to William Ruto, who is focused on succeeding his boss.

The economics is a big issue in Uganda. Heavy rains have disrupted production cutting off rural roads, but they have also been reflected in much higher levels of production even Uganda registered the lowest prices for many crops in 2019 and an ill-fated Coffee Bill is still stuck in Parliament.
During the shutdown very few attempts at large scale movement from one country to another which aside from the Uganda-Rwanda borders is a positive sign that the different neighbours have caught up in basic development a positive thing.

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-At-Law and an Advocate.