By Reshma Mawji, and Emmanuel Ampadu
Tensions rise and chaos is expected, as Tanzania (Africa’s most populous nation) readies for its fifth multi-party elections, tomorrow Sunday the 25th October. The front-runner in the presidential race appears to be John Magufuli, 55, candidate for the long-ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and the candidate for the opposition party, Chadema, is Edward Lowassa, 62. This is the first time Tanzana is facing such a ticgh election race; Analysts have warned that this unusually tight race will very possibly spark tensions, meaning, there is a chance of post-election violence in what has been one of Africa’s leading democracies and most peaceful countries.
This saddens me, because it reminds me of Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election violence which killed up to 1,500 people and displaced nearly 600,000 others.
I vividly remember that melancholy day of December 31st 2007: In an effort to escape the violence and rampage I Kenya, I left by bus to go to Tanzania where my parents currently live, only to be stuck in the bus in midst of all the violence for nearly 28 hours with no food or water; all I saw was tear gas, and homeless, disheartened Kenyans carrying beds and furniture on their backs as their searched for refuge. This was probably one of the saddest, most disappointing days of my life as a Kenyan. And now hearing of a similar scare in Tanzania, my other homeland (where I practically grew up and where my parents now live) scares the jitters out of me.
Post-election Violence Kenya 2007-2008
CCM has won every poll since Tanzania’s first multi-party elections in 1992. But this year, the ruling party faces its strongest challenge yet from a four-party coalition called Ukawa, which includes Chadema and CUF – the country’s second and third-largest parties, respectively. According to Al-Jazeera news, Tanzania’s national elections commission has cautioned against violence and is currently conducting peace awareness campaigns; nevertheless, many nervous Tanzanians are stocking up on extra food or leaving for safer destinations.
“The main reason why the expectation of violence is high is because you have a lot of young voters who are voting for the first time. So for them it’s more than just voting. It’s like a football game. It’s a competition. It’s a competition about politics.” said Emmanuel Tayari, a Tanzanian geopolitical analyst.
This leads me to questioning, why? Why don’t we learn from our neighbouring countries and from dark pasts? Why are peaceful elections so difficult? Why do we give in to wars so easily, whether political, ethnic or tribal?
In Rwanda, 800,000 people were slaughtered due to ethnic friction; neighbours killed neighbours, and husbands killed their Tutsi wives. Thousands of Tutsi women were taken and kept away as sex slaves, and the incident was regarded a “genocide”. It is also important to note that the genocide in Rwanda has directly led to two decades of unrest in DR Congo, which have cost the lives of an estimated five million people.
With all this evidence, why do we still choose to indulge in anything other than peace?
Tanzania is a beautiful country, with 1.2 million wildebeests in the Serengeti, and the majestic Kilimanjaro, it is a prodigious tourist hub, one to be especially proud of. Peaceful democratic politics in Tanzania, an island of stability in the volatile East African region, is a matter of pride for most citizens.
There are currently foreign cameras everywhere in Tanzania, keeping a watchful eye on the country. In any election, any other year, hardly anyone outside the country’s borders would pay any attention to Tanzanians as they vote, because Tanzania is one of the most peaceful and stable countries in Africa. At this point, I can only hope that the elections, which begin tomorrow, will hold strong to the nonviolent nature of Tanzania as a country of peace and stability.
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