December 8, 2011

Kikwete, play the ball

When presidents end their terms in office they leave a legacy. Some legacies last longer than others. Some are planned some coincidental. The current president of Tanzania has by far best opportunities to leave lasting legacies once he leaves office. It does not matter whether he finishes his five year term in 2015 or not. Opportunities have presented themselves for him to leave lasting marks on the Tanzania landscape, particularly in constitutional process, politics of his party, governance and equally important state of the country’s natural resources.
I discuss these potentials below:

1.   Writing a new constitution
President Kikwete has the best opportunity to put Tanzania on a more democratic course than all the past presidents of Tanzania. His options surpass Mkapa’s, Mwinyi’s and even Julius Nyerere’s. Julius Nyerere, then prime minister facilitated the initial constitution of Tanganyika and later Tanzania after the Union with Zanzibar in 1964. Subsequently, amendments were done by parliament to institute one party rule of the state.

Mwinyi and Mkapa only patched the document to suit certain purposes of their time, like introduction of multipartism and addressing issues related to the Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar. Of all past presidents Mkapa has the least opportunity to facilitate any edit to the constitution.

Comes Kikwete and the winds in the world have changed, multipartism have been here for more than a decade. The right time has come and the condition at home favor, re –writing, not editing the constitution.
It is a good thing that, the president has agreed and boldly announced that the constitution will be re-written. Re-writing is not the same as editing it to suit certain conditions. Kikwete must be proud of the legacy he is going to leave in Tanzania.  He should not liken his role to that played by Nyerere, Mwinyi or Mkapa. His environment is different in many aspects. He is leading citizens of Tanzania; Nyerere was creating citizens of Tanzania.

Kikwete is surrounded by learned interest groups and informed population, Mwinyi  worked in the middle of a population that was just opening their eyes to look at how the world around  has changed while they slumbered. And, while Mkapa redefined Tanzania’s position in the world (having shun socialism in Mwinyi era) Kikwete has the economic and political interest of the world battling against national interest on home soil. On top of that home grown interests need more say about the destiny of their country, than did during the previous presidents. Such conditions prompted for re-writing of the constitution. What a noble cause Kikwete is leading!  Nyerere complained for lack of local expertise, Kikwete surrounded by hundreds of them. The ball is in court. What he decides will put this nation on course to good or bad eventuality.

2.   Divide or unite his fractured CCM
CCM is on the verge of remaking its own history. Kikwete, the chairman of the party knows that. The party is proud of its record as one of the oldest parties of Africa that is still in power. The slimmed victory in the 2010 general elections dented that assurance. Will his departure from state house usher in a new party in 2015?

Infighting among groups who desire to create a successor to Kikwete is growing and is public. The party claims to suffer image problem with labels like mafisadi being thrown around opposing camps. to remedy the situation, Kikwete devised kujivua gamba philosophy. He sought to uproot bad elements through popular appeals, bypassing the party’s old tradition of internal discipline.  The drive bounced back on his heels, asking for even bolder decisions from him—the chairman.

The process of choosing a successor to Kikwete has potential to break the party in at least two opposing factions. So far neither of these factions has openly declared which position they hold on Kikwete. The worst that could happen is not known yet. In 2010 as Kikwete was organizing his re-election campaign allegedly prominent politicians plotted a breakaway party from CCM. Can Kikwete hold back a similar occurrence in the coming election, when he ends his two terms and CCM will need to field a new presidential candidate?

3.   Open Governance
You may have heard it in the news. it may sound lukewarm—particularly because the international organization that Tanzania joined in order to declare it commitment to transparency and accountability in governance has the word lukewarm word—partnership--to it. (Open Government Partnership). But the devil is in the details. By joining OGP Kikwete has committed to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. That may not be very different from making a thousand promises and delivering on only a handful. The difference however, comes from social and communication infrastructures that become obligatory in the OGP package once a country joins voluntarily. Kenya has built an open data portal as part of implementation of OGP principle of transparency. Imagine if the government commissions such a project in Tanzania. As a result you will find thousands of government documents online, no need to write a letter to request for a piece of historical document and wait a couple of months to receive a response that it was classified! You get that document online, in real time. This month Tanzania presented its National Action Plan to implement principles of OGP. Huge opportunities for quick wins exist. The freedom of information law is on the drawing board, the optic fiber has been laid, so a data portal is likely to be wide and far. Last but not list the process of re-writing the constitution is a platform to adopt mechanisms to fight corruption and embrace accountability.

4.   Dissecting natural resources: Road through Serengeti, Power Dam and Uranium mining in Selous Game Reserve
Apart from lasting impressions in governance, one important decision the current presidency should make is whether Serengeti National Park will be permanently be deleted the list of World Heritage. If the proposed 480km road across the wild sanctuary will be constructed Serengeti will not only lose it respected status, but revenue from tourism will decline.

The Works minister, the prime minister and, most importantly, the president himself have repeated that the road will be built, ignoring activism against the road and playing down alternative routes suggested. Wildebeest, giraffe, elephants and the rest of wildlife in Serengeti will have to live with the intrusion of their sanctuary. But it is not too late to reverse the situation.

So far, the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW)—who opposed the project in court-- got a favorable ruling in the East African Court of Justice. That means the Government of Tanzania will have to present its arguments for the road in court against their initial challenge of the Court’s jurisdiction over the matter. But that is only round one victory.

If he resolves, Kikwete has the power to revert the decision and save the ecology for today and tomorrow. All he needs is to compare the Environmental Impact Assessments done by independent organizations and compare with similar assessments commissioned by Government. In both disadvantages outweigh advantages of the road. Opposition to this road is presented alongside alternatives—the southern route especially. If the government chooses to open a road through this alternative route, wild and human will equally breathe in relief for many years to come.

Reportedly, Selous Game Reserve is landscape is being re-drawn. Reason? A proposed dam on Stigler Gorge and Uranium mining. Like the Serengeti road project, the energy generation dam and uranium mining both have government backing. The dam project, as it has come to be revealed is based on remodeling of plans resurrected from 1960s. That is not a sin, but dependence on hydro-electric power has not proven effective for 50 years. Apart from that the effects of climate change on rainfall pattern spell disaster to economies that rely on rain fed power generation. On the contrary rising temperatures of the world could be a blessing for a tropical country like Tanzania to benefit from generation of solar power. Energy is another feasible source of power. Both effects of these projects have been well covered on Wolfganghthome's Blog

Leadership is about decision. President Kikwete’s decisions on these and other issues will define the future of this nation and more importantly he will be remembered for them.

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