AN ELECTION DIARY

This daily diary was originally intended to cover the whole of the election in Tanzania but, three days before it was due to be held, the death of one of the Union Vice-presidential candidates caused the election on the mainland to be postponed until December 14th in accordance with the constitution. It was possible therefore for me to spend more time witnessing the election in Zanzibar but no time for the final stages of the elections for the Union presidency and for the National Assembly in Dodoma – Editor.

posterPosters in Nkrumah St, Dar. Kikwete’s slogan “Ari Mpya, Nguvu Mpya, Kasi Mpya” roughly translates as “renewed enthusiasm, vigour and a faster pace”
23rd October. It is obvious that there is an election going on. All the way from the airport smiling photographs of Mr Jakaya Kikwete, the candidate of the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party look down upon you. There are thousands of them. Small ones on lamp-posts and massive ones on billboards. There are also other posters, simpler in design and less colourful, from the more affluent of the 17 opposition political parties involved in the elections. 24th October. Morning. To the headquarters of the opposition CHADEMA party which presently has four MP’s in the National Assembly. This time it hopes for at least 20, according to Acting Secretary General Shaid Ally Akwilombe who explains to me how the party’s dynamic young presidential candidate Freeman Mbowe (44) has vastly raised the party’s image, by campaigning in a helicopter.

Mbowe mbowe helicopter Freeman Mbowe (photo Peter Mgongo)

He has been holding up to ten meetings a day, often in remote places where a presidential candidate has never been seen before. One wonders how many of his votes will be for the helicopter and how many for him! He is offering new policies on education and especially on governance – the party wants to delegate more power away from Dar to eight new zonal authorities. Akwilombe gives me a list of the party’s 25 target parliamentary seats and explains how disappointed they are not to have been able to reach an agreement with the largest opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF) – which now has 18 out of 232 elected seats in the National Assembly – not to stand against each other in seats where one party is clearly in the lead. Afternoon. To the campaign itself in the Ubungo constituency where the CCM Minister of Agriculture, Charles Keenja, is defending his seat against 13 opposition candidates. Among them is CHADEMA’s dynamic 25- year-old John John Mnyika who has found a small open space in an area of high-density housing to address an attentive small crowd. Main subjects: water suppliers and the state of the market. He tells me after the meeting that he believes he can win and exudes enthusiasm. If he wins he might be the youngest MP.

25th October. Morning. To CUF HQ to learn that the party will be contesting all except 8 of the 232 the elected parliamentary seats on the mainland and all 50 seats in Zanzibar where their real strength lies. They are not keen on coalitions with other parties because they want to put over their own message – improved tax collection to provide for free primary education, review of privatisation agreements, free primary health care, creation of 2 million new jobs….. (CCM promises one million during the next five years). There is an air of bustle and organisation in the office, lots of enthusiasm and plenty of literature. Afternoon. To a CUF rally in Manzese. We almost missed it because of road congestion. Here we find one of the big guns of the campaign – Juma Duni Haji – CUF candidate for the Vice-Presidency of Tanzania. A spectacular performance, oratory of the old school. He holds the packed audience in the palm of his hand. They laugh at his jokes; they stand and cheer and wave when he explains what CUF will do for the underprivileged. Some of the things he says about past, present and future CCM presidents border on the libellous. But there are no police in sight. I want to have a better view to take a photo. I find a handcart which I think I can climb on to. The six people already there make it clear that I am more than welcome so I try to climb up. To the great amusement of all around, I nearly fall off. Twelve eager hands pull me aboard.

rallyThe Duni Juma Haji Rally – photograph taken from handcart

They had had to pay a little to the enterprising young cart owner for this excellent vantage point. I am not charged. But it’s very embarrassing! As I leave later, several people say how pleased they are that even an Mzungu has come to hear their hero. One brave CCM supporter circulates around the crowd strongly condemning CUF. Nobody objects. Is this another example of the tolerance for which Tanzania is so famous? 26th October. First to NCCR-Mageuzi HQ. Meet Mr Beatti Mpitakana who explains that their presidential candidate Dr Mvungi is representing four small parties and is busy campaigning up country. Originally there were 12 opposition parties proposing to work together but 7 dropped out. Why? Because of the prestige which goes with having a presidential candidate, he said. NCCR is contesting 12 seats in Unguja, 23 in Pemba but only 67 in the whole of the rest of the country.

Then to CCM HQ. Made welcome by Mr Nape Mnauye, Assistant Secretary for Political Affairs. This new generation of politicians in all parties are refreshing to talk to. So knowledgeable and so open in discussion of even delicate issues, compared with the hesitations, and sometimes suspicion, of some of the older generation when they see a foreign journalist. He is very happy about the extraordinary popularity of his presidential candidate Jakaya Kikwete. TV pictures show Kikwete being received all around the country like a Messiah. Why is he so popular? Answer: He has been working with the CCM party since 1970 and has been on the National Executive Committee since 1982; members appreciate his loyalty; he is young; he has a very friendly personality and has good looks; Mwalimu Nyerere promised him that his time would come when he was by-passed as presidential candidate in the 1995 elections even though he was the party’s favourite at that time. Mnauye admits however that CCM is unlikely to have such an overwhelming majority of elected MPs as it had in 2000 (203 out of 232).

He explains how CCM is bound to win in Zanzibar because of demographic factors. There are more voters in the larger island Unguja, who will support CCM, and fewer in Pemba Island who will support CUF.

Afternoon back to the Ubungo constituency where a CCM rally is in full swing. The music is always better at CCM rallies. “Because they have more money” say the opposition. A kids’ choir delights the crowd with comedy sketches and a trumpet and drum band livens up some of the more lengthy speeches. The local Mayor strongly attacks CUF and CHADEMA and seems to go on forever. It is now 5.45pm and all political meetings must stop at 6 o’clock. The local CCM candidate in the council elections, which are taking place at the same time, speaks succinctly, but it is now 5.50pm. Three lady defectors from CHADEMA mount the platform. Two of them turn out to be such powerful orators and hand over their CHADEMA party cards with such aplomb that one wonders whether they are professional defectors! Now it is 5.58pm and the Minister for Agriculture, the local MP, finally climbs on to the platform. He points out that the fine new tarmac road which runs alongside our meeting place has been built by the CCM government. In a two-hour-long meeting he speaks for just five minutes. Strange!

27th October. On the boat to Zanzibar. Arrive 1pm. Meet the Zanzibari who is to be my guide, bodyguard and interpreter (my 1950’s Swahili is well out of date). I hire a taxi for four days. The driver has a friendly smile, sounds politically aware and geographically well informed. And the taxi is brand new!

The first and most urgent task, because it is Friday, when everything stops in Zanzibar, is to go to the Government Information Department to get a press pass. The army is here in strength. They are the opposite of friendly. However, when we get inside we meet a delightful young lady Information Officer who expedites the issuing of the card and even shows us the photographs of all the other local and foreign journalists who have already arrived and registered – Reuters, Agence France Press, Associated Press, China News Agency, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times etc. I ask my guide about his voting intentions. None of the people I have met so far seem to mind being asked this question and all seem happy to reply. But the answer this time is different. He gives me a long and angry account of how he has been trying to register to vote for months. His family originate from Pemba, although they have been living in Unguja for more than ten years. But he hasn’t recorded his presence with the Sheha (a government-appointed ward leader who has an important role in the voter registration process). My guide goes on: “I said to the Sheha – ‘You know we’ve been friends for years. Surely you’re not going to refuse me the right to vote.’ But the Sheha remained adamant. My guide says he appealed repeatedly and wanted to take the matter to court but had no money. Out of his family of nine adults only his mother and father have been registered to vote.

Next, to a CUF election rally. Big crowd. Party Secretary General and candidate for the presidency of Zanzibar, Seif Sharrif Hamad’s mellifluous voice carries far and wide. He seems happy and confident. Suddenly he interrupts his speech with bad news. CHADEMA Vice-presidential candidate Mr Jumbe Rajab Jumbe, has suddenly died. The cabinet and election authorities are meeting in Dar es Salaam to decide whether to stop the election. After offering his condolences, Hamad insists that the Tanzanian constitution is not the same as the Zanzibar one and that there is no reason to stop the election in Zanzibar. Then CUF’s number two – Juma Duni Haji – speaks. He is full of funny anecdotes about his just completed nationwide tour of Tanzania and again lights up the audience with the power of his oratory.

28th October. To the National Stadium to see President Mkapa say his official goodbye to Zanzibaris. I try to be inconspicuous but a CCM official thinks I look like a VIP and insists on escorting me to the VIP stand. But there it is found that I am only a journalist and therefore cannot come in. In any case, this is a CCM family occasion. As nobody has given me a yellow T-shirt and everybody else packing the grandstand is wearing one, it is obviously better for me to leave quietly.

29th October. To State House where I meet President Karume’s Chief Press Officer Abubakar Rajab to find out whether he is issuing any press releases in response to the numerous ones emanating from CUF. He takes my details and promises to let me know. Then to the big final rallies of the campaign. A generally happy atmosphere at both. CCM has the bigger crowd but few are listening to the speeches. For them it is a big social occasion. The massed ranks of yellow and green T-shirt wearers, thousands of them, make for an attractive and colourful spectacle. Radio Zanzibar gives full live coverage of the rally but there is no mention of the CUF rally going on at the same time.

It is hot at the CUF rally and there are not enough trees to provide shade. I observe the Head of the Commonwealth Observer Team, a former President of Malta, sweating like the rest of us. A small snake appears in the grass and is immediately sentenced to death. In the evening – a stroll on the beach. A landing craft arrives and unloads a large troop carrier with a big gun and many military personnel. CUF’s Hamad makes his final appeal on Zanzibar TV at 7:30pm.

30th October 30. Election day.

8.00am. Streets deserted. Shops closed. Army and police everywhere.

8.30am. We go first to Jumbe Madawa constituency polling station. All equipment needed for the election has been supplied and voting is proceeding well. The CCM and five opposition party monitors watch the proceedings closely. Am told that just before our arrival a group of people from elsewhere had tried to vote. A CUF candidate for a council seat had tried to push them away and the police had given him a bloody nose. He looks sorry for himself. The CUF candidate for Stonetown in the National Assembly arrives on his bicycle wearing colourful headgear and tells people to calm down. Tension is relieved.

voter registrationThe “Permanent Voters Register” on the wall of a polling station

9.00am. Raha Leo polling station. Voting proceeding slowly and peacefully. We notice that the ‘Permanent Voters Register’, which CUF has been a demanding to see for weeks, has finally been pasted on the walls of the polling station on a series of A4 sheets of paper. A few people complain that they have voting cards but are not on the list and are not allowed to vote. Observers much in evidence with the word ‘Observer’ prominently displayed on all their backs.

9.30 Haile Selassie polling station. All going well. 10am. Jang’ombe. 10.15 Darajani. 10.30 Kikwajuni. Voting going well and almost complete.

10.00 I am surprised to be told by a diplomat that the diplomatic corps have all been invited to attend the inauguration of the new president on Thursday November 3rd.

12.00. CUF press conference. Hamad expresses grave concern about absence of results books at polling stations. These well designed books include forms which record the results, which are then handed round the different party monitors who then sign to certify their agreement with the count.

2pm. We drive past a polling station and are surprised to see a compact crowd of young people filing in escorted by soldiers.

2.15pm. Forodhani, where there are eight different polling booths. Voting has finished. Clerks resting and waiting for the counting to start. Suddenly, a large group of about 100 young people, mostly men, closely escorted by Kikosi Maalum cha Kuzuia Magendo (KMKM) heavily armed anti-smuggling soldiers. I am told that these groups are known locally as ‘janjaweeds’ after the Arab militias who kill and rape in Darfur, Sudan and that they have arrived in four big trucks parked round the corner. The youngsters are immediately attacked by a few angry CUF supporters who are hanging around the polling station. The youngsters soon come under all kinds of other pressures. Local and international journalists can always smell trouble and are here in strength. No observers in sight. The soldiers drive the CUF people away, protected by their shields and with the help of two gunshots and much tear gas. My eyes are sore as there is no air movement in the narrow streets. The youngsters are also being harassed by TV people pointing cameras in their faces. Journalists surround them trying to ask where they have come from and who they are but they all seem to have taken a vow of silence. I am told that they have most probably voted elsewhere earlier in the day, perhaps more than once.

alleged janjaweedsAlleged “Janjaweeds” filing into a polling station to vote

No observers to be seen. With peace restored by the troops, the next stage of the operation begins. The youngsters are escorted to the entrance of the polling station in groups of about ten and are met by a rather formidable lady who is in a hurry to get them to vote.

She gets angry with those who have forgotten which desk they have to go to. I watch them all vote and trickle out again. I hear the lady say to one of them “Sasa nenda mbali” – “Now go away as far as possible.” They waste no time in doing so. When they have gone, a polling clerk loudly protests to me at having been forced to help them to vote.

3.00 pm. We go back to the polling station where we had earlier seen a group of about 60 young people standing around. Now, fierce looking soldiers, standing five yards apart, have created a ring around the polling station with their guns pointing outwards. No observers in sight. Virtually nobody else in sight. We discuss whether to have a closer look. The driver is worried about his taxi. I am reflecting on things like discretion and valour. We decide not to stop.

askariKMKM soldiers firing shots and teargas to clear the streets so that alleged “janjaweeds” can vote

3.30pm We drive along the wide street known as Darajani and see a group of about 30 young people emerging from the polling station. On the other side of the street are hundreds of (presumably) CUF supporters standing under the shade of the shops. They immediately start shouting angrily and move forward in a great wave. We fear for the safety of the youngsters. But more police and army reinforcements arrive quickly and they, together with the youngsters, start running away. No observers in sight.

6.00pm. Haile Selassie polling station. Counting going ahead slowly but correctly under the watchful eye of the Chief Commonwealth Observer. One of his colleagues suddenly cries out and applauds as a ballot paper is finally seen to be not for CCM nor for CUF but for one of the minor parties.

voteVotes being counted, slowly and correctly

6.30pm. To Forodhani where the groups of young voters were so prominent earlier in the day. There are eight groups of ballot boxes. For six of them everything is open and straightforward. We can join in the counting and take photographs. Present are a Commonwealth and an American observer.

We note that in one of the boxes used by the youngsters, out of some 250 ballot papers, 22 are declared ‘undecided’ and are to be sent to the ZEC for adjudication. 12 more are spoilt ballots. Some of the voters using this box have obviously been confused and some have put their ballot papers in the wrong box. At the other two places, just across the narrow street, things are different. A big old Zanzibar door is firmly shut (so we look through the window) keeping out not only the observers and the journalists but even the CUF parliamentary candidate for the seat. All these people become rather angry and there is a long argument with the polling clerk in charge. An observer makes a call on his mobile. The door is opened. Counting of the first box is finished. One of the observers asks if she can be given the results. “No. You are here to observe. Not to interfere in the counting process.” Paraffin lamps are brought. Counting continues into the night.

Midnight. CUF holds a press conference. It is reported later that they had announced that, despite massive attempts at rigging by CCM, their statistics showed that Maalim Seif Hamad was the winner of the presidential vote by a small margin. CUF had learnt that the ZEC intended to announce CCM as the winner. CUF said that such an outcome could only be achieved by further doctoring results during the count. This appeared to be the reason why their agents had been denied entry into places where the collating of results was proceeding.

October 31 morning. A diplomat tells me that CUF supporters have been celebrating in large numbers in Darajani, thinking they have won. Police are said to have driven them back with tear gas and rubber bullets. The diplomat shows me one. I have never seen a rubber bullet before. He said it had taken two hours to clear the area.

9.00 Media people gather outside the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) expecting some of the results to be announced as counting has apparently been going on well at many polling stations. The gates are closed. No news.

November 1st. Still no results. Only Zanzibar radio and TV people have been allowed into the ZEC compound.

10.00. A packed CUF press conference with some 60 media people present. We are told by Lipumba and Hamad that the electoral register had not been seen by the opposition until polling day; it had not been verified by UNDP (or anyone else outside the ZEC) as had been agreed earlier; some 70,000 people estimated to have been cut from the electoral register; CUF monitors at some thirty polling stations, which he names, had not been given copies of results forms; ‘Janjaweeds’ accompanied by soldiers had appeared at many polling stations and had been allowed to vote. Hamad wonders why it was taking so long to count the votes at the ZEC. He says “We should have won in 10 constituencies in Unguja.” (CUF won only one seat).

Mid-day. ZEC hands out to journalists the results from four constituencies, all CCM victories.

4.00pm. Full results are read out on radio Zanzibar. 4.15pm. We set off to see reaction on the streets. In no time we are totally engulfed by cheering, singing, dancing CCM supporters. Driver is worried about his taxi. I am worried because we are trapped in the car and cannot move in any direction. But we are surrounded by joy and goodwill; so we wait.

5.00pm. We eventually find a quiet route through the narrow streets of Stonetown. CUF has announced an immediate press conference. We pass hundreds of people sitting in small groups on their doorsteps with their heads down. No one is talking. It is a scene of utter dejection and despair. The press conference is over by the time we arrive but other journalists tell me that CUF has announced that it will not accept the election results and that it is collecting evidence on the way in which the election had been ‘rigged’. Outside their HQ Prof. Lipumba and Hamad advise their hundreds of excited supporters to be patient. Peaceful demonstrations will be organised later, they say. ‘No’ the people shout back.

November 3rd. I meet a British nurse in the hotel bar in the evening. She says she cannot understand what all the fuss is about. “One death in Pemba (see below) and a bit of teargas!” “This is peanuts” she says. She lives in Afghanistan!

Two days later. Back in Dar es Salaam. Visit Wilbroad Slaa, Secretary General of CHADEMA to ask about progress in the selection of a candidate to replace the late Mr Jumbe. He tells me that six candidates are on the short list and the result of the selection will be announced in a day or two.

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