Tanzania's main opposition party Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema), has endorsed the re-election of Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta in the August 8 polls.
Chadema, says the Kenyan leader is the right candidate for the presidency and a better choice for democracy in the country.
The revelations were made on Sunday by the Party leader, Mr Edward Lowassa, during an interview with the Nation at Nairobi’s Serena hotel.
“We have had formal meetings as a party and unanimously agreed to support the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta. He is a good man, he supports the integration of the EAC and respects leaders of the opposition,” he said.
Mr Lowassa, who was in Kenya for the burial of Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery, however, clarified that the ultimate decision on who becomes president would be made by Kenyans when they go to the polls next month.
He added that the Kenyan leader had shown respect to the Maasai community.
The relationship between Kenya and Tanzania, he said, would be better with Mr Kenyatta at the helm.
Mr Lowassa, who previously served as Prime Minister of the Republic of Tanzania, contested as the joint opposition candidate under Ukawa coalition in the 2015 General Election and lost to President John Magufuli of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in what is regarded as the most competitive election to be ever held in Tanzania.
Chadema’s support for President Kenyatta is believed to be due to the close relationship between Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga and President Magufuli.
The party is reported to have been dismayed by Mr Odinga for having supported Dr Magufuli during the presidential campaigns in the 2015 General Election, something the party leadership considered as a vile act of betrayal.
Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe has in the past been quoted describing Mr Odinga as a traitor for supporting President Magufuli.
“We supported Mr Odinga during the 2013 elections in Kenya but to our surprise, when it came to the 2015 polls in Tanzania, he supported the CCM candidate. Mr Odinga is a traitor,’’ Mr Mbowe said in May.
Mr Lowassa insisted that he was rigged out during the election in favour of President Magufuli, but said he had moved on to fight another day.
“Even though Dr Magufuli was elected in a suspicious voting system, we still respect him as the president of the republic of Tanzania,” he said, while curtly refusing to give an appraisal of the President’s performance in office.
“President Magufuli’s performance will be judged by the people at the end of his first term in office in 2020. I would rather be careful with that because I may be misquoted and land myself in trouble when I return home,” he said.
Police in Tanzania banned political meetings in 2016 saying that rallies called by the opposition were unlawful and likely to breach the peace.
However, President Magufuli who had said there should be no political activity until the next election in 2020, urging people to work, relaxed the ban and allowed only elected leaders to conduct meetings within their constituencies.
Mr Lowassa said that the ban on political activity was the greatest challenge for his time in opposition politics.
The Opposition, he said, may be forced to seek the intervention of the courts if the ban persists.
“The ban is undemocratic and unfair, but we are doing our best to remain relevant. We have appealed to the government to reconsider the ban but they are still dragging their feet,” he said.
While he admitted that life in the opposition was challenging, he noted that there are some good times and that in some instances, he enjoys being on that side.
“It has been a good experience interspersed with good times and I am enjoying the experience because I am still very popular with the masses and the ban on political activity is meant to calm me down,” said the former PM.