Magufuli: Why Rwanda is composed over Kenya’s polls

Monday August 7 2017

Dubbed the bulldozer, East Africa’s most

Dubbed the bulldozer, East Africa’s most parochial president, John Magufuli, reshaped the EAC in one year, in more ways than his more globalist peers have. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP

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By the time you read this, the ink on the results of Rwanda’s Friday presidential election will have long dried.

Partly because it is a small country; their voter technology works; and you don’t have the polling dust-ups you get, especially, in Kenya and Uganda, by midnight the Rwandans will have called the winner, and sent off the losers.

It is also helped a great deal by the fact that President Paul Kagame went into the election as the heavyweight favourite.

Then, on Tuesday, it will be nail-biting time in Kenya. In Uganda, there were social media posts about how fuel rationing will start on Monday, because Kampala expects that Kenya will be hit by the kind of post-election violence that followed its disputed December 2007 poll.

That violence disrupted essential supplies of goods like fuel to Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan. The striking thing this time is that Rwanda is not losing any sleep over it.

In a story with far-reaching significance than its page placement in The EastAfrican, Rwanda’s Minister of Trade, Industry and East African Affairs, Francois Kanimba, was quoted saying that the majority of the country’s traders had over the years gradually shifted to importing their goods through the Central Corridor (i.e. Tanzania), limiting the likely impact of any disruptions to shipping along the Northern Corridor (Kenya-Uganda). 

“There is no reason for traders to be concerned or for us to take any precautions even if the Kenyan elections take a turn for the worse. Most of our traders are now increasingly using the Dar es Salaam port,” Kanimba said.

More than 70 per cent of Rwanda’s cargo goes through the Central Corridor, and that is set to increase.

We learnt that truck and bus haulers along the central corridor now save up to 78 per cent of weighbridge stoppage time as a result of a recent directive by President John Magufuli allowing transit trucks to stop at only three instead of eight weighbridges on the Tanzanian side.

The report said that “drivers on average now spend only 48 minutes in total at weighbridges between Dar es Salaam port and the borders in Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, instead of the nearly four hours before President Magufuli’s directive last year.”

And there we get a flavour of the kind of East Africa Kagame, and whoever wins in Kenya, will rule in over their next term.

After President Uhuru Kenyatta was elected in 2013, he looked set to disrupt the EAC by turbo charging the way it works.

The result was the informal grouping, dubbed the Coalition of the Willing (CoW) by the media, of him, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, and Kagame. They tried to feed the EAC steroids, but it seems it could only move so far.

That time Tanzania, led by President Jakaya Kikwete, was playing reluctant bride. Then Magufuli happened in October 2015.

The irony is that Kikwete was more internationalist than hidebound Magufuli.

Yet he snagged the Uganda oil pipeline, and through a series of no-nonsense presidential decisions, swung Rwanda — and Uganda to a lesser extent — back toward Tanzania’s southern regional orbit.

And just like, East Africa’s most parochial president, reshaped the EAC in one year, in more ways than his more globalist peers have.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is publisher of data visualiser Africapaedia and Rogue Chiefs. [email protected]