Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu appears to have started preparations for the next general election slated for 2025 when Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) brought back experienced officials, who had been pushed out.
Even though the next general election is three years away, the groundwork is already being laid.
This week, the party named Abdulrahman Kinana as its new vice-chairman for the Mainland and reinstated Bernard Membe to the party's membership, marking the return of both to the centre of Tanzania’s politics after their sidelining during the John Magufuli government.
The return of the two political heavyweights can only mean one thing: President Samia Suluhu Hassan is consolidating party experience to boost her preparations for re-election in 2025.
Mr Kinana was confirmed to succeed long-serving vice-chairman Philip Mangula who left on voluntary retirement after serving more than nine years.
A Harvard educated retired army colonel, Kinana, 70, was CCM secretary-general from 2012 to 2018 and also served as the first Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly from 2001 to 2006.
He also served as Tanzania's Defence Minister under president Ali Hassan Mwinyi and his influence in CCM saw him take on the role of campaign manager for each CCM presidential candidate in five consecutive elections — 1995, 2000 (Benjamin Mkapa), 2005, 2010 (Jakaya Kikwete) and 2015 (Magufuli).
But Mr Kinana's star dimmed when in 2019, together with another ex-CCM secretary-general Yusuf Makamba, were accused of plotting to block Magufuli from seeking a second term in the 2020 election contrary to the longstanding CCM tradition of having the incumbent serve two terms as constitutionally allowed.
In response to the allegations, the duo issued a joint public letter saying Cyprian Musiba, a newspaper publisher, was being influenced by unnamed top people in government to frame them with "treasonous crimes" through fabricated stories in his pro-Magufuli, Swahili-language tabloids, Tanzanite and Fahari Yetu for political purposes.
“Mr Musiba is being used to ridicule, disrespect, intimidate and silence targeted personalities and even institutions. The purpose seems to be to link those targeted people, retired or not retired, with criminal activities,” they wrote.
Both Mr Kinana and Mr Makamba were later given "stern reprimands" by CCM's central committee, the party’s top decision-making organ, chaired by Magufuli.
Mr Kinana's new appointment as CCM deputy chair comes on the back of recent recalls to Cabinet in President Suluhu's administration for January Makamba and Nape Nnauye who also played big roles in ensuring Magufuli's victory in the 2015 election, considered the toughest challenge to CCM's historical monopoly of Tanzanian politics in the multiparty era.
Makamba and Nnauye were named to the Cabinet in Magufuli's government but later dropped over similar allegations of plotting against their boss. January is Yusuf Makamba's son. President Samia may now be banking on Mr Kinana's experience, despite his advancing age, in grassroots political mobilisation ahead of 2025.
The reinstatement of Membe, a former Foreign Affairs minister, to CCM also signals changes in the ruling party's outlook under chairperson President Samia Suluhu Hassan. Mr Membe, who was National Security Advisor in the President’s Office during the administrations of presidents Julius Nyerere and Mwinyi and then Foreign Affairs minister for Kikwete, lost out to Mr Magufuli in 2015 CCM presidential nomination race.
He was expelled from CCM after openly saying he would challenge Magufuli's 2020 reelection bid from within the party. He later joined the opposition ACT-Wazalendo party as its presidential candidate.
He left ACT-Wazalendo soon after the election, keeping a decidedly low political profile ever since.
Magufuli’s party chairmanship was marked by breaking away from traditions, and bending party rules and traditions to his will, the appointment of ‘’outsiders” to influential party positions leading to factional infighting between “CCM Asili” and "CCM Wageni.”