The United Republic of Tanzania has had a historic and historical record of peaceful transfer of power through universal suffrage.
The country’s political culture, uncharacterised by ethnic divisions, has been the exemplar of political maturity in the region. Indeed, commentators are on record as saying; the United Republic of Tanzania is an oasis of genuine peace in a region characterised by tumultuous elections.
Indeed, the Arusha Accords of 1993, on Rwanda and the 2000 Arusha Agreement, on Burundi, were all signed and agreed upon in Tanzania.
The elections scheduled for October 28 can be characterised as the most competitive in the recent history of Tanzania. This is partly on account of the number of candidates who have presented themselves to the electorate as well as the heightened political temperatures.
It is often the case that in many other contexts in Africa, elections are characterised by calls for peace, fear of violence, voter intimidation and in some cases even manipulation of legal systems. This has not been the case in the past in Tanzania and therefore why we say that in the run-up to these elections, a few “unTanzanian” accusations have been made.
They include allegations of restriction of space for civil society and certain members of the opposition, principally members of Chadema, the leading opposition party and the media. Tanzania’s well-wishers have no doubt that the allegations made will be investigated and that justice will be done. This will go a long way in boosting public confidence in the electoral outcome.
We urge the Tanzania Electoral Commission and all national institutions to create an environment that will guarantee free and fair elections so that all participants will accept the results as the expression of the will of the people of Tanzania. In doing so the Electoral Commission would for instance ensure that all candidates are guaranteed the right to freely campaign, media guidelines are in place that enable equal access to all contestants and that the elections are conducted in a peaceful environment.
We urge all political participants to remember that elections are not life and death issues. It is also incumbent upon them to appreciate that in any contest where the rules are fair and are applied judiciously, participants must accept to lose or win.
I have no doubt that the political parties and presidential candidates are patriots who will behave with due decorum in the knowledge that those who arrogate to themselves the monopoly of wisdom and knowledge often lead their countries through shortcuts to chaos.
Tanzania is internationally respected for being the home of the revered founding father of the nation, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, and I have no doubt that everything will be done to ensure that the legacy he established is respected by this generation and the generation to be born.
In concluding I borrow the words Nelson Mandela made on receiving the Freedom of the City of Durban in 1999, when he said, “it is not our ethnicity or religion or culture that divides us. Since we have achieved our freedom, there can only be one division amongst us; between those who cherish democracy and those who do not.”
Prof PLO Lumumba, a staunch pan-Africanist, is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and Tanganyika and speaks often on African solutions to African problems.