The Most Boring Election in East Africa

By Ann Hingst, KF12 Tanzania

While many Americans will spend next Sunday, October 31, trick-or-treating, Tanzanians will be headed to the polls.  October 31, 2010 marks a general election for Tanzania, and voters will choose their President for the next five-year term.  It is widely anticipated that the incumbent, Jakaya Kikwete, will be re-elected for his second and final term.  Tanzania has been a de facto one-party state since its independence in 1961.  Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), or the Party of the Revolution, has produced all of Tanzania’s presidents since Julius Nyerere, Baba wa Taifa (Father of the Nation), whom many credit with establishing a united and peaceful nation.  Not a very dramatic story, is it?

Billboards asking Tanzanians to "Select CCM/Select Kikwete" abound in Dar es Salaam.

Around Dar es Salaam, it is easy to see that CCM is the dominant party with the most funds, as its campaign is very conspicuous.  There are six other presidential candidates, most of whom are campaigning on a much smaller scale.  Willibrod Slaa of Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA), the Party for Democracy and Progress, and Ibrahim Lipumba of Chama Cha Wananchi, Civic United Front (CUF), are also much farther ahead in the contest than other candidates.  However, any party other than CCM is very unlikely to gain much influence, either through the presidency or in the parliament.  Are you yawning yet?

There’s not too much that’s riveting about this election, but what does all of this mean for Kiva partner Tujijenge Tanzania Ltd and other microfinance institutions in Tanzania?  Well, it is likely to be business as usual.  Kikwete is supportive of microfinance schemes, indicating them as key to increasing employment, through self-employment and empowerment.  There has been a call for the government to establish a body that would regulate microfinance organizations, with a focus on discouraging exorbitant interest rates.  However, Tujijenge is not one of the institutions that is targeted.  Therefore, it is unlikely that any policies that Tujijenge adheres to will change.  I’ve been asking many of Tujijenge’s employees how the election might affect them and their work at Tujijenge, and I’m typically met with…boredom.

A drama-free election in East Africa is certainly rare.  The 2007 presidential election in Kenya ended in violence along tribal lines when an opposition party prematurely announced it had ousted the incumbent.  In the end, the incumbent won, though it is widely believed the election was rigged.  A former Kiva Fellow in Kenya describes the post-election crisis. In Uganda, incumbent Museveni won the 2006 presidential election, but not without an outbreak of violence around accusations of intimidating the opposition party by holding the challenger on charges of treason and rape.  On August 9 of this year, incumbent Paul Kagame was re-elected amid the suspicious murders of two opposition figures.

So, though this year’s Tanzanian election is “boring” in comparison to other recent elections in East Africa, the peacefulness with which the event is anticipated to pass is welcome indeed.  Tanzanians are very peaceful, eschewing tribal divisions in favor of embracing a national identity.  This is a unique and commendable history, especially given Tanzania’s immediate neighbors.

So, it’s business as usual at Tujijenge.  In that spirit, consider lending to a Tujijenge Tanzania entrepreneur today!

Ann Hingst is a Kiva Fellow serving at Tujijenge Tanzania in Dar es Salaam.  She is currently planning a Halloween party so that she doesn’t have to be bored on Election Day.

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