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Kikwete prepares for the end game

Kikwete prepares for the end game

The writing is on the wall for Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete as he strategises the last 20 months of his tenure. But with the fate of his party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), hanging in the balance, his recent reshuffle of cabinet speaks directly to what the defining issues will be for elections in 2015. Report by Aamera Jiwaji.

Tanzania’s presidential elections, slotted tentatively for October 2015, are just under 20 months away but contenders for the presidential post are already champing at the bit. And even though his own 10-year term is almost over, President Kikwete is feeling the heat on behalf of his party, whose 52-year reign as Tanzania’s ruling party may also be coming to an end.

This pressure is in part what prompted Kikwete to revamp his cabinet at the end of January, as he realigns his government for the politically fraught months ahead. On the surface, the eight new Cabinet Ministers and reshuffle of deputies played to public support. They were partly in response to the demise of the Finance Minister, and the sacking of four ministers in connection with the anti-poaching drive, ‘Operesheni Tokomeza’, where gross violations of human rights were reported in the treatment of the suspects. The appointments also responded to a public outcry over a group of minsters labelled “Mawaziri Mizigo” (non-performers).

The announcement itself was made by Ambassador Ombeni Sefue, Chief Secretary to the President, marking the first time in many years that the sitting president skipped reading the list of ministers in a major reshuffle.

“All in all, Kikwete seems to have played it safe by promoting current deputies and avoiding any drastic moves that would prove polarising within the incumbent Chama Cha Mapinduzi party. To have radical changes within his cabinet that may have altered the internal political dynamics of CCM a year before elections could have had negative blowback,” says Ahmed Salim, a Senior Associate with political risk consultancy Teneo Intelligence, and reads a desire for continuity in the last months of Kikwete’s term.

He adds that a similar story is told by the untouched portfolios. For instance, the retention of Energy Minister Sospeter Muhongo will help to move the debate on gas legislation forward, and signals a commitment on Kikwete’s part to push through the Big Results Now (BRN) initiative which focuses on energy, transportation, water, education, agriculture, and resource mobilisation.

Kikwete’s retention of Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda, despite calls for his removal, is also seen as a legacy cementing decision.

“This prevented a major embarrassment for Kikwete, who would have had to pick a third prime minister within a five-year period,” said Salim. “All options will now remain open for the CCM primaries that will take place ahead of the 2015 general elections.”

The retention of four non-performing ministers from the old guard – heading Agriculture, Education, Water, and Regional Administration and Local Government – was, however, questioned by some Tanzanians, especially since the accusations against them stemmed from the ruling party.

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