Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Kenya Wamshutumu Rais Magufuli Kuingilia Uchaguzi Wao Mkuu

Dar es Salaam. The fear that President John Magufuli could interfere in the Kenyan presidential election slated for August this year in favour of the opposition candidate Raila Odinga seems to be real in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s camp.

Whether the fear is founded or unfounded it remains to be seen but the Jubilee party has, clear, demonstrated some signs of panic over the purpoted “conspiracy” from the southern neighbor.

In fact the issue was so serious that JPM’s plans for “evil machinations” warranted being mentioned in the Jubilee’s National Delegates Conference on Saturday May 6, 2017 in front of President Kenyatta who was crowned the same day as Jubilee’s flag-bearer.

It was Aden Duale, the Majority Leader of the National Assembly of Kenya and a close political confidant of President Kenyatta, who had the task of warning Raila (as they refer to him in Kenya) against using Tanzania as the base for hacking the elections.

Mr Duale said; “We are aware they are setting up a tallying centre in Tanzania. We are also aware the tallying centre is for hacking the IEBC [Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission] system. And they want to use fake results and imaginary voters to claim victory. But we the Jubilee leaders will form teams that will guide our votes.”

Mr Duale did not mention Dr Magufuli’s name. But the implications were clear. A foreign political party cannot form a tallying centre in Tanzania without a nod from the top leadership.

In the past, reports of “plans” Dr Magufuli’s interference in the Kenyan elections were treated only as rumours, propagated in the social media and in the yellow press in Kenya.

And the fear that Dr Magufuli could play a hand in Kenyan presidential election seem to have originated from his close personal friendship with Raila. Their friendship started when they were both Works ministers in their respective countries in the early 2000s. The two have since exchanged visits in personal capacity for political and family events.

Dr Magufuli attended the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM)’s conference in December 2012 that endorsed Raila as the flag-bearer in the 2013 presidential election. When given a chance to address the conference he urged Kenyans to vote for Raila because he was the transformative candidate.

This prompted a strong reaction from Tanzania’s main opposition party Chadema who wanted the government to state clarify on Dr Magufuli’s support of Raila.

“The government must come out and say if it condones Dr Magufuli’s statements and his presence in the ODM meeting in Kenya last week. If not, it should take action against its minister for getting involved in the campaign politics of a neighbouring country,” Chadema’s Foreign Affairs Director Ezekia Wenje had said.

Given the fact that Kenya’s politics are driven along ethnic lines and its history of post-election violence, Mr Wenje had added, Dr Magufuli’s statements were a diplomatic disaster.

As things turned out, no diplomatic disaster ensued. Either way ODM’s opponents, the National Alliance (TNA) that had fronted Kenyatta and Ruto as the flagbearer and running mate, respectively, did not make much noise about it.

But visits between the two continued. Dr Magufuli, again, attended the burial ceremony of Raila’s son Fidel in January 2015.

Raila visited Dr Magufuli only a couple of days after the latter was nominated CCM’s presidential candidate. Again Raila led an ODM delegation to attended Dr Magufuli’s swearing in ceremony at the National Stadium in November 2015. Mr Kenyatta also attended the event in his capacity as the President of Kenya.

In April 2016, about five months after Dr Magufuli’s swearing in Raila and his wife Idda joined the Tanzanian President’s family in their ancestral home of Chato for the Easter Holidays.

It was soon after this visit that reports of Dr Magufuli’s “plotting” with Raila for Kenya’s presidential elections started receiving much attention.

In May 2016 a Kenyan MP, Maina Kamanda alleged that Dr Magufuli and South Sudan’s President Salvar Kiir and some other foreign powers were funding Raila to destabilise Kenya.

Kamanda’s remarks at a press conference in Nairobi echoed a Kenyan government’s spokesperson statement claiming that some individuals were working with foreign government, including some Kenya’s neighbours, to destabilise the country. Mr Eric Kiraithe did not mention the countries but warned Kenyans found to be working with foreigners will face treason charges.

Again in December 12, 2016 President Kenyatta, addressing an Independence Day rally in Nairobi, claimed that some external powers wanted to influence Kenya’s August 2017 polls. He did not mention those powers but a section of the Kenyan media went ahead and said Tanzania was one of those “powers” working to influence polls.

The Tanzania State House has not commented on Mr Duale’s remarks at the Jubilee conference on Saturday, but it remains to be seen how watertight these allegations of Tanzania’s influence in the Kenyan elections are and how they would weigh in in diplomatic relations between the two friendly nations.

Ironically Mr Kenyatta also faced similar allegations, from some ODM supporters in Kenya, of seeking to interfere with the outcome of Tanzania’s 2015 presidential election. These allegations were heightened by the inclusion of a Kenyan, Julius Mwonga Matei, reportedly a Kenyan intelligence agent, among the seven people arrested on October 25, 2015 on allegations of trying to hack the Tanzanian presidential election tallying.

The seven were apprehended in an “illegal” tallying centre set by Chadema in Dar es Salaam along two other foreign nationals, an Angolan and a South Korean and four locals.

They were charged in court in October 28, 2015 but were released in December 2016 after the Director of Public Prosecution dropped charges.

Could the panick in Uhuru’s camp over “Tanzania’s plans for a conspiracy against Kenyan presidential election” been driven by fears of reprisals from Dr Magufuli?

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