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What Lessons Can Tanzania Draw From Kenyan Elections?

There are a number of lessons, including the fact that Tanzania cannot continue with the luxury of holding two separate polls in consecutive years for local and central governments.

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I have continued to monitor the developments in Kenya in the run-up to the country’s general elections, constitutionally slated for August 9, 2022. According to article 136 (2) of the 2010’s Constitution of Kenya, Kenya shall hold a national election on the second Tuesday in August every fifth year.

On this day, registered Kenyan voters are due to cast ballots to choose the President of Kenya; a deputy President; Members of the National Assembly and Senate. In addition, Kenyans shall also elect Governors and Assembly representatives for the 47 counties across Kenya.

The last time Kenya had general elections was on Tuesday, August 8, 2017. The outcome of this poll was a declaration of victory for the Jubilee party’s incumbent President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta with 54.17 per cent while RT Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga of ODM garnered 44.94 per cent hence finishing second in the race.

I was deployed to observe the election in Kibera, Kisumu and Mombasa. The vibe of that election was itself enough incentive for a return to Kenya for the next round of polls. I am happy that the time has come for a trip to Kenya again for the 2022 process.

For sure, one major lesson from Kenyan elections for Tanzania is that polling happens on a week-day, deliberately earmarked for voting and not anything else. In Tanzania, voting on a Sunday has bred lamentation from the Christian clergy calling for a change of this rule.

There has been a massive response to the Kenyan elections in August. Speaking of the presidential race, the candidate’s turn-up has been unusual. For instance, there have been more than forty Kenyans wanting to seek nominations to stand as independent presidential candidates.

With their running mates, the number could reach ninety if they all had to secure final nominations by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission of Kenya (IEBC). Elsewhere, political parties are also busy proposing candidates for nominations.

For example, although the ruling party, Jubilee, has deliberately backed down on the presidency to support Raila Odinga’s candidacy, the country is far from a shortage of competitors. There are two major parties aligned in coalitions each joined by quite some names in Kenya.

On the one hand, Raila Amolo Odinga is flying the ODM flag for the election of President of Kenya. Behind him, there is incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta and many other heavyweights.

For instance, the Azimio Alliance, which is under the coordination of ODM is joined in endorsing Mr Odinga by Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper party (former Vice President of the Republic of Kenya, 2008 – 2013). Since March 12, 2022, at least 26 political parties have joined Wiper in signing a cooperation pact endorsing Raila Odinga’s bid.

In the list, there are historically major parties such as KANU, Jubilee and ODM, to name but a few. Together, these parties have formed the Azimio la Umoja Kenya Coalition which is headed by Raila Odinga.

Beyond the presidential race, there are thousands of contestants for lower-level positions. On the Election Day, 337 Members of the National Assembly shall be elected using a mixture of methods: 290 from single-member constituencies using the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system; 47 women into the National Assembly to be elected from single-member constituencies based on the 47 counties also using the FPTP system.

In addition, parties are assigned a share of 16 additional seats for women: two for the youths and two others for persons with disability, all based on the parties’ seat share. For 2022, there are 1,450 wards from which to elect members of the County Assemblies.

Lessons to learn

Juxtapose this with Tanzania, there are lessons my country needs to learn. First, we cannot continue with the luxury of holding two separate polls in consecutive years for local and central governments.

In my view, it is time Tanzania followed suit and started to plan for a consolidated general election starting in 2025. The fact that Kenya does five or six ballots at a time and Tanzania thinks four ballots are too much at a go equals laziness.

I wish to propose that the local government elections in 2024 are deferred to 2025 when Tanzanians shall be given the opportunity to elect a president, Members of Parliament, Councillors and local government leaders (village chairperson and council in rural areas) and (Mtaa Chairperson and Committee for urban areas).

As to the question of its feasibility, this switch should facilitate the harmonization of election management into one body, namely the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

In response to the question of how will it be possible for the local government or civic leaders to overstay in power for one additional year, history has the answer – the Councillors were in the past elected at local government elections and the switch to national elections entailed them having one added year to cross-over. It will not be an invention by local government leaders!

On the other hand, Kenya’s present-day Deputy President, William Ruto has also mobilized great support. For instance, big names such as Vihiga country-born Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi who leads the Amani National Congress endorses Mr Ruto for the presidency.

Hon. Mudavadi is also a former Vice President of Kenya (2002 – 2003). He also served as Deputy Prime Minister from 2008 to 2012 serving under Raila Amolo Odinga, then Prime Minister of Kenya. Others endorsing Ruto include Moses Wetangula, leader of Ford Kenya; William Kabogo, leader of Tujibebe Wakenya party and Moses Kuria, leader of Chama cha Kazi.

Hon. Wetangula was the equivalent of Foreign Minister and Minister of Trade in the government of Kenya between 2008 and 2013, having also represented Sirisia Constituency as MP for nearly 10 years from 2003 to 2013.

Of course, Ruguru-born Hon. Rigathi Gachagua, MP for Mathira constituency throws additional weight to the Kenya Kwanza coalition for the 2022 polls. He has been successfully proposed by Hon. Ruto to be his running mate for this year’s election.

From singing tribes to issues

One big lesson that Kenya has managed to learn from Tanzania is to shift the tone of campaigns from singing tribes to issues. As it stands, the campaign trail is preoccupied with development issues such that William Ruto is poised as representing the downtrodden of Kenya.

In his ‘Hustler’, Ruto presents himself as the voice of the common Kenyan or so-called Mama Mboga or Juakali. Kenya Kwanza’s campaign agenda is to reform Kenya away from the dynasty normative which has sought to maintain the status quo for all the years since the country’s independence in 1963.

In comparison to Tanzania, Kenya must have hugely borrowed a leaf from the neighbourhood in regard to refraining from tribal politics. Historically, Kenya has had only the Kikuyu or Kalenjin men as president since independence.

The turning point is a fantastic development. Tanzania’s 2015 and 2020 election campaigns may have been sort of political classes for Kenya in tuning the campaign trail towards the liberation of the masses’ discourse from imperialistic foreign domination.

Picking from then-president John Magufuli’s campaign slogan, the president and his government must aim to stand with the powerless, not the rich. The other perhaps more important lesson for Rila Odinga and his Azimio Coalition is the power of women in elections.

Having been taught from the positive effect that running mate Samia Suluhu Hassan brought to the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) campaign train process in terms of impetus in 2015, Raila Odinga must have appreciated it to land to the decision of nominating Hon. Martha Karua as his candidate for deputy president.

Hon. Karua was born in Kirinyaga County in September 1957 and has been a longstanding Member of Parliament for the Gichugu constituency. In addition, Ms Karua served as Justice Minister in the government of Kenya until April 2009. Hon. Karua belongs to the National Rainbow Coalition party.

In the years of Kenya’s struggle for a second liberation, Raila Odinga was severally persecuted by the Daniel Arap Moi regime and Advocate Martha Karua would lead teams of lawyers to defend him. At one point in 1990, Ms Karua led a team of 27 lawyers to defend Odinga’s illegal detention without trial.

The two have a long history in the pro-democracy struggle and if they were to win the election, Ms Karua would become Kenya’s first Deputy President ever, making history for the country.

In what resembles the Tanzanian system but is somewhat different, Ms Martha Karua may ascend to Presidency in the event of the death of the President after the election. According to article 139 (1), the deputy president-elect of Kenya shall be sworn in as Acting President in case the President-elect passes away after the election and before he was sworn in to be president of Kenya.

In such a case, the interim President shall continue to assume the responsibilities of the President until a fresh election is held in sixty days. The Tanzanian system requires that the Vice President becomes the President following the death of a sitting President and that no fresh election shall be required until the date of the next general polls.

This year marks Raila’s fifth bid for presidency having attempted in 1997, 2007, 2013 and 2017 unsuccessfully. Born in Maseno, Kisumu in January 1945, Raila Odinga clocks 78 in December and has promised Martha Karua a designated portfolio of duties when she becomes his deputy in August.

Independent candidature

On a final note, Tanzania ought to learn two other lessons from Kenya on elections. One, the independent candidature is an indication of the full exercise of the right to stand for election into any elective position.

Kenyans can choose party-sponsored or independent candidates for President, his/her deputy; for Members of Parliament, down to county assembly representatives. The worry in Tanzania that private candidates may be a source of political division and national disunity has proven baseless.

Today, we are a lone society not exercising the system of independent candidature in the East African region.

Also, the Kenyan practice is to prohibit public servants from competing in elections. The Tanzania practice is too lax in my view. A civil servant is left until he/she secures nomination by the Electoral Management Body to resign from civil or public service. This makes public servants very partisan in anticipation of party sponsorship for nomination to vie for elections.

At some point, outgoing public officials, including a Chief Justice wore party attire to field his name for nomination as a candidate for the presidency. Likewise, a Zanzibari was seen dressed up in ‘green’ vying for Zanzibar’s top job a few months after he completed his tenure as Chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC).

This is unacceptable in Kenya as the Constitution forbids such public servants from running for elections. Article 99(2) of the Constitution of Kenya states, “State or public officers other than politicians are prohibited from running for election.”

For retired election managers, the prohibition is even stiffer saying “anyone who has in the five years immediately preceding the date of an election held office as a member of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) stands disqualified from seeking election.” I personally can’t wait to see this practice immediately adopted in Tanzania.

I wish the duo all their best in the coming two months of their campaigning. Equally, I wish Hon. William Ruto and his running mate a peaceful campaigning moment from now to early August.

Deus Kibamba is trained in political science, international relations and international law. He has observed elections in over 20 countries since 1997. He can be contacted via +255 713 644357 or These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Chanzo Initiative. Would you like to publish in this space?Contact our editors at for further inquiries.

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