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Samia Shouldn’t Risk Her Reform Agenda By Listening to Her Machiavellian Advisors

Electoral bills that the parliament passed this month, which largely ignored stakeholders’ inputs, indicate Samia’s backtracking from her widely popular reformist agenda.

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One thing of note is that virtually every leader in Tanzania looks up to Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Tanzana’s founding leader. Mwalimu was but a role model, even in his grave. May he continue to rest well!

In one of his most outspoken interviews with foreign journalists, Mwalimu was asked which book he was reading. Mwalimu brushed a bit; he was caught off-guard and couldn’t control his amusement before he admitted that he was reading Machiavelli. Yes, Machiavelli’s The Prince

The book, published in 1532, is a must-read treatise for politicians. But to what end? If I was the journalist, I could have probed more. This prompted me to ask President Samia Suluhu Hassan if she also reads Machiavelli.

One thing that Tanzanians may have noticed is that Samia reads, and she picks her leadership inspiration from different scholarly works. I couldn’t remember the original author’s name quite clearly, but in her first mention of the 4R philosophy, Samia acknowledged and attributed it accordingly to that author.

I have been invited to several local media houses where we have been discussing the 4R and the implementation trajectory this philosophy has taken in the Tanzanian polity. It was not arduous to map out Samia’s philosophical orientation positively. 

READ MORE: Passed Electoral Bills Give No Hope for Wider Women’s Participation in Leadership in Tanzania

She started by creating a task force that was led by the renowned Prof Rwekaza Mukandala, and the task force came up with essential findings and recommendations.

We saw efforts directed at reconciliation, especially when the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) entered into negotiations with the main opposition party, CHADEMA, on various political matters. This was a positive trend in the implementation of the 4R philosophy.

Samia also promised political reforms as one of the 4Rs. These are legal-institutional reforms necessary for making the political playground level for all stakeholders. As expected, the government submitted bills to the parliament on the Election of the President, Members of Parliament and Councilors, the National Electoral Commission, and the Electoral Expenses and Political Parties Act. 

No constitutional change

Most of the contestations that called for legal reform are rooted in the Constitution, which is a mother law. Ironically, there was nothing to do with the amendment of the Constitution.

As such, key issues under contestation, such as provisions for petitioning the presidential election, independent candidates, independence of the electoral commission and independence of the office of Registrar of Political Parties, and local government elections to be supervised by a neutral body remain largely untouched. 

READ MORE: Electoral Bills Review: Genuine Commitment for Transitional Justice in Tanzania?

The parliament has passed the bills with no significant changes, and the President has vowed to sign them into law.

Why is there a change of heart from the reform-oriented trend guided by the 4R philosophy? I am prompted to ask, did it come because Samia is now reading Machiavelli’s The Prince, and therefore, she is fascinated by the narratives of how to acquire and maintain power at any cost? 

Or is Samia listening to a certain Machiavellian disciple impersonating the real Machiavelli to please and enlighten the imperial Tanzanian president? I believe a dominant CCM is not suitable for democracy and the country’s political hygiene. 


A one-party dominant political system breeds incompetence and lacks accountability come what may the party will continue to be in power. On the contrary, where there are risks of losing power through votes, political parties become very strategic in their approach to elections, their treatment of voters, and their focus on development is spot on. 

In the long run, this system is good for the country’s future. Samia has a better chance to reform the system and to have her name forever engraved onto the golden reform medal. But does she have the mantel and the guts to reform?

READ MORE: Analysts Fear Samia’s Election Fever May Prolong Tanzania’s Reformist Agenda

Samia is very much preoccupied with the 2025 reelection into the presidency. Everyone knows that, and some politicians blackmail her now and then based on that ambition. I am sorry to say that under such circumstances, even the focus on development is neglected at the expense of the people.

But, as an analyst, I wonder why Samia will not be reelected even if she accents to calls for creating a level playing field. The reform agenda is a plus to her confidence and a mark of strong leadership that she can only let go of at the peril of her reputation as the reformer. 

This country will not remain dominated by CCM forever. We saw Moi’s KANU crumbling in Kenya, Kaunda’s United National Independence Party falling apart in Zambia, and even Banda’s Malawi Congress Party. Nothing will protect CCM forever; a wind of change like the one that blew in 2015 may likely depose it. As such, a guided transition is warranted.

No reason to fear

Should CCM be afraid of reforms in the current context? I don’t think so. CCM has a robust political base and a treasury of leaders, partly because the opposition block has failed to attract them. This is one party that should not be afraid to cede some concessions in the reform agenda to create a level playing field in which it can compete with the considerable advantage that it currently holds.

There are risks, though, if we do not reform the political system, and unfortunately, the wave of change blows enormously to unmanageable levels, and CCM is unseated, and then CCM may never recover again. Meaning CCM may eventually die a natural death. 

READ MORE: ‘Katiba Mpya’ Process in Tanzania: Past, Present and Future

Near the 2015 general elections, with the internal political tribulations in full swing, former President Jakaya Kikwete remarked that CCM should not die in his hands. The options are limited: reform now or risk being washed away by future hurricanes, the Kenyan way. 

After all, isn’t Samia ardent on her fourth R, which is rebuilding a polity based on proper institutions, political trust, accountability, respecting the will of voters, and fair competition? Maybe she should stop reading Machiavelli or listening to Machiavellian advisors. 

Dr Richard Mbunda teaches international politics at the University of Dar es Salaam. He’s at or @richiembunda on X. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chanzo. If you are interested in publishing in this space, please contact our editors at

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