Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How Museveni won the fifth presidential term

UGANDA’S President Yoweri Museveni has extended his three-decade rule after winning a fifth term, as regional observers urged the country to re-assess the essence of removal of presidential term limits in the electoral system. The recommendations were made by the East African Community Observer Mission (EAC-OM) in Uganda led by former president Ali Hassan Mwinyi. The polls were, however, rejected as fraudulent by Museveni’s closest rival Mr Kizza Besigye, who was under house arrest. Museveni (71) won 60 per cent of the vote in the sometimes chaotic elections, far ahead of the 35 per cent garnered by detained opposition leader, whose house was surrounded by dozens of armed police in riot gear. “The commission declares Yoweri Kaguta Museveni the elected President of the Republic of Uganda,” Election Commission chief Badru Kiggundu said as he read out results. NRM spokesman Mike Sebalu said. “Behind their vague claims of change, there were no policies and no chance of progress -- and people saw through these empty claims.” In a statement issued last week in Kampala was quoted as saying. “It is important to note that the electoral system for presidential contest does not provide for term limits.” Alhaj Mwinyi also urged Uganda to consider introduction of a legal framework to regulate campaign financing to promote an equal playing field for all parties and candidates. “The absence of a legal requirement for disclosure of campaign income and expenditure makes accountability difficult and promotes negative influence of money in election competition,” he noted. It was also observed that youth groups allied to parties remained an issue of security concern; therefore legal mechanisms for controlling negative use of youth in the electoral process should be explored. The EAC-EOM appreciates that the February 2016 General Elections was one of the most competitive in the history of Uganda. He commended the people of Uganda for turning out in large numbers and peacefully participating in the electoral process and encouraged all stakeholders to pursue constitutional and legal reforms in order to improve the electoral process in the country. As the electoral process is still on-going, the EAC-EOM shall make final announcement at the end of the process. “I encourage the people of Uganda to remain calm and peaceful during the remaining time,” he said. Museveni once said leaders who “overstayed” in power were the root of Africa’s problems, but 30 years later has been elected for a fifth term. The veteran former rebel leader seized power in 1986, ending years of brutal and murderous rule under Idi Amin and Milton Obote. “Those who say, ‘let him go, let him go’, they need to know that this is not the right time,” Museveni said before the elections. “This old man who has saved the country, how do you want him to go? How can I go out of a banana plantation I have planted that has started bearing fruits?” Museveni successfully changed the constitution in 2005 abolishing a two-term limit. Other African leaders have since followed suit, changing or redefining laws to stay in power. 

Uganda's President General Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

Museveni is officially 71, although activists have previously accused him of lying about his age to circumvent the country’s laws imposing an age limit of 75 on presidential candidates. This will therefore be his last term in power, unless another change is made. But Museveni has made clear he has no intention of handing power to anybody, dismissing criticism from Western donors over graft and moves to grant sweeping powers to regulate civil society groups and non-governmental organisations. He has also shrugged off criticism of a tough anti-homosexuality law, later overturned on a technicality. Now entering his fourth decade in power, Museveni remains one of Africa’s most wily and tenacious rulers. He studied in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the 1960s when the university acted as a kind of revolutionary finishing school for anti-colonialists. His wife Janet is a devout Christian, MP and cabinet minister. The promise of oil wealth from crude discovered beneath Lake Albert has yet to be realised. Museveni has welded state and party and undermined political opposition so effectively that any serious challenge to either him or his NRM is impossible. A proud former military man, much of his authority still rests on his sway over the army which he uses to maintain control domestically and project power regionally. During Democratic Republic of Congo’s regional war between 1998-2003, Ugandan soldiers fought with their Rwandan allies. More recently Ugandan troops were instrumental in preventing a rebel takeover of the South Sudan capital, Juba, and shoring up Salva Kiir’s government after civil war began in late 2013. Uganda’s intervention in Somalia has been more warmly welcomed with its troops forming the backbone of an African Union mission that has battled the Al Qaeda-linked militants of Shebab since 2007. The Somalia intervention -- unlike those in Congo and South Sudan -- has won Museveni favour with foreign donors who in return give him a pass when it comes to domestic oppression and corruption. “His actions may not always be approved, but he has made Uganda a serious player in the region,” said Magnus Taylor, from the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank. “While Uganda’s drift towards authoritarianism, coupled with the high-profile introduction of legislation to criminalise homosexuality and regulate the operational environment for NGOs may not win approval from Western actors, Museveni has embedded himself to the extent that the international community accepts his military contributions with one hand whilst wagging a censorious finger with the other,” Taylor said. Museveni, born in Rwakitura in western Uganda to a cattle-herding family, has always said he looks forward to retiring to be a cattle keeper. He specialises in rambling speeches peppered with folksy parables and military references that play better among poor -- and poorly-educated -- rural folk than among the urban population where the opposition finds its strongest support. But Uganda remains a predominantly rural country, in both demography and economy, and Museveni’s popularity there is still high.

Religious leaders continue praying for Magufuli’s wonders

RELIGIOUS leaders from different denominations over the weekend conducted a special prayer for President John Magufuli and his entire cabinet to continue with their sterling performance. The prayers, which were organised by Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in the region, in collaboration with the residents in the region regardless of the political ideology, went in tandem with fundraising for helping patients admitted to Mawenzi Regional Hospital. Religious leaders at different times congratulated the president for his efforts of charting various measures aimed at bolstering the national economic growth and at the same time punishing some government leaders who have used their positions to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor. 

Tanzania's newly elected President John Magufuli

One of the religious leaders, the chairman of the Association of Pentecostal Churches, Bishop Pius Ikongo, said many Tanzanians prayed during election for the country to have good president, something that has been answered by the Almighty God. Bakwata Secretary in Kilimanjaro region, Sheikh Rashidi Malya urged people to pray for the president and his government so that we could win war against corruption and other vices. Sheikh Malya urged wananchi further to organise special prayers for the president and his government to win the war and improve social services. On his part, the CCM Kilimanjaro Regional Chairman, Mr Idd Juma, said the people who were helpless and desperate were now hopeful and confident of the new government under President Magufuli. Mr Juma said the time has come for people to support the president for the good work he had done to combat corruption and other vices.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

ZEC in Zanzibar maintains its stance

DESPITE the Civic United Front (CUF) and other six political parties have declared that they would not take part in the upcoming Zanzibar general election re-run scheduled for March 20, the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) Chairperson, Mr Jecha Salim Jecha, said here yesterday that his office still recognised all candidates as genuine contenders. “CUF presidential candidate and its candidates for House of Representatives and councillors, and six other political parties had written to ZEC, saying they will not take part. Unfortunately, all the candidates and their political parties claiming to have boycotted the polls have failed to follow the required procedures. Section 31 and 37a, and chapters 46 and 50 of the Zanzibar electoral law stipulate procedures for the nomination of candidates as well as showing how a candidate can withdraw from the race. “None of the candidates have observed the rules,” said Mr Jecha in a press statement. Mr Jecha said according to regulations, it is the responsibility of a political party to write to the ZEC to withdraw its sponsorship of a candidate. He said even the vocal CUF have failed to observe the procedures. “It is very important to understand and follow the law governing elections,” he stressed. He added: “We have been communicating with all the 14 political parties, alongside distribution of elections materials in all eleven districts before distributing to 1,580 polling stations later,” said Mr Jecha. The ZEC chairman added that all the 14 presidential candidates, aspirants for the House of Representatives membership in 54 constituencies and candidates for 111 ward councillorship remain equally recognised as genuine candidates in the March elections. Mr Jecha acknowledged to have received letters from CUF and other six parties, saying that they will not take part in the elections while eight other political parties including CCM, ACT, ADC CCK AFP, SAU, TLP and ADA-TADEA have confirmed participation. “We are finalising procedures to provide all the presidential candidates with 24 hour security guards until the elections results have been announced,” Mr Jecha said adding that the Permanent Voter Register (PVR) will be displayed in several areas so that voters can identify their respective polling stations. He told reporters that preparations for the fresh elections have been progressing while the selection and recruitment of qualified returning officers and other staff have been made -- followed by training on better election handling. Training for returning officers (constituency level) is scheduled for February 22-28 while that for training of polling station officers is planned to start on March 11 up to 13. The training for the political parties’ agents and security service men will be held on March 14 and 15 respectively. The ZEC chairman said that preliminary arrangements for the printing of ballot papers are over while the printer, who he did not disclose, is already working on the assignment to print the ballot papers expected to be brought to Zanzibar early in March. “We ask the people to get prepared for the fresh elections. All candidates from different political parties should also observe election regulations and laws,” Mr Jecha advised. The upcoming elections follow the one last October 25, which was nullified due to “massive electoral fraud’’. CUF leaders were yesterday unreachable to give comments on the ZEC move to retain all candidates in the last year’s general election for the upcoming polls. However, Mr Nassor Khamis, a lawyer and ZEC commissioner from CUF, said “it is all total confusion.” He said it is unacceptable for the ZEC to force people who are unwilling to remain as candidates. All CUF candidates and others have decided not to join in the planned elections, “then why force them.” Mr Nassor said although the sections cited by the ZEC Chairperson were about organised elections, “it is unfortunate that the March 20 re-run has no legal backing’’. He added: “If Mr Jecha says he had nullified the whole last October election, then the whole election process would have started from the beginning with nominations of candidates followed by campaigns”.

Tanzania hailed for good use of financial aid

Sweden has commended Tanzania’s efforts towards making sure that financial services spread far and wide nationwide, especially in rural areas. Financial services provided by CRDB, Fahari Huduma, which is scattered in all villages, makes Tanzania a leader in the East African region in terms of access to financial services. The praise was issued by the Chairman of the Swedish Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Kenneth Forslund, who led a tour of legislators to inspect various development activities funded by the government of Sweden.  Forslund complemented Tanzania for good use of development assistance funded by Sweden in fulfilling its intended objectives.  One of the institutions funded by Sweden is Financial Sector Deepening Trust (FSDT) which supports CRDB bank with its Fahari Huduma product. Samson Keenja, CRDB Microfinance Services Company Ltd Operations Manager, said that CRDB realised that availability of banking services in Tanzania reach only a few people in urban areas. The bank thus saw the need to establish a banking agency in collaboration with the Financial Sector Deepening Trust (FSDT) through Fahari Huduma to roll out financial services to reach people living in rural areas, thus bringing financial services closer to villages. FSDT Executive Director, Sostenes Kewe said the fund aims to broaden access to financial services to reach more people, especially in rural areas by collaborating with CRDB bank in the supply of these services. He said financial services are important for the survival and thriving country’s economy and promotion of small and medium businesses growth, creating employment and poverty reduction. Mainda Mwakalinga and Frank Mwakalinga are entrepreneurs operating as agents of Fahari Huduma service at Kibamba.  They have thanked CRDB bank for bringing financial services closer to their door step.  They point out that before introduction of the services, they had to walk long distances to access financial services at Mbezi or Kibaha, but now the services are available just around the corner. Janet Tomaslisha, another entrepreneur who operates a small business, thanked CRDB for bringing financial services closer to the people, and providing microcredit without collateral.  She said that although the loans are small but they help her earn money and put food on the table. She, however, opined that she would the like bank to offer small businesses bigger loans to help them grow into big businesses. Chief of Cooperation and Development Division in the Swedish Embassy, Maria Van Berlekom, said in fluent Kiswahili that the lawmakers were in the country to get a first hand glimpse of how development aid is spent. CRDB Microfinance Services Company Ltd is a subsidiary of CRDB Bank Plc offering wholesale microfinance services throughout Tanzania with central regional offices countrywide. It provides tailor made products and services that address financial needs in different communities in Tanzania. The Financial Sector Deepening Trust (FSDT) was incorporated in Tanzania on 1 July 2004 with an overall aim to develop a deeper financial system that can provide greater access to finance to more Tanzanians.

A modern lab in Bagamoyo to diagnose Ebola, RVF

Tanzania will now be able to diagnose highly endemic diseases like Ebola, Rift Valley Fever and other deadly infectious diseases following enormous renovation of a bio-safety laboratory to be carried out by a constructor from South Africa mid this year. Located in Bagamoyo District in Coast Region the laboratory was constructed three years ago but failed to operate as it had some cracks in some of its spaces. The construction of the laboratory which was funded by the Italian Development Cooperation and the Italian National Institute for Infectious Diseases in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the Ifakara Health Institute (IHI)  Briefing the Director for Preventive Services from the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr Neema Rusibamayila and other guests who visited the laboratory in Bagamoyo at the weekend, IHI Head of Laboratory Maximillian Mpina said when completed the laboratory will be a great help to Tanzanians. He was also attending IHI 10th anniversary in Bagamoyo. “Sending samples to other countries like Kenya and South Africa when there is an outbreak in the country is expensive and time consuming as well. So with this laboratory it will take a few days to diagnose the samples,” Mpina said. Mpina noted that the main characteristics of the bio-safety facility are specified as including having complete ceiling of the building in which it has been installed, the constant negative pressure in the working environment, and adherence to constant filtering of the air coming out of that laboratory through high efficiency filters. At a cost of 189,000 USD, the renovation will make the laboratory the best in East and Central Africa. “World Bank has provided 100,000 USD to facilitate the maintenance of the laboratory, IHI has raised 36,000 USD from its projects. So 50,000 USD more is needed to facilitate the repair of the laboratory, which if things goes well is expected to start operating later this year,” he said.  “The laboratory will be jointly managed and run by Ifakara Health Institute (IHI) and key institutions of the ministry. The in-country expertise will facilitate the sustainability of the laboratory through research projects and diagnostic services during epidemics,” he said. On her part, Dr Rusibamayila commended IHI for its efforts and contributions through research projects and diagnosis services. She said upon completion the lab will also allow the establishment of a collaborative network between health organisations, universities and domestic and international laboratories of communicable diseases and for prompt laboratory diagnosis for identifying pathogenic agents. IHI General Director Prof Salim Abdulla said the country will be assured of saving billions of shillings annually in medical laboratory testing conducted abroad at high costs as many scientists and high-tech laboratories are available in the country now. “Bagamoyo is now firmly established as a world-class research centre. I have been particularly proud to witness the transformation of human capacity as young researchers have grown into independent scientists,” he said.