In Summary
  • In June, the National Super Alliance announced the establishment of three tallying centres.
  • Tanzanian police last year banned political rallies, a move the opposition considers undemocratic and unwarranted.
  • Mr Magufuli surprised many within CCM when he was picked as the compromise candidate.

Sunday’s endorsement of President Uhuru Kenyatta by the leader of the Tanzanian opposition, Edward Lowassa, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Below it is a cauldron of diplomatic intrigue, transnational politics and meddling, whose ultimate impact on the relations between the East African Community partners is still a matter of conjecture.

One would have expected Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, a wily 31-year survivor in the presidency with regional ambitions, to have the biggest influence on the Kenyan election.

Or even President Paul Kagame, who is given to strong-arm tactics but is admired for keeping the peace in a divided country and his effectiveness in development and impact in stamping out corruption in Rwanda.

But no: the most impactful foreign leader on Kenyan politics and this election is President John Pombe Magufuli, the eccentric former minister for Roads whose ‘bromance’ with Nasa leader Raila Odinga has upended diplomacy and conduct of politics in the region.

On November 15, 2015 at the swearing in of President Magufuli, keen observers will have noticed that the assembled dignitaries gave Mr Odinga a standing ovation and warmth, which was not extended to the formal Kenyan government delegation, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In April last year, Ikulu, the seat of the Tanzanian presidency, announced a visit by Mr Odinga, almost as if it was a State visit.

Mr Odinga, accompanied by his wife Ida and daughter Winnie, flew to the rural home of the Magufulis in Kilimani village, Geita Region, landing in a chopper at Chato Secondary School, where they were received by President Magufuli and his wife Janeth.

The two families spent almost a week together.

The bond between the two leaders is tight, perhaps unlike anything the two countries have seen previously.

In June, the National Super Alliance announced the establishment of three tallying centres — one in Kenya, another in Germany and a third one in Tanzania.


Enquiries by the Nation’s correspondents indicate that the centre may have been set up in the Kigamboni area with the blessings of the government of Tanzania.

Correspondents said Mr Odinga was in Dar es Salaam in May to finish the installation and set up a team to oversee it.

“Raila came to Tanzania last month and was seen hanging out in Kigamboni.

"Normally, when he is in Dar es Salaam, he visits a club called 777, but this time he opted to spend his leisure time in Kigamboni,” the source said.

“We can’t get into this now. Raila is on the campaign trail,” Mr Odinga’s spokesman Dennis Onyango said when contacted for comment. 

Kigamboni is across the creek from Ikulu (State House) Dar es Salaam and has a compelling history.

Revered former President and liberation leader Julius Nyerere and his Vice-President Rashid Kawawa were spirited to Kigamboni and hidden there by Tanzania’s secret services during the 1964 army mutiny that was crushed by British troops.


Because it is somewhat downtown Dar es Salaam, it is an attractive place for locating government business away from the public eye.

Officials in Dar es Salaam said the Kenyan Government has submitted an official complaint to Tanzanian authorities for allowing the Nasa team to set up its centre in Tanzania.

“It’s true that the Kenyan Government has officially complained to Tanzania over the issue,” said one government official, who refused to be named.

The relations between the President and Mr Odinga have attracted quiet interest in the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi, but even more in the opposition, where dislike for Mr Odinga — whom Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) considers to have betrayed his 2013 supporters — is as vocal as is allowable in normally polite and restrained Tanzanian political discourse.

Many in the opposition believe that the purpose of Mr Odinga’s visit to Geita last year, billed as a family holiday, was to “mobilise funding and political strategy” for this year’s campaign.

Recently, Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe told the party’s council meeting that after their assessment, they had concluded that Mr Kenyatta was the right candidate for president and a better choice for democracy in Kenya, views echoed almost word-for-word by Mr Lowassa on Sunday.

Mr Mbowe said Chadema was dismayed by Kenya’s opposition leader, who supported Dr Magufuli during his presidential campaigns in the 2015 General Election.


When Mr Mbowe asked council members how they treat their friends’ enemies, they responded in unison: “As your enemy,” and broke into applause.

“We supported Raila Odinga during the 2012 elections in Kenya, but to our surprise and dismay, when it came to the 2015 polls in Tanzania, he supported the CCM candidate, Dr John Magufuli.

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