While we were away in South Africa, Tanzania held elections for their 5th government/President. By most accounts, voting day was peaceful and went well. There were a few small security incidents, but nothing "significant". And there was a bit of delay with the results, which made it very tense (from what we heard and read about online). The bigger problem was on Zanzibar, as opposed to on mainland Tanzania. The Zanzibar Election Commission annulled the election for Zanzibar's president (separate from the country's president) due to gross irregularities (like vote rigging, fighting between election officials, etc.). But of course most people believe the real reason they annulled the election is because it appeared that the political opposition was going to win. So now Zanzibar is in a bit of upheaval, with the international community "gravely alarmed" (US Secretary of State Kerry) after all international election observers declared that the election was "free and fair." It's a mess, and there have been a few small bombs in Stone Town related to that.
But here on the mainland, the ruling party's candidate was declared the winner, even though there are some allegations from the citizens (not from the election observers) that the election was NOT "free and fair" and that there was vote rigging to prevent the opposition candidate from winning. African politics are anything but boring. If it is true that the votes were rigged, than that is a travesty for democracy, of course. But we didn't see any of the violence that could have erupted and people seem pretty calm about it now, even if they feel their election was stolen. Some people are saying, "that's how it always is" and so they didn't expect any different. I think the real caveat here is that even though the ruling party won - and really it would have been great to get a different party in power - it does appear, although of course it is too early to tell really, that the right candidate won!
President Magufuli (as of last Thursday when he was inaugurated) is already shaking things up! For example, on Saturday he snuck in (on foot! Without telling anyone!) to the Ministry of Finance to take attendance of all the people who should be at work! And he found quite a lot of them missing! And the next day he announced that all international travel for senior government officials was banned! The cost of such travel is a lot of money, and his pledge has been to solve problems for regular Tanzanians at home. He wants government ministers to be visiting the rural parts of Tanzania that are underdeveloped and under-served. He certainly needs all the money he can get to do that. Good for him!
Off to a great start we think! Although our staff reports that this is just a scam for the first few months (calculated by the political party) to make everyone think there will really be change. But we hope our staff is wrong and that the new President will continue to be this strong (and ethical) in the future. We also hope there is a resolution to Zanzibar’s stalemate soon. The people of Tanzania are desperate for and deserving of strong leaders who actually govern on their behalf.