Arusha. President John Magufuli chose the perfect symbolic outfit, appearing in a full-fledged military uniform in Arusha yesterday to once again declare a “relentless war” on corruption and related problems that bedevil the country.
The President, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, was in a combative mood as he fired at forces of retrogression, promising hundreds of cheering residents he would continue to fight until the problems affecting the nation are over.
“I will continue to open up boils (kutumbua majipu) with even greater zeal,” he said at Kona-ya-Nairobi, Kambi-ya-Fisi, Oyster Bay and Kona-ya-Mbauda, where he stopped briefly to address thrilled residents.
Scores of people who had lined up the road to Monduli looked surprised to see the President in military uniform, probably for the first time since they knew him.
There were even louder cheers, punctuated by ululations when President Magufuli told the residents that his administration would not surrender on the war he declared on rampant misuse of public resources since he assumed power.
It was his first visit to Arusha Region since he was sworn in on November 5, last year.
His message appeared to resonate very well with the majority in the once crime-ridden poor suburbs of the city, which has, nevertheless, remained an opposition stronghold.
And when he appeared from the roof-top of a vehicle he was travelling in, the elated wananchi did not waste time to plead with him to rescue them from constant harassment by city askaris.
One old woman could be heard from the crowd, telling the Head of State she was tired of being chased away from a spot she uses to eke out a living through selling foodstuffs.
Hawkers joined the old woman, whose name The Citizen could not obtain, in appealing to the President to save them from harassment by local authorities.
President Magufuli reacted by calling regional commissioner Felix Ntibenda to respond to the allegations. The RC promised to act on the matter.
In his parting words, the Head of State promised to return to Arusha at a more convenient time in the future when he has ample time to listen to their problems. Of all President Magufuli’s four predecessors, only the Founder of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere used to, occasionally, wear military attire, mainly during the 1978/79 Kagera war.
Meanwhile, the President also used the opportunity to plead with the residents of Arusha and the rest of the country to utilise the current rains to plant more crops to ensure there was enough food.
Dr Magufuli was heading to Monduli on what some officials said was a familiarisation visit to the Tanzania Military Academy (TMA) and other military installations in the area.
And today, he is expected to commission army officers at the end of their training, according to officials. The event is routine and is done only by the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.
The President also called for unity, urging wananchi that with the elections over, Tanzanians should now direct their energies to development projects and stop unnecessary politicking.
He said although he won the October 25 (2015) General Election, he was there to serve all Tanzanians, irrespective of their political affiliation. “Let us unite our efforts and work hard irrespective of whether one was a Chadema or CCM follower. I am the President of all Tanzanians,” he remarked.
Arusha city and the entire region is an opposition Chadema stronghold. The President seemed to be reaching out to the opposition in its territory, where he lost most of the votes to the coalition (Ukawa)’s presidential candidate, former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa in the last polls.
John Bayo, a famous sports trainer in Arusha and formerly a Chadema councillor before crossing to ACT-Wazalendo, said he was impressed by the remarks made by President Magufuli. “He was in military combat ready to fight the problems facing the country,” he said.
A resident of Kwa-Mrombo, a newly-opened informal settlement south of Arusha, Mr Daniel Elisa, said the turn-out of people was enough sign of the support he had.
Since he was sworn in, Dr Magufuli has been out of Dar es Salaam only three times on official business.
In November, he went to Dodoma to address Parliament, and on January 12, he was also out of the commercial capital during the 52nd anniversary of the Zanzibar Revolution.