The Civic United Front (CUF) is going through a very bitter crisis that is threatening to bury one of the few political parties that can claim to have a national coverage; something that the party has maintained throughout its existence. The crisis has seen episodes of bloody encounters between its members on opposite sides of this bitter divide.
This crisis is different from previous crises CUF has faced. It comes close to its first crisis between then-party chairman James Mapalala and Secretary General Seif Sharif Hamad. But the parallels end there.
Since then Hamad weathered every dispute by seeing off all those who challenged him. He remained the real power behind the throne.
CUF has reached a point where nominations for its candidates in various elections are held by the two different factions as was the case with the names for candidates for the East African Legislative Assembly, in effect it is two parties claiming to be one as even some of the party’s organs have split between the warring factions.
Depending on who you ask, the blame lies with Prof Lipumba and his political U-turn, Hamad who is accused of being a “sell out” to Chadema, the registrar of political parties Justice Francis Mutungi, who is seen as favouring Prof Lipumba’s faction, the perpetual culprit that is CCM, and the police.
Is there a way out of this crisis?
Speaking to a local television station, Hamad, popularly referred to as Maalim Seif, ruled out any negotiations with his political rival Prof Lipumba accusing him of being a ‘traitor”, and that it is better to negotiate with CCM, while Prof Lipumba is open for talks between them.
There are those who have suggested Justice Mutungi play the role of the mediator by calling both factions to sit down and talk. It is difficult to see how Justice Mutungi can be a mediator in this crisis.
There are suggestions as well to replace both Prof Lipumba and Maalim Seif so as to appease their supporters that both leaders lost out in this crisis. Their supporters who have battled it out in the streets will staunchly reject this proposal but it is one of the strongest ways out of this crisis.
Their replacements should be those who have not sided with any of the two leaders, to bring the element of neutrality in the post-Lipumba and Maalim CUF.
It is unthinkable that those who replace Prof Lipumba and Maalim Seif will be so emotionally involved in the crisis.
However, Maalim Seif is on record saying that he is loved by the people and he will retire if and only when the time comes the people who adore him tell him he has to go.
The best next thing is resolving this crisis is by having both Prof Lipumba and Maalim Seif join hands and lead the party on a transitional basis, where a timetable has to be agreed upon by the rival factions which will be followed by intra-party elections from the lowest elected post to the highest elected post.
That way CUF will have a chance of coming out of this crisis as a single party even if not united but it will have a fighting chance for another day.
One of the reasons this crisis is beyond control is the reality that opposition parties in this country have grown, revolved and depended on a single individual or a clique of few individuals who are more powerful than the party itself.
This is what makes it very difficult to propose any solution that throws out Prof Lipumba and Maalim Seif completely. At the heart of the current crisis is this mentality of seeing these individuals as “irreplaceable”.
Even in the absence of one of both Prof Lipumba and Maalim Seif, CUF will not know peace if an honest process of resolving the differences which have surfaced since this crisis began including rewriting their constitution, and bridging the geographical divide that has appeared.
No amount of blaming CCM, Chadema, or constantly revisiting the political developments of 2015 and mentioning Lowassa is going to solve this crisis or help any faction in outmanoeuvring the other faction.
It is time CUF members should look at a future without Prof Lipumba and Maalim Seif as a way out of this crisis because their party is facing political abyss.