Sunday, January 14, 2018

STRAIGHT TALK: Lowassa visit may open the foodgates to opportunities

Ally Saleh

Ally Saleh 

By Ally Saleh

Tanzania was last week abuzz with news of a visit by Chadema’s 2015 presidential candidate Edward Lowassa to the State House.

Even international media carried the story of his visit, which was not announced before.

Video clips of him and President John Magufuli praising each other after their talks at Magogoni went viral. Chadema was taken by surprise. So was the nation. The public questioned what was happening. It sent tongues wagging, with some people speculating that Lowassa wanted to defect.

The reaction was mixed. Some defended him. Some views were strong.

Some top Chadema officials were strongly critical of Lowassa. They said accolades he showered on President Magufuli were personal and did not reflect the party position.

I hope and believe party machinery will deal with the matter.

Of course, the dispute could have been averted had Lowasa communicated with Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe before the visit.

It was not as much as asking for permission but rather to keep the party boss in the loop.

I believe Mbowe would not have stopped or advised Lowasa not to go to Magogoni. Presumably, Mbowe would have asked Lowasa to deliver Chadema’s grievances to the President. That would have beneficial even to Lowasa himself who several occasions showed that he was interested in vying for president in the 2020 General Election.

Again, I presume, the best message Mbowe would have asked Lowasa to give to the President would have been initiating dialogue as a lot of things have been happening which do not at all augur well for the country. For over two years now, almost going into the midterm, President Magufuli has resisted to meet the Opposition. Meeting the Opposition would help resolve many things.

One may be forgiven for thinking that President Magufuli is being advised to change his approach and that is why he has started talks with Lowasa.

We may soon hear that Mbowe has been invited to Ikulu -- too.

Magufuli is also CCM chairman. The fact that he is President does not prevent him from meeting the leader of the biggest opposition party in Tanzania. That is my view.

We may see significant changes to embrace dialogue. The government may take a more proactive approach to solve democracy, participation and human rights issues by encouraging dialogue.

It may not stop there. If that happens President Magufuli will be advised to revive Zanzibar talks, to heal political wounds, two years since the October 2015 General Election. Such a condition cannot be left to continue until 2020 when the next general election takes place.

I have a dream: the Lowassa factor will spread to Isles. President Magufuli and CCM chairman will facilitate a meeting between Zanzibar President Ali Mohamed Shein and his 2015 election opponent Seif Shariff Hamad, whose party, the Civic United Front, has disputed election results.

I hope President Magufuli will help Zanzibar to overcome its political challenges.

Let’s bury the hatchet. We are one.