How 1965 General elections helped Sokoine’s rise to prominence

Saturday March 14 2020


By William Shayo

Dar es Salaam. The star of Edward Moringe Sokoine, who was dearly loved by many people in every corner of the country, started to glitter after he was elected Member of Parliament in the September 30, 1965 elections.

Sokoine - who died in a car accident in Morogoro Region on April 12, 1984, - would rise to become Prime Minister from 1977-1980, and again from 1983 to his death in 1984.

In that 1965 general election, the president stood unopposed - and voters were supposed to tick a YES or NO on the ballot paper.  A total of  3,373,089 people registered to vote.

According official records, at least 2,600,040 voters - equivalent to 77.1 percent of the registered voters - turned out to vote in the polls.

The YES votes in the poll results were 2,410,903, equivalent to 96.46 percent, while those who voted NO were 88,600, equivalent to 3.54 percent of all votes cast.

In the elections, Sokoine contested for the Parliamentary Seat in the Maasai Constituency, which included the current constituencies of Ngorongoro, Longido, Monduli, Simanjiro and Kiteto.


Sokoine vied for the Maasai constituency seat in the polls against one Edward Carlo Boniface ole Mbarnoti, who was chief of the Maasai. During the polls, Arusha District was subdivided into three electoral constituencies that included Arusha Urban, Arusha Rural and Maasai Constituency.

In the presidential poll results for the Maasai Constituency, Mwalimu  Nyerere garnered only 7,700 YES votes out of 2,410,903 YES votes he had collected across the country.

However, 100 NO votes were cast against Nyerere in the constituency out of 88,600 votes that were cast  nationwide. Sokoine and Mbarnoti were of the Maasai tribe who were fairly well-known in Tanganyika in the 1960s.

According to a publication on the Multi-party Elections in Africa by Michael Cowen and Liisa Laakso, Mbarnoti was appointed in 1959 by the British colonial rulers to become the paramount chief of the Maasai.

Mbarnoti was automatically an appointed MP who doubled as the head of the Maasai Council and was installed Thursday on August 27, 1959.

Until the 1965 General Election, Chief Mbarnoti was the appointed MP for the constituency.

But in the polls, Sokoine got 6,977 YES votes against Chief Mbarnoti’s 871. After winning the election, Sokoine started to use that opportunity as spokesperson of the Maasai.

Sokoine, who joined the Tanganyika African National Union (Tanu) party on January 1, 1961, for the first time entered the Parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania as an MP on November 1965.

On February 5, 1977, Sokoine was one of the founding members of the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and for consecutive seven years from 1977 to 1984, he was a member of both CCM Central Committee and CCM National Executive Committee.

In the local Maasai politics Sokoine had started out as the assistant to the secretary of the Maasai Federal Council. 

Then in 1962, he was promoted to become the secretary to the Maasai Federal Council. After his studies at Mzumbe College in 1963 he was appointed executive officer.

In Parliament, one of the questions that he asked and which gained him popularity included; “Why are the Maasai of Ngorongoro prevented from cultivating land while they have no livestock for food?”

Another question was; “Since the establishment of this nation, some tribes are well developed. What is the government plan on educating those lagging behind in terms of development so that they can equally develop?”

And yet the other question that he asked was; “Although the Maasai District Council has asked for the enactment of a law to require all children in the district to go to school and stay there until they complete their studies, the ministry of Education is yet to do so. Can you tell us why has this been a difficult issue?”

Those questions, according to Prof Dorothy Louise Hodgson, made Sokoine more popular among the Maasai community, whom he urged  to take up education and improve their ways of livestock keeping.

Due to his vibrancy in Parliament, in August 1967 Sokoine was appointed deputy minister for Communications, Transport and Labour by President Nyerere.

Last year at an event to honour Sokoine held at the Sokoine University of Agriculture (Sua) in Morogoro Region, veteran politician Getrude Mongela described the late PM as a fierce fighter of economic sabotage.  She said that, during his lifetime, Sokoine was a confident person who loved working all the time, motivating fellow leaders and the general public as well.

Mongela said the main task done by Sokoine was to strengthen the foundations of good governance by caring for everybody regardless of their religion, tribe or race.

In the October 26, 1970 elections Sokoine sailed through to Parliament unopposed. This was  testimony to his unfatiguable defence of the rights and welfare of the Maasai.

After his election as an MP, in November 1970 Sokoine was appointed minister of State in the Second Vice President’s Office.

Two years later - in February 1972 - Sokoine (born in 1938) was appointed minister for Defence and National Service.

However, in the polls held on October 26, 1975 Sokoine got a challenger.

But he sailed through getting 12,000 votes out of 14,911 votes cast, Sokoine got over 12,000 votes, leaving his opponent with only 2,644 votes.

Those who registered to vote in the 1975 General Election were 5,577,566, but 4,557,595 voters, equivalent to 85.9 percent, turned up to vote.

Unspoiled votes were 4,474,272 and YES votes were 4,172,267, equivalent to 93.25 per cent of cast votes. The votes that were cast against President Nyerere were 302,005, equivalent to 6.75 per cent.

On February 13, 1977 Sokoine was appointed Prime Minister of Tanzania, taking over from Rashidi Mfaume Kawawa. He served until November 7, 1980.

He was again appointed Prime Minister by President Nyerere on February 24 to April 12, when he died tragically in a car accident. He was on the way from Dodoma to Dar es Salaam after he had annulled the Parliament.