RECENT political developments in Tanzania suggest that President Samia Suluhu Hassan has given in to demands of extremists within her ruling party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
Analysts have it that observation of her leadership style in the past two and half years shows that she has been gradually losing the grip of power to a dissident group of politicians she had once sidelined.
The group is nicknamed ‘Sukuma gang,’ linked to her predecessor John Magufuli who was believed to belong to the Sukuma ethnic group. The name was equally used to identify most of his loyal and ardent followers, regardless of their ethnic origins.
Analysts say even as President Samia launched her 4R strategy (reconciliation, resilience, reforms and rebuilding) as a way to create a new leadership philosophy that would replace her predecessor’s politics of atrocity, the Sukuma gang has mainly been working to sabotage the first R, her top priority, popularly known as “maridhiano.”
Here is a technical reaction by one prominent Tanzanian lawyer serving as international consultant for one of the most powerful global organizations:
“I believe Samia was sincere with her 4Rs agenda; the only mistake she made was procrastination. She took too long to act, which enabled the Sukuma gang to regroup and fight back,” says the consultant in a conversation with SAUTI KUBWA.
He adds: “She should have dismantled the group immediately she took power.”
The first mistake, says the consultant, “was her decision to maintain the same appointees by her predecessor. She was supposed to appoint her own Prime Minister and ministers as well – a surgical operation so to speak.”
He said, when Egypt’s Anwar Sadat took over from Nasser in similar circumstances, this is what he did: purge the Egyptian government and security establishment of Nasserites.
“This is what gave him the confidence to put off Russians and sign the Camp David Accord with Israel.”
The lawyer-consultant would choose to remain anonymous for what he called, ‘my employer’s policy on media.’
“Her second mistake was in her statement: ‘Kila mtu atakula kwa urefu wa kamba yake,’ literally meaning ‘each will feed by their reach,’ suggesting that the further you can reach the more you will reap.
This statement sent a signal that she was going to be soft on graft, and it has been proved true.
He adds: “The Controller and Auditor General (CAG) Report covering the period 2020-2021 was a golden opportunity to nail all Magufuli hangers-on. She never did it.
“She could have weaponised that CAG report to purge the remnants of Magufuli from the government.
“That moment cost her the audacity and moral authority to deal with the 2021-2022 CAG report (Samia’s administration first CAG report).
“This space has allowed Magufuli’s lieutenants in the system to “manufacture’ a scandal that will be solely the responsibility of Samia. Hence, the Bandari-DP World scandal. Samia can never blame anyone on this scandal. It’s hers.
“Therefore, she can no longer point a finger at the Sukuma gang because she is now tainted!
“The Bandari-DP World scandal has also served Sukuma gang very well by undermining ‘maridhiano.’
A critical take on the opposition
“On the other side, the opposition parties, notably Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA), took the bite, spewed all manner of a bad tongue, which eroded whatever little confidence had been created between Samia and Freeman Mbowe, the chairman of the main opposition Chadema.
“Samia’s heart turned cold following the opposition’s strong and bitter words; and this is what extreme elements on both sides wanted to happen. They came out victorious!
“The comeback: Even before the DP World scandal, promoting Camillius Wambura and Ramadhan Kingai as Inspector General of Police (IGP) and Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI), respectively, was intrepreted as a sign of despair.
“Her recent appointment of Dotto Biteko as Deputy Prime Minister, was not lost on observers: Samia is trying hard to appease the ‘spirits’ or appropriately, the Sukuma gang.
Now adding Paul Makonda and Lengai ole Sabaya to a list of former president’s batch of personal scoundrel guards, sums it up as Samia now is in the grip of the Sukuma gang; of course, promising electoral violence than experienced in 2019 and 2020.
“There is also the gender card. This is very delicate. The opposition needs to be tactful enough; in that it should resist the temptation to use “hard and unpleasant” language against Samia. It could be counter productive.
“It is true that the ups and downs Mbowe has gone through; his long experience in party leadership; his contacts with many international political leaders; his long desire for leadership to victory; add this onto the grueling process of “maridhiano” and knowledge of the inner politics of other parties; he has been elevated to the status of a statesman.
“To many, he looks presidential. He is thoughtful and measured in his approach, he is not given to emotional outbursts of anger and outrage. He is calm and composed. He inspires confidence and trust.
“But this is both a good thing and ‘not a good thing.’ Mbowe’s statesmanship somehow pushes his vice chairman Tundu Lissu aside as presidential aspirant, and erects Mbowe as CHADEMA’s potential flag bearer in 2025.
“After Lissu’s miraculous survival from the 2017 assassination attempt, his credentials as a presidential aspirant of choice was never in doubt. He still looks set to run for the top office, but this time, with other potential candidates in the picture, he is not expected to be an automatic contender. In politics, time flies fast and now, according to some sources, Mbowe’s chances seem to be significantly appealing.
“I am not sure if Lissu can tone down his rhetoric because right now he doesn’t look willing to do so. And the reason is obvious: this is where his strength lies. Some of us have a feeling that he sounds bitter and ready to take revenge for all the wrongs done to him.”
The lawyer-consultant’s views apart, those who know Lissu closely can unequivovally attest to his prudence, honesty and clarity in conscience. He is clearly not given to taking reprisals.
Most of those who barely know his inner self, tend to make conclusions about him based on his temperament, his emphatic speech and strict position on some matters.
As 2025 approaches, these fundamental differences between the two leaders will become more prominent for those seeking to answer the question, “who will eventually become the opposition’s flag bearer?”
Whoever becomes the presidential candidate in the 2025 general election will definitely keep CCM on their toes. This explains the ruling system’s panic in recruiting the Sukuma gang machinery, and its vicious obsession with plans to fuel the split between Mbowe and Lissu.
CCM”s ultimate aim is to see the Lissu faction “peel off” to start a new political party which, practically, is highly unlikely.
Informed sources within Chadema, say Lissu, a fighter of his own political weight, did well in 2020 with support and escort of Mbowe. His performance cowed down then incumbent John Magufuli, who was forced to steal the electoral process in order to retain his office.
Depending on eventual processes within the party, this time around, Lissu could easily and comfortably escort his chair to the political battle ground – with the hope to perform better.
Besides these two big wigs, more names may still emerge to surprise political analysts and election specialists.