Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version
c c IPP

Tanzania’s general elections are set for October 2015 and the liberation party CCM that has ruled since independence already has 20 presidential aspirants. One of them is the young and ambitious January Makamba, whose announcement to stand for presidency has caused some excitement in the land. What chances does he have?

It is great news when the youth declare their desire to take leadership roles. On a news making interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in early July 2014, the Tanzanian Deputy Minister for Communication, Science and Technology, January Makamba announced his bid for the country’s topmost job – the presidency.

This was greeted by mixed reactions. The general public, especially the younger generation, the majority of whom favour the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi [1] (CCM), welcomed the annunciation [2] while words of caution were aired through the head of state, Jakaya Kikwete on his public address in Tanga where he stated, “I hear your MP is vying for a bigger office. He has however not told me. That is ok, but he should not force things. When the time comes he will get the presidency but if it is not yet time, he will not get it”.[3]

After much speculation and seeming ‘tag-of-war’ for the presidency within CCM, a lengthy ‘expose’ of the youthful presidential aspirant Makamba was published under the title, “Maswali 40 Majibu 40: Mazungumzo na January Makamba Kuhusu Tanzania Mpya [4] (40 Questions 40 Answers: A Discussion with January Makamba on New Tanzania) by Fr. Privatus Karugendo. The latter is the centre of this analysis and the discussion to follow.

To better understand this publication, we shall look first at the endorsement dynamics within party ranks in the eve of Makamba’s public bid for the presidency. Secondly, we shall discuss Makamba: the person and his understanding of the political environment in Tanzania. Thirdly, we shall look at Makamba and the presidency: his understanding of the role of the presidency. To conclude, the analysis will give a critical overview of Makamba’s ‘expose’ as well as draw attention to a few things that could give the ‘expose’ a different political clout.


Visible in Makamba’s bid for the presidency, is the possible struggle within the ruling party’s ranks for the country’s presidency. This can be seen in the statement made by the head of state; Jakaya Kikwete revealing his lack of knowledge regarding the aspirations of the ‘young’ Makamba’s bid for the presidency. But Makamba is not the only aspirant for the presidency within CCM, come October 2015 general elections. There are 19 others! Among these, six, including Mizengo Pinda [5], Samuel Sitta [6], Hamisi Kigwangalla [7], Stephen Wassira [8], Lazaro Nyalandu [9], and January Makamba have publicly expressed interest in the presidency. The presidency is therefore, an in-party contested political environment.

There are ‘diplomatic’ suggestions of the presence of tag of war within CCM as to who should receive the presidency endorsement ‘award’ for the imminent general elections in Tanzania, is the preface of Makamba’s ‘expose’. In the preface, Tanzania’s second phase government head of state, indirectly issues his endorsement of January Makamba’s bid, and perhaps, right to bid for the presidency. This he does by narrating how he nurtured Jakaya Kikwete into the presidency. In his own words, “I selected Jakaya Kikwete for the member of parliament, thereafter deputy minister at the age of 38, and then minister for water, energy and minerals at 40, then minister of finance. I did that not just because of his age but on the basis of raising future generations’ leaders” (Karugendo 2014: vii, viii). Therefore, Makamba’s bid for presidency should not be disregarded due to his age. Further, this could pass for an indirect appeal to Jakaya Kikwete not to discourage January Makamba’s bid for presidency as he was also fostered into the presidency by his predecessors.

Explicit reference is made in the preface, as well as other places in the ‘expose’ about age.[10] Ageism introduces another dynamic in Makamba’s bid. Traditionally and experientially, Afrikans have passed on an archaic belief that older – mature members of say fifty plus years are the best fit for such a position as the presidency. Age is therefore considered an epitome to knowledge and ability to lead a community. In this case, a nation. In his response to his interviewer, Makamba frantically seek to justify his maturity not only by pointing out the fact that he is in the literal sense mature both in age and politically. The clearest is his reference to being a loving husband and a responsible father (pg. 19). But Makamba also gives examples of politicians who made a difference both socially and politically at young age – in the range of 29 to 40 years. These include Mwalimu [11] Nyerere, Fidel Castro and Jesus Christ (see pg. x, 23 etc.).

Against this belief, Makamba makes unequivocal statement of his belief in ability-to-do than age factor. He says, “being a youth is not an attribute, maturity age-wise is not a scandal [and vise versa] leadership is a generational matter” (pg. 23 See also pg. 28, 30). Makamba seem to understand this dynamic as well as recognising that he is outnumbered by the majority of presidential aspirants within his party CCM when it comes to age as well as long “sit-tight” politicians in CCM. On a live interview on BBC, Makamba explicitly stated that, “Kikwete’s ten year tenure in office has had its dynamics and the next ten years after him will also present a set of dynamics. This calls for a new generation leadership to be able to counter the 21 century challenges”.[12] In a research carried out by Celebrating Progress in Africa (CP-Africa), the writer agrees to an extent with views expressed by Makamba by stating that “ageism against young people in Africa has many faces. One face is long list of sit tight leaders in many African countries who continue to advance policies that are not in touch with the present realities and pace of innovation of today’s world”.[13]

Apart from evidencing indecisiveness as to whom shall receive the Presidency bid ‘award’ young or old, the former Head of State is giving an advance political-apologia to counter any criticism from within the ruling party CCM, and from a wider party cadre circles – even from the current head of state, Jakaya Kikwete, on this apparent pre-endorsement – before the official endorsement by CCM’s National General Council. As well, the preface in Makamba’s ‘expose’ closes all doors to any possible speculation about Mwinyi’s ‘endorsement’ and admiration of Makamba as a person. Importantly, for Makamba’s courageous aspirations for the country’s most powerful office.


What makes him think he is fit for the presidency in Tanzania? Undoubtedly, this is one of; if not the immediate question the public was confronted with at the annunciation of Makamba’s bid for presidency. And rightly so. It is a professional, generational as well as a societal practice to ask this question whenever a big statement regarding leadership or even marriage is announced. Reading the ‘expose’ gives a good introduction to January Makamba, the man both as a lover of learning, a family man, a politician and a community development champion.

Most importantly, Makamba has a broad understanding of the ills confronting the country socially, economically and politically. But there are concerns with regards to his understanding on the extent to which such ills have impacted the people of Tanzania. We shall come to this later. However, it is clear that he is up to date with the rising levels of political and religious schisms – even fundamentalism among the people of Tanzania. Division among the youth stands out as a real concern on his shoulders as registered in the ‘expose’. According to the ‘expose’ “Tanzanian youth are departmentalised into learned, illiterate […] religious, and political groups […] they don’t have one voice and have lack common denominator to act as a connector”, (pg. x, 3).

Apart from dissension among the youth, Makamba highlights among other things, lack of a deliberate plan by duty bearers in the political arena – especially the sitting government, to curb the rising levels of apathy in the way natural resources are managed (pg. 3), widening economic gap between the rich and the poor (pg. 4), risky population influx in urban areas (pg. 5, 111), escalation of incidents of graft, lack of transparency and equity distribution of profits from the exploitation of Tanzania’s natural resources (pg. 7). All these, and according to the ‘expose’, has placed Tanzania in a precarious social, political and economic position. “Our country is on Crossroad. In the next ten years, Tanzania can choose either to utilise the new findings of natural gas for economic progress and social stability, or be doomed into religious schisms, lack of trust on the government by the citizenry, failed union and widening gap between the rich and the poor” (pg. 2).


January Makamba’s announcement of his interest in the presidency come October 2015 was not taken lightly, as can be seen, by his supporters, his party and mostly at an individual level. This is a good indicator. In his own words and at various occasions, Makamba stressed how weighty a matter it is. In his interview with BBC, Makamba reiterated that:

“…this is a big decision, before making such a decision, there is a need to reflect deeply. This is not opportunity for rank seekers but opportunity for service, service to the people of Tanzania. Besides, there are two important questions that need to be asked at a personal level: the first is looking introspectively into one’s ability, and second, is to introspectively at one’s knowledge and new ideologies that would transform Tanzania [14] […] I have been asking myself those questions, and I have, ninety percent made a decision to take part in the race when the time comes. However, the remaining ten percent is for me to reflect on a few things and consult different groups, elders, religious and previous leaders”.[15]

In the ‘expose’, Makamba goes farther to explain that the presidency should not be looked at as a reward for a “job well done” (pg. 33). This statement could be considered a ‘privy’ into how business has been carried out within the ruling party CCM, especially when considering who to carry the party’s political torch into the future. In the ‘expose’ he points out both attributes which do and those which do not belong into the presidency. He categorically points out that favouritism, slothfulness, indecisiveness and apathy do not belong into the presidency (pg. 2, 111, 114). He does not stop there. He also articulates attributes that befits the presidency. In the ‘expose’ Makamba lists fostering national unity, assuring national security, integrity, accountability, participatory governance as attributes that the presidency cannot operate without, (pg. 2, 3, 24, 25). This, the ‘expose’ asserts, leads to the establishing of “a better tomorrow for the people of Tanzania” (pg. 111).


Reading through January Makamba’s ‘expose’, several things are notable. One, Makamba is an oratory master. He has managed to say all the right things. With unmistaken clarity he has expounded on matters that at best tickle the ears of the readers and listeners but fall short of making the reader say, ‘this is different’! To begin with, Makamba’s ‘expose’ presents glaring contradictions on a number of issues. First, his articulation on partisan ‘reward’ oriented politicking is ambiguous. He both condemns and supports the ‘reward’ system within CCM.
The ‘expose’ devoted a lot of time on Makamba as a person, what he has done in his constituency and the achievements in his political career.

While this is not bad in itself, it nevertheless carries with it a sense of entitlement to the presidency. If taken from the entitlement paradigm, Makamba’s expectation is that he should be the one to carry the political torch of the ruling party come October 2015 because of all he has done both as an aide to the current head of state, Jakaya Kikwete and as a member of parliament. However, if the ‘reward’ system is followed to the latter, it will render Makamba’s hopes for the presidency futile. There are many people who have waited long enough for their turn for the presidency. This can be seen by the fact that the seeming ‘obsolete’ and ‘corrupt’ politicians such as Mizengo Pinda, Edward Lowassa, Samuel Sitta and Stephen Wassira are eyeing the same post. This can only be achieved by manipulative strategies that were earlier seen within the party. The immediate example is that which was used by Nape Nnauye in 2008.[16]

Two, Apart from repeating what has become far too familiar to Tanzanians; such as knowing the social, economic hardships among the people of Tanzania, remotely referring to the lack of a democratic political space in Tanzania, as well as pillage of Tanzanian resources and graft, Makamba is not telling Tanzanians cohesively, what he is planning to do, in order to undo the impacts of CCM’s ‘reward’ leadership system. The ‘expose’ is non-committal throughout and Makamba uses the third person form of speech when he talks about his interest in the presidency. Granted he is talking indirectly about the ill-manner in which CCM as a party is operated but again, he is not on point when it comes to expressing how he is going to revolutionise CCM’s politics to counter the 21st century social, economic, political and environmental challenges for the benefit of the people of Tanzania.

Third, Makamba’s understanding of the social, economic and political ills confronting the people of Tanzania is undermined by his allegiance to partisan etiquettes. Scattered in the ‘expose’ is the allusion to the idea of a transformed political perspective. However, he seems to have faith in the ruling party CCM to get rid of graft (pg. 161). Besides, it appears that he will continue to promote the ‘loan-begging’ system established by President Kikwete if his bid for presidency is endorsed. Makamba states, “The relationship between Tanzania and developed countries continues to be stable […] Tanzania is a country which still depends on the developed countries for its fiscal budget. The next President must acknowledge this contribution…” (pg. 11)

Forth, Makamba in this ‘expose’ appears to applaud the efforts that have been made by the government under CCM especially on education front. It is imperative for the people of Tanzania, to ask: what is the definition of an improved education sector? Visible evidences, indeed, show that there are improved infrastructure in terms of buildings of such higher learning and academic institutions mentioned in the interview. But it is also a fact that improving any learning institution goes beyond built environments. Indeed, its essence is found both in the quality of institutional infrastructure in its entirety, that is to say, built environments, quality and timely provision of learning supplies, as well as quality and timely response in handling the needs of those who learn at such institutions.

Fifth, Makamba pointed out the need for Tanzanias younger generation to see leadership as a collaboration between the youth and mature citizens. But the ‘expose’ fails to explicitly mention any deliberate desire to establish a non-partisan political discursive platform that would bring the youth and youthful members of the society together. Leave alone any mention of his plans to work in collaboration with young politicians like him in the opposition camp as he speaks of uniting the country.

It must also be pointed out however that in the ‘expose’, Makamba brings the idea of regional economic blocs (pg. 120), which could be a long term solution to curb increasing unemployment. This if developed into an implementable plan, would also give birth to what could be termed as ‘combined’ development. Hand in hand with regional economic blocs, is the idea enshrined in the ‘expose’ on “sovereign Wealth Fund” (pg. 174). Both of these are great ideas. The citizenry would benefit much from such ideas if elaborated and translated into achievable economic strategies.

In having this ‘expose’ out there, Makamba has done something that helps in discussing him as a presidential aspirant. There are more questions unanswered in the ‘expose’. But let’s all reflect on the following questions as we look into the future of politics in Tanzania together, as Tanzanians and Afrikans. Is the presence of 20 presidential aspirants in CCM alone, a tell-tale sign of long standing political ideological differences among members of the ruling Party? Is this the eve of the fulfilment of Mwalimu Nyerere’s prophecy that, ‘true and authentic political opposition and perhaps democracy will only come out of CCM? Is this the make or break up point in Tanzanian politics and social civility?

* Evans Rubara is a social justice campaigner with expertise in policy engagement on social, political and environmental justice issues in Eastern and Southern Africa and internationally.

[1] The Revolutionary Party
[2] The Citizen: “How Twitter Reacted When Makamba Said He’ll Run for President”, July 4, 2014 Issue. Accessed at:
[3] The Citizen: “JK On Ambitious Makamba”, July 10, 2014 Issue. Accessed at:
[4] Karugendo, Privatus 2014: Maswali 40 Majibu 40 Mazungumzo na January Makamba Kuhusu Tanzania Mpya. Accessed at:
[5] Mwananchi: “Pinda atangaza rasmi kuwania urais”, October 23, 2014 Issue. Accessed at: ; BBC: Mizengo Pinda kuwania Urais Tanzania BBC Swahili”.