Presidency: Meet Eldoforce Bilohe, The farmer who wants to lead Tanzania

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Supporters cheer Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete as their leader delivers a speech on October 30, 2010 during the final campaign rally in Dar Es Sallam on the eve of elections he is expected to win.
The CCM has been in power since Tanzania’s independence

In our series of letters from African journalists, broadcaster and media trainer Joseph Warungu spotted an ordinary farmer hoping to become Tanzania’s next president.

Tanzania has been invaded by “presidents”. They are everywhere and they are all speaking in tongues.

They are on the farms, in hospitals, by the roadside and at market places selling their policies.

In short, they are in your face.

If you drive too quickly, you might run into one of them.

They are speaking so fast to cover lots of ground that it’s becoming dizzying for the helpless citizen, who has to listen to it all – day in day out.

’30 people in the race’

Their speeches are beginning to sound like foreign tongues.

That is because they are mentioning things many people have forgotten about – like reliable electricity, clean running water and obedient prices of goods and services, that agree to sit still instead of constantly running away with people’s hard-earned money.

The majority of Tanzanians rely on farming for their livelihood

The election season has truly kicked off in Tanzania.

After spending a bit of time in the country in recent weeks, I’m fascinated by this once-in-five-years phenomenon.

The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party is in the process of searching for its presidential candidate ahead of October’s election.

Almost 30 CCM members have picked up the registration forms to vie for the party nomination.

‘All eyes on one man’

The list of potential candidates contains big names, including two former prime ministers, several cabinet ministers and other senior government officials.

They have all parted with a non-refundable fee, which is equivalent to $600 (£380).

But one man has caught the nation’s attention.

Eldoforce Bilohe is a 43-year-old farmer with a primary class seven level of education, who wants to be the next president of Tanzania.

Supporters of the CCM will argue that the fact that an ordinary party member of humble means is able to vie for the party presidential nomination is evidence of true and inclusive democracy within the party.

Could Eldoforce Bilohe really become the CCM candidate?

But critics will see it simply as a staged event to prove the party is still in touch with the humble roots of its founding leader and former President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

Mr Bilohe has gathered a lot of support in the media but whether the force will be with him till the very end is highly in doubt.

A modern-day Tanzanian presidential campaign requires a big name, very deep pockets and a laser-guided vision towards state house.

By mid-July we will know who the CCM flag-bearer will be.

Looking for flesh

Where’s the opposition in all this?

Like lions in a hunt, they’re hiding behind a bush, waiting anxiously to pounce on the CCM candidate.

President Jakaya Kikwete is leaving after serving two terms in office

The opposition wants to see the identity of the ruling party nominee, and identify a juicy area of the flesh, to bite hard.

They are trying a new strategy to interrupt the CCM’s 50-year rule of Tanzania.

The main opposition parties decided to come together under an umbrella organisation known as Ukawa.

It’s a Swahili acronym for Alliance for a People’s Constitution.

It was formed as a movement to vote down the proposed new constitution for Tanzania.

Veteran opposition leader Ibrahim Lipumba has signalled his interest to run for the presidency again

They’ve perhaps learnt a lesson or two from neighbouring Kenya, where former Prime Minister Raila Odinga mobilised political forces to defeat the government-backed constitutional review, in the 2005 referendum.

After that victory, he turned his anti-constitution campaign into the Orange Democratic Movement, which is now the largest opposition group in Kenya.

The Tanzanian opposition had a similar mission.

But with the postponement of the Tanzania constitutional referendum, which was initially planned for April, the opposition parties in Ukawa are now expected to nominate one joint presidential candidate.

It’s not clear whether they will actually agree on one candidate, and who that person might be.

Most Tanzanians are living in poverty

With President Jakaya Kikwete leaving office after two five-year terms, Tanzania continues to be a shining example in Africa, of a country where leadership actually changes hands and former presidents find new hobbies.

CCM too has maintained its record as one of the few remaining independence-era parties still in power in Africa, others being Swapo in Namibia and the ANC in South Africa.

However, it’s also not clear what the fall-out might be from the CCM presidential nomination process – or whether the party will stay intact.

All this makes for a very exciting political season in Tanzania.

You cannot afford to take your eyes off the field.

For now, though we have to endure the inconvenience of the walking and talking presidents.

Source: BBC

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