Retired president, Benjamin Mkapa (right) campaigns for the CCM candidate, Sioi Sumari (left) for Arumeru by-election to be held today at Patandi area in Arumeru district. (Photo by Bashir Nkoromo)

But it was actually the two most popular parties — Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) — that conducted political rallies, while the other four parties chose to ride around in vehicles asking people to vote for them through loudspeakers. Both Chadema and CCM claimed to have conducted more than 100 rallies covering 86 villages in Meru District, between March 10 and March 31, this year.

Former President, Benjamin William Mkapa closed the CCM campaigns through rallies held at Maji-ya-Chai and King’ori villages and reminded the residents of Meru District that, his party does not give empty promises. He gave the example of the promised land which has already been apportioned to the villagers.

The returned Meru land happened to be the hotly disputed 5,000 hectares that the army had laid claim on but last week President Jakaya Kikwete ruled that the properties be returned to the local villages that surround Mlangarini area. Mr Mkapa said that in 1992 when the government floated a referendum on whether people wanted a multiparty system or not, the majority of
Tanzanians, accounting to over 80 per cent had refused.

“Tanzanians in reality do not want many parties. It is only through the wisdom of CCM leaders that we decided to give the multiparty system a chance. But then I don’t expect these youngsters running around to know that,” he stated. Meanwhile, the Chairman for CHADEMA, Mr Freeman Mbowe, who is the MP for Hai, said that he intends to table a motion before Parliament demanding that a law be legislated to prevent retired presidents from getting involved in active politics.

Closing his party’s campaigns at Leganga (Usa-River) and Patandi (Tengeru) areas, Mbowe complained that using retired leaders to campaign for certain parties was a misuse of nation’s resources. “Mr Mkapa is being paid retired benefits as a former president and the money comes from taxpayers,” said Mr Mbowe.

He added that the country’s taxpayers belong to all parties, yet the retired president continues to campaign for CCM using government resources. “We usually believe that retired leaders are wise people whom all parties can turn to for advice, just like we used to do with the late Mwalimu Nyerere.

But if they decided to take sides in politics they lose all respect that people had bestowed on them,” Mr Mbowe maintained. Mr Mbowe insisted that his party will hold a vigil in Usa-River area tonight (Sunday) after the voting process to ensure that the votes are well protected.

“People will come from Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam and Musoma and we will all gather in Leganga throughout Sunday night until Monday. Nobody will dare tamper with our decisions,” he stated. The two most promising candidates are Mr Sioi Sumari of CCM and Mr Joshua Nassari of Chadema. During their parties’ rallies on Saturday, they both promised to solve water problems in the district.

Mr Sumari however added that he will also deal with unemployment problem among the youth as well as ensuring that the
area gets electricity. Mr Nassari said he will start with the refurbishment of the District Hospital of Patandi and eliminate the levies imposed on women traders at Tengeru market.

As residents of Meru District cast their polls today, results for Arumeru-East byelections will have to wait until Monday and the venue for announcing the results has suddenly been changed. The results will now be announced at ‘Mji-Mdogo’ in the upper Usa-River Township adjacent to the District Police Station where a battalion of the Field Force Unit (FFU) has pitched some tents.

Observers here say that some of the 325 voting stations being used in the polls are located more than 100 kilometres from the Meru District Council offices where some of the voting procedures will be carried out. “We are, however, going to do our best in ensuring that vote counting moves as fast as possible,” said Judge Damian Lubuva, the chairman of the National Electoral Commission when speaking to journalists on Saturday.

Surprisingly, the Returning Officer, Mr Tracias Kagenzi, has also pointed out that the results will not be announced at the Meru District Council as expected. Instead the winner’s name will be mentioned at Mji-Mdogo. Though the District Executive Director, Mr Kagenzi, did not wish to give reasons for the abrupt change of venue, officials apparently fear the possibility of chaos that may ‘destroy’ the newly built premises much of which has been lined in glass sheets.

Normally all election results are announced at respective district councils offices. A total of 127,455 registered voters are expected to take part in the polls for the Arumeru- East constituency amid speculations that chaos will be inevitable.

By Marc Nkwame, Tanzania Daily News

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