It’s exactly one week before millions of Tanzanians go to polls in one of the most competitive elections.
The ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party is facing its greatest challenge since the restoration of multi-party democracy in 1995.
But the latest concern among Tanzanians has turned out to be the tragedies that have claimed the lives of the parliamentary candidates.
The latest was on Thursday evening when outspoken former MP, Deo Filikunjombe (43), died in a helicopter crash.
The outgoing legislator for Ludewa constituency in Njombe region on the shores of Lake Nyasa in southern Tanzania was one of the vocal MPs in the last National Assembly.
He was elected a member of the House only in 2010, serving up to its dissolution last month, ahead of the October 25 polls.
He was among the MPs who took the government to task over the corruption scandals that rocked the entire stretch of President Jakaya Kikwete’s ten-year (2005-2015) administration.
The crash occured in the remote Selous Game Reserve, some 200 kilometres southwest of Dar es Salaam.
The MP and his close associates had been heading to their constituency for a campaign meeting scheduled for Friday. He was defending his seat.
Tears rolled freely in Dar es Salaam on Saturday as hundreds of people, led by President Jakaya Kikwete, paid their last respects to the fallen politician and three other people who perished in the crash. All of them were burned beyond recognition.
TWO WEEKS EARLIER
Twelve days earlier, on October 3, Tanzania lost one of its early-day opposition leader, Reverend Christopher Mtikila.
The leader and founder of the Democratic Party (DP) died in a car crash on his way to Dar es Salaam from election campaign meetings, also in Njombe region.
Rev Mtikila distinguished himself from other opposition leaders for his repeated calls for the indigenisation of the Tanzanian economy, specifically from the hands of the Asian business community.
The calls made him popular with thousands of unemployed youths and hawkers in the cities.
He also called for the restoration of the Tanganyika government within the union with Zanzibar, and a change of constitution to allow independent candidates in the presidential race. He did not succeed in his crusade.
Though he was not vying for presidency this time round, he had carved a niche on the opposition political stage.
On September 13, a road tragedy claimed the life of Mohamed Mtoi, a parliamentary candidate for Chadema, the main opposition party in mainland Tanzania, in Lushoto constituency, Tanga region in northeastern Tanzania.
Two days (October 13) before the helicopter tragedy, the chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD) Emmanuel Makaidi died after falling ill in Mtwara. He was contesting the Masasi parliamentary seat in the southern Mtwara region.
NLD is one of the four parties which have joined forces to found a coalition of four political parties known as Ukawa, which is challenging CCM in the Sunday election. The coalition’s presidential candidate is the former prime minister Edward Lowassa.
Three other parties in the union are Chadema, NCCR-Mageuzi and the Civic United Front (CUF), the main opposition party in Zanzibar.
Four days before the death of Mr Makaidi (October 9), an ACT-Wazalendo candidate for the Arusha Urban seat Estomih Mallah died after a short illness.
ACT Wazalendo is one of the eight parties that have fielded presidential candidates for the October 25 General Election.
TWO CABINET MINISTERS
As if to add salt to injury, two cabinet ministers, who were defending their parliamentary seats on CCM ticket lost their lives, making this year’s election a campaign of tears.
The minister for industries and trade, Dr Abdallah Kigoda, and the minister of State in the president’s office (public service management), Ms Celina Kombani, died in Indian hospitals on September 25 and October 12 respectively.
The tragic deaths have brought to light the issues of safety and security of the candidates, who are now forced to criss-cross the vast country, at times using small planes or helicopters.
Hashim Rungwe, one of the presidential candidates, said since this year’s polls was the most competitive.
He urged the campaigners to observe security arrangements — especially their means of transport — in the remaining days.
Despite the growing tension and anxiety as the polling day approaches, many analysts have, however, not linked the deaths (from accidents) with the election or foul play.
Source: Daily Nation