Gulf Politics Intensifies Regional Tensions

As different countries seek to exert influence in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, political divisions of the Middle Eastern Gulf are being played out along the coastline of North East Africa exacerbating regional tensions.

Djibouti No Longer Alone

Since the end of the Cold War, Djibouti has presented itself as an island of stability in a volatile region and has become a favoured destination for overseas military bases. The USA, France, Italy and even Japan have set up bases in the country. Additionally, Germany and Spain have troops stationed at France’s base. In 2017, these countries were joined by Saudi Arabia and China. While China has maintained that its base is primarily for supporting its peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, Saudi Arabia’s base is closely linked to its competition with Iran and its involvement in the current conflict in Yemen. Although Saudi Arabia and Djibouti have long been close allies, the establishment of a military base in the country has drawn the Horn of Africa closer to the conflict in Yemen and the wider power struggle in the Middle Eastern Gulf.

Moreover, it seems that Djibouti is no longer alone in providing leases for military bases in the region. In 2017, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) established a joint military base at the port of Assab in Eritrea, which has been used by the Saudi-led coalition in the conflict in Yemen. Subsequently, Eritrea has become an ally of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in their diplomatic dispute with Qatar. It appears that this base is part of the UAE’s wider strategy of commercial and military expansion in the Horn of Africa. The country already has a military facility in Somalia and it is set to complete a military base in the self-declared state of Somaliland in June 2018. This base is situated near the port of Berbera, where a UAE-based company – DP World Ltd – secured a 30-year concession to manage and develop the facility in September 2016. Similarly, another UAE-based company – P&O Ports Limited – secured a 30-year concession to develop and manage the port of Basaso in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in north eastern Somalia in April 2017. Given what happened in Somaliland, there are suspicions that another UAE military facility could be established in Puntland.

Nevertheless, investment in these ports should be beneficial to the local economy and could open up new trade corridors for landlocked countries such as Ethiopia, which are overly dependent on access to the Port of Djibouti. This has been anticipated by the government of Somaliland, which plans to construct a road from Berbera to the Ethiopian border and are reportedly in negotiations with the Ethiopian government over further investment in the port. Given Ethiopia’s position as the fastest growing economy in the region, this increased access to trade routes is likely to have a beneficial effect on local economies.

While Saudi Arabia and the UAE have established a foothold in the Horn of Africa, it appears that their rivals have gained ground further north. On 26th December 2017, it was announced that Turkey secured exclusive rights to the port island of Suakin from Sudan for the next 99 years. Turkey reportedly plans to restore the historically significant island, which, since the construction of the Port of Sudan in 1922, has been largely abandoned. Although Turkey have stated that the rehabilitation of Suakin is commercial in nature, the decision has raised concerns in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who suspect that Suakin may serve a military purpose. This is unsurprising, given that Turkey has maintained relations with Iran and is a close ally of the embattled Qatar. Furthermore, only days after this announcement, Turkish, Qatari and Sudanese army chiefs met in Khartoum. While the details of this meeting are unknown, it increased the level of distrust in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where it has been alleged that Qatar funded the Suakin deal.

The Horn Engulfed

Consequently, there is a danger that the Horn of Africa will be increasingly drawn into the ongoing conflicts in the Middle Eastern Gulf, both diplomatically and militarily. Since the beginning of their dispute with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been applying pressure on countries in the region to either cut ties or downgrade diplomatic relations with Qatar. Thus far, Egypt, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somaliland have sided with the Saudi-UAE coalition, while Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan have remained somewhat neutral. However, each of these countries continue to face diplomatic pressure from both sides of the dispute.

This was especially evident during the presidential election in Somalia in February 2017, which was hampered by corruption allegations that were closely tied to the Middle Eastern Gulf dispute. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey were all accused of funding presidential candidates in Somalia to secure influence in the country. The winning candidate and now president – Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ Mohamed – reportedly received funding from Qatar. When this is combined with reports that Turkey has overtaken Somalia’s traditional aid donors and constructed its largest overseas military base in the country, it appears that Qatar and its allies now have the upper hand in Somalia.

Aside from the diplomatic dispute with Qatar, there is also a possibility that countries in the Horn of Africa could be drawn into the conflict in Yemen. On 24th December 2017, Houthi rebels released a video online in which a commander threatened Somaliland against continuing its lease agreement with the UAE. They reportedly stated that “if Somaliland does not heed the warning then we will fire ballistic missiles to Somaliland”. Although Houthi rebels have not yet attacked either Djibouti or Eritrea, despite their assistance to the Saudi-led coalition, given the proximity of the Horn of Africa to the conflict, this is a threat that could be acted upon, if the rebels altered their tactics.

Regional Battle Lines Drawn 

Nevertheless, the greatest concern for North East Africa is the effect this will have on regional tensions. In Somalia, the UAE’s decision to negotiate directly with the governments of Somaliland and Puntland could prove to be highly contentious. Despite its self-declared independence, neither Somaliland nor Puntland are recognised as independent countries and, consequently, there are questions regarding the legality of the UAE’s negotiations, which have already been raised by the government of Somalia. Given Somalia’s current security situation, it is unlikely that such questions will be addressed in the short-term; however, the continued vying for influence by Qatar, Turkey and the UAE in Somalia and Somaliland is only likely to deepen divisions and cause further problems for state building initiatives in the region.

Alongside Somalia, the vying for influence by Qatar and the Saudi-UAE coalition has put pressure on the relations between Eritrea and Djibouti. Although both Eritrea and Djibouti sided with the Saudi-UAE coalition, like most of the countries in the region, they have a disputed border. Qatar had been playing a key role in mediation between the two countries since 2010 and had peacekeepers stationed in the disputed regions – Dumeira Mountain and Dumeira Island. However, in response to Eritrea’s and Djibouti’s support for the Saudi-UAE coalition, Qatar withdrew its peacekeepers in June 2017, reigniting border tensions.

Beyond the Horn of Africa, the politics of the Middle Eastern Gulf has helped renew hostility between Egypt and Sudan. Turkey’s control of Suakin and the meeting between Sudanese, Qatari and Turkish military chiefs has raised serious misgivings in Egypt. While, as of the time of writing, the Egyptian government has stayed quiet about the matter, the pro-government press has condemned Sudan. It appears that, given the deterioration in relations between the two countries over the past year, Sudan’s Suakin policy is considered an offensive action focused on the disputed Hala’ib Triangle. Accordingly, it is likely that border tensions will increase, especially if Sudan develops closer military relations with Turkey.

This retrogression in the relations between Egypt and Sudan has wide-reaching implications for North East Africa. Currently, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are trying to break a deadlock in negotiations regarding the Grand Renaissance Ethiopian Dam (GERD). Talks broke down in November 2017 and, at the time of writing, there is little indication that they will restart soon. This was illustrated by reports on 2nd January 2018, that Egypt wanted Sudan excluded from the talks, which were quickly denied by the Egyptian government. This is troubling as already 62 percent of GERD has been constructed and it is set to be completed by the end of this year. It appears that Sudan is now likely to side with Ethiopia in negotiations, which would isolate Egypt. This will widen divisions between Egypt and Sudan, as well as Egypt and Ethiopia.

Although such divisions existed prior to the influence of politics in the Middle Eastern Gulf, this factor has definitely heightened tensions in the region. Due to Egypt’s support for the Saudi-UAE coalition, and possibly Turkey’s Suakin concession, on 4th January 2018, Egyptian troops arrived at the UAE military base in Eritrea and have since been stationed there. Seeing this as a direct provocation, Sudan closed its border with Eritrea on 6th January. It appears that battle lines are being drawn between Egypt and Sudan, and, given the GERD negotiations and its history of conflict with Eritrea, its highly likely that the recent troop movements will further aggravate tensions between Ethiopia and Egypt.

Broader Implications

The investment in North East Africa by Turkey and countries of the Middle Eastern Gulf is undoubtedly going to have a positive effect on local economies and create further investment opportunities. In order to secure the Suakin concession, Turkey has reportedly agreed to invest $650 million in Sudan, which will include funding for the construction of a new airport and investment in a range of sectors, including electricity production – a burgeoning sector in the region. While DP World Ltd and P&O Ports Limited are respectively investing $442 million and $136 million in Somaliland and Puntland. Given the economically underdeveloped nature of the region, such investment will be highly beneficial and will create further opportunities, which is reflected by the increase in the price of land in Berbera. Furthermore, the development of new ports in the Horn of Africa will be advantageous for Ethiopia, which will be able to reduce its dependence on Djibouti and develop new trade routes. Given that, according to the World Bank, Ethiopia was the World’s fastest growing economy in 2017, the development of such trade routes should create further investment opportunities in the region. Additionally, even the construction of military bases along the coast should increase investment in local infrastructure, which is currently inadequate, and therefore create a better investment environment.

That being said, the influence of the politics of the Middle Eastern Gulf is currently, and will continue to, have a negative impact on regional divisions. The exacerbation of underlying tensions in an already volatile region has the potential to cause unrest and conflict, which will exhibit itself in varying degrees depending on the countries involved. Despite significant interference in Somalia and its disputed neighbouring regions, considering the current security situation in the country, it is unlikely that this will have a pronounced impact in the short-term. Nevertheless, it will hamper long-term state building initiatives. With regards to Eritrea and Djibouti, Qatar’s withdrawal has definitely increased the prospect of border clashes; however, given the strategic importance of the two countries to the Saudi-UAE coalition, there is a distinct possibility that the UAE will try to assume Qatar’s mediation role.

The most significant concern for the region is the escalation in tensions between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. Emboldened by the apparent backing of Turkey and Qatar, Sudan may try to seize control of the Hala’ib Triangle, which will not be easily relinquished by Egypt. If this were to happen, given that Egypt currently has troops stationed in Eritrea, clashes on this border and in the Hala’ib Triangle should be expected. Moreover, this escalation in tensions will put additional strain on the already fraught GERD negotiations. Taking into consideration that Egypt relies on the Nile River for 95 percent of its water supply and it has been estimated that GERD could reduce the flow of water to Egypt by 25 percent, a failure to reach an agreement could be disastrous and it is unlikely that Egypt would accept this outcome. However, in light of the deterioration of Sudan’s and Egypt’s relationship and the stationing of Egyptian troops in Eritrea, an agreement seems increasingly unlikely. If Ethiopia and Sudan fail to reach an agreement with Egypt, conflict between the countries is not beyond the realm of possibility.

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Ethiopia Celebrates Unity as Divisions Deepen

On 16th October 2017, Ethiopia celebrated its 10th annual National Flag Day. The celebration was created by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) with the purpose of promoting unity between Ethiopia’s different ethnic groups and the corresponding parties that make up the ruling coalition. This year’s celebration committee supervisor described National Flag Day as “an occasion to strengthen Ethiopian people’s diversity through unity”; a principle strongly associated with Ethiopia’s ‘Ethnic Federalism’. However, it seems that this model of government is under increasing strain and, with growing discontent in the country’s largest region, the EPRDF will have to do much more than celebrate National Flag Day to ensure unity.

In August 2017, the government lifted a 10-month state of emergency, which was heavily criticised by human rights groups for encouraging mass detentions and politically-motivated criminal charges. The government announced the state of emergency in response to a year of protests, which, although spread to various regions, originated in the Oromia region – home to the country’s largest ethnic group (Oromo). Although the Oromia region is represented in the EPRDF coalition by the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO), many Oromo people felt that they had been omitted from the political process and Ethiopia’s economic development. There is a widely held perception that Tigrayan people, whose party – the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – holds a dominant position in the ruling coalition, have disproportionate political influence and have therefore benefitted more from the country’s development. While the state of emergency quelled the protests in Oromia, it appears that tensions are once again rising in the region and the EPRDF has done very little to live up to its promise of reform.

September saw a rise in clashes between Oromo and Somali people along the disputed border between the two regions. A significant number of both Oromo and Somali people were killed during the clashes and thousands more were displaced. The UN has estimated that 43,000 people have fled their homes in the region; however, regional government officials have claimed that the number is higher. The Prime Minister – Hailemariam Desalegn – responded by ordering the withdrawal of regional security forces, some of which were blamed for perpetuating the violence, and sent the National Army to restore order. Although clashes between the two ethnic groups are not new, the response of the regional governments was unfamiliar. The Somali People’s Democratic Party (SPDP), which also comes under the EPRDF umbrella, accused the OPDO of inciting ethnic violence and supporting a terrorist organisation, and the OPDO responded in kind. Moreover, many Oromo political activists alleged that the TPLF was behind the violence to keep Oromia weak and unstable. Although this seems highly unlikely, the perception, whether real or imagined, will cause ethnic tensions to rise and increase pressure on the EPRDF’s ethnic federalist model.

Additionally, October saw the re-emergence of anti-government protests in the Oromia region, with many protestors focusing on the alleged “Somali invasion of Oromia”. Large numbers have been reported at the demonstrations, such as on 12th October, where more than 15,000 people reportedly protested in Woliso. Although the majority of protests have been peaceful, it was reported that 6 people were killed in clashes with the security forces on 11th October. Many Oromo political activists have claimed that this violence was instigated by the TPLF, which further demonstrates the growing ethnic tension in Ethiopia. Significantly, following this new wave of protests, the Speaker of the House of People’s Representatives and one of the founders of the OPDO – Abadula Gemeda – resigned from his position. He reportedly stated that he resigned because “my people and party were disrespected”. He is one of the highest-ranking government officials to have resigned since the EPRDF assumed power in 1991 and his decision signals a significant breakdown in the relationship between the OPDO and its EPRDF partners, especially the TPLF.

The government appears to be unsure on how to react to the growing tensions in the Oromia region. It seems that it is reluctant to revert to a heavy-handed approach but also unwilling to adopt reforms which could subdue the protests. As ethnic tensions continue to rise and Oromia becomes a larger problem, the longevity of the EPRDF’s ‘Ethnic Federalism’ will be challenged. For the EPRDF, it is essential that Ethiopia maintains its economic growth and that it ensures that all of its regions, and particularly Oromia, feel the benefits of development.

Prepare 4 Africa

Nairobi Cityscape

Culture Shock!

Habari yako? – your news? Habari za familia? – news of your family?  Habari za leo? – news of your day.  Za kazi? – of work?  Za safari – of your journey? And it goes on.  When will the questions end?

You are in Kenya, negotiating an oil concession.  You don’t have time for these extended niceties.  And, anyway, you don’t know how to respond.  In a hurry, you move on to business, ignoring the bafflement on the ministry official’s face.

As you leave, your host walks you to the car park.  He takes your hand in his and won’t let go.  This is unexpected.  You withdraw your hand, as tactfully as possible.  Your host again looks offended.

Your driver talks incessantly about “tribes”.  Why the obsession? Who cares about a person’s background?  What relevance is it to an oil company in Kenya?  This sounds like prejudice to your ears.

A policeman pulls you over and leans into the passenger side window.  “Habari?”, he smiles.  Here we go again – but he quickly gets to the point.  He’d like a “soda”, or some “chai”.  Why is he telling you?  Your driver is nervous,– he hands the policeman something and whispers “I will add it to the fare”.  Has something wrong just happened?

In your hotel room, you relax – until the phone rings.  The man who sold you air-time on the street this morning has just come by to “greet you”.  Habari!  How does he know where you are staying? What does he want? How do you respond?

You haven’t made time to see the baby elephants or the giraffe centre on the outskirts of town.  Or to visit the new Caramel Restaurant that everyone was talking about.  Despite this, you were pleased to leave Nairobi.  The problem is that the man from the ministry now refuses to take your calls.  Maybe you should have held his hand?

Find out with our Prepare 4 Africa (P4A) training courses.  Designed for first-time business visitors to Africa, P4A is a hands-on, practical one-day course that will help ensure your business trip to Africa is pleasurable and profitable.  You will learn about, amongst other things: the protocol of business meetings; the importance of greetings; recognition and mitigation of corruption; personal security; the best places to stay, visit and eat in your chosen destination; how to get about safely and quickly; and the language of negotiation.  Courses can cater for one to ten people and are delivered by experienced lecturers in African cultures.  Please contact us on enquiries@prepare4africa.com or visit our website www.prepare4africa.com for further details.

Uganda Election 2016

MC3_8518 - Uganda- KampalaAfrica Integrity have complied a report on Uganda’s upcoming election and its likely aftermath.

This year’s election seems to be the closest fought contest in recent history and political tensions are running high. Moreover, it appears that both the government and the opposition expect, and are seemingly preparing for, widespread instability following the election.

To a request a copy of this report please contact us.

Elections in 2016

There are a number of important elections across Africa scheduled for 2016 and over the next year, Africa Integrity Insights will examine a selection of these. As an introduction to the upcoming publications we have compiled a list of countries where elections are set to take place in 2016, including the scheduled date (when available) and the type of election.

  • Benin: Presidential (28th February)
  • Burkina Faso: Municipal (31st January)
  • Cape Verde: Parliamentary and Presidential (February & August)
  • Central African Republic: Parliamentary and Presidential Run-off (31st January)
  • Chad: Presidential (April)
  • Côte d’Ivoire: Parliamentary (December)
  • Comoros: Presidential (21st February)
  • Congo-Brazzaville: Presidential (20th March)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Legislative and Presidential (27th November)
  • Djibouti: Presidential (April)
  • Equatorial Guinea: Presidential (November)
  • Gabon: Parliamentary and Presidential (December)
  • Gambia: Presidential (1st December)
  • Ghana: Parliamentary and Presidential (7th November)
  • Niger: Parliamentary & Presidential and Local (21st February & 9th May)
  • Rwanda: Local Government (8th, 22nd & 27th February and 22nd March)
  • Sao Tome and Principe: Presidential (July)
  • Senegal: Constitutional Referendum (May)
  • South Africa: Municipal (May-August)
  • Sudan: Darfur Referendum (11th April)
  • Tanzania: Zanzibar Re-run (20th March)
  • Tunisia: Municipal and Regional (30th October)
  • Uganda: General (18th February)
  • Zambia: Legislative and Presidential (11th August)

Dispatches From Africa

Ethiopia: Development or Democracy?

AU Ethiopia

Emma Hooper writes from Addis Ababa:

The African Union (AU) Headquarters sit to the east of Addis Ababa, a handsome array of buildings that symbolise a new era for the Continent, one of stabilisation and unity. Yet its foundations lie on a dark past, a past many visitors may not be aware of, for it has quite literally been buried beneath 24 floors of concrete.

The site is that of the former Addis Ababa Kerchele prison and its torture centre, ‘Alem Bekagn’, built in the 1930s during Italy’s brief occupation of Ethiopia. As such, the AU buildings now lay at the epicentre of where Rodolfo Graziani conducted mass executions, slaughtering a whole generation of young Ethiopians. Just 50 years later, the same site witnessed some of the worst atrocities of Mengistu Haile Mariam’s reign of terror – a full account of which can be found in a dark corner of the Red Terror museum in central Addis Ababa. The bulldozing of the prison’s walls in 2011 has metaphorically wiped out a section of the country’s past, a commonplace tendency of post-colonial elites attempting to suppress the memory of state sponsored violence. Moreover, such a tendency may be particularly unfortunate in Ethiopia, where state violence is not a thing of the past – most recently explicated in the killing of 75 protesters on 19 December 2015. Indeed, the country’s civil society remains under a government stranglehold and the opposition is increasingly and brutally marginalised.

Although the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regime has not committed the mass atrocities carried out by the Derg, it is certainly one underlined by repressive legislation and widespread abuses. This is all too apparent when broaching the topic of politics in the capital, where attempts to discuss the current regime are regarded suspiciously and questions are left largely un-answered. I sensed that in many cases this was fear for, rather than support of, the incumbent regime. However, outside of Addis Ababa people are not so reluctant to discuss politics –  a group of students I spoke to even seemed sure there would be an uprising. With the current government having held power through a succession of dubious elections and an increasingly marginalised opposition, there appears to be a growing sense in the provinces amongst the younger generation that “something must be done”. Yet, with one of the strongest armies in sub-Saharan Africa, any such uprising is likely to be matched with superior force and quickly quelled.

Despite salient abuses by the Ethiopian state, investment and aid are still free flowing. Addis Ababa is a city under construction, the most recent feat being the completion of the wholly Chinese funded light rail system that runs from the city centre out to the industrial heartland. This is an impressive project which signals the direction in which the country is heading and is part of the government’s 25-year development “master plan” to extend the capital. However, this development model has already resulted in forced evictions, land grabs and the marginalisation of the Oromia region, the inhabitants of which were involved in the most recent violent protests. With the Prime Minister, Hailermariam Desalegn, promising further reprisals for protesters – a clear message has been sent to all; that industrialisation will occur in Ethiopia and at the expense of its citizens.  Unfortunately, any escalation in such abuses is unlikely to waiver continued external investment, especially with regard to Cino-Ethiopian relations. Nor are continued human rights abuses likely to prompt any serious ramifications in Ethiopia’s relations with the AU or its regional neighbours, which means that the country is likely to continue continue on its current trajectory.

Furthermore, with a strong army and an anti-terrorist strategy that could provide a useful model to it’s regional neighbours, Ethiopia is proving an increasingly popular tourist destination. And indeed, Addis Ababa is bustling with tourists – whether visiting Lucy at the National Museum of Ethiopia or enjoying the country’s jazz scene – there is a real sense that the city is alive. Additionally, donor aid has continued to flood into the country whose propensity to famine was first brought to the world’s attention in the 1980s when Bob Geldolf embarked on a mission to “save” Africa. Today, aid has continued to flood into the country with international donors seemingly preferring development to democracy.  As such, with ever-increasing tourism, investment and donor aid, Ethiopia is likely to witness continued economic development and political stability – created through oppressive totalitarianism – at human cost.

It seems that if the new AU building were viewed as a memorial of the past, rather than an erasure of it, it would allow visitors to question past atrocities in light of the present. Indeed, since the abolition of Cecil Rhode’s statue in a South African University, the topic of “reckoning with the past” has become a particularly pertinent one. It may be tenuous to suggest that in building the AU on the grounds of a former prison, it is a sign that the Pan-African institution is simultaneously refusing to acknowledge Ethiopia’s present as well as its past. So too would it be to suggest that had the prison stayed intact, the AU Elections Observer Mission may not have refused to mention the widespread human rights abuses that surrounded Ethiopia’s elections in June 2015. However, the ripping down of past symbols that could act as a stark mirror and reminder to the present seems to me to be an unfortunate one.

Dispatches From Africa

Change They Can’t Believe In

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Julian Fisher writes from Dar es Salaam:

As I write, it appears that Tanzania’s Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM – Party of the Revolution) is about to demonstrate once again a truth that Africa’s post-independence ruling parties seem to grasp instinctively and opposition parties forget too readily: that it’s older and rural voters that win elections, not excitable, noisy, urban youths.

It remains too early (as of the morning of 28th October) to call the election decisively, but the direction of travel is clear. With 113 of 264 constituencies declared, CCM candidate John Pombe Magufuli has opened up a lead in the hundreds of thousands and CCM maintains a comfortable majority of Bunge seats. The more optimistic CCM campaigners, claiming to have seen all constituency returns – verified and unverified – are suggesting a final tally for their man of 65%, which would be an improvement on CCM ‘s position in 2010. Instinct tells me this is overly optimistic and that the final outcome will have Magufuli enjoying support in the mid-50s. Even so, opposition strategists are conceding privately that the gap is now unbridgeable for their candidate, former prime minister Edward Lowassa. Inevitably, this dawning awareness has been accompanied by claims of electoral manipulation, most particularly on the islands of Zanzibar (on which matter I will write separately). So far, so predictable.

In truth, the fashionable international media narrative about this election representing a genuine threat to CCM’s hegemony was never very convincing. Mainly because of the characters of the two leading candidates.

The CCM surprised almost every observer when it elected the little known Magufuli as its presidential candidate. But the party has form in choosing unexpected candidates and this one was particularly smart. While previously low profile, Magufuli is respected by many ordinary Tanzanians as hard-working and untainted by corruption. His campaign slogan of ‘hapa kazi tu’ (roughly translated as ‘here, just work’) played well to his reputational strength. As a result of his election, long-serving CCM member and the party’s prime minister until 2008, Lowassa, defected to the opposition Chama Cha Democrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA – Party of Democracy and Development). He was almost immediately anointed as Chadema’s presidential candidate – a surprising move for a party that wears democracy on its sleeve, and one which led to the resignations of senior party figures, including the man who had expected to win the nomination, former candidate Wilbrod Slaa. Not a promising start.

Furthermore, Lowassa’s resignation as prime minister in 2008 came amid corruption allegations relating to energy contracts. While he has not been convicted of any wrong-doing, Lowassa has never quite managed to shake off the negative connotations of the so-called Richmond affair. Given that a commitment to anti-corruption was previously Chadema’s strongest opposition suit, Lowassa was a puzzling choice of candidate and one that I believe it will come heartily to regret. Having kicked the campaigning ladder from beneath itself, Chadema and its partners in the UKAWA coalition (Umoja ya Katiba ya Wananchi -Union for a People’s Constitution) were forced to rely on their man’s star-quality and, in particular, his somewhat surprising youth appeal (Lowassa is 62). It seems likely to prove too narrow a strategy.

True, Edward Lowassa can pack out a stadium, command media attention and elicit yelps of appreciation from youths desperate for change and economic opportunity. But the popular slogan for change ‘Miaka 54 inatosha’ (’54 years – of CCM – is enough’) lacked broader resonance since Lowassa had been part of CCM for 38 of those years. And, while Lowassa was whipping up the crowds, Magufuli was quietly living up to his reputation, by working hard. He travelled the country extensively, largely by road in the early stages of the campaign, visiting village after village and engaging with voters one-to-one, displaying a humility that talks to the hard-working, predominantly peaceful and quietly optimistic people of rural Tanzania.

It is a strategy that looks set to have paid dividends for CCM and Magufuli and, I dare say, for the country as a whole. Magufuli looks like he will grow into a solid, positive force for change in Tanzania: ironic, as the opposition sought to portray him as the status quo, establishment candidate. Wiser heads saw through this and may well have prevailed. The younger, impatient heads will get another chance in 2020, but many of them will have grown up by then.