Tanzania’s newly elected president, Jakaya Kikwete, has taken the oath of office and started his five-year term. A number of African leaders attended the inauguration today in the main stadium of the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. The new president delivered a short speech, in which he pledged to continue fighting poverty in Tanzania, one of the world's poorest nations.
Official results from last week's election gave more than 80 percent of the vote to Mr. Kikwete, who had been Tanzania’s foreign minister. His nearest rival, Ibrahim Lipumba of the main opposition Civic United Front, took 11 percent.
English to Africa reporter Kim Lewis spoke with Voice of America’s Swahili Service reporter Mwamoyo Hamza about what the success of this election means for Tanzania. Mr. Mwamoyo said this election was another big step towards strengthening democracy in Tanzania: “This is the third time Tanzania is holding multi-party elections. You cannot say that about many African nations. So it is something Tanzanians can be proud of. The presidential term limit is respected. There is no amendment needed there. Mr. Kikwete becomes the fourth president of Tanzania in 44 years and the last two presidents stayed for the maximum two terms.”
Mr. Mwamoyo said Tanzania can be an example of democratization in East Africa because while there are many other factors involved in democratization, an election is the most visible process of democracy. In contrast, Tanzania’s neighbor, Uganda, is coming under fire for what some in the international community see as a lack of show of democracy. Britain has suspended nine million dollars in aid to the country because of concerns about its political transition leading up to February 2006’s multi-party elections and concern over the arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye.
Mr. Mwamoyo explained, “It’s a big blow to the opposition in Uganda. When it happened everybody said it was a political move because this guy, (Besigye), was in exile for four years. What we know is before he came back to the country he asked if he could come back -- if there are any charges waiting for him -- and he was assured there was nothing.”
Upon his return to Uganda, Dr. Besigye was charged with terrorism and treason, among other charges, and jailed. Mr. Mwamoyo said Dr. Besigye is - in his view - the most capable candidate to run against President Yoweri Museveni in next year’s elections.