Sunday, October 31, 2010

Elections 2010: Social Media and Election Monitoring

The early report from Uchaguzi dot or dot tz* is hot off the press. Here is a quick glimpse at the accumulated efforts of citizen monitoring using the Ushahidi platform:

Looks like Dar is the hottest spot, but the other urbanities have really represented.
Check out the number of people who had a perfectly pleasant voting experience. Check out the number of Tanzanians who couldn't find their names on the voter roll. James Mbatia of NCCR-Mageuz0- who didn't get to vote- has some company.

In 2005, there was no Twitter. There was no 3G mobile phone network. The Tanzanian blogosphere was in it's infancy, and Ufisadi wasn't a household term yet. Look how far we've come. While every day is a good day to be Tanzanian, some days are admittedly better than others :)

If you want to keep track of events in realtime, may I recommend: TBC, ITV, Capital, StarTV, RadioOne, Idhaa ya Kiswahili (Deutsche Welle, the Beeb, VOA and Radio France International) and on the net: JamiiForums (with your grain of salt), Wanazuoni, Twitter hashtag Tanzania and the NEC website. Sorry I haven't linked those outlets, my net is slow so just use your noodle and try google.

Cup of Tea and a Biscuit.

Okay, the polls are closed. Footage is starting to loop on the TV stations and the anchors are having a tough time keeping the conversation going while the votes get counted. Perfect time to sit down with a cup of tea, turn on Idhaa ya Kiswahili and read a bodice-ripper while waiting for the results. I figure nothing concrete will come together before 8 pm at the earliest.

Chadema is going to take the urbanities, CUF is taking Zanzibar. Rural Tanzania is, as always, going to be the recourse of CCM. And my main man Jay Kay (whose valet is evidently on holiday) might be relieved to be done with the campaign but tomorrow isn't going to be as much fun as 2005 was.

At Last.


My voting companions. Young Tanzania hiyo :)

Independent media. These guys, I like. Tee Bee Cee was there too.

Mikocheni at the polls.

"Elsie, wake up! It's time to vote!" yelled La Dee outside my window as she absconded with the trusty Suzuki.

Fifteen minutes to walk to Ushindi Primary, ask the guy in front of me where to find the voters' roll, take a few pictures, get back in line, vote, get inked, take a few more pictures, and walk home. In my line were four promising young men, bristling with youth and vitality and joie de vivre, the Tanzania that every demographic blurb highlights. And now 'tis time for the celebratory election day champagne breakfast.

It's your country. Vote like you own it.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Elections 2010: The Press

Ah, the Fourth Estate. Journalists are circling above this election like the vultures of doom that they are. There is a fine line between holding government accountable, and stoking the fires of discontent in the hopes of something explosive to sell papers. This is a line that we regularly cross.

Now, I know that the international press and a number of election observers make their name off conflict- it's a great C.V. builder to state that you were in XYZ country when shit went down. Big hero. Business is business and if Tanzania messes up in this election a lot of opportunists are going to get airtime+fame feeding off the "Yet Another African Failure" story. I understand, BBC World Service stringer, get paid.

But what the hell is up with our internal press? A couple of brave papers have taken flack recently from government for fomenting dissent. It's a badge of honor, that, which not everyone deserves. Hell, only one of the two papers under threat is worth buying. There's a number of other loud-mouthed idiot newspapers that get their circulation from making mountains out of molehills and 'encouraging' a little beef to up their sales. To you I say: may you be reincarnated as that guy who makes coffee for the girl who photocopies and then digitizes The Man's accounting files.

I suppose that insulting the press in its entirety isn't the best way to plead with journalists to be sane tomorrow :) And we do need journalists to function right. But who cares about that, tuwafundishe kazi. This election is seminal, and we shall separate the girls from the women by virtue of their works, and we shall report as citizens with a little help from the internet and mobile phones, and in the aftermath we shall know the newspapers that are still worth buying and those that are not.

It's your country. Vote like you own it.

Fair Weather Friendship

Obama's been experiencing a little "pushback"from his client base lately. Apparently he has failed to personally pull manna from the heavens and deliver upon the impossibly high expectations that he encouraged as a candidate. To every household, with his own two Presidential hands. Heh. In a similar vein, our man Jay Kay is experiencing a little push-back from the wenyenchi. Of course, how a leader handles adversity is a wonderful demonstration of their character. Obama's an intellectual introvert and frankly doesn't need any external approval to keep his shit together. Also, he's got Michelle. Jay Kay on the other hand is struggling a little. Our President is a charismatic extrovert who has been behaving like he's lost his mojo. Term one must have been quite the education. Heh.

I know perfectly well that it is the fashion this year to focus on Jay Kay's many failings. That's just a hazard of the job: to be President means accepting the self-inflicted burden of unrealistic expectations and incessant criticism. And there is absolutely no doubting that Jay Kay has let us down by not living up to his promise of leadership.

If I had any reason to believe that Dr. Slaa would be an effective President, I would vote him in without a shred of pity for my man Jay Kay. The good doctor is intelligent, canny, brave and- most shocking in a politician- conscientious. But he's also the most effective opposition we've ever seen and without him I fear that our Bunge is going to lose its way again. There are so few good people in power, it's a damn shame to lose even one brilliant parliamentarian.

Also, let us not be disingenuous about this: The Establishment is not going to let Dr. Slaa be the President we are all hoping for. The Establishment is no joke, people. If it exhausted all good will out of the fantastically stubborn (if irascible) Benjamin Mkapa, do you honestly think it will fail to drive the good doctor clinically insane within a year? And that's the best-case scenario I can come up with. There are considerable structural and cultural impediments to "regime change" at the moment, the biggest of which is a hysterical and idiotic press that renders our political discussions in the most superficial terms. Dr. Slaa is the man we need in 2015. Opposition: get busy folks, there's a lot to do in the next five years if you're going to offer change we can believe in.

In the meantime, I have to think seriously about what to do tomorrow. I want to support Jay Kay because if there's one thing I know we can take to the bank it's his complete devotion to Tanzanians. Man loves this country and her people more than he loves his wealth and welfare*. It's a small distinction, but if you have any doubts about how important this small distinction is may I draw your attention to the post-independence history of any one of the eight countries bordering Tanzania. Please meditate upon their leadership experience at your leisure.

There is also the issue of integrity. Modern democracy has taken on some of the characteristics of consumer culture: if it doesn't make you happier/sexier/increase your income/fix your insecurities as soon as you take it home, take it back to the store and bitch at the manufacturer. As a snob, I find that behavior shockingly uncouth to say the least. We're picking a flesh and blood person, complete with design flaws, to become Public Servant Number One. Voting is not like buying a car and it shouldn't be about acquiring a Big Daddy. To get Catholic on you, voting is the sacrament and the mystery of democratic faith. We need to give this some mature consideration, for (expletive deleted)'s sake.

All of which is to say I'm sitting on a rock looking at a hard place. Do I vote in Jay Kay in the hopes that he'll grow into the President we all thought he would be in term two? Do I vote Jay Kay because I'm a stick-in-the-mud who utterly despises fair-weather friendship? Will he find his mojo again in time to handle 2015's CCM melt-down or is he an adorable but lost cause? Is Dr. Slaa a harbinger of things to come, or is this the real, crucial moment? Does one vote even matter at the end of the day?


It's my country. I'll vote like I own it. Besides, if things go well at least I will have a brilliant MP to flaunt in the face of non-Kawe residents. A girl's gotta get her kicks where she can :)

* Our Celebrident is a Tanzanian politician who belongs to CCM. I'm not saying he's dodgy (because I can't afford legal representation for libel and I do not feel like going to remand) but the corridors of power are narrow and smeared with ethical compromises. "Allegedly."

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tools on the Right, and a Party

Okay, I've put up links to the two social media online election monitoring sites on the right hand side of the blog at the top. Let's see if this social media test run can set us up for the big 2015. If any other good interactive election monitoring tools are up and running let me know and I'll put up the link.

And in other news, the Punch Hunger campaign team are having an event today. From the press release:

To make food a right and first priority in Tanzania, the FOOD right FIGHTERS from the international Activista network are inviting all Tanzanians to join the Punch Hunger campaign and call attention to this
very important message to the government:

Stop allocating land for biofuel production without a policy that ensures food security and that is implimented.

Venue/ Mahali: Tanzania Scouts Association

Time/ Muda: 2-6 pm/ 8-12pm

Major Events:

  • Performances by artists like Hardmad, Malfred, Eriakim, Rage etc.
  • Competitions in games, dance and music
  • Exhibitions from different NGO’s
  • The FOOD right FIGHTERS launch their new song “Punch Hunger” produced together with FIDQ

It's your country. Vote like you own it. Happy Furahi Day.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Elections 2010: Seen Around Stone Town

I noticed walking around Zanzibar that the posters were telling a story. In Bongo, you can't look anywhere without His Grinning Beauteousness plastered all over the city in various 'warm and thoughtful' poses. Every. Hundred. Meters. But in Zanzibar...

This gentleman noticed me taking pictures a month ago (I wasn't as stealthy as I had hoped). He made sure to insert himself in the frame to direct my attention to the candidate of his choice whom he referred to reverently as 'our chairman, our beloved leader.' Where do we get our political terms from, Maoist China? Honestly.

I saw these gentlemen last week and stealthed a picture using the old 'I'm just texting, don't mind me' trick. It is very weird to see the Forces of Peace, Security and Stability in such number in Zanzibar.

Especially when there are guns involved. World Heritage Site, anyone? Check out the condition of the various posters.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Secret Lives of State House Wives...

I don't think that a public person's private life is any of our business except in these extenuating circumstances: public goods kleptomania, pedophilia (and any other kind of abuse of minors/the vulnerable), illegal activities (not "immoral". illegal. we are a secular state) and addiction that compromises their work. Everything else is good for gossip over a sundowner and not much else.

But a few weeks ago, JetSetter sent me this intriguing link. And then, this week it looks like Delilah cut Samson's hair. First ladies, eh? I find it a strange, in-between kind of role. Spouse, state house accessory, social asset, unpaid public servant, fashion-plate, national SuperMommy, defender of needy wimmin' and chilluns' (naturally). I remember when Salma Kikwete first ascended to the podium and re-arranged our understanding of a Tanzanian First Lady's capabilities. It took a little time for us to embrace, and I will be the first to admit that I'm a bit uncertain about the whole gig. I think we should make First Spouse an official role complete with duties, budget and income for transparency purposes. But the government really is too big already.

But seriously. Mugabe has a heart that can be broken? Why didn't the woman just do it right and cause a heart attack.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Five Days and Counting.

So. Looks like things are hotting up as we enter the last lap of the election derby. I admit I am behind the times: the last thing I remember watching with any interest was Tido Mhando (headman of Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation) having an earnest conversation with James Mbatia who was explaining why he didn't run for President. Mr. Mbatia was unconvincing and frankly, I will say it publicly: you should have run, sir.

I could talk about the flare-ups here and there, the rumours, the tensions, the crimes, the anticipated opposition auto-phaging. But elections are like a souffle: don't whip the batter too hard or the final product will not rise. And if you take it out too early, it'll collapse. Enough said.

The World's Best Housekeeper cornered me today. She was right, we do have some decisions to make about the candidates. I told her frankly: I don't know yet who I will vote for President, and I will throw the dice on the Councillor too. But I know who my Member of Parliament is going to be, and you can bet your ass that if you live in Kawe I'll tell you to vote for that candidate too. Chema chajiuza.

Now, to the serious business: we've got our citizen reporting work cut out for us, folks. I told you already that Vijana FM are running an election monitoring online tool based on the Ushahidi platform. Well, Hivos is also running one from Kenya with a little help from local partners.

To be clear: VijanaFM= local, Ushahidi platform, NOT sms enabled. Hivos project= based in Nairobi, Ushahidi platform, Sms enabled. They are doing an info-sharing collabo so you don't have to fret which one to embrace. Neither platform cares which language you report in as long as you report. Wait, I retract that: Kiswahili na Kiingereza tu kwa tovuti zote mbili tusije tukaanza kuripoti kwa kilugha tukashindwa kusikika.

Since it's voting week, some necessary statements: Please excuse the mixed languages, but this is a time for me to get FUBU, if you know what I mean. The Mikocheni Report declares its independence from party interference. I have accepted no gifts or bribes for content. I have accepted no commissions for election "communication" work. I do not belong to any party. I intend to give The Establishment a beady eye during the elections, and I intend to give the same beady eye to any shenanigan-instigating fools that I may witness in my vicinity. I promise to be receptive to accountability questions in the coming week. And I ask you, mwenyenchi mwenzangu: piga kura. Piga kura yako. Piga kura kwa uhuru.

It's your country. Vote like you own it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Daddy.

Someone once asked me which audience I write for when blogging, and whom I hold myself accountable to. I've given flip answers for the most part, but the truth is that this is the guy I have in mind when I write:

Dad turns 80 today. He puts the Family in Family Man. He's wonderful in more ways than I care to enumerate in detail here. But here's a few. Dad has been my personal Encyclopedia of the World since I discovered the breadth of his mind, an inimitable example of a life well-lived with integrity, a Haya father who has raised five independent and accomplished feminists of both genders, and a sweet grandpa whom the Five Perfect Girls absolutely adore.

So happy birthday, beloved. When you give that wry smile while reading the East African articles it's just as good, better, than a Summa Cum Laude with a Blue Label chaser and an obese Cohiba to boot.

*Title of the post comes from the tales of an African woman who also had an awesome dad. Bottle of decent wine (or the equivalent for non-partakers) to the first person who calls it.

Monday, October 18, 2010


The Mikocheni Reporter is taking a break to handle a pleasant and important family event. So, I'll see you sometime next week. Or around voting day. Peace and Wisdom.

Meantime: It's your country. Vote like you own it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"He's in the process of his coronation."

Happy Nyerere Day. This year's theme is leadership. Convenient. To digress a little, I think it is excellent that our elections are usually held after Nyerere Day. It provides a built-in opportunity to shine the light of comparison on our contemporary leaders, which I suspect annoys them no end. From an aspirational point of view, Mwalimu makes an excellent benchmark for any truly ambitious politician to compete with. One word: Legacy.

I seem to have lost my excitement about the coming elections. I am not sure why, but I know it'll be back on the 31st. In the meantime I am trying not to voodoo-curse the campaign trucks that meander around Mikocheni everyday polluting my soundspace. I used to hear kids playing on the street, now it's all vuvuzelas and invitations to last-minute rallies.

"He's in the process of his coronation" is the answer I got a couple of nights ago when I asked a friend about the progress of an upcoming politician whose first election campaign has, arguably, been the biggest debutante ball of the season. Pithy, funny, sadly true. The young prince in question is hardly the only candidate standing unopposed in these elections.

At present it seems that only CCM has the requisite number of warm bodies to cover our vast land with candy-dates wrapped in green and gold packaging. It doesn't matter how many helicopters, rallies or policy quips the opposition throws at people living in the rural areas, numbers are their Achilles heel. Except for Zanzibar, which exists in it's own political bubble and has no desire to explain itself to Mainlanders, Foreigners and Other Aliens. So sure, CCM has reason to feel complacent...but not entitled.

The second consequence is more entertaining if a little sinister. Our fledgeling competitive electoral democracy is riddled with one-horse races. A number of CCM candidates are languishing for want of a worthy adversary. And that's a damn shame. Aside from disappointed bloodlust - the competitive bit is what makes democracy interesting- I don't think this situation is necessarily healthy for the candidates or for the electorate. Someone running unopposed will likely suffer from an acute inflation of the ego. Case in point:
"I am very happy to go through unopposed...but this does not mean that opposition parties had no candidates for the seat...this demonstrates the respect that opposition parties have for me and my leadership that has allowed me to continue leading Simanjiro constituency"- Chrisopher Ole Sendeka (CCM-Simanjiro).

This no-opposition business has been a major factor in our Bigmanism disease: the over-worship of patriarchs in power and the excessively fawning submission that accompanies it. Hopefully 2015's electorate will have a more varied buffet of candidates to graze from, even in Simanjiro.

Speaking of legacy, Mwalimu would never turn down a presidential debate. Quite the opposite: he would relish the opportunity to crush his opposition with his nimble wit and oratory skills and then bury their tattered remains with gentle derision. My Lady of the Serene Smiles doesn't think we've had a 'real' president in power since he retired, basing a large part of this opinion on his fantastic extemporaneous speeches. I don't agree, but she does have a point about the power of a master communicator.

A little birdie told me...

Follow MikocheniReport on Twitter