Presidential globetrotting questioned
20 Mar 2012
By Nkwazi Mhango
THE editorial of one Swahili Daily, Tanzania Daima, carried a title: “Msafara wa Rais Nje Upunguzwe,” or literally, the Presidential entourage abroad should be cut down.
This has been a thorny issue for Tanzanians especially when it comes to extravagance by their globetrotting ruler, Jakaya Kikwete.
Since he came to power six years ago, Kikwete has made over 300 tours abroad, an average of 50 trips annually or one trip in every two weeks. He is second to none in Africa when it comes to touring foreign countries ahead of presidents Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and Jacob Zuma (South Africa). Analysts wonder why he conceals the names of his delegates, for during his foreign tour, only his wife is mentioned alongside him. It seems now the list of delegates on his trip to Britain leaked.
Kikwete surprised the country when he left for Davos to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) while back at home, Tanzanian doctors were on strike demanding better payment. Many patients lost their lives as the government maintained that it did not have money to give to doctors. To Kikwete, the doctors’ strike could not stand in his way. Fortunately for him, Tanzanians are ‘peaceful’ as politicians in the country like to refer to them.
If Kikwete does not have any fiscal discipline, what about those under his watch? Since he came to power, Kikwete has been accompanied by friends and controversial businessmen who have allegedly committed grand corruption in the country. Tanzanians want their president to be tamed and be held accountable for the hard-earned taxpayer’s money.
Despite all criticism, Kikwete has kept mum and is doing more of his globetrotting. Tanzanians have consequently nicknamed him ‘Vasco da Gama,’ or ‘Tourist President’.
As of 9/9/2011, when Kikwete toured Kenya, he had already made 316 tours abroad since coming to power in 2005! Even Ian
Khama of Botswana with its stable economy has not done this. Kikwete is traveling more often than presidents and PMs of donor countries such as the US, Canada and Britain!
For example, as of 19 November 2011, President Barack Obama had made just 24 foreign tours since he came to power. This translates into eight tours annually.
Kikwete is doing exactly what Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, has been doing for decades. According to the Observer of 22 February, Ugandan Shillings 3.810 billion was approved for State House travels in the financial year 2010/11 even though figures indicated that Museveni used UShs 7.423 billion to visit 13 countries, host 11 heads of state and foreign dignitaries, and to attend 12 regional and international meetings. That means the Shs 5.055 billion Museveni wants this financial year might actually shoot up.
Tanzanians are agitating that Kikwete’s trips abroad be probed after he left for Britain accompanied by 40 people. How can a country whose budget depends on donors by 40% be extravagant at a time when many strong economies are grappling?
When will he sit in office and serve the people? – (Nkwazi Mhango is a Canada-based Tanzanian and author of Saa ya Ukombozi)