Edward Lowassa: Popular, despite eveything

By Erick Kabendera
Posted on Tuesday, 27 October 2015 11:00

Despite the controversy and corruption allegations that have dogged Lowassa’s career, he is one of the country’s best-known politicians and is regarded as a vote winner.

Thin on specifics, Lowassa’s stump speeches are a mix of nationalist rhetoric about locals benefiting from foreign investors and running the economy in way that will create jobs and end poverty. “If you have a car, you will get a second car […] if
you have a bicycle, you will get 10 bicycles,” promises Lowassa.

He joined the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in his teenage years and rapidly climbed through the ranks, becoming an official in the party at the district level.

Lowassa earned a reputation for his skills at organising and winning members for the party. This propelled him to the top of the party hierarchy and to ministerial office.

Again, Lowassa’s political skills proved critical as he built up a network that went beyond party lines to wield influence in the civil service, the security forces and among businesspeople.

Lowassa and Kikwete met as students at the University of Dar es Salaam, brought together by their interest in politics.

In fact, Lowassa’s network was behind Kikwete’s first campaign for the party’s presidential nomination in 1995. Earlier, Lowassa himself had tried to get the nomination, but his bid was scuppered by Tanzania’s founding president Julius Nyerere.

However, Lowassa stayed close to Kikwete: they presented themselves as reformists in the pro-market and business-friendly wing of the CCM. So when Kikwete ran for the party’s presidential nomination again in 2005, Lowassa was at his side.

And at first, Lowassa prospered under the Kikwete presidency and eventually was appointed prime minister. But relations cooled as corruption and fraud scandals swirled around the government.

One of the most serious alleged that Lowassa had improperly awarded an overpriced contract to a US-based firm called Richmond to build a power station in 2006. The scandal caused him to resign as prime minister in February 2008.

Not only does Lowassa deny benefiting from the contract but he insists the scandal was used by political rivals to push him from office. His friendship with Kikwete foundered and the party hierarchy blocked Lowassa from vying for the CCM presidential nomination this year.

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