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Liberia/Tanzania: elections galore! Liberia and Tanzania go to the polls in October to elect new leaders. Ramadhani Kabale in Dar es Salaam and Jarlawah Tonpo in Monrovia report that the political temperatures in the two countries are rising.

The election date in Liberia is 11 October, while in Tanzania, voters will have their chance on 30 October to decide which of the nine men and one woman vying for incumbent President Benjamin Mkapa's mantle, will occupy State House.

Mkapa is stepping down at the end of his two-term, 10-year tenure. Indications are that his successor is likely to be the ruling CCM party's candidate, Jakaya Kikwete, the current foreign minister.

The opposition Civic United Front (CUF) poses the stiffest challenge to the CCM. Its candidate, Professor Ibrahim Lipumba, came second in the 2000 elections. A distinguished economist, Lipumba once served as economic adviser to Mkapa's predecessor, Ali Hassan Mwinyi.

This aspect betrays Lipumba whenever he questions the economic policies of the CCM government. Critics remind him that having been presidential economic adviser, he cannot escape blame for some of the country's economic ills.

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Besides the CCM and CUF, the other big parties are Chadema and NCCR. Chadema's candidate is Freeman Mbowe, a youthful businessman who has earned considerable respect for articulating sound policies and his sobriety in speeches at political rallies and commentaries in the local press.

The NCCR's Dr Sengondo Mvungi is relatively new to politics but is billed to become an influential opposition activist in the future. He teaches law at the University of Dar es Salaam and, like Mbowe, is civil and generates sound ideas on how Tanzania's social welfare and economy can be enhanced.

In Zanzibar, there are six presidential candidates, but the race will be between the incumbent, Abeid Amani Karume of the CCM and Seif Shariff Hamad of the CUF, which has consistently claimed it was robbed of victory through rigging in previous polls.

In Liberia, meanwhile, there are 22 presidential candidates in the ring, but a three-horse race is expected between George Weah, known more for his foot-balling talents, Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, the veteran politician, and Winston Tubman, a former UN diplomat. While Weah, flagbearer of the Congress for Democratic Change, broadly appeals to the young and old, Sirleaf-Johnson, head of the Unity Party, is the first West African woman to seriously challenge for a presidency in the subregion. However, Liberia's "Iron Lady", as she is known, has suffered a severe blow to her campaign following a damning "open letter" written by one of her former political allies, Tom Woewiyu, exposing the part she played in the war that brought former President Charles Taylor to power. The letter paints a picture of a power-hungry woman who has always craved state power by any means necessary, including the planning and financing of Taylor's rebel war, and "double-crossing" political friends.

Her misdemeanours, according to Woewiyu, also include an infamous encouragement given to Taylor's rebel army during the war to "level Monrovia, we will rebuild it". Before Woewiyu made these allegations, Sirleaf-Johnson herself had apologised to the nation for making "callous and stupid comments" in those days, including asking Taylor's rebels to "level the Executive Mansion [Liberia's version of State House]".

Woewiyu, who worked closely with Sirleaf-Johnson in exile in the USA and later as Taylor's defence minister in the rebel government then headquartered in Gbarnga, urged the "Iron Lady" to tell the truth. "If you truly regret making a statement that resulted in the death of thousands of your fellow countrymen and women, why replace it now with a false one?," Woewiyu asked in the letter.

Sirleaf-Johnson's spokesman, Augustine Kphehe Ngafuan, has robustly defended her, saying Woewiyu "has no credible record, not only in Liberia but other places around the world", and he is now "being used by people who see Madam Sirleaf and the Unity Party as winners of the 11 October elections, so they have become jittery."

In all, apart from electing the president, Liberians will elect 30 senators and 64 representatives for the bi-cameral legislature.
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Title Annotation:presidential elections
Author:Kabale, Ramadhani; Tonpo, Jarlawah
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:6TANZ
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Words:636
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