Hope for peaceful Tanzanian election seen in united football

Oct 23, 2015

Selected members of the diplomatic community accredited to Tanzania before a football match of religious leaders demonstrating peace, tolerance and unity going into Tanzania’s general elections on 25 October. The diplomats won after a 3-2 penalty shootout.

The match was no different from others across the soccer loving world except that its significance for Tanzania’s history was far reaching. The sweating and panting players focused with Zen-like concentration on the ball, their teammates, their footwork, and their strategy.

As they immersed their sense of self into the heat of the moment, the teams became a single organism that functioned to drive just one message. The referees likewise became absorbed in the game, focusing on the ebb and flow of the players and their adherence to the rules.

In the same fashion, hundreds of onlookers peered raptly at the play, breathless with excitement and bursting at times into paroxysms of cheering.

Such was the spectacle at a novelty match at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam last weekend in which select members of the diplomatic community accredited to Tanzania battled it out with a group of religious leaders dubbed Amani in a public demonstration for peace, tolerance and unity going into the country’s elections on 25 October.

Themed “United for Peaceful, Free and Fair Elections, the match ended with the diplomats’ team named Mshikamano scoring three goals to Amani’s two in a penalty shootout. Despite the diplomats’ winning, the Amani team was also awarded a trophy as an emphasis that in an election all are winners at the end of the day.

UNDP Country Director Awa Dabo, who played for Mshikamano said the timing of the tournament was very significant for the people of Tanzania.

"Competition is healthy and the message we set to demonstrate on the field is an apt metaphor for the way people need to behave during an election,” she said.

“By showing that people from different nationalities and religions can meet in friendly competition, we are demonstrating that the people of Tanzania should aspire for a fee, fair and peaceful election,” she added.

Tanzanians go the polls on Sunday 25 October in what will be its fifth elections since the reintroduction of multiparty politics in the country. The UNDP is supporting the process through the Democratic Empowerment Project (DEP) whose main thrust is to strengthen the credibility and capacity of key institutions of democracy in Tanzania to effectively implement their election and political function.

Beyond support to the Election Management Bodies (EMBs) and political parties in relation to their respective role of contributing to democratic elections, DEP is also supporting the police and judiciary to foster increased election security and integrity, respectively, and with civil society, media and Registrar of Political Parties to promote a democratic environment in the country.

Together with UN Women and UNESCO, the project also supports inclusive participation in elections and politics through the empowerment of women, youth and Persons with Disabilities (PWD) as well as enhancement of the national peace infrastructure to mitigate election-related conflicts.

“Being mindful of the fact that political competition, especially during elections, can lead to divisions, tensions and at times even conflict, the diplomats and the faith groups had decided to join hands for a public call to strengthen peace, tolerance and the unity of the Tanzanian people,” German Ambassador H.E. Egon Kochanke, said.

The first time in history friendly soccer encounter was followed by a top match of the Tanzania Premier League, Young Africans against Azam FC.

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