Great Expectations: January Makamba

Mohammed Dewji’s blog continues its interview series with January Makamba. Son of Yusuph Makamba, the General Secretary of CCM, he is an assisant to President Kikwete. What exactly he assists the President with is not clear from the interview as he wouldn’t discuss his work. The full interview (Swahili needed) can be read here. January Makamba’s own blog can be seen here. Some translated interview highlights below.

You are the son of a politician (Honourable Yusuph Makamba), do you think that there are great expectations that come from being born to a famous political family like the Makambas?

Firstly, great respect comes from knowing that your parent has devoted his life to public affairs. There are many sacrifices which the family has had to accept because of our father’s work.

Secondly, with the name Makamba comes both good and bad. The good is that so many people around the country have worked with my father and respect him greatly. So you have a ready network of extended family many of whom have known me since I was a child and they are happy to see to see me doing well and to help with advice or in any other way they can at any time.

But also, there are those who disagree with my father politically or have a bad view of him. Often people cannot differentiate between the views of the father and those of the son. So, you find that you inherit both the friends and the enemies of your father despite what you may want yourself.

Furthermore, as the child of a politician, people presume that you have lived a privileged life and that you have been spoiled and cannot stand up on your own. This is not true. We have always led a normal life. I recall that my father owned his own house for the first time in his life not so long ago and it was a normal thatched house in Kiomoni Village Tanga. During the rain it was leaking. We had to move the furniture and beds out. When we stayed in Kiomoni, we were studying in Tanga town, 12 kms away, and we went by foot or by bike if lucky and lunch was just some roast cassava and water bought with the 50 shillings our mother gave us in the morning. But today, everybody thinks that it was all bread and butter and that we got a lift to school in a car.

Even so, I don’t believe that a good or a hard life can determine the good or the bad or their ability.

Another thing, is that coming from a political family, in the wider community there is a perception that everything was given to you on a plate. No matter your abilities or how hard you work, people will say, “ah, he’s just the child of a big shot”. Basically, your efforts are not recognized. But this doesn’t bother me because luckily those that say that have never met me or worked with me. Those that know me know what I’m like.

Another thing I’m asked every day is how do you feel to read news about your father every day, some of it praising him and some putting him down. If you are from a political family, you get used to such things and they don’t disturb you or make you lose sleep. You read the headline, by the second page, the story is over and life goes on.

At the end of the day, the only guarantee is to believe in yourself and to know what you are doing, but also to know that everything you do, especially things that don’t go well, the implications are not just for yourself but there are also political implications for your parent.


There are rumours that you want to enter politics yourself and it is said that you want to  stand for parliament next year. Is this true?
Those rumours have been going around since 2005. I’ll talk about that when the time comes.

Nevertheless, I have always encouraged the youth to get involved in public service including politics and government employment as I believe our generation has a sense of responsibility and we should step up.

Tell us which countries you hve visited and what you have learned from them that you can share with the youth.

I try to get time to learn the history of wherever I visit – the politics of that country, the development challenges they have and what they do to tackle them. I don’t think that space allows me to go into all of this for all the countries I have visited. Let me just discuss two places that I have recently visited and what I have seen and learned there (and I don’t mean government issues, of which there are many).

Some weeks ago I visited Cairo and Rome. When I got some time to relax, I visited the landmarks and museums of Rome and Cairo. Those two cities have great history as ancient civilizations and for our three religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity. I was reminded of learning in school about those  two great empires, the Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire. If you visit the landmarks of Rome – The Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, St. Peter’s, where Julius was murdered, and other places too – you learn about statecraft, the history of Christianity and many other things. When in Cairo, by visiting the pyramids, the Citadel and the old mosques of Sultan Hassan and Sultan Ali and by visiting the National Museum you learn the history of Islam and Judaism and get to see the places mentioned in the Bible and the Koran. You learn about empire building. Basically you get an introduction to Egyptology.

So you learn many things including the importance of a nation preserving its history and to build pride and patriotism in the country – to build the soul of a nation.

Even so, I have benefited even more by travelling around our own country – every corner, by road, twice: during the campaign and in my current job. I have learned many things about our country, its people and the obstacles and opportunities there are to changes. I will always be grateful to the Kikwete for giving me this opportunity.


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