Tanzania’s opposition held its first demonstration since the ban was lifted | Aici


Tanzania’s main opposition party staged its first mass demonstration on Saturday since a ban imposed in 2016 was lifted, raising hopes that the government is committed to increasing political freedom in the East African country. .

“It’s not easy after seven years of banning political meetings,” Chadema’s director of communications and foreign affairs, Jon Mrema, told cheering supporters.

Thousands of Chadema supporters gathered at Furahisha Square in the coastal town of Mwanza, dressed in blue, red and white.

“We have been silent for almost seven years but finally, we have regained our rights and we are ready to move forward,” said Mwanza resident and party supporter Mary Dismas.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan this month lifted the ban imposed by his hard-line predecessor John Magufuli, who was nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising leadership style.

The government’s turnaround came as Hassan, in power for 22 months, sought to dismantle some of Magufuli’s policies.

The move was cautiously hailed as a boon for democracy by human rights groups and the country’s opposition parties.

Magufuli banned political rallies early in his tenure, saying it was a time for work, not politics.

But critics say the ban only applies to opposition groups, with the ruling party allowed to hold meetings, and that rallies have been violently broken up by police and their officials jailed.

– ‘Open a new page’ –

There was early hope as Hassan, the country’s first woman elected president, reached out to her rivals, reopened banned media outlets and reversed some of Magufuli’s most controversial policies.

But his presidency fell into the shadows when Chadema president Freeman Mbowe, along with other senior party officials, was arrested in July 2021 hours before they were to hold talks to public urging constitutional reform.

Mbowe, who spent seven months in prison on terrorism charges, is attending Saturday’s rally, organized at the port where they were arrested.

“We will now campaign hard for a new constitution and an independent electoral commission,” Dismas told AFP.

Chadema officials said a series of grassroots rallies were lined up.

“We will organize as many rallies as possible to reach every ward and village in the country,” said Sharifa Suleiman, vice president of Chadema’s women’s wing.

“Now is the time to build the foundation for the 2025 election,” he said.

Another official, Hashim Juma Issa, said the party was “opening a new page” as it celebrated its 30th anniversary.



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