Opposition leader incarcerated on flimsy grounds as Magufuli fast brands Tanzania as a country of murdered, kidnapped and jailed critics

AS Tanzania sinks deeper into dictatorship, voices form allover the world are castigating John Magufuli’s demagogic and despotic politics of cruelty and torture as he cracks down on all types of criticism and dissent. Within three consecutive weeks of the country’s international embarrassment caused by the government’s carelessly calculated moves, decisions and statements, the leader of official opposition in parliament Freeman Mbowe, has been incarcerated in what is widely interpreted as Magufuli’s move to obliterate the opposition. Along with Mbowe, Esther Matiko, MP for Tarime Urban, was ordered to remain in remand prison for allegedly violating bail condition, while it was clear the MP had been sent by parliament on an official tour to Burundi. Surprisingly, police have been unlawfully holding Mbowe’s driver, Williard Urassa for two days now, and they have denied him legal rights including bail and legal assistance by his lawyers. Following current trends in the country’s politics, Tundu AM Lissu has been one of the earliest and strongest voices to blast the government’s sinister move. SAUTI KUBWA publishes his article below titled: TANZANIA: A DICTATORSHIP UNBOUND.


Yesterday, 23rd November, 2018, was yet another dark and sad day in Tanzania. The National Chairman of the largest opposition party in the country, CHADEMA, and Leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament, Freeman Aikaeli Mbowe, was incarcerated in remand prison for allegedly violating the conditions of his bail.

Mr. Mbowe, and almost the entire leadership of the party and several members of Parliament, are facing a bewildering array of politically motivated criminal charges. He hadn’t jumped bail, he hadn’t run away from justice. He had travelled out of the country (for reasons presented before the court),  but failed to return in time for a court appearance.

But return to the country he did, and yesterday he personally appeared in court on his own volition. That was not enough for the court to believe that he is not a likely fugitive from the law. Mr. Mbowe’s jailing came hardly a week after the government of President John Magufuli introduced a Bill in parliament which, if passed into law, would spell the end of multiparty politics in Tanzania.

For the Bill will allow the President, who has always simultaneously served as the national chairman of the ruling CCM party, to decide not only about who should be leaders of the opposition parties, but also who should oppose him and his party in the next and future General Elections.

The Bill is the most blatant and shameless attack on democracy in the generation since the reintroduction of multiparty politics in 1992. The two events are not unconnected. For Tanzania has become a land of horrors in the three years since Magufuli came to power in 2015.

It’s become a country where political opponents of his regime are murdered or kidnapped and disappeared in a manner reminiscent of the most odious of the Latin American military dictators of the 1960s and 1970s.

No one has been spared. Artists and musicians, none of them rebels à la Fela Kuti or Bob Marley, have been abducted and tortured by intelligence and security operatives.

Church leaders and Muslim Imams have also been targeted. Senior clerics, such as the former President of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) and its General Secretary, have had their passports confiscated, after the country’s Catholic bishops criticized Magufuli in an unprecedented Easter pastoral circular.

Dozens, possibly hundreds, of Muslim leaders and activists have spent years in remand prison in uninvestigated and unproved terrorism charges.

Hundreds of villagers and residents of four districts south of Dar Es Salaam, the commercial capital, have been abducted by the security forces and their bodies found floating in the Rufiji River or washed up in the nearby beaches. No suspects, no investigation, no arrests and, of course, no prosecution.

Even the business community, for many years CCM’s financial mainstay, has come under attack. Last month Mohamed Dewji, the country’s richest businessman and former CCM legislator, was kidnapped and held incommunicado for several days before being released in style.

No word has been given as to the perpetrators of the crime, or their motives. Mo Dewji himself has kept deathly silent. No investigation, no arrests and, of course, no prosecution.

Last year, this author was rained with a barrage of machine-gun fire outside his home in Dodoma, the country’s legislative capital, while attending parliamentary sessions. He survived sixteen bullets but remains under close medical supervision in Belgium. Over a year later, no suspects, no investigation, no arrests and, of course, no prosecution.

Such has become of Tanzania, the land of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. Even though they have been widely reported in the Tanzanian press, these rampant abuses went unnoticed by the outside world for a long time.

Fortunately, this has now begun to change. Thanks to Magufuli himself. An erratic, gaffe-prone, personality with an unquenchable thirst for public limelight, the President has antagonized even the staunchest supporters and benefactors of Tanzania in the West, with characteristic and embarrassing public outbursts.

The EU, for years perhaps the most generous funder of the country’s annual budget, is reviewing its ties with Tanzania, following the dramatic forced recall of the EU Ambassador to Tanzania early this month.

The World Bank and Scandinavian countries, for decades the country’s leading donors, have withheld aid; as has the United States, which has also issued a travel advisory against its citizens travelling to Tanzania.

In short, the country has fallen from its halcyon days as the darling of the international community, to the skunk of the world, to use Mandela’s apt description of apartheid South Africa.

This is as it should be. For a country that becomes a danger to its own citizens; a government that turns into a tormentor of its own people, instead of their protector, deserves nothing but contempt and opprobrium of the rest of the world.

Tundu Antiphas Lissu is a Tanzanian politician and opposition parliamentary leader. At the time of the assassination attempt on September 7, 2017, he was also serving as the President of the Tanganyika Law Society, the national bar association of Mainland Tanzania.


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