Opposition in Tanzania resolves to face Magufuli’s dictatorship head on

Opposition leaders exchange views as they walk after one of the sessions in their recent Zanzibar meeting.

IN an endeavour to defy autocratic politics of brutality and impunity imposed by President John Magufuli on his people, the opposition in Tanzania has come up with a collective strategy to push him back.

Leaders of six opposition parties held a joint meeting in Zanzibar on December 18, 2018 to deliberate on the state of democracy in the country. Then they issued a working resolution for mass action to end Magufuli’s dictatorship. They termed it the Zanzibar Resolution, addressing a long list of human rights violations by the Magufuli regime. Topping their to-do list is a strong revival of banned political activities in the country, plus a call for an unconditional release of political prisoners.

The leaders in the meeting included Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, secretary general for the Civic United Front (CUF); James Francis Mbatia,  chairman for NCCR Mageuzi; Oscar Emanuel Makaidi, chairman for NLD; Salum Mwalimu,  deputy secretary general for CHADEMA; Hashim Rungwe Spunda, chairman for CHAUMMA; and Kabwe Z. Ruyagwa Zitto, party leader for ACT Wazalendo.

Unanimously, they decided to face Magufuli head on, despite his ban on political activities, which have not been in effect since 2016 following his threats to break legs of whoever dares to cross his line.   

Several times he has used police to beat up, arrest and prosecute critical activists, journalists and politicians for doing their job, in an attempt to silence them; and once, the opposition chief whip luckily survived an assassination attempt after a government-harboured group of “unknown people” assailed him with gunfire in September 2017. Between 2015 and now, several others have been maimed, abducted or killed silently in various incidents throughout the country.

Blatantly ordering police to do whatever they wish, Magufuli has spent his first three years in power creating an atmosphere of terror, turning his country into a police state. Analysts say Magufuli must be contained in time before he degenerates into another Mugabe, Mobutu or Amin in the region, an unfortunate situation that would destabilise one of Africa’s stable and peaceful country.  

The consequences of a troubled Tanzania would be too big to imagine within and beyond the country and continent. Already, Magufuli has put his mark in the bad books of the country’s potential development partners in the west. All local and international pro-democracy champions are openly working against him.

Clearly, the opposition could not have had a better time to unite and speak up against Magufuli’s undemocratic leadership. Come what may, they want 2019 to be a year of serious political action that would turn around this horrible situation.   

They are also calling for an immediate release of political prisoners, particularly the official leader of opposition, Freeman Mbowe, and a member of parliament for Tarime Urban, Esther Matiko, currently in remand prison.  

With the EU Parliament and US senate equally concerned about Magufuli’s impunity and calling for its end in two of their recent separate moves, and with the opposition creating a unified force to tackle the same, one hopes to see a glimmer of hope in Tanzania’s politics and human rights situation in the next few months, should this concerted pressure prevail.

The negative implications of Magufuli going against this pressure and wind of change cannot be underestimated. Credible sources within the government have confided to SAUTI KUBWA that the western blow has hit hard on the dictator, and that much as he wished to impulsively blast them as he normally does, he has backed off following senior diplomats’ counsel on the wisdom of silence.

The political and diplomatic atmosphere in Tanzania is tense, but there are slight indications of a temporary change of heart, albeit unwillingly. No one knows how long the dictator’s impulses will be held before his next burst up..  

SAUTI KUBWA is reproducing a copy of a full version of the parties’ public statement on the ZANZIBAR RESOLUTION:

A Joint Resolution by Leaders and Senior Members of Six Opposition Parties who met in Zanzibar on 16th – 18th December, 2018 to deliberate on the State of Democracy in the United Republic of Tanzania.

WE, the leaders and senior members of the undersigned six political parties, have met here in Zanzibar from 16th to 18th December, 2018 in order to reflect, discuss and agree on our common vision for the future of democracy in the United Republic of Tanzania. The historic meeting here in Zanzibar is a reflection of the extent to which the democratic and human rights situation in our country has changed, thereby leading to unprecedented actions on our side in response.  Keenly missed during the discussions have been our two colleagues, the Leader of Official Opposition, Hon. Freeman Mbowe and the Chief Whip of the Opposition in the Union Parliament, Hon. Tundu Lissu, one of whom is languishing in prison and the other recovering from an assassination attempt. Both of them gave their blessings to this meeting.

WE recognise that Tanzania is facing backsliding of democracy, with all signs pointing to institutionalization of an authoritarian rule that ignores political, social and economic rights of our people. This trend began with the annulment of October 25, 2015 Zanzibar general elections after it became clear that the Civic United Front (CUF) was heading towards a decisive victory. The move was then followed by banning of live coverage of parliamentary proceedings, banning of legitimate political activities of opposition parties, kidnappings, abductions, and arbitrary arrests of people, notably political leaders and activists, journalists and business people, assassination attempt against our fellow opposition leader and outspoken member of parliament, Hon. Tundu Lissu and absolute refusal of the state to investigate the matter in a purposeful and concrete manner; passing of repressive laws such as the Media Services Act, the Statistics Act, the NGO regulations and the Bill for Political Parties (Amendments) Act.

WE recognise that, despite constitutional protections of multiparty system, the state is currently waging an open war against opposition political parties. It is becoming a norm nowadays to hear state leaders and their supporters branding opposition politicians and government critics as unpatriotic and that they are “foreign agents” and “imperialist stooges”. The crusade against critics of the regime has spared no one in the country from the media, civil society organisations, farmers, fishermen, pastoralists, the business community, trade unions and workers, faith leaders, the diplomatic corps, women and girls, and even critical CCM members.  

WE are saddened by the crumbling state of our economy which affects the vulnerable and the poor in our society. In spite of the attempts by the regime to spin the situation, we feel it is imperative to publicly and openly state that within the space of three years the country has seen the reversal of even the little achievements that were registered in economic performance. The economic meltdown that this regime has brought will take at least a decade before it can recover and begin to provide for our citizens’ economic opportunities as required for by the constitution. The situation is no longer tolerable. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

WE recognise that it is our responsibility as leaders and as citizens of this country to save our country from this state and safeguard our democracy that meets the needs and aspirations of our people.

WE declare that time has come to renew our commitment and strengthen our solidarity in pursuing a national agenda against rising authoritarianism, an agenda that goes beyond individual interests of our parties. This will require courage to withstand the onslaught that we will face from the regime, firmness in our solidarity when attempts will be made to break it, and commitment towards inviting and incorporating other potential allies as equals in this movement.

WE declare that Freeman Mbowe and Esther Matiko, who are currently held in remand prison, are political prisoners and should be released immediately. We will engage in a concerted campaign to ensure that all political prisoners in Tanzania are either released or given access to justice and a free and fair due process of the law.

WE reiterate our stance that the imposed government of Zanzibar is unconstitutional and lacks mandate from the people. The results of the 2015 annulled election was a clear proof that CUF has won all the elections in Zanzibar since 1995 and that they have been prevented from ascending to power through state machinations and reversing of the will of the electorate. Time has come to restore electoral justice in Zanzibar.

WE pronounce that 2019 is a year of reclaiming our democracy and taking back our powers and rights as enshrined within the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, the Constitution of Zanzibar and other enabling pieces of legislation. We will hold public rallies in any and all corners of the United Republic of Tanzania. We will not allow an unconstitutional and unlawful order to restrict us to our individual constituencies. If the government is threatened by us exercising our constitutional rights, we dare them to take us to court.

WE declare that we will unanimously embrace all citizens and all social and economic groups in the country willing to conquer their fears and join the grand coalition that we envisage to defend our democracy. We vow that we will no longer be silenced or intimidated; we will no longer succumb to the state sanctioned violence against our individual and collective rights and entitlements. We commit ourselves to taking this message of freedom to all our fellow leaders, constituents, and allies and support them in taking action, whether small or large, as a symbol of solidarity.

We resolve to form a Joint Committee that, among other things, will work with the like-minded individuals and groups to draw a comprehensive programme to reclaim our democratic and civil rights.

Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad – Secretary Genaral, CUF

James Francis Mbatia – National Chairperson, NCCR Mageuzi

Oscar Emanuel Makaidi –  National Chairperson, NLD

Salum Mwalimu – Deputy Secretary General – Zanzibar, CHADEMA

Hashim Rungwe Spunda – National Chairman, CHAUMMA

Kabwe Z. Ruyagwa Zitto – Party Leader, ACT WazalendoZanzibar

December 18, 2018



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