Dis­sent­ing voices si­lenced in Magu­fuli regime

Chadema party mem­bers have been ar­rested ar­bi­trar­ily and some news publi­ca­tions have been banned

The East African - - NEWS - By CHRISTO­PHER KIDANKA The Eastafrican

Af­ter decades of de­mands for a new con­sti­tu­tion, in his New Year address in 2011, for­mer Tan­za­nian pres­i­dent Jakaya Kik­wete an­nounced the for­ma­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion Re­view Com­mis­sion (CRC) to co-or­di­nate and su­per­vise mak­ing the new laws.

Chaired by Judge Joseph War­i­oba, the CRC col­lected opin­ions and tabled its re­port, which some quar­ters found “too trans­for­ma­tional.” The com­mis­sion was dis­banded.

Key pro­pos­als in­cluded the pos­si­bil­ity of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion re­sult be­ing chal­lenged in court; a fed­eral gov­ern­ment that recog­nises Tan­ganyika and Zanz­ibar as sov­er­eign na­tions; and the power of cit­i­zens to im­peach leg­is­la­tors who do not per­form their du­ties ef­fec­tively.

The process ended when the gov­ern­ment failed to an­nounce a ref­er­en­dum ques­tion ac­cord­ing to the law be­fore the deadline.

When Pres­i­dent John Magu­fuli as­cended to power, he said that a new Con­sti­tu­tion was not on his list of pri­or­i­ties, spark­ing crit­i­cism and fresh calls for the process to be restarted.

Now, for­mer CRC mem­bers Humphrey Pole­pole and Prof Pala­m­agamba Kabudi, who sup­ported the pro­pos­als which they said re­flected the views of Tan­za­ni­ans, are work­ing in the gov­ern­ment.

Mr Pole­pole was ap­pointed CCM’S Ide­ol­ogy and Pub­lic­ity Sec­re­tary and Prof Kabudi is the Min­is­ter for Le­gal and Con­sti­tu­tional Af­fairs.

Their voices now echo the gov­ern­ment of the day.

On Fri­day, the gov­ern­ment banned lo­cal weekly tabloid Raia Mwema for 90 days for pub­lish­ing an ar­ti­cle ti­tled “Uraisi Utamshinda John Magu­fuli” (John Magu­fuli’s pres­i­dency doomed to fail).

An­nounc­ing the ban, di­rec­tor of In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices Has­san Ab­bas said, “This tabloid has been warned re­peat­edly in the past.’’

The ban comes barely 10 days af­ter an­other weekly tabloid, Mwana­hal­isi was banned for two years.

Un­der the Magu­fuli ad­min­is­tra­tion, Tan­za­nia has wit­nessed a number of an­tidemo­cratic ac­tions like the in­def­i­nite ban of po­lit­i­cal ral­lies, ar­bi­trary ar­rests of leg­is­la­tors and mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion, a ban on live cover­age of par­lia­ment on claims of cost­cut­ting mea­sures, and the crack­down on in­de­pen­dent me­dia and vo­cal crit­ics of the gov­ern­ment.

Some 400 lead­ers and mem­bers of the main op­po­si­tion Chadema have been ar­rested, and a number of them tried for hate speech and sedi­tion. Po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Prof Mwe­siga Baregu says the ar­rests al­ready out­num­ber those wit­nessed dur­ing a mutiny at­tempt against found­ing pres­i­dent Julius Ny­erere in 1984.

Pres­i­dent Magu­fuli has been ac­cused of in­te­fer­ing with the Ju­di­ciary and the Leg­is­la­ture. In Fe­bru­ary 2016, he had told the Ju­di­ciary to fast­track judg­ments of a tax eva­sion case in which the gov­ern­ment would be awarded $441 mil­lion. If the court ruled in favour of the gov­ern­ment, he would give the Ju­di­ciary $110,250,000 from that amount.

Ar­bi­trary ar­rests of MPS in the par­lia­ment premises have been termed as in­ter­fer­ing with the in­de­pen­dence of the Leg­is­la­ture.

Pres­i­dent Magu­fuli has also been quoted as telling the Na­tional Assem­bly Speaker Job Ndugai to make sure that he con­trols MPS in­side the House so that they won’t speak freely and openly, and that when the MPS do so out­side Par­lia­ment he will deal with them.

Pic­ture: File

More than 400 mem­bers of Tan­za­nia’s main op­po­si­tion party Chadema have been ar­rested in the past two years.

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