Tan­za­nia op­po­si­tion cries foul, church speaks

Six Chadema lead­ers to cool their heels in prison over Easter hol­i­day

The East African - - NEWS - A JOINT RE­PORT The Eastafrican

The woes of Tan­za­nia’s op­po­si­tion con­tin­ued last week, with six Chadema lead­ers, among them chair­man Free­man Mbowe, sit­ting in jail over the East hol­i­day after they were charged with sedi­tion, in­cite­ment to vi­o­lence and un­law­ful as­sem­bly.

The move by Pres­i­dent John Magu­fuli ad­min­is­tra­tion against the op­po­si­tion, dis­sent­ing civil so­ci­ety and me­dia has been roundly con­demned, with the church tak­ing a lead­ing role.

On March 27, Mr Mbowe, Chadema’s sec­re­tary-gen­eral Vin­cent Mash­inji, deputy sec­re­taries-gen­eral John Mnyika and Salum Mwal­imu and MPS Peter Msigwa and Es­ther Matiko were charged be­fore Will­bard Mashauri at the Kisutu Res­i­dent Mag­is­trate’s court be­fore be­ing sent to Segerea Re­mand Prison.

They did not, how­ever, ap­pear in court two days later for the bail hear­ing with the re­mand boss claim­ing that all prison ve­hi­cles that could have fer­ried them to court were faulty. None­the­less, the judge granted them Tsh20,000 ($8,800) bail each with at least two guar­an­tors. They are also required to re­port to the Cen­tral Po­lice Sta­tion in Dar es Salaam ev­ery Thurs­day. The judge or­dered that they be pro­duced in court on April 3 for sign­ing of their bail pa­pers.

As the strong arm of the law con­tin­ued to be wielded over demon­stra­tions in Fe­bru­ary and other civil de­fi­ance, some op­po­si­tion mem­bers sought ex­ter­nal in­ter­ven­tion in push­ing for demo­cratic space, march­ing to the of­fices of the Euro­pean Union Del­e­ga­tion in Dar es Salaam to seek the sup­port.

The op­po­si­tion, civil so­ci­ety and church have crit­i­cised in­creased vi­o­la­tion of demo­cratic rights and free­doms since Pres­i­dent Magu­fuli took of­fice in Novem­ber 2015.

Two ma­jor churches, the Catholics and Luther­ans, have re­cently con­demned the govern­ment’s ac­tions against the op­po­si­tion, and sought to con­duct civil ed­u­ca­tion.

In Fe­bru­ary, the Catholic church in a let­ter ti­tled “The Church and De­vel­op­ing So­ci­ety of Tan­za­nia” high­lighted key val­ues the so­ci­ety should em­pha­sise in the civic ed­u­ca­tion.

The epis­co­pal doc­u­ment listed so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic chal­lenges fac­ing the Tan­za­nia and called on the faith­ful to re­flect on them. The bish­ops crit­i­cised the ban on po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties, demon­stra­tions and po­lit­i­cal par­ties’ in­ter­nal meet­ings, terming them un­con­sti­tu­tional.

The Lutheran Church has also is­sued a let­ter reit­er­at­ing most of the is­sues cited by the Catholic bish­ops, in its Easter mes­sage ti­tled “Our Na­tion, Our Peace.” It was is­sued nearly two weeks after its pas­tor, Fred Njama was ar­rested in Moshi for in­cite­ment.

Pas­tor Njama had read a re­port he had pre­pared for a church ser­vice that de­tailed some chal­lenges fac­ing the na­tion, which in­cluded un­em­ploy­ment, grow­ing poverty and sup­pres­sion of free­dom of ex­pres­sion. The govern­ment con­fis­cated all the publi­ca­tions from the church’s print­ing press and or­dered those who had col­lected copies to sur­ren­der them.

The Evan­gel­i­cal Lutheran Church of Tan­za­nia listed con­cerns about the state of the na­tion — ab­duc­tion, tor­ture, po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated mur­der and abuse of se­cu­rity or­gans against the peo­ple.

“There are signs of dwin­dling free­dom of ex­pres­sion, as­sem­bly and right to in­for­ma­tion… There is a fear that even the right to wor­ship is in dan­ger,” it said.

The doc­u­ment signed by 27 Lutheran Bish­ops said the govern­ment has a duty of pro­tect­ing the lives of its peo­ple.

Pic­ture: File

Chadema lead­ers were ar­rested and charged in court with sedi­tion, in­cite­ment to vi­o­lence and un­law­ful as­sem­bly.

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