Dar es Salaam. President Samia Suluhu Hassan said on Wednesday – in relation to the terrorism case that CHADEMA national chairperson Mr Freeman Mbowe is facing – that no one is above the law in Tanzania, and anyone who appears to break the law must be held accountable but indicated that “forgiveness is also a possibility.”
The Head of State made the remarks in the capital Dodoma while officiating a two-day stakeholders’ meeting on the situation of multiparty democracy in Tanzania that will be taking place from December 15 to December 17, 2021.
President Samia’s remarks on the highly controversial case against Mr Mbowe and his three other co-accused was prompted by the call from the chairperson of Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD) Mr Zitto Kabwe that Samia finds a way to drop the charges against Mr Mbowe through legal means.
“Honourable President [Samia], some of us political parties leaders are here [at the conference] today,” said Mr Kabwe who doubles as opposition party ACT-Wazalendo leader, adding:
“But there’s our colleague [Freeman Mbowe] who is not here for some legal reasons. We have our tradition [in Tanzania] of solving our challenges [on our own]. I beg you, through a legal process, by following all legal procedures, to help us have him [freed from prisons].”
While responding to the request, President Samia said: “My son [Zitto Kabwe] suggested here that our colleague [Freeman Mbowe] should be forgiven. We say that democracy entails respect for the laws. When you respect the law democracy grows. But that’s also how [democracy] brings respect. Someone’s respect comes when they respect the country’s laws.
“When you break the country’s laws you will also not be respected. The government will not respect you. But it is also important to note that in exercising your freedom, at the end of your freedom begins someone else’s reputation. So all these have to be considered when we do our activities.
“If [Mbowe’s case] does not concern the breaking of the law, you would not come here to ask for his release and stuff like that. But when you break the law, you disrespect yourself and the government fails to respect you. Let us work by respecting the laws. Although forgiveness is also a possibility.”
Mr Mbowe was brought before the Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court for the first time on July 26, 2021, accused of taking part in conspiracies to blow up fueling stations and other public gatherings as well as funding terrorist acts before his case was transferred to the High Court. Others in the case No. 16/2021 are Halfan Hassan, Adam Kasekwa and Mohamed Lingwenya.
Today’s conference, which took place against the background of a ban on political rallies, is a result of a wide-ranging consultation among key stakeholders of Tanzania’s political development including political parties, the Office of the Party Registrar, security organs, Political Parties Council, and religious leaders.
Dialogue triumphs fighting
While officiating the conference that opposition parties CHADEMA and NCCR-Mageuzi boycotted, citing the incarceration of Mr Mbowe as one of the reasons, President Samia insisted on the importance of dialogue in running the country’s affairs, calling it “a recipe for peace.”
She said the dialogue will rescue Tanzania from political violence and disasters. Clarifying her point, President Sami noted. “When there’s a misunderstanding [between the government and the opposition], let us sit down, and educate each other, agree with each other and direct each other. If we cannot agree with each other, we [should] come out with a shared understanding that our country is one and it is everyone’s job to steer it towards real democracy.”
President Samia also urged the conference’s participants to discuss how political parties in the country can organize political rallies without breaking the country’s laws. She said political rallies are at present not allowed because political parties used to use them to organize “riots and civil strife.”
“So please discuss and commit yourself here [at the conference] how you are going to organize political rallies,” she said. “I want the [Political Parties] Registrar and the police to sit down with people from political parties and see [how you resolve this]. Because it is your right, based on your parties’ constitutions and the country’s constitution, to organize political rallies and propagate your policies.”
Lukelo Francis is a Dar es Salaam-based The Chanzo’s correspondent. He is available at email@example.com.