Zitto Kabwe, leader of the opposition ACT-Wazalendo party, seems to be very optimistic of the resolutions reached recently during a stakeholders’ meeting to discuss the state of multiparty democracy in Tanzania dubbed as Dodoma Resolutions.
The meeting, that opposition CHADEMA and NCCR-Mageuzi boycotted, was organised by the Registrar of Political Parties Judge (Retired) Francis Mutungu and attracted participants from political parties, civil society, and religious organisations.
In his reflections of the meeting published here, Zitto, who doubles as the chairperson of the Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD), a democracy think-tank founded by parties with parliamentary representation, called the resolutions that were reportedly reached during the meeting “first steps for Tanzania to return to its democratic path.”
I fundamentally disagree with Zitto and I consider his analysis of the meeting and what transpired there as nothing but a mockery for Tanzania’s multiparty democracy and the process for political reconciliation that Tanzanians are dreaming for.
It is my humble submission that what happened in Dodoma sought neither to improve the status of multiparty democracy in the country nor reconcile the opposition and the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and its government that seem to be at loggerheads for quite some time now.
Two things led me to this conclusion: one, is how the Dodoma meeting went ahead at proposing what should be done in future while maintaining a deafening silence on what has happened in the past five years; and two is the choice of people who played a central role in organizing the meeting whose legitimacy, I can assuredly say, is questionable.
Let us note that President John Magufuli’s reign of terror was not limited at denying opposition parties their constitutional rights of doing their activities in the country only. Magufuli’s five-year rule also went hand in hand with murders, disappearances, intimidation, harassment, torture, and all other forms of mistreatment directed at the Administration’s critics, which included politicians, human rights activists, journalists to name but few.
One would expect that before the organizers and participants of the meeting discussed what should be done to improve the state of multiparty democracy in Tanzania they would first dwell on what happened to multiparty democracy in the past five years, identifying the culprits and the victims, and propose a way forward whether it is prosecution against the perpetrators, compensation to the victims or at least demand an apology from those who took part in these atrocities.
This, as you might well know, never happened.
As I write this, hundreds of CHADEMA leaders, members and followers are behind bars on trumped up charges, including the party’s national chairperson Mr Freeman Mbowe who is being held on spurious terrorism and money laundering charges.
Yet, our beloved fellow citizens who gathered in the capital to “discuss the state of multiparty democracy” decided to let bygones be bygones, which isn’t the best approach to building a reconciliation in my opinion. They didn’t bother to understand the psychology and trauma of the victims of state-sanctioned repression, a choice I consider to be a deliberate one.
As for the legitimacy of those who put the whole thing together, I’m honestly afraid to point this out to you lest do I insult your intellect. Someone like Mutungi, who for five years blessed Magufuli’s ban on political rallies and other totalitarian policies that wrought havoc on our young democracy, surely is the worst pick for any reconciliation-seeking effort.
Mutungi, who oversaw the enactment of an Orwellian-like Political Parties Act that gave him more power in running political parties activities than the parties themselves, has absolutely no moral authority not only of initiating a dialogue on reconciliation but also on democracy and political pluralism.
In an actual sense, instead of giving Mutungi the role to initiate these dialogues, he should be held accountable for his complicity in the efforts to undermine democracy in this country.
On December 24, 2021, Mutungi announced the formation of a 23-member task force that will follow up on the main issues raised during the meeting. Not only are almost all of the 23 members known to be CCM apologists of a long time, the shocker is the pick for the chairperson of the task force, Prof Rwekaza Mkandala.
Among the many notorious things that Mukandala is being known for is his role in undermining movements for justice and democracy at the University of Dar es Salaam when he served as the Vice-Chancellor of the state-owned higher learning institution.
During his time there, Mukandala spared not a single soul that believed that the university – just like the country – should be run through democratic means and many students – including myself – were sent home packing for advocating just that.
But perhaps Prof Mukandala’s most damaging role to Tanzania’s infant democracy is being the chairperson of the Research and Education for Democracy in Tanzania (REDET), a University of Dar es Salaam’s program tasked with the role of “promoting democracy in Tanzania.”
If there is anything that REDET has been doing successfully over the years since its inception in 1992 is whitewashing electoral violence and other irregularities by announcing that elections have been “free and fair” even at a time when even a novice observer of Tanzania’s political development see that all is not well in the way the elections were run, as was the case in the 2020 General Election.
Investing our faith in these people, I would conclude, is similar to digging Tanzania’s multiparty democracy its grave with our own hands. Not only do we need to right our past wrongs – with prosecution, compensation, and apology – for any reconciliation process to be legitimate but also the people who oversee this process should the people with integrity and high social standing, people who can unite Tanzanians and not divide them.
Alphonce Lusako is a lawyer, human rights activist and CHADEMA member. He is available on Twitter at @LusakoAlphonce. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Chanzo Initiative. Want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at firstname.lastname@example.org for further inquiries.