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Tanzania’s Police Reach Agreement With CHADEMA Over Planned Demos

Police have reportedly allowed the demonstrations, ending suspicions that they might block them.

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Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s main opposition party, CHADEMA, and the East African nation’s police reached an agreement on Monday over the demonstration that the former plans to organise on January 24, 2023, protesting proposed electoral bills, high cost of living and delay in constitutional reforms.

According to the party’s national chairperson, Freeman Mbowe, the meeting between part officials and Dar es Salaam special zone police commander Jumanne Muliro ended with the law enforcement agency blessing the planned demos, ending fear that police would prevent such demonstrations from taking place.

“I laud the police force for this kind of wisdom,” Mr Mbowe wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “I welcome all Tanzanians to participate in the planned demonstrations where we’ll demonstrate peacefully.”

Monday’s announcement followed several remarks by government and ruling party Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) officials talking down on the planned demonstrations, discouraging Tanzanians from participating.

A day after CHADEMA announced the demonstration, for example, Dar es Salaam regional commissioner Albert Chalamila said that members of Tanzania’s armed forces would be engaged in a cleaning exercise in the streets of Dar es Salaam on January 24, the day the demonstrations were meant to happen.

READ MORE: CHADEMA Prepares to Organise Rallies Despite Govt Ban 

Many translated the announcement as authorities’ covert tactic to prevent the demonstrations from happening, reminding people of several occasions when authorities have deployed servicepersons in the streets to block demonstrations from opposition parties.

Emmanuel Nchimbi, CCM’s new secretary-general, attempted to discourage CHADEMA from going to the streets, arguing that protesting is a sign of losing, not winning.

“Running away from conversation only to go to the streets is not a sign of bravery; it is a sign of weakness,” Dr Nchimbi said during the party’s public rally in Zanzibar. “People argue with mouths, not legs. We want to judge [opposition politicians] based on what their mouths say, not what their legs do.”

Tanzania is scheduled for civic elections later this year and a general election in late 2025. Ahead of the elections and following sustained pressure from pro-democracy actors, the government tabled three bills at the parliament for discussion and review in February. 

READ MORE: Electoral Bills Review: Genuine Commitment for Transitional Justice in Tanzania?

They include the National Electoral Commission (NEC) Bill, 2023, the Presidential, Parliamentary, and Local Government Elections Bill, 2023, and the Political Parties Affairs Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2023.

But stakeholders, including CHADEMA, have criticised the bills, arguing that they ignored, to a large extent, the views that they have given on how to improve political pluralism through the reconciliation talks President Samia launched immediately after assuming the presidency. 

CHADEMA wants the bills withdrawn, saying there is no point in suggesting changes as there is no guarantee that their views will matter this time around. It wants the government to write new bills based on the opinions stakeholders have shared numerous times.

CHADEMA being able to proceed with their planned demonstrations without police interference will be a plus to the Samia Administration, at which some had expressed frustrations that the upcoming elections would affect the reformist project that the Head of State had launched.

READ MORE: Analysts Fear Samia’s Election Fever May Prolong Tanzania’s Reformist Agenda

Editor’s note: Hours after CHADEMA claimed they’ve agreed with the police regarding Wednesday’s planned demos, Mr Muliro, In an interview with the state broadcaster TBC, refuted that claim, saying that there has never been an agreement between the parties. Mr Muliro said that police instructed CHADEMA that their written notification to organise the rally would be responded to in writing on Tuesday.

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