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Now Tanzania gagging the opposition both inside and outside parliament

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Supporters of the opposition Chadema. Tanzania police have banned opposition parties from conducting planned nationwide protests for fear they could escalate into civil disobedience amid growing allegations that President John Magufuli was abusing his power. FILE PHOTO | AFP 

By JOSEPH KITHAMA

Posted  Saturday, June 18   2016 at  19:51

In Summary

  • An opinion poll conducted by Twaweza (a non-governmental organisation), found that 80 per cent of respondents of a question on the ban on live parliament coverage were dismayed by the decision.
  • The government has also banned political rallies and demonstrations, with the police citing a delicate security situation.
  • Journalist Jenerali Ulimwengu says the CCM government has never been prepared for competitive politics but was forced by circumstances to adopt the system, and was now struggling to recover from the one-party system hangover.

In just seven months of President John Magufuli’s administration, opposition leaders and critics of the ruling Cha cha Mapinduzi regime say they are being targeted for clampdown.

Recently, Arusha resident Emily Isaac was sentenced to three years in prison or a fine of Tsh7,000,000 ($3,200) under the infamous Cyber Crime Act, for posting on his Facebook page a comment criticising those who liken President Magufuli to founding president Julius Nyerere. He paid the fine.

On Thursday, police camped outside a Dar es Salaam preacher’s residence trying to quiz him over a clip that was circulating through social media calling on President Magufuli to ensure that former President Jakaya Kikwete gets indicted for alleged corruption during his 10-year tenure.

This followed questioning of former Zanzibar Civic United Front presidential candidate Seif Sharif Hamad, arraignment of Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe and questioning of ACT-Wazalendo supremo, Zitto Kabwe.

Mr Hamad, the former first-vice president of Zanzibar said Tanzania’s democracy is being extinguished by a crackdown on the opposition. In a lengthy interview with Voice of America (VOA), Mr Hamad criticised parliament’s decision to ban live coverage of its sessions and instead replace it with media programmes edited by parliament officials.

An opinion poll conducted by Twaweza (a non-governmental organisation), found that 80 per cent of respondents of a question on the ban on live parliament coverage were dismayed by the decision.

Kabwe on the run

The government has also banned political rallies and demonstrations, with the police citing a delicate security situation.

Mr Kabwe was on the run last week after police announced that they wanted him for interrogation over political statements he had made at a press conference accusing President Magufuli of dictatorial tendencies. He later surrendered to the police.

Addressing the media, Mr Kabwe asked: “Why has President Magufuli remained silent amid continued harassment of opposition leaders and a crackdown on their meetings and other democratic activities?” He charged that President Magufuli is “sowing the seeds of dictatorship and we, in the opposition we will not accept that.”

Mr Kabwe is one of opposition MPs who have been temporarily dismissed from parliament and restricted to addressing public rallies through the government ban.

Recently, there was a protest in parliament by members when deputy Speaker Tulia Ackson turned down a request by the opposition to suspend the House’s usual business in order to discuss what they considered the urgent matter of the dismissal of over 7,000 students of the Dodoma University over enrolment irregularities.

The opposition camp in parliament is now boycotting sessions chaired by Dr Ackson in a bid to oust her. They also accused the Magufuli administration of interfering with the business of the House.

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