Defiant Tanzanian cleric continues with law change crusade

Tuesday February 23 2021
Bishop Emmaus Mwamakula.

Bishop Emmaus Mwamakula. PHOTO | ISMAIL SABUNI


A Moravian Church bishop in Tanzania maintains that his plans to campaign for a new national constitution and independent electoral commission are still on track despite his arrest by the police.

Bishop Emmaus Mwamakula was arrested at his Dar es Salaam home on February 15, hours ahead of the first scheduled demos on Tuesday. He was released on bail on Tuesday evening with an order to report to the Central Police station on Friday morning.

Speaking from his home last Wednesday, he said: "My crusade for a new constitution remains intact. My intention is still to reach every part of the country and no amount of government intimidation through the police or any other agency will put me off."

Last month, Bishop Mwamakula, who heads the Moravian Renewal Church in East Africa, took to social media with a rallying call for Tanzanians to join him in the "peaceful" demos from February 16.

"We urge everyone who supports this campaign to don T-shirts imprinted ‘New Constitution’ or ‘Independent Electoral Commission’ from that day. We ask them to make use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and other similar platforms to spread the word, explain the objectives of the voluntary march and deliver our message," he wrote.

He described the country as being "sick" and filled with people who are "dissatisfied but too scared to speak up against injustices."


Calls for constitutional reforms allowing for the establishment of an independent electoral commission were rekindled following last October’s presidential and parliamentary elections which saw the ruling party CCM win with a landslide.

Several major opposition parties, including Chadema and ACT-Wazalendo, said they would dedicate 2021 to push for the resumption and completion of a constitutional review process that was halted in 2015 having reached a stage where a final new draft was set to be presented for a 'Yes' or 'No' vote in a nationwide referendum.

Bishop Mwamakula said last week that he was not affiliated to any political party or institution, but operating solely as an independent and counting on the support of "Tanzanians as a whole" in his current campaign.

He said he felt this approach would give him more credibility in the long run and help avoid direct confrontation with the state.