Did Samia have Freeman set free to push gender agenda?

Saturday March 12 2022
Chadema Chairman Freeman Mbow

Tanzania’s Chadema party chairman Freeman Mbowe. PHOTO | FILE


When the chairman of the main opposition party in Tanzania was released from detention and went straight from his cell to State House to have a one-on-one chat with President Samia Suluhu, even a casual observer could have understood that the president had secured his release, one way or the other. The photos put out by Ikulu gave a picture of cordial conversation that could easily have been between Samia and a visiting dignitary, except that the Freeman Mbowe’s familiar face did not need an explanatory caption.

So, the answer was provided to all those queries as to who had occasioned the state’s decision to end the prosecution; now it was clear Samia had ordered it. And for a good reason too. The case had only nuisance value, and Samia’s government was reaping little traction out of it.

Lousy case

The idea that Freeman could be a terrorist was laughable.

The state prosecutors had put up a lousy case with dubious witnesses, and the embarrassment for the government was so evident that some wondered if the prosecution itself was bent on raining on its own parade.

The president had also come under some pressure to end this case that was not going anywhere, as I have already indicated, and she may have seen the wisdom of moving softly on the matter. It is the deftness she employed in handling the issue that may have caught many by surprise: that Freeman is set free by about noon and by evening he is with the president in a tete-a-tete at State House.


That is interesting, because it makes it clear where the order to the prosecutors to “lose interest” in the case came from. On that basis, we are helped to understand that the supreme political authority in the land has willed that Freeman should be let free to pursue his political agenda.

He did not waste any time doing just that. Having been set free on Friday and sat down with the president in the evening of the same day, on Monday he was on the road to Iringa, some 500 kilometres from Dar, for his party’s women’s wing celebrating Women’s Day, where he delivered an impassioned speech on the role of women in society, a speech that President Samia must have liked, seeing as it was in the furtherance of the cardinal importance of having women take their rightful place in the affairs of their community, society and nation.

It would be silly to suggest that the president had timed Freeman’s release to allow him to be in Iringa for Chadema’s women’s meeting, but suffice it to say that the coincidence was a happy one for Freeman to make his first major political statement (after so many days of incarceration) on issues pertaining to women.

Freeman’s statement was laced with pronouncements from illustrious men and women in recent history, such as that the “the fastest and sustainable way to change society is to mobilise the women of the world” (by Charles Malik, a former president of the UN General Assembly), and Hillary Clinton’s remark that “women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.”

I find this coincidence (liberation from custody and speaking at a women’s forum) as most fitting for Freeman, as it provided a most appropriate platform for his homecoming.

This is a man who has been fighting for the realisation of basic rights for Tanzania generally, but every conscientious Tanzanian will know that women are more oppressed by all that we count as being oppressive than their menfolk.

For every aspect of life that is considered as limiting in the enjoyment of any social right for society generally, women are more done in than men, be it in access to education, access to employment, fairness and equity in remuneration equitable remuneration, or even being treated as members of society who are entitled to basic freedoms and dignity, from the household to the workplace.

In short, for every tenet where a basic human right is posited, double it when you are looking at the same issue with a gendered perspective.

And yet we are told by statisticians that women constitute more than half the population in our countries. If that is so — and I have no desire to dispute it — then we are keeping at least half of our people in a state of limited capacity in the efforts to develop our countries, societies and economies.

Other things

It is like this: The human body has been given — among other things — two lungs, two legs, two arms, two eyes, two ears, thirty-two teeth, etc. Why would anyone want to use only half of everything they were given at birth, including half the brain, half the blood in the veins, half the emotional energy, and only 16 teeth?

So, by coming out of the “cooler” and travelling to Iringa, Freeman may have achieved more than others in his situation would have had the opportunity to achieve.

And by making the state to release Freeman — not an easy task, if you ask me — Samia may have added a little more wind into the sail of the vessel of women’s liberation in our country.

Who is complaining?

Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]