Calls for Dialogue As Planned Protests Nears in Tanzania

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Dar es Salaam — As tension in the country rises ahead of what the Opposition has termed Defiance Day, stakeholders are urging the government and Chadema to have a peace dialogue.

Religious leaders, political analysts and human rights activists yesterday who spoke to The Citizen appealing to politicians to note that dialogue was the only way to resolving misunderstandings.

Tanzania Chief Sheikh Abubakar Zubeir bin Ali said that the two sides should seek a way of meeting around a negotiating table. According to him, handling this matter needs wisdom more than a show of power and such wisdom can only be found when people sit and talk together.

 “The government needs to ask itself why Chadema has reached this point. Why not listen to the party, which exists legally?” he wondered.

Sheikh Abubakar opined that Chadema has every right to conduct demonstrations because this was provided for in the country’s laws.

“It is strange when we see police officers conducting drills in public. What does that indicate? We need to protect the peace we have enjoyed as a democratic nation,” added the Chief Sheikh.

For his part, Political Science lecturer Richard Mbunda of the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) said there was still room for the two sides to meet and discuss their problems.

“Demonstration and rallies should be conducted depending on what will be agreed on at the negotiation table,” he said.

He concurred that Chadema has the right to hold demonstrations as per the laws of the land, especially if that is to remain relevant and competitive in the political arena.

The don appealed to Former Presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete to step in and advise the incumbent, Dr John Magufuli, to avert clashes between the State and its people.

“Mr Kikwete, for instance, developed a very good rapport with the Opposition. He could be instrumental in times such as this one,” said. He reminded the government and Chadema to recall waht happened in Zanzibar in 2001 when the Civic United Front (CUF) clashed with the police causing the deaths of at least 26 people, destruction of property and making Tanzania to produce refugees for the first time ever in its history.

He also accused the Registrar of Political Parties, Judge Francis Mutungi, of failing to exercise impartiality in regulating political activities. “The Registrar should advise the President to allow political activities to continue because they are provided for in the laws,” he said.

However, Judge Mutungi yesterday told reporters that he was there to only announce a mediation meeting between the two sides scheduled for next week and wouldn’t take questions.

For his part, Dr Benson Bana, a senior lecturer in Public Administration and Human Resource at the UDSM, said it would be better for the Opposition to observe legal procedures instead of holding demonstrations. “Chadema should not test President’s patience. It won’t work. It is true that the government should be criticised and praised but that should be done responsibly,” he said, urging the Opposition to challenge President Magufuli’s order regarding political activities in court.

The retired secretary of the Pentecostal Churches in Tanzania, Bishop David Mwasota, said what was happening showed that leaders have forgotten the principles laid down by the founders of the nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume.

“These two leaders taught us that any problem can be resolved through dialogue and not confrontation. This country was not built using force. People sat down and agreed with each other on all matters,” he said.

The bishop, who serves in the Naioth Gospel Assembly (NGA), noted that it was not proper to apply force to gag a different political opinion.

“I’m based upcountry. The situation here is different from that of Dar. Where I’m we only see police drills. Everyone is talking about them. We’re not used to this,” he said.

When reached for comment, Maombezi Church Reverend Antony Lusekelo stressed that dialogue was the only viable solution to what the politicians were contending.

“Because the Opposition has no powers to call the President for talks, it is upon the Head of State to initiate such a move that would lead to negotiations,” he said.

For her part, the executive director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHCR), Dr Hellen Kijo- Bisimba, told The Citizen that neither side will emerge the winner on Sept 1, if at all matters got to the point of clashing.

She said Chadema and the government should remember that when two bulls fight, it is the grass that suffers. “I call upon both sides to sit and discuss and reach a compromise,” she urged.

The Human Rights Defenders Coalition national coordinator Onesmo Ole Ngurumwa said: “There’s no other way to solve this besides holding talks. I am sure after such talks, no one will hold grudges against another.”

The Citizen

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