In recent months, an avalanche of circulars released by various faith-based organisations, ahead of the 2010 general elections, has descended on Tanzanians. The process was set in motion by the Roman Catholic Church whose circular counsels individuals to vote wisely and bravely and to reject ‘corrupt power mongers’. The circular ignited a heated debate, with some ruling party leaders strongly attacking the move, alleging that it was endangering the nation’s unity and that the Church was ‘diverting from its core mission of preaching the word of God and instead playing politics.’ The leader of the Catholic Church told critics not to teach church leaders how to perform their duties, and pointed out that the document was a civic education initiative to guide voters on exercising their electoral rights responsibly.
The Government advised Muslim leaders against issuing a document similar to the controversial Catholic booklet so as to create disharmony in the country. But they went ahead and launched their 45-page document called ‘Mwongozo’ at a rally attended by thousands at the Mnazi Mmoja grounds in Dar es Salaam. They that it was ‘intended to guide followers on important social and political issues ahead of the elections’ It traces the role played by Muslims in the struggle against British colonialism and describes what it perceives as discrimination against Muslims in the post-Independence period. Muslims are now asked to vote for leaders who are going to ‘defend their rights’ (from Habari Leo and many other papers).
President Kikwete said his entire government was unhappy with the religious manifestos. “We would not like to go into the elections next year with people voting by following instructions from their clerics,” he said.
Muslims tear down billboards
Muslims in Morogoro took to the streets in Morogoro uprooting billboards and posters promoting disco and musical programmes for the Idd festival. They told reporters that they objected to Muslim festivals being used to promote ‘forbidden practices’. One said “For us Idd entails prayers and not debauchery” – Majira.