Everyone has been expecting some sparks to fly following the election of a strong opposition in Parliament and they have not been disappointed.
The Arusha riot
After the main elections last year, which were praised for their peaceful nature, there followed various mayoral elections. In the hotly contested one in Arusha on December 18 there were serious disturbances. Chadema leaders claimed that they were not informed of the election and when they arrived at the City Hall, found that it had already been completed, with a CCM candidate elected as Mayor and a TLP candidate as Deputy Mayor. In the resulting fracas the Arusha Urban MP (Chadema ) was injured while being arrested and taken to the police station.
Chadema were then given permission to stage a demonstration and hold a public rally on January 5 but the decision on the demonstration was reversed on January 4. Chadema officials and supporters then defied the order concerning the demonstration and marched into the city, until they came up against a contingent of armed riot police blocking their path. There was a violent confrontation. Supporters continued to converge at the site of the planned rally (which had been given permission) but shortly after 1pm, police started firing teargas in an attempt to disperse the crowds.
According to Mwananchi, prior to the demonstration, Chadema bussed hundreds of its young supporters from Kilimanjaro region. Reports say that police were later engaged in running battles with youths in downtown Arusha, and three people died from injuries. A number of policemen were also injured.
On the following day, Mbowe and 40 others were charged with unlawful assembly. They all pleaded “not guilty” and were released on bail.
Archbishop Josephat Lebulu of the Arusha Catholic Archdiocese read a declaration on behalf of the Union of Christian Denominations (representing over 20 denominations) which condemned the use of excessive force and live bullets by the police and called on Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda to intervene. The church leaders also resolved not to recognise the Mayor nor work with the municipal officials until the controversy was resolved.
On Feb 24th, thousands of protesters again took to the streets when Chadema held a demonstration in Mwanza, but there were no reports of violence (see below). In March prosecutors announced that the case against 10 of those arrested in Arusha had been dropped for lack of evidence and that the trial of 19 other Chadema members (including Mbowe and Slaa) would be postponed until April 29.
The Chadema rallies
On February 25 the Swahili press gave publicity to the first of a series of big rallies Chadema was organizing. Extract:
‘Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Mwanza to participate in a rally organised by Chadema. The party’s top leadership called for more accountability by President Kikwete’s government. Led by Chairman Mbowe, and Secretary General, Dr. Wilbroad Slaa, the rally ended up with strong demands including giving the President nine days to act or face mass action as had happened in Egypt and Libya. There were attacks on “Dowans” (see Corruption below) which, it was said, could not be paid from taxpayers’ money because it was an illegal firm…. President Kikwete was aware of all these shoddy deals because they happened during his leadership,” said Dr. Slaa. He named a CCM MP as the man who had manipulated government officials to pressurise them into giving a multi- million contract to the shoddy Richmond firm and wondered why the MP remained untouchable. Mbowe demanded the resignation of two cabinet Ministers, William Ngeleja (Energy and Minerals) and Dr. Hussein Mwinyi (Defence and National Service), since they had openly failed to offer credible leadership in their respective portfolios. But as Mbowe was naming the ministers, the crowd shouted “…and President Kikwete too should resign!” (Mwananchi, Nipashe, Majira, Mtanzania, Tanzania Daima)
Chadema is planning more rallies
CCM reacted angrily. A spokesman said that the government should take legal action against what he described as Chadema’s continued incitement. What Chadema was doing was to instill feelings of hatred between us and the people and thus provoke violence he said – Mwananchi.
On March 3 Minister of State, Presidents’ Office (Social Relations and Co-ordination), Stephen Wassira warned Chadema, that they should blame no one if the government lost patience with them. He blamed the party for inciting people to overthrow their government. “It is not possible…..they don’t have such a mandate… as it is against the constitution” he said. What Chadema was crying out for – an easing of the current high cost of living – was not a problem in Tanzania alone.
Meanwhile, the Chairmen of the Tanzania Labor Party (TLP) and the United Democratic Party (UDP), John Cheyo, have supported President Kikwete’s warning to political parties against plans to destroy the existing peace – Mwananchi, Majira, Habari Leo.
Mbowe names shadow cabinet
Chadema leader Mbowe has named his Shadow Cabinet. He said that, although the official cabinet had a total of 50 ministers and deputies, he had formed a small shadow cabinet of only 29 ministers and three deputies for efficiency. The Finance and Economic Affairs portfolio went to Kigoma North MP Zitto Kabwe who is also Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The Home Affairs shadow ministry will be headed by Godbless Lema (Arusha Urban), while Constitutional Affairs and Justice goes to Tundu Lissu of Singida East, who is the Chief Whip. The Energy and Minerals ministry will be under Ubungo MP John Mnyika – Guardian.
Key posts all go to the opposition
MP’s have elected chairpersons for the three key parliamentary oversight committees. John Cheyo (UDP) was re-elected as chairman of the sensitive Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Zitto Kabwe (Chadema) also retained his position as the chairman of the Public Organisations Accounts Committee (Poac), while Augustine Mrema (TLP) was elected the new chairman of the Local Authorities Accounts Committee (LAAC). Thus, although Chadema was disappointed in not obtaining all three posts, Tanzania sets a good example in choosing as Chairs, members of the opposition parties.
Change of rules
On February 10 CCM joined with all the small opposition parties in parliament to ‘clarify earlier rules’ to prevent Chadema from becoming the sole official Opposition in Parliament. The rules were changed so that the official opposition now comprises all the opposition parties. Chadema MP’s walked of the House in protest. Relations between Chadema and the second opposition party CUF remained cold – Guardian.