by Ben Taylor
The power struggle within the opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF), shows no signs of letting up, with several dramatic incidents having taken place over the past few months. The dispute pits a predominantly mainland faction of the party aligned with former Presidential candidate, Professor Ibrahim Lipumba, against a Zanzibar-dominated faction aligned with the former Vice President of Zanzibar, Seif Sharif Hamad.
The crisis in CUF began last year after Prof Lipumba, who had resigned as chairman ahead of the 2015 General Election, decided to rescind on his resignation. During an extraordinary national congress that had been called to elect his successor in August, Prof Lipumba dramatically forced his way in to the meeting. That did not prevent delegates voting to confirm his resignation. However, the Registrar of Political Parties, Judge Francis Mutungi, dismissed the decision by the Supreme Governing Council to expel him from the party, in a ruling that gave the professor a major boost in his bid for the CUF chairmanship.
In late April a press conference, arranged by members of the Seifaligned group in Dar es Salaam, was raided by four masked men wielding weapons, including a pistol. Several people were injured, including journalists and one of the attackers who was arrested when the police arrived. Members of the Lipumba-aligned faction admitted they had sent the people who interrupted the meeting.
In July, Professor Lipumba, empowered by Judge Mutungi’s decision, expelled eight of the party’s special seats MPs from the party, thus stripping them of their seats in parliament, and appointed eight new MPs to the positions. The changes were upheld by the Speaker, Job Ndugai.
Mr Hamad issued a press statement accusing the office of the Registrar of Political Parties, the Office of the Speaker and the Police of working to weaken the party by backing Prof Lipumba. He said the axed MPs are going to High Court to challenge the decision by Prof Lipumba, and will ask the court to declare them legitimate CUF members and therefore legitimate members of parliament.
Prof Lipumba accused Mr Hamad of abandoning office and his responsibilities.