by Ben Taylor
President Samia Attends Opposition Event
In an unusual move by both sides, President Samia Suluhu Hassan attended an event organised by BAWACHA, the women’s wing of the opposition party, Chadema, in early March. The event was a celebration of International Women’s Day.
At the event, held in Moshi, the President sat next to CHADEMA national chairperson Freeman Mbowe, the person planning to remove Samia’s party from office.
The President described her presence as “unprecedented”, going on to describe Chadema as an ally in building a new culture of politics in Tanzania. “The new way of doing politics won’t be accepted immediately by everyone,” she told the Chadema women, who cheered her every word. “There are hindrances on both sides, mine [within the ruling party, CCM] and yours.”
For President Samia, the occasion signified her commitment to building a new nation after almost seven years of divisive and polarising politics under her predecessor. “For your assurance, reforms are happening that will allow us to build a new nation, a Tanzanian nation with political competition but without violence,” she explained. “That’s where we want to go.”
She revealed that her decision to lift a ban on political rallies (see TA134) was met with scepticism from CCM senior figures when she shared it with them. “I presented the idea,” she said, and “a bitter debate ensued, just like what Mbowe received when he invited me here.”
Much social media attention and argument accompanied Mr Mbowe’s announcement that President Samia would grace a Chadema function, with some describing the move as “colossal”. Recognising this controversy, President Samia told Mr Mbowe: “So, Mr Chairman, it turns out we both have conservatives in our parties.”
President Samia used the occasion to restate her commitment to reviving the stalled constitution-writing process, acknowledging that while she cannot go as fast as some stakeholders would like, the process will commence as soon as practically possible.
“Nobody is saying no to demands for a new Constitution,” she said. “Even my party has said let’s go and revive the process. So, very soon, I’ll form a committee, after consulting other political parties, that will carry it out.”
Speaking earlier during the event, Mr Mbowe drew the Presidents’ attention to how the administrative system in Tanzania has been relegating supporters of opposition parties to the status of second-class citizens, calling for deliberate interventions to change this.
“It is my hope, Madam President,” he said, “that your intention to unify the nation will be adopted by those under you, those in your government, [and] in various institutions responsible for dispensing justice in our country.”
Mbowe told President Samia that “democracy can never be optional” and that “no nation has ever prospered by embracing dictatorship and discrimination.”
He assured Samia that while remaining open to the ongoing reconciliation efforts, Chadema will stand strong in its duty as an opposition party to hold the government accountable for its actions.
Tundu Lissu makes triumphant return with Dar rally
Mr Lissu arrived in Tanzania shortly after midday, on a flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He was received by his supporters at the Julius Nyerere International Airport before leading a procession to Temeke grounds where his welcoming rally took place, attended by several thousand.
Mr Lissu thanked his supporters for the reception they accorded him, saying he’s “extremely happy” to be back in “my country.” “Living in exile, being forced to do so because you fear for your life, is the most difficult experience one can go through ever,” he stated in his 30-minute address. “These past six years have been extremely difficult not just for me but also for my family, the party and the country.”
Mr Lissu paused on his way into town to speak with some of his supporters, and later in his speech he recounted what they had said to him. “How come the price of beans is the same as that of meat?” they had asked. “The price of almost everything is up and people are demanding that they should be lowered to allow them to live.”
He then related the people’s concerns with the ongoing demand for a new Constitution, noting that almost all of the people’s problems have their foundation in the current constitution that he called “outdated and poor.”
“It is the President who is causing us all these hardships,” Lissu explained. “This is not because President Samia is evil. No, it is because the constitution we have allows her to decide how to tax us and how to spend those taxes. And it is because of such presidential power, we have been having corrupt presidents.”
Speaking during the rally, Chadema national chairperson Freeman Mbowe underlined Mr Lissu’s call for a new Constitution. However, he said, this will never happen if the people of Dar es Salaam will not stand up and actively participate in the movement, urging Tanzanians to take responsibility in defining the future of their country.
Commission to reform justice sector
President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Tuesday inaugurated a commission to review the public bodies responsible for dispensing criminal justice in Tanzania, with the goal of improving the justice system.
The President had previously announced the formation of the commission against the backdrop of complaints from activists working in the area of criminal justice, who called the system as unfair and discriminatory. The President would appear to share this view, as she described current state of the criminal justice system as “total chaos.” She added that this “is not because we don’t have ethical guidelines in this country but because those guidelines are not being observed.”
“As a consequence, people without power or money rarely get justice in this country,” she said. “They have been forced to endure things no one should endure. Money decides who gets justice and who doesn’t.”
The institutions that will form the subjects of the review include the Tanzania Police Force, the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), the Drug Control and Enforcement Authority (DCEA), the National Prosecutions Services and the Tanzania Prisons Service.
The President urged the commission to pay particular attention to the Police Force, saying that it tops other institutions in terms of complaints from the public. “If you ask 100 people what they consider to be the most problematic institutions in terms of access to justice, 70 of them will point at the Police Force,” she said.
The commission will be chaired by former Chief Justice Mohammed Chande Othman, and will submit a preliminary report by the end of May, 2023.
Other members of the commission include the former Chief Secretary Ambassador Ombeni Sefue, the president of the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) Edward Hosea, the former president of the Zanzibar Law Society (ZLS) Yahya Khamisi Hamad, the Attorney General Dr Eliezer Feleshi, the permanent secretary for Public Service Management and Good Governance Dr Laurean Ndumbaro, and two former Inspectors General of the Police (IGP) Said Mwema and Ernest Mangu, along with various others.
US Vice President Kamala Harris visits Tanzania
In early March 2023, President Samia Suluhu Hassan hosted a visit from US Vice President Kamala Harris. The visit was billed variously as an opportunity to promote trade and strengthen democracy, as well as strategy to counter the increasing influence of China and Russia in Africa.
Harris started her trip with three days in Ghana before flying to Dar es Salaam, where she met with President Samia. The two leaders spoke to the media before holding private talks.
Vice President Harris applauded the progress made by President Samia on strengthening democracy in Tanzania, describing the President as “a champion of democratic reforms in this country,” and explaining that this had expanded the partnership between the two countries. “Today, then, is part of the strengthening relationship between our countries and, under your leadership, I have full confidence that we will be able to do just that.”
“Madam President, under your leadership Tanzania has taken important and meaningful steps and President Joe Biden and I applaud you,” Harris said, standing alongside Hassan.
Harris announced $560 million in U.S. assistance for Tanzania, some of which will require congressional approval. The money is intended to expand the countries’ trade relationship, as well as encourage democratic governance.
Harris also mentioned a new partnership in 5G technology and cybersecurity, as well as a U.S.-supported plan by LifeZone Metals to open a new processing plant in Tanzania for minerals that go into electric vehicle batteries.
“This project is an important and pioneering model, using innovative and low-emission standards. Importantly, raw minerals will soon be processed in Tanzania, by Tanzanians,” she said, adding that the plant would deliver battery-grade nickel to the United States and the global market from 2026.
President Samia made several requests of her guest, including an expansion of the long-term visa program for Tanzanians in the U.S., a 10-year extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and a future presidential visit.
“Tanzanians are now anxiously waiting for President Joe Biden’s visit in Tanzania,” she said. “And please kindly convey our greetings and our invitation that Tanzania is waiting to host him.”
After the meeting, Vice President Harris visited a memorial to the U.S. Embassy bombing in Tanzania in 1998, the day a simultaneous bombing took place in Kenya. At the memorial, called “Hope Out of Sorrow,” Harris shook hands with staff who were present during the attack in Dar es Salaam, as well as the U.S. ambassador to Tanzania from that time, Charles Stith.