Dar es Salaam. It was the opposition coalition’s show of might yesterday, with supporters bringing business in the city to a standstill as presidential candidate Edward Lowassa and his running mate Juma Duni Haji collected nomination forms from the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
Thousands of people jammed the streets in a procession that disrupted activities in the city centre for the better part of the day.
Tension was evident earlier in the morning as police Land Rovers moved around the main roads, complete with red flags, the symbol of danger. The police, however, did not make any attempt to disperse the crowds despite an earlier warning by the Dar es Salaam Police Commander Suleiman Kova against procession that would start in Buguruni.
The procession was one of the largest public gathering in recent time, buoyed by the opposition coalition Ukawa’s bid for unity as the parties plot to unseat the ruling CCM in the October 25 polls.
Chadema, CUF, NCCR-Mageuzi and NLD members painted the city in their party colours as other bystanders watched from building tops in an effort to follow the drama on the streets. Some shops were quickly closed for fear of looting while transport to the city centre suffered disruption.
It all started in the morning at CUF headquarters in Buguruni where supporters flocked to the offices from as early as 6am. Their long wait ended at around 11.45am when Mr Lowassa arrived accompanied by his wife and daughter.
He was welcomed by a jubilant crowd chanting “President! President! President!” He then proceeded to the office where he held a closed-door meeting with Ukawa officials.
Half an hour later, the journey to NEC offices, six kilometres away in the central business district, began. A cocktail of motorcycle taxis, popularly known as bodaboda, which were in their hundreds, a multitude of cars and thousands of jogging supporters completed the show.
Mr Lowassa and his running mate had a difficult time waving to supporters who surrounded their vehicle and jostling to get a sneak peek of the two Ikulu aspirants. However, it was the national chairman of NCCR-Mageuzi Mr James Mbatia who stole the show, staying at the rooftop of his vehicle all along the journey shaking hands and waving to the ecstatic crowd.
The procession passed through some of the busiest areas of the city, from Buguruni food market to Ilala and Karume cloth market where traders had to close up shop as the river of Mr Lowassa’s supporters marched forward.
Straight from Uhuru Road the motorcade proceeded to the city centre through Kariakoo where the shops were closed as residents perched atop their buildings to witness the spectre below.
The crowd then turned left to Bibi Titi Mohammed Road and just at the first corner where the Mnazi Mmoja Hospital is located. Some medical staff abandoned their chores for some time and scrambled to the balconies and windows while others recorded the event with their smartphones.
The procession then entered the CBD which also felt the Lowassa’s storm, with workers and traders skipping work to witness the march. Government offices were not spared either, as staff struggled to take a look from the windows or atop storey buildings.
Interestingly, the crowd kept on telling the onlookers to join them. “Today is Lowassa’s day, don’t just stare at us; come and join the march no boss will fire you today,” they chanted.
Mr Lowassa finally reached NEC offices at 1.20pm where loyal supporters waited outside chanting and singing. Since the area is of limited space, some people stormed the nearby golf course at Gymkhana Club and waited for their man to pick up the forms.
After 40 minutes, Mr Lowassa came out with the forms and got into his car and the final lap of the journey to Chadema headquarters in Kinondoni, six kilometres from the city centre began. The crowd took to Barack Obama Drive and when they reached the Aga Khan Hospital also some of the medical staff stood at the balconies and looked on.
The procession then moved to Ali Hassan Mwinyi Road and afterwards Kinondoni Road, reaching the Chadema headquarters at 3pm. The party officials were forced to prolong the march to nearby Biafra grounds where there is ampler space.
All along the journey from Buguruni to Biafra, the traffic police had a hard time making sure the convoy sails through and had to stop all other vehicles and close some roads which resulted into serious jams, especially in Kariakoo and CBD.
Anti-riot police were also on high alert throughout the journey to ensure peace and order prevails.
Finally Mr Lowassa made a short statement to the crowd at Biafra, thanking wananchi for their support, “I have never seen such enthusiasm in people like today, thank you for your love and support. I’m overwhelmed; I promise to work hard for you; we are going to win in this election and together we will improve the living standards and eradicate poverty,” he said.
From there Mr Lowassa retreated to Chadema’s office where he addressed the nation in a televised meeting.