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Role of demonstrations in bringing change in Tanzania

Tuesday November 03 2020
Demo pic

Ukonga residents match along Pungu road in Dar es Salaam yesterday to condemn about their relatives who alleged to be assaulted by Police officers on Monday night. Police was claimed that the resident kills their counterpart officer after they found its body at Ukonga Police camp in Dar es Salaam recently. PHOTO|ERICKY BONIPHACE

Dar es Salaam. Demonstrations and protests have been widely used across the world as ways of expressing support or objection towards certain matters happening in society.

The same has been the case in Tanzania whose Constitution provides for freedom of association and assembly, among several key civil and political rights.

The question is: does this method work in Tanzania?

During the struggle for independence, Tanganyika’s leading figure Julius Nyerere organised and took part in 1959 demonstrations to demand independence from colonial rule. Since the re-introduction of multiparty democracy in Tanzania, there have been political and civil protests and demonstrations of varying degrees, whereby some turned violent resulting in arrests of people, property destruction and even injuries and deaths.

Following the failure for peaceful demonstrations by the Opposition yesterday to express their objection to the results of the just ended General Election, some analysts attempted to shed light on why this method has not been thoroughly effective in Tanzania.

Some of the most vigorous demonstrations and protests in the country’s history happened during President Benjamin Mkapa’ era (1995-2005).

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These pitted then-powerful Opposition party CUF and police officers.

The Inspector General of Police was then Omary Mahita.

In recent years, there have been attempts by the Opposition to stage protests.

In June 2016, an attempt to protest was silenced by police officers who teargassed protestors.

Another effort to stage protests – code-named “defiance rallies against dictatorial tendencies” – was called off in August 2016 after strong warnings from the government and its security agencies.

Speaking in separate interviews, analysts pointed out various factors they think cause protests to fail in recent years.

These include lack of civic education among the people causing them to be in the dark over their rightful entitlements, credibility of organizers and lack of assurance of security.

As for yesterday’s peaceful demonstrations, they were to start from Buguruni and Ubungo points and converge at the offices of the National Electoral Commission in the Central Business District.

“Protests are normally not planned for they happen impulsively, meaning the fire has not yet been lit. People are not sufficiently pressed by issues,” human rights activist Hellen Kijo Bisimba said yesterday.

Mr Deus Kibamba, who is Tanzania Constitution Forum chairman, said planned demonstrations fail in the country due to lack of appeal to the public, credibility of organizers and assurance of security.

“It is crucial to have an agenda that appeals to the people, a uniting agenda that would make them care,” he said.

Further noting the public must trust the organizers to be able to participate in their demonstrations.

“Demonstrations do not necessarily culminate into chaos, it’s science and a powerful tool used to pursue change, it’s not organized for two days, it takes a long time organise, making sure the people understand the agenda, know the routes to be taken,” he said.

“Strange but looks like, both the parties, the police and the organizers are not aware that demonstration don’t need permits, it’s only a matter of informing the police force for guidance and not otherwise, the Constitution allows right to associate,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prof Gaudence Mpangala, a political scientist from the Ruaha Catholic University (Ruhu) said the constitution allows the people to demonstrate in order to air out their grievances, however the government has banned all forms of protests.

“Whenever a demonstration is announced the police threaten to deal with demonstrators thoroughly, and in such a scenario the organizers must set aside their grievances to protect the people,” he stressed.

Earlier before the demonstration, police arrested Chadema leaders on grounds of inciting the public to protest illegally.

Briefing journalists in Dar es Salaam, Special Zone Police Commander Lazaro Mambosasa said they arrested the leaders for planning the demonstrations.

“They failed to report their plans to the police and instead they were mobilizing the people to go to the streets.

“We have therefore stepped in to stop because no one is allowed to hold protests and rallies,” he said.

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