Tanzania has witnessed its first protests in years after the government lifted a ban on protests last year, in January 2023. The protests were headed by Tanzania’s main opposition party, the Chadema, in Tanzania’s most populous city, Dar es Salaam.
Tanzania’s opposition gathered in a peaceful manner, expressing a series of demands. Namely, calling for the withdrawal of a controversial electoral bill pushed by the government, for the government to address the cost of living crisis in Tanzania, and the assurance of independent oversight for Tanzania’s upcoming 2024 local government elections.
Some sources have reported the protests were attended by hundreds of people, whereas some have reported their attendance in the thousands.
In particular, the opposition has opposed a measure sought to be implemented by the government that would allow the President to appoint five of 10 members of the nations proposed electoral commission.
Presently, Tanzania’s electoral commission has 7 members, where the vice-chairperson is picked by the President.
Freeman Mbowe, the leader of the Chadema party, has stated that the protests were “just the beginning”, and that protests would spread throughout the country until their demands were met by the government.
Additionally, opposition leaders have sought a new constitution for the nation, a notion to which the government agrees. According to the opposition, the present constitution is heavily favourable towards the government. There have been a number of disagreeances as to what the new constitution should entail, as well as when it should be implemented. The government has continually delayed the constitutions implementation, which is now to take place in 2027 after the government stated there was a need for three years of ‘civic education’.
The opposition is also seeking the implementation into the constitution of a provision to allow the challenging of presidential election results in court.
The lifting of the ban on gatherings, and the pursued electoral reform by the government in general, is a part of President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s reconciliation efforts with both opposition and democracy forces in the country.
The ability to protest banned by former President John Magufuli after his election in 2015. Magufuli earned the nickname “the bulldozer” due to his strongman politics. The years between 2015 and Magufuli’s death in 2021 saw Tanzania’s political sphere tightened significantly, with the opposition facing severe restriction.
Following Magufuli’s death in 2021, President Hassan, who was Magufuli’s deputy at the time, became the president. In an effort to restore the nations democratic institutions and repair relations with opposition figures, Hassan has slowly began to implement a series of reforms.