Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan has appointed a politician dismissed for criticising her predecessor as energy minister in a cabinet reshuffle that also included the nomination of the country’s first female defence minister.
Former deputy environment minister January Makamba was sacked from the government in 2019 and forced to apologise to then president John Magufuli who died suddenly in March this year.
But in a reshuffle announced overnight Monday, Hassan, who has broken from some of her predecessor’s policies, welcomed the 47-year-old back to government and put him in charge of the strategically important ministry of energy.
Magufuli had accused Makamba of criticising him during telephone conversations with other members of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and threatened to expel him unless he apologised.
Magufuli, nicknamed “the bulldozer” for his authoritarian style, made no secret of the fact that he eavesdropped on the telephone conversations of members of his government.
Makamba, whose father is a former secretary general of the CCM, had challenged Magufuli for the party’s 2015 presidential nomination and lost.
The reshuffle, which also saw Stergomena Tax named as defence minister, the first woman to hold that position, came as Hassan seeks to draw a line under the Covid-sceptic policies of her predecessor by launching Tanzania’s first vaccination drive in July.
Although some had hoped that Hassan would bring about a new era of political freedom after the increasingly autocratic rule of Magufuli, the arrest of opposition leader Freeman Mbowe has raised fears for the future of democracy in the East African nation.
Mbowe was arrested in July and is being tried on terrorism charges, which his Chadema party describes as a politically motivated effort to crush dissent.
The ministry of energy is currently overseeing the construction of a controversial hydropower dam project in the Selous Game Reserve and is strategically vital to Tanzania, which has significant natural gas reserves.
Tanzanian police arrested several members of the country’s main opposition Chadema party on Saturday, the latest crackdown on a group pushing for constitutional reform in the East African nation.
The action follows the detention of Chadema leader Freeman Mbowe on terrorism charges that his party have branded a bid by President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s government to muzzle the opposition.
Police detained nine party members and raided its offices in the northern lakeside town of Musoma to block a planned symposium by the youth wing on constitutional change, Chadema said.
“We strongly condemn this blatant violation of the constitution and rule of law, sowing the seeds of hatred, discrimination and discord within communities,” it said in a statement, protesting at the “suppression of democratic rights” by police and other security forces.
Mbowe has been behind bars since July 21 when he was arrested along with a number of other senior Chadema officials hours before they were to hold a similar forum on calls for a new constitution.
The 59-year-old has been charged with terrorism financing and conspiracy in a case that the opposition says shows Hassan is continuing the oppressive rule of her late predecessor John Magufuli.
He is due to appear at the High Court again on Monday, although his trial has been held up by legal wrangling, with his defence team most recently challenging the legality of the charge sheet.
Referring to Saturday’s arrests, Longinus Tibishibwamu, police chief in the Mara region of which Musoma is the capital, said the force cannot allow such events to take place.
“The president has instructed that people should now focus on economic development… So such conferences will have to wait,” Tibishibwamu was quoted as saying by local media.
The leader of Tanzania’s main opposition party appeared in the country’s high court on Tuesday to face terrorism charges in a case described by his party as a politically-motivated move to crush dissent.
Chadema party chairman Freeman Mbowe and his supporters accuse police of torturing him in custody to force him to make a statement in the trial which opened under tight security, with most journalists banned from the courtroom by police.
Mbowe has been behind bars since July 21 when he was arrested along with other senior Chadema officials in a night-time police raid just hours before they were to hold a public forum to demand constitutional reforms.
The 59-year-old has been charged with terrorism financing and conspiracy in a case that has sparked concerns about the state of democracy and the rule of law under President Samia Suluhu Hassan.
On Monday, Mbowe had appeared in court to pursue a case against top legal officials, claiming his constitutional rights had been violated during his arrest and when he was charged.
Hassan’s government, citing Covid-19 regulations and security, had warned foreign diplomats against turning up to court to follow the case without notifying the foreign ministry.
Representatives from the British and US embassies were present at Tuesday’s hearing in the Dar es Salaam court, which was also attended by Chadema’s senior leaders.
The opposition has denounced the arrests as a throwback to the oppressive rule of Tanzania’s late leader John Magufuli who died suddenly in March.
There had been hope Hassan would bring about a new era of democracy after the increasingly autocratic rule of Magufuli, nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising style.
But Chadema leaders say the arrests of Mbowe and his colleagues reflect a deepening slide into “dictatorship”.
They have accused the government of meddling in the case and want the court to dismiss the charges.
Prosecutors say the allegations against Mbowe do not relate to the constitutional reform conference Chadema had planned to hold in the port city of Mwanza in July, but to alleged offences last year in another part of Tanzania.
Chadema has said prosecutors accuse Mbowe of conspiring to attack a public official, and giving 600,000 Tanzanian shillings ($260/220 euros) towards blowing up petrol stations and public gatherings and cutting down trees to block roads.
Three police officers and a private security guard were killed by a lone gunman in a shooting spree near the French embassy in Tanzania’s economic hub of Dar es Salaam on Wednesday, police said.
Head of police operations Liberatus Sabas told reporters that the motive of the gunman, who was shot dead at the scene by a police sniper, was not yet known.
“It’s too early to conclude that this is terrorism as we still investigate the motives,” he said. “Residents should remain calm as we investigate the matter.”
He said that in addition to the four dead, six other people were injured in the incident in a usually calm seaside area of Dar es Salaam that houses a number of embassies.
Footage aired on local media showed a man in a checked shirt and white Islamic cap armed with an assault rifle roaming the street near a city bus.
He was later seen being shot and falling to the ground close to the entrance of the French embassy.
“The man appeared like a sheikh with a white cap. He passed near me without greeting and when I greeted him he did not reply. He was sweating. After a short while, we heard firing,” said one witness who declined to be named.
President Samia Suluhu Hassan sent her condolences over the killings and called for police to conduct a thorough investigation.
US ambassador to Tanzania Donald J. Wright also sent his condolences over the “senseless attack”, tweeting his “deepest thanks to the brave law enforcement personnel who brought an end to the rampage”.
The incident took place shortly after Hassan had hosted a meeting in Dar es Salaam of senior police officers, where police chief Simon Sirro said that crime had gone down in the year to June.
The opposition Alliance for Change and Transparency opposition party called for the security services to fully investigate the shooting.
“As the public, we need to know whether it was a lone event or one of greater security implications for our nation,” party leader Zitto Kabwe posted on Twitter.
The US embassy in Tanzania had issued an alert as the incident was ongoing, telling its citizens to avoid the area.
The French embassy could not be immediately reached for comment.
Three young children were killed by lions near Tanzania’s world-renowned Ngorongoro wildlife reserve as they went to look for lost cattle, police said on Thursday.
The youngsters aged between nine and 11 had arrived home from school on Monday and gone into a forest near the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to search for the missing animals, Arusha police chief Justine Masejo said.
“That is when the lions attacked and killed three children while injuring one,” he added.
Ngorongoro in northern Tanzania is a World Heritage Site that is home to wildlife including big cats such as lions, cheetahs and leopards.
“I would like to urge the nomadic communities around the reserved areas to take precautions against fierce animals especially when they task their children to take care of the livestock. That will help to protect the children and their families,” Masejo said.
Tanzania allows some communities such as the Maasai, who graze their livestock alongside wild animals, to live within national parks.
However, they are often in conflict with animals such as lions and elephants which can attack people, livestock and destroy crops.
Last year, Tanzania relocated 36 lions from the Serengeti National Park after attacks on humans and cattle from the surrounding communities.
Tanzanian riot police detained a number of protesting supporters of arrested opposition leader Freedom Mbowe on Thursday, as a terrorism case against him was postponed.
Mbowe and other officials from the main opposition party Chadema were arrested last month ahead of a planned conference to demand constitutional reform.
The 59-year-old has been charged with terrorism financing and conspiracy in a case that has triggered concern among rights groups and some Western nations about rights and freedoms under Tanzania’s new leader.
Mbowe had been due to appear in court in the financial capital Dar es Salaam on Thursday via a video link from his prison but the case was postponed to Friday because of connection problems, his defence lawyer Peter Kibatala said.
Chadema supporters waving placards saying “Mbowe is not a terrorist” and “Free Freeman Mbowe” gathered outside the court.
Police responded by arresting protesters, the party said on Twitter. Images from the scene showed helmeted police bundling people into a pickup truck and taking them away.
It was not immediately clear how many were detained.
Chadema also said police had raided its regional office in the capital Dodoma on Wednesday night and assaulted a guard before making off with documents.
The party’s secretary-general John Mnyika urged supporters to turn up at the court again on Friday. “Going to court is not a criminal offence,” he said on Twitter.
Mbowe’s arrest came four months after Tanzania’s first female president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, took office following the sudden death of her predecessor, John Magufuli.
There had been hopes that Hassan would usher in change from the autocratic rule of her predecessor, nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising style.
Prosecutors say the terrorism charges against Mbowe do not relate to the constitutional reform forum Chadema had planned to hold in the northwestern city of Mwanza last month but to alleged offences last year in another part of Tanzania.
Amnesty International has joined the calls for his release, saying the government must substantiate the charges against him.
“Since President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s inauguration, the Tanzanian government has taken some encouraging steps towards allowing greater freedom of expression and association in the country,” Amnesty said in a statement on Wednesday.
“This case is a concerning development that casts doubt on whether that progress will continue or whether repression will once again be the order of the day.”
The leader of Tanzania’s main opposition party Chadema and other members were arrested early Wednesday ahead of a planned conference to demand constitutional reforms, the party said.
Freeman Mbowe and 10 Chadema members were rounded up in the dead of night in the northwestern port city of Mwanza, it said on Twitter.
“We condemn the repression of the rights of Tanzanians with the strongest force. These are signs that the dictatorship that existed during the rule of President John Magufuli continues,” the party charged.
“Freeman Mbowe was accosted by an army of police officers in his hotel when he arrived at 02:30 am and was arrested together with other leaders,” it said.
While the other Chadema members were taken to Mwanza police station, there was no information about Mbowe’s whereabouts.
“We want the police to come out and say where the chairman is and why he was arrested,” Chadema said.
– ‘Cannot continue with old order’ –
The arrests come four months after Tanzania’s first female President Samia Suluhu Hassan took office in March following the sudden death of her predecessor Magufuli.
There have been high hopes that Hassan would usher in a change from the autocratic rule of her predecessor, who was nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising leadership style.
The arrests took place after Mbowe vowed to go ahead with a meeting on constitutional reforms despite Mwanza provincial authorities banning public gatherings to contain the spread of coronavirus.
“We cannot continue with the old order,” Mbowe said in a video published on Twitter on Monday, dressed in a red shirt and beret.
“We have the right to meet but are arrested, beaten, accused and taken to court for two to three years and then freed.
“If they want to arrest all members of the Chadema party, let them first expand the jails because we are all ready to be arrested and will not request bail.”
In April, Hassan had reached out to the opposition and vowed to defend democracy and basic freedoms in the East African country, which had seen a slide into autocratic rule under her predecessor.
In November 2020, several top opposition leaders including Mbowe were briefly detained after calling for mass protests against what they charged was a rigged election that returned then president Magufuli to power for a second term.
The deeply Covid-sceptic Magufuli died in March of what the authorities said was a heart condition but his political opponents insisted he had coronavirus.
Tanzania was long seen as a haven of stability and democracy in an otherwise volatile neighbourhood, but alarm grew over Magufuli’s increasingly authoritarian rule.
The United Nations said Tuesday it was alarmed by reports that Tanzania has been forcibly returning people fleeing unrest in neighbouring Mozambique.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, upheld the right to cross borders to seek asylum and said conditions at the frontier village of Negomano in Mozambique were “dire”.
“UNHCR and partners have received worrying reports — including direct testimonies — that several thousand Mozambicans have been pushed back from Tanzania into northern Mozambique since last year,” spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told reporters in Geneva.
“This includes reports of over 1,500 returned this month.”
He said an April mission to Negomano found that most Mozambicans sheltering there had hoped to find refuge in Tanzania after fleeing deadly attacks by non-state armed groups in Palma in March.
Jihadists swooped on the coastal town on March 24. The attack marked a major intensification in an insurgency that has wreaked havoc across northeastern Cabo Delgado province for over three years as the militants seek to establish a caliphate.
“UNHCR is alarmed at reports that Mozambicans have been… forcibly returned, and prevented from seeking asylum,” Cheshirkov said.
“We call on all parties to allow free movement of civilians fleeing violence and conflict, in search of international protection, safety and assistance, including to respect and fully uphold the right to cross international borders to seek asylum.”
He said that in Negomano, many people told the UNHCR they had been detained in Tanzania, taken to a local school and interrogated by officials.
Those without proof of Tanzanian nationality were returned to Mozambique.
“The situation is particularly desperate for single mothers, now staying in Negomano without family support,” said Cheshirkov.
“The conditions at Negomano are dire and needs are acute for food, water and sanitation, and health services, but only limited humanitarian assistance is reaching the remote area.”
The refugee agency and its partners have been providing protection and basic assistance to 50,000 people in northern Mozambique since last year and plan to assist an additional 250,000 people by the end of 2021, the spokesman said.
The agency counts 724,000 people who have been forcibly displaced since the unrest started in Cabo Delgado in October 2017.
Tanzania has announced new measures to control the spread of coronavirus in a departure from the approach taken by its late leader John Magufuli, a Covid-sceptic who had downplayed the pandemic.
Travellers entering Tanzania must show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken in the prior 72 hours to arrival, the health ministry said late Monday, citing concern about new variants of the disease.
Those arriving from countries with a high number of coronavirus infections will also need to pay for an additional rapid test, though it was not specified how this criterion would be determined.
In addition, those who have visited a country with “new Covid-19 variants” in the previous two weeks will be required to undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine at their own expense.
Citizens can isolate at home, while foreigners will need to choose a government facility.
“Based on the global epidemiological situation and emergence of new variants of viruses that cause COVID-19, there is an increased risk of their importation into our country,” Tanzania’s chief medical officer Abel Makubi said in the statement.
The restrictions come nearly two months after Samia Suluhu Hassan became president following the death of Magufuli, who spent the better part of the pandemic playing down the virus, shunning masks and citing prayer for warding off disease.
The government said Magufuli, nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising leadership style, died of a heart condition in late March after a mysterious three-week absence — but his political opponents insisted he had coronavirus.
The new president signalled a departure from her predecessor’s position in April, saying it was “not proper” to ignore the disease and ordering a science-based approach to Tanzania’s Covid-19 policy.
Tanzania has not reported any Covid-19 data since April 2020. Its last record showed 509 infections and 16 fatalities.
Barely two months after reporting its first case of the coronavirus, Tanzania lifted mandatory quarantine of passengers and eased restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the disease.
Government officials have taken few measures to contain the disease, instead of promoting prayer and herbal remedies to treat the illness, drawing criticism from opposition leaders and the international community.
A selection of the week’s news photos from across the world.
From the violence during the protests in Myanmar, the very first female President of Tanzania, immigrants expelled from the United States and the enduring impact of COVID-19: these are our selection of striking news images from around the world this week.
Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Saturday led mourners in paying their last respects to her predecessor John Magufuli, who died suddenly this week after an illness shrouded in mystery.
Mourners lined the streets of Dar es Salaam to bid farewell to the late president, weeping and throwing flower petals as the casket was transferred by motorcade from a church to Uhuru Stadium where it lies in state.
Hassan, who was sworn in Friday to become the country’s first female president, led a government procession filing past the coffin, which was draped in the Tanzanian flag and offered her condolences to Magufuli’s wife.
Many wore black, or the green and yellow colours of the ruling party, but few inside the stadium or among the packed crowds outside wore face masks in the Covid-sceptic country.
“It is too soon for you to go, father. You touched our lives and we still needed you,” said one mourner, Beatrice Edward.
“We lost our defender,” said another, Suleiman Mbonde, a tradesman.
The government announced Wednesday that Magufuli, 61, had died from a heart condition at a hospital in Dar es Salaam after three weeks missing from public view.
His unexplained absence fuelled speculation that the famously Covid-sceptic leader was being treated for coronavirus abroad.
The main opposition leader, Tundu Lissu, insists his sources said Magufuli died a week earlier from the disease he long downplayed.
Magufuli had declared that prayer had rid the country of Covid-19, refused face masks or lockdown measures, stopped the publication of case statistics and championed alternative medicine, decrying vaccines as “dangerous”.
But by February, as cases soared, the president popularly known as the “Bulldozer” conceded the virus was still circulating.
While Hassan says she will take over where Magufuli left off, hopes are high she will usher in a change in leadership style from her predecessor and all eyes will be on her handling of the pandemic.
A softly spoken veteran politician, Hassan will convene a special meeting of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party Saturday, where the appointment of a new deputy is expected to be discussed.
Under the constitution, the 61-year-old will serve the remainder of Magufuli’s second five-year term, which does not expire until 2025.
She has announced a 21-day mourning period. The late president will lie in state in several locations across Tanzania before his burial next Friday in his home town of Chato.
Tanzania’s first female president Samia Suluhu Hassan on Friday called for unity after she was sworn in following the sudden death of her predecessor, John Magufuli, from an illness shrouded in mystery.
Hassan, 61, a soft-spoken ruling party stalwart from the island of Zanzibar, will finish Magufuli’s second five-year term, set to run until 2025.
Wearing a bright red headscarf, Hassan, who is Muslim, was sworn in at a ceremony in Dar es Salaam, where neither she nor the majority of attendees wore a mask, in the Covid-sceptic nation.
“I can assure Tanzanians that there is nothing that will go wrong during this time. We will start where Magufuli ended,” she said in a brief speech after she took the oath of office, inspected a special guard and received a 21-gun salute.
“Let us all be patient and unite as we move forward.”
She becomes the only other current serving female head of state in Africa alongside Ethiopia’s Sahle-Work Zewde, whose role is mainly ceremonial, whereas the president in Tanzania is also head of government.
“The times to view women as weak are long gone, we are able and more than capable,” said grocery store owner Ufo Tarimo, after the ceremony, highlighting the importance of “empowering women”.
Hassan was little known outside Tanzania until she appeared on state television on Wednesday night to announce that Magufuli, absent from public view for three weeks, had died from a heart condition.
But questions have been raised over the true cause of the 61-year-old’s death, after rumours that the famously Covid-sceptic leader had sought treatment abroad for coronavirus.
Main opposition leader Tundu Lissu insists his sources said Magufuli had Covid-19 and had actually died a week ago.
Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper, which last week reported an “African leader”, in clear reference to Magufuli, was in a Nairobi hospital, on Friday gave more details of his illness, also indicating Magufuli had in fact died last week.
The paper, which did not detail its sources, said Magufuli was discharged from Nairobi Hospital on life support after it was determined he could not be resuscitated, and returned to Dar es Salaam, where he died last Thursday.
The paper said Magufuli had initially been evacuated to Nairobi on March 8 in a medical plane suffering from “acute cardiac and respiratory illnesses.”
Hassan announced Magufuli would be buried next Thursday in his home town of Chato in northwest Tanzania.
Citizens have been invited to pay their respects at events in other cities from Saturday. Former presidents have typically been displayed in an open casket, but it is unclear whether this will be the case for Magufuli.
Magufuli had declared prayer had rid the country of Covid-19, refused face masks or lockdown measures, stopped the publication of case statistics and championed alternative medicine, decrying the vaccines as “dangerous”.
But by February, as cases soared and the vice president of semi-autonomous Zanzibar was revealed to have died from Covid-19, Magufuli conceded the virus was still circulating.
– A new chapter? – While Hassan says she will take over where Magufuli left off, hopes are high she will usher in a change in leadership style from her predecessor, nicknamed the “Bulldozer”, and all eyes will be on her handling of the pandemic.
Magufuli leaves behind a complex legacy, his popular no-nonsense attitude and anti-graft stance marred by a swing to authoritarianism in which he cracked down on the media, activists and free speech.
The opposition and rights groups have urged Hassan to change course.
“As we continue mourning, let us use this period to open up a new chapter for rebuilding national unity and respect to freedom, justice, rule of law, democracy and people-centred development,” said Freeman Mbowe, head of opposition group Chadema, in a statement Thursday.
He urged Hassan to “lead the nation toward reconciliation.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the new government “has a chance for a fresh start by ending problematic past practices.”
– ‘Hold your breath’ – But analysts say Hassan will face early pressure from Magufuli allies in the party who dominate intelligence and other key positions, and will try to shape her decisions and agenda.
“For those who were kind of expecting a breakaway from the Magufuli way of things I would say, ‘hold your breath at the moment’,” said Thabit Jacob, a Tanzania expert at Denmark’s Roskilde University.
Hailing from Zanzibar, the semi-autonomous island in the Indian Ocean, Hassan rose through the ranks over a 20-year political career from local government to the national assembly.
She was named Magufuli’s running mate in the 2015 presidential campaign and the pair were re-elected in October last year in a disputed poll marred by allegations of irregularities.