Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan and opposition leader Freeman Mbowe pledged to heal rifts and buttress democracy as they met hours after Mbowe was freed from jail in a surprise move.
Mbowe, chairman of the Chadema party, was arrested last July to face terrorism charges in a case his supporters said was politically motivated and aimed at crushing dissent.
Prosecutors suddenly dropped the charges on Friday and a Dar es Salaam court set Mbowe and his three co-accused free after seven months behind bars.
Hassan had increasingly come under pressure to dismiss the case, which raised concerns at home and abroad about the state of political and media freedoms in the country.
She “emphasised the need to collaborate to build the nation, through trust and mutual respect,” the presidential office said in a statement late Friday after the two met.
“We had consensus that this country is for us all,” Hassan said, referring to Mbowe as “our relative.”
Mbowe thanked the president for “her concern,” adding: “We have agreed to build trust between us and ensure democracy so as to move ahead with proper politics and help the government to do its duties nicely.”
– Conciliatory overtures – Since Hassan took power in March last year following the sudden death of her predecessor John Magufuli, who was nicknamed “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising leadership style, she has sought to break with some of his policies.
She reached out to the opposition, vowing to defend democracy and basic freedoms, and reopened media outlets that were banned under Magufuli.
But the arrest of Mbowe along with a number of other senior party officials just hours before they were to hold a public forum to demand constitutional reforms dimmed hopes she would turn the page on Magufuli’s rule.
Recently however, the government has made conciliatory overtures to the opposition.
In February, Hassan met in Brussels with Chadema’s deputy chairman Tundu Lissu, who was the party’s candidate in the 2020 presidential election but lives in exile in Belgium following an attempt on his life in 2017.
Also last month, the government lifted a Magufuli-era ban on four Swahili-language newspapers, including Daima — a daily owned by Mbowe.
The Opposition party Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT Wazalendo) on Saturday lauded the truce between Hassan and Mbowe.
“This is leadership. The country is now coming together,” the party’s leader Zitto Kabwe said on Twitter.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, and his Tanzanian counterpart Dr. Philip Isdor Mpango are united in their views regarding a just energy transition as the global community moves towards net-zero emissions target and the need for greater international collaboration in deterring unconstitutional changes of government in Africa.
These were some of the issues discussed by both leaders at a bilateral meeting in Arusha on Sunday after Prof. Osinbajo arrived in Tanzania to speak at the inaugural session of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights for the year 2022.
According to a statement by his special media aide Laolu Akande, the duo discussed a wide range of issues of interest to Nigeria and Tanzania, including infrastructure development, trade and investment, technology, climate change, and democracy.
Speaking about the need to promote democratic governance on the continent against the backdrop of recent coups de’tat in West Africa, they emphasized the need for regional bodies on the continent and others in the global community to support actions already taken by ECOWAS leaders.
According to Prof Osinbajo, “we in ECOWAS have experienced in just under a year, 4 coups de’tat including attempts and it is disturbing because we felt we had put those things behind us, and now they seem to be coming back. “It is something that we think has to do with more cooperation. AU has been very forthcoming (in condemnation) in saying that we cannot tolerate unconstitutional seizures of power. But sanctioning these coupists without any proper ‘teeth’ has not been particularly effective.
“There might be a need for us to reach out to some of the regional bodies, development financial institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, and the EU. The EU has been quite responsive but we think that we can do a lot more just in terms of cooperation, so there is an effective deterrent if everyone agrees that undemocratic change of government is unacceptable.”
On climate change and the attendant goal of net-zero emissions, Prof. Osinbajo observed that “the major challenge is that the wealthier countries are abandoning fossil fuels and gas and some of them are already defunding gas projects”.
He said, “We in Africa will run into trouble because gas projects are important even for the transition. It is important for us to come together to oppose any situation where the wealthier countries insist that on account of going towards net-zero emissions in 2050, we should then abandon gas which is one of the major sources of energy for industry and clean cooking. We think that the wealthier countries are asking us to do what they didn’t do – use renewable energy for industry”.
The Nigerian vice president, however, noted that “on the one hand, it is important for us to keep our focus on the transition to net-zero emissions, but it is also important for the world to know that we in Africa have two challenges – climate change and development.
“While we are interested in ensuring that we meet net-zero emissions target, we are also interested in ensuring that we develop.”
On the place of technology in economic growth, Prof. Osinbajo noted that “we believe very strongly that our growth would be technology-led,” explaining that for Nigeria especially, since 2016, “there are about 6 Nigerian companies that have become UNICORNS – companies worth over a billion dollars.
“All these companies started in 2016, including Flutterwave which was recently valued at over 3billion dollars. Technology is very important to us and we have investments in broadband infrastructure across the country and consider it to be fundamental to our economic growth.
“Even with what we have done, it is incredible how many new businesses in technology have come up, startups springing up every day. It is an exciting time for us, especially for those investing in technology startups across all sectors – education, health, and FinTech. There is also financial inclusion because there were many parts of the country that banks didn’t bother to go to, but with technology, we are able to reach all of those places.”
On his part, Vice President Mpango commended West African leaders for their efforts to halt the menace of coups de’tat in the sub-region and also agreed that Africa can achieve more working in unison, noting that climate change is an example of one area leaders on the continent need to work together to address.
“The apparent wish by developed countries to abandon fossil fuel is worrisome because we are still struggling to provide the basics,” he said. “Our forests are disappearing because our people are still forced to use firewood for cooking, if we abandon gas energy, where do we go to?”
The Tanzanian vice president thanked Osinbajo for accepting the invitation of the African Court to be the guest speaker at the formal opening of the court’s 2022 Judicial Year holding on Monday.
Both leaders also agreed that the relationship between their countries has been notable over the years, adding, however, that there is room for much more improvement. For instance, it was agreed that arrangements to concretize the Joint Commission between both countries should proceed.
Dr. Mpango recalled Nigeria’s role in the fight against apartheid in Southern Africa, saying “Nigeria never abandoned her brothers and sisters in South Africa.”
He added that both countries have been working together and supporting each other internationally since 1962 including at the United Nations and in Africa. Agreeing, Prof. Osinbajo said of the time Nigeria and other African nations stood up against apartheid, “we must revitalise the time, especially with the kind of forward-looking leadership currently in our countries”.
According to him, Nigeria and Tanzania need each other adding that with the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, arguably the largest free trade zone in the world, Africans “can open up the markets and enable ourselves to profit”. He said the agreement opens more opportunities for rule-based investments.
Vice President Osinbajo arrived in Arusha on Sunday morning ahead of his speech as guest speaker at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights 2022 Court Opening event on Monday. His Tanzanian counterpart travelled from the nation’s capital city of Dar es Salaam for the meeting.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, will depart Abuja for Arusha, Tanzania on Sunday to attend the opening of the 2022 Judicial Year of the African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Last year, at its 15th Anniversary, the court resolved that “as a means of enhancing its visibility and engaging as many stakeholders as possible, it will convene a solemn ceremony at the commencement of the first of its four sessions of each year to mark the official opening of the judicial year”.
According to a statement by his special media aide, Laolu Akande, Prof. Osinbajo has been designated as the guest speaker at this inaugural event to be attended by leaders from across the continent and beyond. The VP will speak on the theme: “The African Court and the Africa we Want”.
The overall objective of the ceremony, according to the Court, is to provide a forum for interaction with the member states, key judicial authorities, inter-governmental, semi-governmental, and non-state actors; exchange of ideas; and reflection on the work of the Court for the year.
Eventually, the event will expectedly spur an “enhanced understanding by stakeholders of the work of the Court,” and an “increased interaction with key judicial authorities on the continent and key stakeholders,” according to a statement by the Court.
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights was established pursuant to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, adopted in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on 9th June 1998.
The Protocol came into force on the 25th of January 2004. The Court became operational in 2006, and officially started working in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and later moved to its current seat in Arusha, Tanzania.
The Mission of the Court is to enhance the protective mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights by strengthening the human rights protection system in Africa and ensuring respect for and compliance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as well as other international human rights instruments, through judicial decisions.
The Court is made up of justices drawn from the continent by-election and is currently led by Lady Justice Imani Daud Aboud, as its President. She is from Tanzania. Others include Justice Blaise Tchikaya (Vice President) – Republic of Congo; Justice Ben Kioko – Kenya; Justice Rafaâ Ben Achour – Tunisia; Lady Justice Ntyam Ondo Mengue – Cameroon; Lady Justice Marie Thérèse Mukamulisa – Rwanda; Lady Justice Tujilane Rose Chizumila – Malawi; Lady Justice Bensaoula Chafika – Algeria; Lady Justice Stella Isibhakhomen Anukam -Nigeria; Justice Dumisa Ntsebeza – South Africa; and Justice Sacko Modibo – Mali.
While in Tanzania, the vice president will also hold bilateral talks with his counterpart, Dr. Philip Isdor Mpango. The vice president is expected back in Abuja on Tuesday, 1st March 2022.
The leaders of Mozambique and Tanzania met Friday to discuss the Islamist insurgency that Maputo has called in regional forces to help suppress.
The fighting in northern Mozambique has occasionally spilled across the border with Tanzania, which has deployed troops in the country under the umbrella of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
“Tanzania has always been on our side, has always offered to help Mozambique within the scope of SAMIM,” Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said, referring to the SADC mission.
“In our talks, we looked at how our cooperating is evolving, because we are two countries and we have a common problem,” he said in remarks broadcast on national radio.
Nyusi met with Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan in the northern town of Pemba, the provincial capital of Cabo Delgado, which SADC and Rwandan forces helped Mozambique reclaim from the insurgents in August.
Neither leader revealed much of the substance of their talks, but Nyusi signalled that he wanted continued support from the region.
“The terrorists cross the common border between Mozambique and Tanzania,” he said.
“We are interested in a more dedicated approach to the problem.”
“We have seen that the enemy is improving its techniques. We want to study how our forces can deal with the enemy, with terrorism. We will soon improve our combat forces,” he added.
Hassan said that she came “to reaffirm our commitment to Mozambique.”
“Tanzania is here to work together with Mozambique in our developmental and our peace and security affairs.”
The unrest erupted in 2017, leaving at least 3,500 dead and around 820,000 homeless. The insurgents’ brutal tactics — including beheadings, mass abductions, and the torching of homes — rattled the region.
International energy companies stopped their multi-billion-dollar natural gas projects in Cabo Delgado and evacuated their staff.
Cabo Delgado is home to the largest-ever foreign investment in Africa: a $20-billion development by France’s Total.
But residents in the mostly Muslim province have yet to see many tangible benefits from the investments, which they feel flow to the government of the largely Christian country.
Hassan is trying to jump-start Tanzania’s own natural gas project, estimated at $30 billion.
As in Mozambique, the scheme would involve building a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal near vast offshore gas deposits.
“This is my personal and voluntary decision for the interest of my country, government, and my party CCM,” he said.
Hassan, who took power in March last year, had on Tuesday hinted that she would be carrying out a cabinet reshuffle to expel ministers she suspects of siding with rival politicians in the party for the election.
The speaker’s remarks last week triggered a debate over the country’s debt levels, but many people including Hassan’s supporters in the CCM lashed out at him for criticising the president.
“I did not expect someone who leads a pillar of the state to utter such words,” she said, insisting that the government would continue borrowing for development projects.
According to figures published by Tanzania’s central bank, the country’s private and public external debt stood at almost $28 billion in November, with government borrowing accounting for more than 70 percent.
Total debt amounted to $36 billion in November, it said, while gross domestic product stood at $64.7 billion at the end of 2020.
“Is there any pride in taking around a begging bowl?” Ndugai asked at a public meeting last week. “We have resorted to borrowing every day. There will come a day when this country will be sold off.”
Ndugai, who was a strong supporter of Hassan’s late predecessor John Magufuli and had also served as deputy speaker from 2010 to 2015, apologised to Hassan on Monday, saying his remarks were misunderstood.
Tundu Lissu of the main opposition Chadema party, whose leader was arrested in July and charged with terrorism offences, described Ndugai as “the most despicable speaker in the 96 years of our parliament”.
“His forced resignation, though, confirms that Tanzania has only one omnipotent & untouchable arm of the State: the President. A new democratic Constitution is an urgent & imperative order of the day!” he said on Twitter.
In June last year, Ndugai was subject to ridicule after he ordered a woman lawmaker who was wearing trousers to leave parliament because of her “strange” attire.
He also angered Chadema in May when he refused, in defiance of Tanzanian law, to expel lawmakers whose membership of the party had been revoked.
Hassan became president of the East African country after the death of Magufuli, who was nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his authoritarian leadership style and who oversaw a crackdown on dissent during his rule.
She has sought to break with some of Magufuli’s policies, but fears remain about the state of political and media freedoms in the country.
Ten people died when a boat ferrying people to a funeral in the Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar capsized, police said on Wednesday.
Another 15 people were rescued after the incident late Tuesday, and rescuers were still searching for others possibly missing.
“Rescue efforts are ongoing until we are satisfied that all people were removed from the water. There was no manifest in the boat and therefore it’s not clear how many people were on board,” local police chief Richard Mchomvu told AFP by phone.
The accident happened after the vessel encountered a mechanical problem as it was transporting people from Chakechake on the island of Pemba to the Kisiwa Panza islet, he said.
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.”