Opposition MP Jailed In Tanzania
It was not long after President Magufuli’s election in 2015 that questions emerged regarding his democratic credentials. A string of media shut downs, prosecutions and the suspension of protests and rallies revealed the new incumbent’s extremely low levels of tolerance for criticism and opposition.
In 2018 it is a dangerous time to be an opposition politician in Tanzania. The latest to feel just how much times have changed since 2015 is MP Joseph Mbilinyi who, along with Chadema’s party regional secretary Emmanuel Masonga, has this week been jailed for five moths for defaming the President.
The charges related to comments they allegedly made, but deny, that link President Magufuli to the attempted assassination of opposition MP Tundu Lissu and the disappearance of several opposition supporters. As Lissu continues his recovery in Europe, little has been established as to his attackers and he has himself laid blame at the door of Magufuli’s administration stating: “I have been a Magufuli critic since 2015; in my view that is the reason for my shooting”.
It is not surprising the opposition is being dealt with harshly, after all in December 2017 the authorities even threatened to shut down churches which mix religion and politics, after cleric Zachary Kakobe expressed concern regarding the country’s path to becoming a one party state under Magufuli during a Christmas sermon. In fact, all walks of life now appear to be subject to censorship. Last year Tanzanian rapper Emmanuel Elibariki, who performs as Nay wa Mitgeo, was arrested following his release of a track entitled ‘Wapo’. The song asks whether there is “still freedom of expression in the country”. The response by the authorities suggest not.
With the next election still two years away and the space for dissent and criticism of the ruling party already so restricted, it is going to take a brave and creative approach from opposition parties and civil society alike to ensure a free and fair election in 2020.