Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan lifts ban on political rallies

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan has lifted a six-year ban on political rallies imposed by her hard-line predecessor, John Magufuli.

Her decision is part of her 4Rs initiative – Reconciliation, Resilience, Reforms and Rebuilding.

She acknowledged parties had the right to hold rallies but she urged them to be “civil” and not to “trade insults”

Mr Magufuli had banned rallies in between elections in what was seen as an attempt to weaken the opposition.

He dismissed rallies as a waste of time and money, and said they detracted from the key challenge of building the economy.

Mrs Samia announced the reversal of his policy at a meeting with opposition politicians.

“Our duty as a government will be offering protection for the rallies,” she said.

The chairman of the main opposition Chadema party, Freeman Mbowe, said he welcomed the announcement.

“The move is first of all a return to a right guaranteed in the constitution and our laws,” he added.

Mr Mbowe spent seven months in prison, before the prosecution dropped charges of terrorism against him in March 2022.

His arrest had raised doubts about Mrs Samia’s commitment to reforms after she became president following Mr Magufuli’s death in 2021.

Anther opposition politician, Zito Kabwe, told AFP news agency that the president’s decision to lift the ban was a “big move”.

“This is the right that was snatched by the state through an illegal presidential decree,” he added.

Mrs Samia also promised to look into opposition demands for changes to the constitution.

Opposition parties say the constitution gives too much power to the president. They also want changes to safeguard the independence of the electoral commission and the courts.

Mrs Samiah is the leader of the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), which has been in power for more than half a century.

It has often been accused of rigging elections, and of harassing and intimidating the opposition. It denies the allegations.

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