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President Hassan's cautious political and economic reforms are winning support but the ruling party cabal retains key powers
Tundu Lissu, Vice-President of the opposition Chadema party, is to return to Tanzania from exile in Belgium a week after Chadema leader Freeman Mbowe was released from prison and terror charges against him were dropped.
Lissu says he will return home in weeks, once he has been assured of his safety. Last month after he met with President Samia Suluhu Hassan in Brussels, where he has lived in exile since narrowly surviving an assassination attempt in 2017 (AC Dispatches 7/3/22, Freeing of opposition leader Mbowe reopens political arena).
'There is light at the end of the tunnel in Tanzania's politics, thanks to President Hassan's U-turn in the way she is handling things,' said Lissu. But he wants her to speed up the pace of political reform.
Politicians and businesspeople in Dar es Salaam say that President Hassan has been implementing cautious reforms despite the continuing influence of John Magufuli's security allies within the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) (AC Vol 62 No 15, Clearing up after the bulldozer).
The bigger political tests are to come. One of the most important is whether opposition parties are allowed to operate freely after being heavily restricted under Magufuli's presidency.
President Hassan has instructed Pindi Chana, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, to draft regulations that will govern political rallies. That has triggered concerns from opposition parties who had expected the President to be more radical, to agree to constitutional reform, an independent election commission and for a general unbanning of political rallies.
But Lissu says that the limited reforms announced by President Hassan fall short of the requirements of the Political Parties Act and that the authorities are continuing to proscribe activities by opposition parties.
'President Samia is looking for ways to avoid the clear and unambiguous demands of the Political Parties Act and the Police Force Act on the right of political parties to hold public rallies and demonstrations. She’ll not succeed,' he tweeted.
'The new regulations should remove obstacles for political parties to hold rallies,' adds ACT-Wazalendo secretary general Ado Shaibu.
In the meantime, the two main opposition parties are divided over how to continue dialogue with President Hassan who is tipped to be the CCM's flagbearer at the next national elections in 2025. Opposition parties want as much political space as possible to rebuild their structures and networks before then.
Chadema says that it will boycott a 'Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Conference' in Dodoma on 30-21 March intended as a follow-up to a December meeting of opposition forces where President Hassan was the main speaker (AC Dispatches 4/1/22, Hassan mends some fences with the opposition). ACT-W leader Zitto Kabwe is due to chair the conference, which will discuss two draft bills, for a new National Elections Act and Political Parties Act.
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