Tanzania's Main Opposition Party Holds First Major Protest In Several Years, After Ban Was Lifted

The party's deputy chairman, Tundu Lissu, front, and supporters of Tanzania's main opposition party, CHADEMA, protest in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. The party is demanding a change in the constitution to allow presidential election results to be challenged in court and similar changes to be included in amendments in electoral laws that were tabled in parliament in November. It was the first time in seven years that leaders of an opposition group had been allowed by to hold a major demonstration. (AP Photo)
The party's deputy chairman, Tundu Lissu, front, and supporters of Tanzania's main opposition party, CHADEMA, protest in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. The party is demanding a change in the constitution to allow presidential election results to be challenged in court and similar changes to be included in amendments in electoral laws that were tabled in parliament in November. It was the first time in seven years that leaders of an opposition group had been allowed by to hold a major demonstration. (AP Photo)
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DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (AP) — Hundreds of supporters of Tanzania's main opposition party marched in the commercial capital Wednesday in the first such demonstration since political gatherings were banned several years ago. They seek changes to the constitution and election laws ahead of elections next year.

It was the first time in seven years that leaders of any opposition group were allowed to hold a major demonstration since late President John Magufuli took power in 2015 and barred political rallies and protests. President Samia Suluhu Hassan lifted the ban last year as part of her reconciliation strategy after taking office in 2021 following Magufuli’s death.

The Chadema party wants the constitution to be changed to allow presidential election results to be challenged in court. It also wants electoral laws amended to prevent the president from selecting members of the electoral commission.

The opposition party also called on the government to address the high cost of living in the East African nation.

Waving placards and blowing whistles, the demonstrators peacefully marched in the streets of Dar es Salaam under heavy police protection.

“We are complaining that the government of (the ruling party) CCM is not listening to the people who want a change in constitution and interventions to the runaway cost of living,” Chadema chair Freeman Mbowe said.

He called for the withdrawal from parliament of proposed amendments to electoral laws until opinions from the public are incorporated.

“Police have not disrupted the protest because they understand our quest," he added.

Under Magufuli, opposition party meetings and demonstrations were often violently disrupted by police, and their leaders arrested. Top Chadema leaders Mbowe and deputy Tundu Lissu were attacked by unknown assailants. Both asserted that the attacks were politically motivated.