Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan has lifted a six-year-old ban on political rallies. Her predecessor, the late John Magufuli, banned public rallies in 2016, one year after he came to power, saying they could escalate into violence.
The president made the remarks at State House Tuesday during a meeting with leaders of political parties.
“Our responsibility is to protect you to hold political rallies peacefully, finish well and leave safely, the president says. “Your responsibility as a political party is to follow the laws as they say. Let’s do mature politics. Let's do politics to build and not tear down,” she said.
Since coming to power after the death of her predecessor John Magufuli in 2021, Hassan has taken steps to break away from his policies, which were seen as muzzling political dissent. Benson Singo is the deputy secretary of the Party for Democracy and Progress, better known as Chadema.
He said, “We are not celebrating this because it’s our right. We were delayed in conducting our duties as political parties, which is our right according to the law. Singo adds that what we need to come together as Tanzanians to push our leaders, who swear to administer and protect the law and should follow the laws.”
Some opposition politicians say the president’s move should be a foundation stone for democracy in the country. Abdul Nondo is a youth wing national chairperson of the opposition Alliance for Change and Transparency Party.
Nondo said, "As political party leaders, political parties should use this loophole to make sure that we will demand big reforms in our laws and constitution so that all these rights that some leaders have been breaking will be protected. He added that we should make sure there will be no other leaders in the future who come and use their words to break people’s rights.”
Kumbusho Dawson, executive director of Reach Out Tanzania, a non- government organization advocating for human rights, said he is optimistic about the future.
"It is something that is good for the nation because political parties can explain the people's problems and present their policies, he says. But also, Dawson adds, the president clearly explains the issue of continuing the new constitution process; all of these will contribute to removing oppressive laws," he said.
In previous speeches, President Hassan has touched on key issues affecting Tanzania, particularly democracy, raising hopes for change. Implementing these changes may yet prove to be a challenge. Despite the president’s different approach, she is from the same party as Magufuli and will still need its backing.