Tanzania: Political Thuggery Under Scrutiny Ahead of Polls

Dar es Salaam — Political parties and analysts have condemned violent acts targeting members and leaders of political parties ahead the General Election on October 28, 2020.

This came shortly after video clips went viral on social media showing assets belonging to an opposition candidate for Chato constituency touched.

Geita Regional Police Commander Sikoki Mwaibambe confirmed the incident, saying a group of seven to 10 people stormed the home of Chadema parliamentary candidate for the constituency, destroyed a perimeter fence, torched a shed in which his tricycle was parked.

He said, however, that the tricyle was not destroyed and that the police were investigating the incident.

Chadema also issued a statement confirming the occurrence of the incident and condemning the violent act which it said was a threat to the safety and security of its candidates and leaders.

"Chadema considers Chato's incident and those that happened in Kahama as a threat to the safety of the party's presidential candidate Tundu Lissu. We consider it to be a deliberate and clear sign of disruption of the General Election," the statement reads.

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Speaking to Mwananchi newspaper yesterday, the chairman and presidential candidate for Chama Cha Ukombozi wa Umma (Chaumma), Mr Hashim Rungwe, condemned the acts saying they were a threat to the country's peace and security.

"We condemn these violent acts and the police should act accordingly. That way, they would show them that they don't entertain such behaviours," he added.

Ms Queen Sendiga, the presidential candidate for ADC Party said the acts were mostly organized by political parties and candidates who did not have proper manifestos and agendas to preach to Tanzanians.

"The party or candidate with an attractive manifesto and agenda for the voters does not have time to create such kind of acts," she noted.

She advised the political leaders and candidates to focus on asking voters to put them in office via the ballot.

For his part, a political analyst from the University of Dodoma (Udom), Dr Paul Luisulie, said the incidents have been occurring since the beginning of the election campaigns.

He condemned the incidents, saying that they cause political unrest among parties as they end up placing blame on each other and creating animosity.

According to him, the act have tarnished the image of Tanzania, which is known as a peaceful country.

The national coordinator for Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC), Mr Onesmo Olengurumwa, said these incidents create a negative image about our country and provoke the anger of citizens.

Meanwhile, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Simon Sirro ordered an immediate investigation into the claims that Serengeti Parliamentary Candidate on the ticket of the opposition Chadema, Catherine Ruge, was assaulted by members of the Police.

Speaking during a meeting with leaders of political parties from Butiama, Serengeti, Musoma and Bunda in Mara, Mr Sirro said the police was taking the claims seriously.

"We will investigate this but on the other hand, political party leaders and their followers must observe the law in the way they conduct their activities," he said.

Speaking before the IGP, Ms Ruge complained about police's physical attack and sexual harassment on her when she visited the returning officer's office to follow up on her request over the rearrangement of campaign schedules.

According to her, she suspended her election campaigns since September 28 this year due to illness."A policeman attacked me (she names him by name). They even tore my clothes off during the incident," said Ms Ruge.

She explained that after recovering from her illness, on October 2, she wrote to the returning officer in Serengeti requesting some changes on her campaigning schedule, but she received no feedback. That was why she decided to physically visit the office.

"On October 8, this year, Chadema leaders followed up on the letter but they were not given cooperation that was why I decided to go. And while I was sitting on the bench in the office, I was suddenly attacked by police and remanded, but I was later released on bail," said Ms Ruge.

She said in that incident, other five Chadema leaders including party's Serengeti District chairman Francis Garatwa were remanded.

Returning officer explains the incident

Explaining the incident, the returning officer for Serengeti Constituency, Ms Rebeca Msambusi, said she was forced to call the police for help after the opposition parliamentary candidate was accompanied by other party to her office.

Ms Msambusi, who doubles as public service officer at Serengeti Municipal Council, further explained that prior to the incident, her office had earlier held meetings with the representatives from both Chadema and CCM and discussed the matter of which they agreed that the new campaigns schedule would be released yesterday (Tuesday).

"I also told them that such matters were supposed to be handled between the returning officer and the parties' secretary generals or campaigns managers, and not aspirants, but they refused to comply with the election regulations, so I had to call Police," said Ms Msambusi.

Additional reporting by Beldina Nyakeke and Anthony Mayunga

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