Religious Leaders Intervention on Political Tensions in the Country
One of CCT mandates is to foster unity, peaceful coexistence and religious tolerance in Tanzania. In so doing CCT has involved itself with various interventions for the sake of conflict resolution, peace building and overall enhancement of peaceful and brotherly lifestyle, for which Tanzania is known all over the world.
Following recent developments in political landscape in Tanzania, under the shadow of 2015’s General Election fallout, the temperature has gone up. Tanzania has witnessed serious commotions in the National Assembly as both the Opposition and the Ruling Party threw tantrum; with the Deputy Speaker taking most of the blame. At its peak the National Assembly conundrum led into Opposition boycotting sessions; also a number of Opposition MPs have been barred from participating in Parliamentary sessions as a punishment for ‘misbehaving in the Parliamentary sessions’.
Tanzania has also witnessed the President banning political activities for the rest of time until the next General Election 2020. As the Government has been firm with its rulings so has the Opposition with its defiance. The Government is blaming the Opposition for incitement while the Opposition is blaming the Government for attempting to kill Democracy. It has been increasingly tense, and as time passed by, there came the UKUTA phenomenon (UKUTA stands for Umoja wa Kupinga Udikteta Tanzania, which means the Union against dictatorship in Tanzania), and as some have been looking at it; the nation was at a verge of widespread bloodshed. The tension between the two sides each with its millions of supporters was brewing into a bitter vendetta as some gestures of hatred were being witnessed in Mainland Tanzania as well as Zanzibar. Each statement from the Government courted its due defiance from Opposition, and so it went on. Despite all that none of the two seemed to buckle under pressure.
As all that was happening CCT in partnership with Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bavaria, Church of Sweden, Bread for the World and Tearfund organized Religious Leaders to muster their effort in order to sort out the situation.
The first meeting was on “Religious Radicalization” and it was essentially a seminar for Bishops on dynamics around the subject. At the end of the seminar it was decided that leaders should meet again on 20th July together with their Muslim counterparts. The second meeting was a consultative one and again under the same issue: Religious Radicalization. At the end of that consultation of Religious Leaders on Religious Radicalization, beside other resolutions, it was also decided that they meet and discuss the political situation of the country specifically on the boycott of Members of Parliament from Parliamentary Sessions (specifically sessions led by the Deputy Speaker).
The third meeting was conducted on 24th August where CCT again called a small number of Religious Leaders and discussed both the boycott and demonstration. The Religious Leaders met with Opposition and Ruling Party at different slots of a 10 hours meeting. In the meeting the Opposition was very vocal with the idea that the country is run oblivious to the rule of law and that the Government is controlling the National Assembly. Moreover the Opposition questioned the belated response from Religious Leaders on the situation. In their turn the delegation from CCM contended that the Parliament is run by rules and regulations which should be adhered to. They also questioned the wisdom of Opposition to boycott the sessions since they had not exhausted the Parliamentary procedures to deal with their case against the Deputy Speaker. After long discussion particularly with the Opposition leaders they agreed to go back to the Parliament, effective from September.
One of the resolutions of 24th August meeting was to meet the President on the next day, 25th. However it did not work out as planned. Because of that the Religious Leaders decided to meet again on 30th and decide way forward before 1st September.
As 30th of August approached the temperature increased. The Opposition, led by CHADEMA was very clear with its UKUTA message. The public was well scared as police and military forces made some displays of power in the streets. Fear must have been the most common feeling for the public in that period. By that time the Government had practically banned any sort of political meeting, internal or otherwise.
The gleam of hope shone when the leader of CHADEMA accepted to attend the 30th meeting. In the meeting with Religious Leaders the CHADEMA leadership made clear of their rationale as far as UKUTA is concerned. Essentially they stood by their opinion until the deal was struck such that they would only postpone their activity till 1st October, given that Religious Leaders will be working to sort out the matter with the President. The aim of Religious Leaders was clearly stated that they want to meet the President and convince him to meet with Opposition and talk with them to end their political differences for the sake of the peace of the nation.
Following the meeting, the CHADEMA leadership agreed and informed the public on their decision to postpone the demonstration until 1st October. Eventually what could have been a black Thursday became a peaceful day for stargazers to enjoy solar eclipse, especially what they call the ring of fire. Peace had prevailed.
Currently Religious Leaders are planning to meet the President in this September, preferably between 12th and 16th. There is a lot of optimism that the President will be willing this time to meet with Religious Leaders. Although Tanzania is not yet out of woods, in this context, there is hope that there will be a breakthrough. There is hope that before 1st October, God will grant Tanzania another chapter of Democracy maturity and political wisdom.