Tanzania’s police has effectively thwarted planned anti – government protests that had been scheduled for Thursday, to coincide with Union Day celebrations, the anniversary of the union between mainland Tanzania and the Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar.
Local media reported that most businesses didn’t open in Dar es Salaam, Dodoma and other major towns, as police patrolled the streets to deal with any courageous demonstrators.
Nine demonstrators, who marched in Dar Es Salaam, were quickly arrested.
Several police bosses on Wednesday warned against demonstrations, pledging to beat protesters ‘like stray dogs’.
The president, who presided over the Union celebrations in Dodoma, used the occasion to call for peace.
“As Tanzanians, we must defend our peace. We should not allow ourselves to be used by our enemies,” Magufuli said in his Union Day speech to the nation, broadcast live on state television.
“I will defend our union at all costs. We will not have mercy on anyone – inside or outside the country – who tries to destabilise us.”
The leader of the main opposition party’s Women’s Wing, Elizabeth Mambosho, was detained for inciting demonstrations on social media.
The US based organiser of the protests, online activist Mange Kimambi posted images and videos of Tanzanians marching in Germany. She added that the solidarity marches in the diaspora were to inspire courage in the Tanzanians at home to demonstrate against President John Magufuli’s regime.
Kimambi has 1.8 million followers on the social media site Instagram, where she describes herself as a “democracy activist, proudly Tanzanian”, has since converted her account into a private one.
While those who followed her before the account became private can still see what she posts, new people now have to request permission to follow her.
She has previously said she fears being harmed by the authorities if she returns to Tanzania because of her criticism of the authorities.
Union Day celebrations
Meanwhile, president Magufuli used the Union Day celebrations to elevate the capital designate, Dodoma to city status, from municipality status.
‘‘By the powers conferred upon me by the Constitution of the Republic of Tanzania, I declare that Dodoma is now a city, pending relevant legal procedures,’‘ said Magufuli.
The decision to move the capital from the coastal city of Dar es Salaam was made by the country’s founding president in 1973, but might only be realised by a determined Magufuli who has pledged to have the entire government relocate to the new capital by 2019.
Dodoma, being centrally located, is seen as a capital that would government services closer to the people.