Tanzanian prime minister Edward Lowasa has called on opposition political parties to concentrate on resolving their problems and consolidate inter-party democracy. This, he says, will challenge the ruling party to help improve the living conditions of the average Tanzanian. Observers say incessant infighting has weakened opposition parties since the inception of multiparty democracy 14 years ago. He urged politicians, participants, and the average Tanzanian to contribute to national unity and a peaceful atmosphere. Hamad Rashid-Mohammed is the minority leader in Tanzania’s Parliament; he spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about the prime minister’s recent statement.
“This call is not new, and it is always manipulated by the differences of our political parties. They are always manipulated by the ruling party because the opposition are very weak in terms of resources, in terms of the management, in terms of the capacity and so on and so forth. Not only that, the government in power always used the armed forces, security forces, while we in the opposition, we don’t have that facilities. So somebody can say the opposition is very weak but I think we are strong. For example, now we are only 42 in Parliament and we have united as a group of opposition. And we are more effective than the ruling party, I can tell you.”
Mohammed said the opposition parties were trying to understand each other’s differences.
“First of all, to have differences in politics is part of democracy. And everybody sees his policies that are the right policies. For example GAF, we believe on the liberal policies; the Chidema believes on the conservative policies. So these are the differences. But in Parliament it’s very easy to unite by ourselves. What we are trying to do now is to share our differences and unite ourselves in the fourth coming elections. I hope this time it works. But that not enough, my friend; the resources is the key. Government in power gives the ruling party all the advantages, which they wanted to have from the government. Even if we are united, in order to cover Tanzania, you need to have a minimum of 25 billion Shillings (about $19 million). In these general elections, the previous elections, CCF (ruling party) had more than 35 billion shillings, while the opposition, in total we had hardly two billion shillings. So even if we are united, still we have a problem about resources.”
Mohammed said press freedom in the country could be improved.
“So far things are not very bad compared to previous years. But we have a long way to go because we have to change the mindset of the armed forces, we have to change the mindset of the security organizations, we have to change the mindset of the government…. Still they feel that they are in the revolutionary days, so we have a long way to go I think. Still is premature to say anything. I think the ruling party is taking us for a ride, to think that they can rule forever because they have the machinery. They have the media; I can tell you the media is a hundred percent covering them, we have a serious issue in Parliament, which are presenting on corruption and other issues, but our coverage is very, very minimal compared to the ruling party. So we have a long way to go…. We have a very good Constitution, I can tell you we have very good laws but to have a good law and to practice the laws are different stories.”
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