Tanzania's opposition has welcomed President Samia Suluhu Hassan's pledge to restore competitive politics and review the country's constitution. The longstanding demands from the opposition were ignored by her predecessor, the late John Magufuli.
The president made the remarks Wednesday at an opposition gathering celebrating International Women's Day, where she was invited as the guest of honor.
Hassan said that every journey of development begins with a step, and that progress will come gradually according to the laws and guidelines set for Tanzania. She also promised that reforms for the country are here, saying a new nation will be built with competitive politics and without violence.
Since coming to power in 2021 following the sudden death of Magufuli, Hassan has been working on changing some of her predecessor's policies, including lifting the ban on political rallies.
Magufuli's government passed various strict laws, such as the Media Services Act to censor critics, opposition politicians, and journalists. The law resulted in the suspension of four newspapers and several online media platforms.
It was also under Magufuli's rule that several opposition members were arrested and jailed for participating in political activities.
Devotha Minja, a member of the women's wing of the opposition Party for Democracy and Progress, better known as CHADEMA, said she believes Hassan will give the people democratic politics that allow citizens to choose a leader who will be announced by the Electoral Commission and will be held accountable, unlike the current situation.
Tanzanian rights activists are optimistic about the future of democracy in the country.
Kumbusho Dawson, executive director of Reach Out Tanzania, a non-governmental organization that promotes civil and political rights, said this is a big step, and it shows that the president is creating an opportunity for other political parties and competitive politics. This includes allowing political rallies, he added, saying that when it comes to the issue of a new constitution, it has been a longstanding demand. Her predecessor rejected it outright, saying he was prioritizing development.
Political analyst Deus Kibamba, a lecturer at the Center for Foreign Relations in Tanzania, said the president's comments regarding the restoration of competitive politics and constitutional review are welcome.
However, he wondered whether members of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi Party will support these moves. He said there is a trend where candidates win elections without competition, and a party that is used to swimming in such waters cannot please a president who desires genuine competition.
Meanwhile, opposition politicians and rights activists hope a level political playing field is around the corner, but expressed concerns since it's the president's party that created the current environment.