Tanzania: Chaos and tear gases as constitutional review starts

By Own Correspondent, Dodoma – By all means and depictions, this may be called a wrong footing for the constitutional review in Tanzania, a second nation within the East African Community to embark into a major project to enact a new constitution. Kenya’s recently enacted constitution was similarly chaotic.

The chaotic scenes marred both initial hearings of a proposed draft Bill for Constitutional Review which were held in Dar es Salaam and Dodoma. Shout-Africa.com witnessed hundreds of people in Dodoma, the political capital of Tanzania stranded outside the Parliamentary Building as the Msekwa Hall where the hearings were held was full to its capacity.

While in the country’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam our sources confirmed the hearing had to be terminated following booing and yelling against some contributors understood to be pro government in Dodoma the situation was much worse as the police force was forced to use tear gases and live bullets to disperse hundreds of angry people.

By accident or a separate incident, it appeared that most of those stranded outside were University students from various higher learning institutions especially the newly erected Government University of Dodoma.

Speaking to Shout-Africa.com amid chaotic scenes and stiff exchanges between them and security officers, some of the students claimed that a plot was set by the government to allow only a dozen common people fill the small hall, instead of them who could meaningfully contribute and disturb government’s position.

“You know the Bill itself is printed in English language only which most Tanzanians do not understand. We as intellectuals are better placed to discuss it, but they plotted some illiterate people from town to fill the room and we are now blocked outside,” said one angry student from the University of Dodoma.

After the huge crowd repeatedly defied policed orders to vacate the Parliamentary grounds and started singing revolutionary songs tear gas and live fires were used and some of them were seen arrested temporarily.

The actions could not demoralize the determined students who later on were found reconvened at Nyerere square grounds in the city centre where they strategized to go back to the Parliamentary grounds in the afternoon sessions but when they did so heavily armed police used tear gas to disperse then again.

Shout-Africa.com visited the University of Dodoma main campus yesterday evening and found that the highly charged students were all condemning the government for curtailing their rights.

While the hearings were set to continue today Friday, a morning survey of the city established that security was seen to be intensively high in both Dodoma down town and in key areas  especially after the arrival of President Jakaya Kikwete who will be in the city for some days to chair separate high level party sessions.