DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania threatened on Monday to disband an opposition-led municipal council if it continued to defy the government and maintain membership in a global initiative aimed at creating more open government.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli, has been accused by rights groups of cracking down on opposition. He denies the claims, saying his government respects democracy.
The Kigoma Ujiji Municipal Council in northwestern Tanzania run by a relatively small opposition party, ACT-Wazalendo, has vowed to remain in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) as a sub-national member despite central government’s withdrawal.
But the government warned the leader of ACT-Wazalendo, Zitto Kabwe, in parliament on Monday that his party would lose the municipal council if it did not immediately withdraw.
“A municipal council cannot refuse to comply with a decision made by the central government,” Tanzania’s Good Governance Minister, George Mkuchika, said in parliament.
“If they (council) continue to communicate with OGP as they are doing now, the government will take stern measures ... which may include disbanding the municipal council. Don’t force us to go there.”
The East African nation joined the OGP in 2011 to promote transparency and accountability in government spending, but withdrew in July. It said it wanted to focus on participation in APRM, a similar peer review system for African governments.
The 75-member Washington-based OGP aims to secure commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
The leader of ACT-Wazalendo criticised the government move.
“Forcing it (the municipal council) to withdraw...is unconstitutional because the central government is interfering in the affairs of local government,” he said in a statement.
Magufuli has been praised by some Western countries for curbing corruption and wasteful government spending since taking office in Nov 2015.
Reporting by Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala; Editing by Elias Biryabarema