DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzanian police fired teargas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of opposition protesters marching in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, on Tuesday calling for a new constitution, police said.
There have been growing calls from opposition parties, religious leaders, civil society organisations, media and legal experts for a new constitution in Tanzania, which held disputed presidential elections in October.
Opposition leaders want to limit presidential powers, introduce electoral reforms and allow private candidates to run for parliament and president. Among their demands are a change the law to allow presidential results to be challenged in court and formation of an independent electoral commission.
“Police used excessive force to disperse our supporters. They are trying to use their guns to suppress democracy,” Julius Mtatiro, the CUF acting deputy secretary general, told Reuters.
“Despite the interference of the police, we were able to present a copy of our version of the proposed constitution to the government today and we expect them to start the process of adopting a new constitution immediately.”
Tanzania, Africa’s fourth biggest gold producer, has enjoyed relative stability in a volatile region and has held four multi-party elections since 1995, but the country’s opposition says the constitution favours those in power.
Police said the march had been banned for security reasons and that they arrested nine demonstrators belonging to the CUF (Civic United Front) party.
The demonstrators numbered about 200, police said.
“We used teargas and water cannon to disperse the crowd because police had banned the demonstrations for security reasons,” Dar es Salaams regional police commander, Suleiman Kova, told Reuters.
John Mnyika, a member of parliament from the main opposition party, Chadema, said he would table a private motion in parliament in February for a new constitution.
Opposition leaders argue the country’s principal law, adopted in 1977 when Tanzania was under one-party rule, favours the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and denies citizens fundamental rights and liberties.
Tanzania’s Attorney General, Frederick Werema, told journalists on Monday the government would only consider amending the existing constitution but not adopt a new one.