February 28, 2011 / 5:42 PM / 8 years ago

Tanzania leader says opposition provoking violence

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania’s president accused the country’s main opposition party on Monday of provoking violence to try to remove his government.

Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete address a news conference after meeting his Sudan counterpart Omar Hassan al-Bashir in Khartoum, September 8, 2008. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallh

Thousands of protesters took to the streets on February 24 when the opposition Chadema party held a peaceful demonstration in Tanzania’s second-largest city, Mwanza.

After the demonstration, opposition leaders gave the government a 9-day ultimatum to fix the economy, tackle bribery and deliver a new constitution or face mass protests, modelled on Egypt and Tunisia.

Jakaya Kikwete, who was re-elected in an October 31 vote marred by a record low turnout and allegations of rigging, said Chadema was trying to incite bloodshed.

“They (Chadema) want to cause chaos in this country to satisfy their thirst for power. For them, democracy is meaningless. It can wait. They now want to use force. I urge you to reject them. Do not follow them,” Kikwete said in a month-end address to the nation.

Opposition leaders told Reuters they would respond to the president’s statement on Tuesday.

Tanzania has enjoyed relative stability in a region beset by conflicts, but tension has been rising since the disputed results of the election.

Police shot dead at least two protesters in the northern town of Arusha on January 5. Kikwete’s main rival in the elections, Willibrod Slaa, and several Chadema lawmakers were detained by police and charged with unlawful assembly in the incident.

“Political parties and citizens have basic rights to hold demonstrations and public rallies. But to use this opportunity as a platform to provoke violence in order to remove the government from power forcefully is an abuse of this right,” Kikwete said.

He accused the opposition of spreading fear, adding that security forces in the country were on alert to quell any violence.

A state-owned newspaper on Monday quoted the registrar of political parties, John Tendwa, accusing opposition leaders of sedition and provoking violence.

Tendwa described Chadema’s ultimatum to Kikwete’s government as “treasonable”.

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