As Bishop Predicted, Main Opposition Party Boycotts Tanzania’s Local Government Elections

Image of a voting box and flag of Tanzania in the background, images symbolizing the Local Government elections held November 24, 2019

On Sunday, November 24, the East African country of Tanzania held local government elections, with the main opposition party, Chama cha Demokrasia na Mapinduzi (CHADEMA) boycotting the polls, a phenomenon Bishop Joseph Roman Mlola of Kigoma had hinted to in an interview with ACI Africa November 21.

“Things are not all that prepared because of some confusion here and there,” Bishop Mlola had told ACI Africa days to the elections and highlighted some of the challenges in the process leading to the polls, including disqualification of some candidates due to technicalities in requirements, which was interpreted as intimidation.

“Some parties have pulled out and now it is as if it will be rather for one party,” the Tanzanian Prelate had said referencing the possibility that the main opposition would boycott the elections, leaving the race for the long-ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), a situation he disapproved terming it “not good because we are a multiparty nation.”

He had prayed that the challenges would be surmounted “so that people may go to the elections freely and so the elections may be fair and free." 

Regarded as significant in offering a preview of the bigger polls, the national elections slated to take place at the end of 2020, the nationwide local government elections have eligible Tanzanians vote for their respective streets and villages’ representatives.


Citing kidnappings, beatings, disappearances and even murder of some of their ardent supporters, the President of CHADEMA, Freeman Mbowe has been quoted as saying early November, “Our party believes it is wiser not to support such electoral cheating. To continue to participate in elections of this kind is to legitimize illegality.”

In Dar es Salaam, the economic capital of Tanzania where the main opposition party seems to wield significant influence, a media report has indicated that “many poll centres were closed because the CCM candidate stood unopposed, and was therefore automatically elected.”

Echoing the words of the President of Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC), Bishop Gervais Nyaisonga, while at a past function, Bishop Mlola said, "The spokesman of the conference when we were in Shinyanga called upon both parties and those who are responsible to try to see to it that the elections will continue and it will be fair and our peace continues."

The Prelate urged the National Election Commission (NEC) which is responsible for overseeing elections to prepare themselves for the general elections while reminding Tanzanians the importance of peace. 

“We are thinking of that election (general) and the time for campaign has not yet come. All we are hoping is that the responsible people, the Electoral Commission prepare themselves before the elections,” Bishop Mlola said.  

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He added, “We are thankful to God that He has given us this peace, which can help us to do many things and that is something which we should treasure and that is something we should remind people that above all which they think to do, there is peace because when you have peace you can do a lot.” 

The Sunday local government poll had more than 19 million registered voters.

Five other political parties joined CHADEMA in boycotting the elections.

Human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have faulted Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli for overseeing a democratic backsliding in his country where there seems to be an increase in political opponents’ intimidation, passing of laws aimed at silencing government critics including the cowing of free media through draconian cybercrime legislation.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.