Tanzania News Makers

Freeman Mbowe (Leader Of Opposition, Parliament Of The Republic Of Tanzania)

Freeman Aikaeli Mbowe is the current leader of opposition in Tanzania. The vocal opposition stalwart hails from the largest opposition party, Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) the Swahili meaning of Party for Democracy and Progress.

In Parliament, Mbowe represents Hai District in Kilimanjaro region in Northern Tanzania.

He is also the chairman of the center-right party whose political ideology is tinged on transparency, conservatism and economic liberalism since its formation in 1992.

In 2005, he participated in the presidential race against former President Jakaya Kikwete of the ruling Chama Cha Mapenduzi. Mbowe emerged third out of ten candidates with 5.88% of the vote.

He returned to parliament in 2010 where he has since built a formidable opposition base in a house where CCM has eternally maintained a majority. He is known as a solid opposition voice which has given the ruling party a degree of balance despite its majority.

In the current parliament, CCM has 252 MPs, 70 for Chadema while Civic United Front (CUF) has 42 members.

In September 2016, Mbowe made international headlines when he attempted to mobilize nationwide protests against the new government of President John Magufuli under a pressure group named Umoja wa Kupambana na Udikteta (Ukuta), loosely translated as coalition against dictatorship. The UKUTA acronym for the lobby also means wall.

Mbowe’s Chadema accused Magufuli of starting to exhibit “dictatorial tendencies” after a new Cybercrime law sought to limits freedom of expression; a ban on political activities and the sacking of public officials without due process.

Although the protests neither caused revisions within the law or the lifting of the ban on political gathering, they exposed the rights abuses of the new government and its intolerance to dissent.

In 2018, Mbowe and the others were charged in 2018 with sedition, unlawful assembly and inciting violence, among other offences, over a rally in which police fired live rounds to disperse Chadema supporters demanding accreditation in a local election.

Some of the charges were linked to a speech Mbowe gave during the demonstration in which he said President John Magufuli would not last long in his job.

In March 2020, court in Tanzania found the group guilty of the offenses and  sentenced them to jail unless they raised TShs350 million ($152,000) in penalties.