Tanzania’s President John Magufuli after inspecting a guard of honour in Kenya. Picture: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters
Tanzania’s President John Magufuli after inspecting a guard of honour in Kenya. Picture: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Tanzanian politicians jailed for insulting president

By Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala Time of article published Feb 26, 2018

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Dar Es Salaam- A court in Tanzania

sentenced two opposition leaders to five months in prison on

Monday for insulting President John Magufuli, a decision likely

to fuel criticism that authorities are undermining democracy and

stifling free speech.

The court in the southern highlands convicted Joseph

Mbilinyi, a lawmaker from the main opposition CHADEMA party, and

local leader for the party Emmanuel Masonga for using abusive

language against the president at a public rally in December.

Court documents seen by Reuters show that Mbilinyi was

accused of associating Magufuli with an alleged assassination

attempt on vocal opposition MP Tundu Lissu last year.

Lissu, a fierce critic of Magufuli's government, was shot

several times by unknown gunmen in the administrative capital

Dodoma in September. He sought treatment abroad and has yet to

return.

Magufuli condemned the attack on the opposition lawmaker and

called for a swift investigation.

"Mbilinyi ... used insulting language against President John

Magufuli ... likely to cause breach of peace," said part of the

charge sheet.

According to Tanzania's penal code, "any person who uses

obscene, abusive or insulting language to any other person in

such a manner as is likely to cause a breach of the peace" faces

a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

CHADEMA's deputy secretary general John Mnyika told

reporters on Monday that the opposition party would appeal

against both the convictions and sentences.

The United States, European Union and several Western

embassies in Tanzania last week voiced concern over

politically-related violence and allegations of human rights

abuses.

"We note with concern recent developments which threaten

democratic values and the rights of Tanzanians in a country

which is widely respected in the world for its stability,

peacefulness and freedoms," the European Delegation to Tanzania

said in a statement on Friday.

But the criticism is unlikely to hurt the government

politically, since it remains in an electorally strong position.

Three people, including a university student, were killed

over the past few weeks in various parts of Tanzania in

politically-related incidents, according to opposition leaders.

An opposition figure and a journalist have also disappeared.

More than 10 people, including university students and a

lecturer, have been charged in court over the past two years

with insulting the president via social networking platform like

WhatsApp.

Insulting the president on social media was made a criminal

offence under a cyber crimes law passed in 2015 before Magufuli

came into office. 

Reuters

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