Former prime minister and now opposition presidential candidate, Edward Lowassa, paralysed the Tanzanian capital, Dar es salaam at the start of the week.
According to The Citizen, Lowassa who defected from the ruling Chama Cha Mapunduzi, was picking nomination forms from the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
Thousands of people jammed the streets in a procession raising tension as police Land Rovers moved around the main roads, complete with red flags, the symbol of danger.
The police, however, did not make any attempt to disperse the crowds despite an earlier warning by the Dar es Salaam Police Commander, Suleiman Kova, against procession that would start in Buguruni.
The procession was one of the largest public gathering in recent time, buoyed by the opposition coalition Ukawa’s bid for unity as the parties plot to unseat the ruling CCM in the October 25 polls.
Chadema, CUF, NCCR-Mageuzi and NLD members painted the city in their party colours as other bystanders watched from building tops in an effort to follow the drama on the streets.
Lowassa was welcomed by a jubilant crowd chanting “President! President! President!” as a cocktail of motorcycle taxis, popularly known as boda boda, which were in their hundreds, a multitude of cars and thousands of jogging supporters accompanied the former premier.
Anti-riot police were also on high alert throughout the journey to ensure peace and order prevails.
Finally Lowassa made a short statement to the crowd at Biafra, thanking wananchi for their support, “I have never seen such enthusiasm in people like today, thank you for your love and support. I’m overwhelmed; I promise to work hard for you; we are going to win in this election and together we will improve the living standards and eradicate poverty,” he said.
Lowassa also hit out at President Jakaya Kikwete’s government, saying it was responsible for the hardships Tanzanians were facing.
Addressing Ukawa supporters outside the Civic United Front (CUF) headquarters in Buguruni, Dar es Salaam, Lowassa said Tanzanians were worse off now than when President Kikwete took over from Benjamin Mkapa ten years ago.
“You know what the price of sugar was when Mkapa left. Just see how much people are now paying for a kilo of sugar,” he told the cheering crowd.
Lowassa said failure by the CCM government to strengthen the economy was one of many reasons that prompted him to leave the party.
(In pictures are the massive crowds that escorted Lowassa to pick nomination forms)
He appealed to members and supporters of the four parties under Ukawa to vote CCM out of power on October 25 and give him the opportunity to lead the country out of poverty.
Lowassa, who quit the ruling party last month, also asked Ukawa supporters to “guard” their votes and ensure that CCM does not “steal” them and deny the coalition victory.
“They’re very good at stealing votes. Let’s get 90 per cent of the votes so that if they steal 10 per cent we can forgive them,” he said.
Lowassa also allayed fears of a split following last week’s resignation of Prof Ibrahim Lipumba as CUF chairman.
He said Prof Lipumba’s departure had not weakened Ukawa, and appealed to the coalition’s supporters to maintain unity ahead of the elections.
“Ukawa is still very strong. The remaining leaders are incorruptible. We know that there are attempts to bribe them and buy them off, but they won’t succeed,” he said.
Lowassa served President Kikwete’s government as prime minister for two years and one month before resigning in February 2008 after a parliamentary probe committee linked him with the Richmond scandal.
Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe accused the government of going out of its way to divide Ukawa leaders, adding that there were attempts to destroy the coalition from within.
“A leader among us who is against our goals and ideals is not good for us. We in Chadema are not fighting for leadership posts but the liberation of this country,” he said.
CUF Secretary-General Seif Sharif Hamad, who is also First Vice President of Zanzibar, told the crowd that nothing could break their resolve, adding that unity was key if they were to oust CCM.
Chadema’s chief legal adviser, Mr Tundu Lissu, scoffed at reports that were making the rounds in social media that Mr Lowassa was not qualified to run for President.
He said the Constitution does not say that a person can only stand as a candidate if he or she had been a member of a political party for a minimum of three months.
“This claim is baseless. What both the Union and Zanzibar constitutions say is that a political party with permanent registration will nominate a presidential candidate and his/her running mate.”
Lissu, who is also the outgoing Singida East MP, said the false information was aimed at sabotaging Ukawa.
Others who have so far collected candidacy application forms from NEC include Hashim Rungwe of the Chama Cha Ukombozi wa Umma (Chaumma), the Reverend Christopher Mtikila of the Democratic Party (DP), Fahmy Dovutwa of the United People’s Democratic Party (UPDP) and Mr Lutasolwa Yemba of the Alliance for Democratic Change (ADC).