Since the New Year, tensions between Christians and Muslims in Tanzania have been rising. The murder of Christian pastors and the destruction of churches has only brought those tensions to their boiling point. Political leaders have called on religious leaders to engage in a national dialogue to ease these tensions. Will this work?
4/12/2013 Tanzania (The Citizen) – Political leaders have called for a national dialogue aimed at finding a solution to religious tensions in the country. Speaking in separate interviews with The Citizen, they said the dialogue should involve leaders from all faiths, senior government officials, politicians and heads of security agencies.
Some said inclusive consultations were the most effective way of easing the tensions. Others said the consultations should be preceded by a commission appointed by President Jakaya Kikwete to investigate the cause of the problem and the findings discussed during the dialogue.
The views come a few days after the chairman of the Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD), Mr James Mbatia, said the centre would convene a meeting later this month to discuss the issue.
“We have collectively agreed with religious leaders to discuss the tense situation and find a solution…Tanzania is our motherland whose immediate future should be our primary concern…politics and political parties should take the back seat,” he said.
However, only political parties with MPs are members of TCD.Mr Mbatia, who is also the national chairman of the opposition NCCR-Mageuzi, said TCD initiative was not intended to counter other efforts being made to address the matter.
The chairman of the Movement for Justice and Prosperity party (Chausta), Mr James Mapalala, said the issue had assumed serious proportions that requires the intervention of the President himself. “It is the President who should initiate and convene the national dialogue,” Mr Mapalala, a veteran politician, said.
The secretary-general of Chama Cha Kijamii (CCK), Mr Renatus Muabhi, advised the government to have the nation’s interests at heart when addressing the problem. This includes a revisit of the principles of unity and human dignity as established by founding President Julius Nyerere.
He said the nation had reached this stage because patriotism and love for the country has waned among Tanzanians.
“When you see Christians, who have always accepted the fact that Muslims should slaughter animals, start demanding that right themselves then you must know that religious intolerance has reached alarming levels,” Mr Muabhi said.
Tanzania Labour Party secretary-general Jeremiah Shelukindo told The Citizen that there seemed to be a competition among some groups on who would be the first to disrupt peace and security.“The government should investigate the source of the problem and bring together religious leaders to discuss the way forward. A consensus should eventually be signed into law,” he added.
CUF national chairman Ibrahim Lipumba said national leaders should be brought together for discussions to be chaired by President Jakaya Kikwete. “This would will help to create and maintain trust among Tanzanians of all faiths,” Prof Lipumba said.
He said current religious tensions were being fanned by religious leaders, adding that ordinary Tanzanians of different faiths had all along been living peacefully side by side.“Religious leaders are the problem. The only way to end this intolerance among themselves is talks,” he said.CCM Secretary for Ideology and Publicity Nape Nnauye also said religious leaders should to meet for talks and find a permanent solution to the situation.
Mr Nnauye told The Citizen the laws that could be used to address the problem existed, but what was lacking was the will to accept them across the board.“As a party, we have members of different faiths who currently have good relations…if the current religious tensions persist, then we have to be really concerned about the future,” he said.