Source: The Nation (Nairobi)
By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO
Tanzania authorities finally produced investigative journalist and author Erick Kabendera in court on Monday and charged him with a crime.
However, it was not the crime everyone was expecting they would slap on him. After they grabbed him from his home in Dar es Salaam on July 29, the police said they were investigating Kabendera’s citizenship status. On Monday, however, they charged him with money laundering, tax evasion, and assisting an organised crime racket.
Kabendera is easily the brightest star in his generation of journalists in Tanzania. But that is no immunity.
Tanzania is a perilous place for journalists (and civil society activists, opposition politicians, and even independent researchers) since President John Magufuli came to the throne four years ago.
But it wasn’t paradise either before that under Jakaya Kikwete, Benjamin Mkapa, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, or even “Saint” Julius Nyerere who we and the world still admire, and we feel we are betraying Mother Africa whenever we must point out his many faults.
However, in trying to frame Kabendera as a “foreigner” masquerading as a citizen, the Magufuli government was reading from a script that has been standard for the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) since Mwalimu Nyerere stepped down in 1985. Nyerere was a doctrinaire pan-Africanist and had a very progressive view of citizenship.
In 2001, the Tanzanian government stripped the then much younger, but no less pesky, publisher, Jenerali Ulimwengu, of his citizenship. Strange, because they don’t come more Tanzanian than Ulimwengu, who had held various government positions, including being a Member of Parliament, before going into the annoying business of journalism.