Recently there has been a hashtag rising on Twitter and other social media platforms in Tanzania centered around elections 2020 — #77Nyeupe . This means Seven Seven (not seventy-seven!) White. 77 stands for seventh of July — which is a historic date in the history of Tanzania. The party that fought for independence on the mainland — the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) — was born on 7th of July in 1954. TANU merged with the Zanzibar ruling party Afro Shirazi Party (ASP) in February 1977 (see the symbolic 77 here?) to give birth to the current ruling party Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM)
So what is #77Nyeupe?
Dr. Benson Bagonza is an outspoken and social media savvy Bishop in the Karagwe Diocese (KAD) that belongs to the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT). He wrote in his Facebook post how as citizens of Tanzania, we have a duty to demand an independent electoral commission because so far politicians (on all sides) seem not to make this a priority. He called on all Tanzanians who want to see a truly democratic and free election to wear something white on 7th of July, as a way to demand an independent electoral commission and independent candidacy. This is in the interest of all citizens as it would protect our right to choose (vote) and be chosen as stipulated in our Constitution.
The larger question is what has become since of the guiding principles of the liberating party and the lofty promises of government of the newly independent country back in the 1960s? Do the people of Tanzania feel that they are freer, and do they see the upcoming elections as an opportunity to exercise their rights to vote for the leaders they want? Unfortunately, the climate of fear is what seems to have gripped the country. In the past month, there has been clamp down on civil society organizations, on media houses and blatant gerrymandering of constituencies in Zanzibar.
On 6th July, 2020, The Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police Commander, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Lazaro Mambosasa warned that anyone taking part in the demonstration “will be dealt with”. But #77Nyeupe is as peaceful, as non-threatening a protest as can be, by citizens, precisely because of repeated aggressive and heavy-handed reaction from the Police when it comes to citizens’ right to protest. The only call for action is to wear white, not to physically march. So why would the police feel that people wearing white is danger to the society? Is the problem with the people exercising their right to protest, or is it the demand for the Independent Electoral Commission? However, we look at this, it is unacceptable.
If today in Tanzania, a citizen will be censured for wearing white clothes, then we can be sure that we are living in a dictatorship. We will find out on 7th of July 2020 until then I will assume that we live in a not-so perfect nominally free society. IMHO