An opposition leader in Tanzania said he was taking death threats he received after urging the World Bank to withdraw $ 500million (£ 382million) education loan to the country for “very seriously” human rights reasons.
But Zitto Kabwe, leader of the Alliance for Change and Transparency (Act) party, added that he would not be intimidated by comments from the ruling party leader and other officials that his demand at the bank was an act of treason and he should be killed.
In a letter to the bank on January 22, Kabwe urged board members to suspend all loans until “checks and balances”, including a free press, free and fair elections and the reinstatement of the Controller and Auditor General, be re-established in the country.
“I do not regret what I said,” Kabwe told the Guardian. “I did the right thing. I defended young girls so that I could go to school.
Kabwe, who is currently in Canada, added: “We just wrote a letter. We were just making a point. This government reaction should be a lesson for the World Bank. This is the kind of government they are dealing with. “
On January 30, the World Bank postponed for the second time the vote on the loan, aimed at improving access to secondary education, after opposition from Kabwe, Tanzanian activists and human rights groups .
Critics said the loan would endorse the government’s discriminatory policy of banning pregnant girls from school. A US executive director of the bank also expressed “deep concerns” about the policy, asking for more time from the bank’s board of directors to discuss “serious gender issues”.
Act’s international relations official said Kabwe had received a number of threats, in “direct retaliation” for his opposition to the loan.
In a letter to World Bank President David Malpass, seen by the Guardian, Act asked the bank for assurances that any retaliation against Kabwe “would trigger a suspension of all World Bank operations and funding in the country.” .
In parliament on February 1, Abdallah Bulembo of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party reportedly called for Kabwe’s elimination, according to the BBC. His party colleagues stomped and applauded after his remarks.
“There is a man who took our problems out of the country, he should not be allowed to come back but should be killed where he is,” he reportedly said. “Betrayal! What Mr. Zitto Kabwe has done is betrayal in our country.
Speaking at a party meeting this weekend, the head of the youth wing of the CCM, Kenani Kihongosi, reportedly said that those who “defamed” Tanzania deserved to be killed.
“We are fed up with a few unnecessary people who defame our country but we are fed up with those used by the colonialists,” he said. “I urge young people to write about the good the government is doing but also not to hesitate to criticize those who undermine our nation, they are our number one enemies and they deserve to be killed.”
Act said the CCM had waged a “systemic campaign” against Kabwe, which had taken on “a dark and threatening tone”.
The country director for Tanzania at the World Bank is expected to meet his government counterparts on Tuesday and is expected to raise concerns.
In 2017, similar threats were made against another opposition MP, Tundu Lissu, before he was shot 16 times by unknown assailants, suffering from life-changing injuries from which he is still recovering. . No one has been arrested for the crime.
In November 2018, the bank withdrew a $ 300 million loan to Tanzania for secondary education, in part because of the country’s mistreatment of pregnant schoolgirls, as well as threats against members of the LGBT + community. .
Since John Magufuli became president in 2015, the government has forced girls to undergo pregnancy tests and has excluded thousands of them from school. Press freedoms and opposition activities were also restricted.