No room for opposition: Tanzania lawyer loses job at top firm and position at the roll of advocates

Tanzania opposition leader Tundu Lissu. [File]

A Tanzanian lawyer and former President of Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) has been permanently removed from the roll of advocates just a day of losing her job at IMMMA Advocates.

Ms Fatma Karume shared on Twitter a letter that was sent to her by IMMMA Advocates terminating her partnership on the grounds of her involvement in political activism, making politically motivated statements and communication on the social media and other platforms.

“6 lawyers draft and sign a cease and desist letter to another lawyer for daring to express herself on the regression of democracy and rule of law in Tanzania dubbing it “political activism”, seemingly clueless of one’s Constitutional right to freedom of expression,” tweeted Karume.

Karume has also accused the firm of double standards saying that the firm did not take the same action for a partner who was a minister in the previous government.

“If you defend the rule of law, democracy in a dictatorship you are dubbed a “political activist” and terminated in breach of a deed of partnership by IMMMA a law firm that had no qualms flaunting a partner sitting as a Minister in the ruling CCM. Ethics are a rare commodity,” tweeted Karume.

However, the move by the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), Advocates committee to permanently remove her from the roll of advocates camas as a shocker owing to the fact she was president of TLS just a year ago.

On September 20, 2019, the High Court of Tanzania indefinitely suspended Karume from practising law within Mainland Tanzania. Her suspension was in response to allegations of misconduct following her written submissions in a constitutional challenge to the President’s appointment of Professor Adelardus Kilangi as the Attorney General of Tanzania.

According to the Lawyers for Lawyers organization, it was unjustified to “adjudicate the complainant” because Ms Karume was not accorded the chance to respond on record in court.

“The court’s actions and her continued suspension infringes on Ms Karume’s rights and obligations without affording her the fundamental right to be heard, as recognized under regional and international standards,” read a statement by lawyers for lawyers.

Even though Karume’s door to practising law has been closed by arbitrary directives, she now speaks more like an activist than a lawyer and says the regime will not continue without being challenged.

“In 2016 Magufuli said by 2020 the opposition will be dead. And indeed the CDM and CUF saw it as a woodcutter. But there are a few people we stopped and started the movement to fight for democracy. We are really doomed but it is 2020, and the opposition is alive. It does not pass unchallenged,” tweeted the lawyer.

Tanzania has seen a new political age in the President Pombe Magufuli regime where basic freedoms of expression are under threat. 

The Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has recently announced a new set of rules that increase government control over locally and foreign  owned media houses.

Other restrictions have targeted online content and the vagueness of the laws opens so many loopholes to land citizens in trouble for sharing content online.

The restrictions prohibit information that threatens national security, harms reputations of the country and promotes public demonstrations or public order and one that could harm the national currency.

With elections set for October 28, Tanzania’s democracy will be put to test even as opposition parties continue being frustrated when carrying out campaigns. 

Thousands of opposition aspirants have also been disqualified from running for political seats in what was termed by Chadema presidential aspirant Tundu Lissu as “unjustifiably against legal procedures and rules”.