Chairs thrown as brawl disrupts CUF meeting

A brawl broke out at the opposition Civic United Front’s (CUF) national congress in Dar es Salaam yesterday, forcing officials to indefinitely postpone scheduled elections of the party’s top leadership following disagreement over the exclusion of ex-chairman Prof Ibrahim Lipumba from the ballot.

Civic United Front Secretary General Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad and party’s top brass enter at the general meeting which will elect party’s chairman held in Dar es Salaam yesterday
The meeting ended in disarray last night as chairs were thrown and a verbal war erupted.

The internal party leadership elections were disrupted after a group of party members stormed the Dar es Salaam venue to apply verbal pressure on current party chiefs to make way for Lipumba’s reinstatement.

It could not be immediately established when the CUF leadership election process would resume after it was indefinitely called off last night.

Both Lipumba and the CUF secretary general, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, were rushed away to safety by their respective supporters after the fracas broke out in the conference room.

The Lipumba supporters spared little voice in making their presence felt by constantly singing songs of praise for the former chairman and chanting their views that he is the only person capable of handling the chairmanship role.

Some wore t-shirts printed with the Kiswahili words ‘Prof Lipumba Kwanza Mambo Mengine Baadae’, which literally translates to ‘Prof Lipumba first, the rest will follow’.

These antics appeared to annoy other party members attending the meeting, leading to a protracted war of words between various factions of members. The police later turned up and arrested at least one person, taking him away with them.

Over 800 party members from across the country were there for the gathering which started at around 11 am, with Prof Lipumba arriving much later at 2.45 pm accompanied by a large contingent of his supporters within the party.

According to CUF’s director of elections and planning Shaweji Mketo, top of the agenda for the meeting would be the election of a party national chairman and vice chairman to fill the vacancies left after last year’s departures of Prof Lipumba and Juma Duni Haji respectively.

Both quit in the midst of highly heated campaigning for the country’s presidential election in October. Lipumba resigned on August 6 in protest against the endorsement of ex-prime minister Edward Lowassa as the presidential candidate for the UKAWA opposition coalition.

On the other hand, Haji – who was then CUF’s vice chairman for Zanzibar - ditched the party to join another opposition party , Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA).

Mketo said the party’s central committee had passed three names of nominees - Twaha Taslima, Juma Nkumbi and Riziki Mngwali – to contest the post of national chairman at yesterday’s election.

Two names - Musa Komba and Salim Abdallah Bimani - were meanwhile approved to vie for the position of vice chairman, he added.
“Our constitution doesn’t allow any member who ditched the party in the manner of Juma Duni Haji to contest any post within the party’s leadership for at least two years,” Mketo said.

When announcing his resignation from the party chairmanship at a press conference last year, Prof Lipumba said he had formally informed the party’s executive committee, led by secretary general Seif Sharif Hamad, of his decision well in advance.

"I will nevertheless remain an ordinary member of CUF - my membership card is valid until the year 2020. I ask fellow CUF members to understand my position and forgive me because I understand they had a lot of trust in me,” he told reporters at the time. He said he intended to continue to offer advice on issues of national interest including improvement of healthcare, infrastructure, agriculture and education, among others
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