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By APOLINARI TAIRO
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President John Magufuli has changed tack. He is now seeking the blessings and support of religious leaders as key advisers on political, economic and social development.

The president has been inviting clerics to his events, including the launch of development projects.

This is a turning point after his falling out with Christian clergy over his governance and rights record and a threat to shut the churches down for engaging in politics.

The president has turned conciliatory saying: “My government is ready to hear from you as you represent a big section of the Tanzanian people,” he told religious leaders earlier in the week at State House, Dar es Salaam.

He had invited them over to air their views on various issues facing the members of the congregations.

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Archbishop Zachary Kakobe of the Full Gospel Bible Fellowship who in the Christmas sermon of 2017 said the country was “turning into a one party state” was in the delegation. The president told the clergy that political leaders were not prohibited from organising rallies in their respective constituencies.

With less than a year to the elections, Christian churches are preparing for an active role, with the Catholic Church, which has about 10 million followers in Tanzania, saying it will prepare the faithful for the election.

One of the clerics in State House, Rev Amani Lyimo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, asked President Magufuli to allow people to speak freely as a way of promoting democracy. He told the president that people fear to talk nowadays.

While responding to their concerns, President Magufuli said it was not proper for politicians to organised rallies in places out of their constituencies.

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