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Tanzania continued to aggressively crack down on civic spaces and target the country’s opposition politicians and few remaining independent media outlets, especially those critical of the state as preparations begin for elections in 2020.

Human rights situation in Tanzania

Draconian legislation enacted since 2015 and legal and extra-judicial methods used to harass human rights defenders (HRDs), threaten independent journalism, and restrict freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association have been supplemented with measures that result in further closing the civic and democratic space in Tanzania.

New state policy emerging from the office of Magufulli has worked to stifle civilian freedoms and access to justice as the state continues to head a repressive morality campaign which seeks to marginalize citizens from their rights. Techniques for suppressing freedoms include publicised state mandates which do not serve the interests of Tanzanians, such as the ban on international travel for civil servants and the cancelling of independence day celebrations.

Magafulli has also introduced via policy an anti LGBTQ+ agenda which seeks to humiliate and torture individuals belonging to the gay Tanzanian community. Several human rights violations have been reported by people of gay and lesbian orientation in the region relating to violations to thier safety and privacy. Tanzanian indiginous groups have also experienced increased marginalization in spite of progressive precedents set by the ruling regime with nearly 50,000 Maasai currently displaced from their ancestral lands.

The information is based on our latest bi-annual report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Freedom of Association

On 23 April 2019, human rights groups called on the Tanzanian authorities to adopt and implement a National Albinism Protection Plan, to ensure that the rights of persons with albinism, an extremely marginalised group in the country, are adequately protected.

On 25 April 2019, Tanzanian authorities deported Ugandan human rights activist Dr. Wairagala Wakabi, the Executive Director of the Uganda-based Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA). According to the statement by CIPESA, the authorities detained Wakabi at the airport upon arrival claiming that they were interrogating him to determine whether he could be granted entry into Tanzania, only to deport him back to Uganda. A case has since been filed in the East African Court of Justice.

On 28 April 2019, Maneno Mbunda, an advocate with the Tanzania National Park Authority, was abducted in Arusha by unknown people and went missing for seven days. After human rights groups and the Tanganyika Law Society inquired on his whereabouts, authorities issued a press statement declaring that he was in police custody.

On 6 May 2019 Mdude Nyagali, an opposition party activist and HRD was abducted in Mbeya and found four days later tortured and brutalised.

In May 2019, a Tanzanian court repealed a law that gives presidential appointees, (the District Executive Directors) powers to become returning officers on behalf of the Electoral Agency during Election – a decision opposed by national human rights activists, who argued that returning officers were likely to favour their appointing authority during polls. Despite the repealed provisions, which the government has appealed, President Magufuli on 1 October 2019 appointed Dr. Wilson Mahera Charles who was a District Executive Director in Arusha to be the National Electoral Commission Director, in a move critics decried as unconstitutional and biased and in favour of the ruling party in the 2020 General Elections. The President has also promoted 10 officials to be District Executive Directors in several regions in Tanzania.

On 27 June 2019, Parliament passed the Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments No. 3 of 2019) into law, which amends eight laws including the Non-Governmental Organisations Act and largely restricts their right to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. The law was made public on 19 June and debated under a certificate of urgency, which did not allow for meaningful participation of civil society in the process.

On 17 August 2019, 40 African civil society campaigners attending the summit of the Southern African Development Community in Dar es Salaam were intimidated, questioned and warned by authorities over a security incident that never existed.

Freedom of Expression

April 2019 marked more than 500 days since prominent journalist and HRD Azory Gwanda went missing under suspicious circumstances. The Committee to Protect Journalists and Human Rights Watch, among other groups, raised concerns to his disappearance and called on the government to ensure proper investigation into the case. The #WhereIsAzory campaign continues on social media.
On 29 July 2019, Tanzanian police arrested freelance journalist Erick Kabendera from his home and did not allow him to contact his lawyer for an extended period. Security forces said that Kabendera was being investigated over his citizenship status (among other crimes), a common tactic used against journalists, HRDs, and political opponents in Tanzania, he later was charged with Economic and Organised Crime, Tax Evasion and Money Laundering.  In early October, a Tanzanian court postponed his hearing for a sixth time as he appeared limping in court having been denied media attention. On 10 September, a Joint Letter of Appeal was sent to President Magufuli by the ACHPR Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa regarding the arrest of Journalist Erick Kabendera.

On 8 August 2019, journalist Bollen Ngetti was arrested for publishing false information contrary to section 16 of the Cybercrimes Act.

On 22 August 2019, journalist Joseph Gandye was arrested. Gandye, who is a journalist for Watetezi Online TV, established by the Tanzanian Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC), was accused of publishing false Information about alleged police abuse.

On 24 August 2019, Haruna Mapunda, a journalist from Gillybon Online TV was arrested while reporting on an opposition political party opening a new office. The police arrested him and others for conducting a demonstration without permission.

On 7 September 2019, a journalist Sebastian Immanuel Atilio was arrested in Mufindi Region for publishing false information contrary to section 16 of the Cybercrimes Act. The District Commissioner, Jamhuri William, ordered his arrest. He was detained for more than 3 days without bail.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly 

On 26 September 2019, a court blocked two Chadema opposition politicians from travelling abroad until they are cleared of sedition charges. Vincent Mashinji, Chadema’s secretary-general, and MP Esther Matiko are facing charges, along with seven others including Chadema’s leader, for participating in a protest in February 2018 during which a 22-year-old student was killed by a stray bullet fired by police.

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