Tanzania: National Human Rights Defenders Coalition Prepares for Official Launch

Human rights defenders from across Tanzania met in Dar es Salaam on 18th and 19th October 2011 to strengthen the nascent Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRD-Coalition) and discuss the strategic direction of its work. Members approved a constitution to govern the coalition’s operations and signed a Memorandum of Understanding. The coalition is currently hosted by the Legal and Human Rights Centre, EHAHRD-Net’s focal organization in Tanzania.

The coalition was originally formed at a meeting in September 2010 when Tanzanian human rights defenders (HRDs) identified the need to come together to mediate the various challenges faced by HRDs to enable them to effectively conduct their work of promoting human rights and rule of law. As the main actors in the fight for the promotion and protection of internationally recognized human rights throughout the region and key to the fight against impunity, defenders may find that they themselves become victims of human rights violations. It was agreed that a National Coalition would strengthen the work of human rights defenders by reducing their vulnerability to the risk of persecution and by enhancing their capacity to effectively defend human rights and strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people

During the two-day meeting on 18th and 19th October, the coalition members assessed the challenges facing human rights defenders working in Tanzania, discussed both the short and long-term objectives of the coalition and elaborated upon a Plan of Action to guide the coalition’s activities.
Members of the coalition volunteered to take part in working groups to finalise the coalition’s action plan and to draft an HRDs code of conduct and policies on human resources, finance and accountability within the next two months.

The participants, who represented the majority of the current members of the coalition, designated seven regional zones (Central, East, West, North, Southern, Southern Highlands, and Zanzibar, with the intention of adding a Lakes zone at a later date) and four thematic groups (women human rights defenders, journalists, pastoralists and minorities), and elected their representatives.

Participants discussed the challenges in setting up and the implementation of the coalition, and benefitted from the insights of EHAHRD-Net members from Burundi and Kenya who shared their experiences of the establishment and functioning of their own national HRD coalitions. One of the first tasks of the young Tanzanian coalition will be to mobilize resources to carry out their planned activities. A training session on resource mobilization presented by the Resource Alliance offered the coalition innovative approaches to meeting their objectives.

The meeting closed with the approval of the coalition’s constitution and signing of the Memorandum of Understanding. The members intend to officially launch the coalition before the end of the year.

For more information, please contact:

Onesmo Paul Olengurumwa, Coordinator, THRD-Coalition, on +255 783 172 394 or [email protected]

Rachel Nicholson, Advocacy Officer, EHAHRDP, on +256 778 921 274 or [email protected]

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Human Rights Defender of the month: Kasale Maleton Mwaana

Kasale’s human rights activism precedes his years. The son of pastoralist parents from Ngorongoro district in northern Tanzania, he grew up seeing his parents and entire community having to defend their land and way of life against authorities who thought their lands could be put to better use. Now, at 25, Kasale is already one of the most recognizable advocates of his people’s cause, much to the ire of Tanzanian authorities.
“Our people’s struggle goes back many generations. It started with the pushing out of our forefathers from Serengeti to gazette Serengeti National Park in 1959, and then further evictions from the Ngorongoro crater to gazette the Ngorongoro conservation area in 1975. Since then, every generation has had to resist further evictions. It’s now my generation’s turn,” he says.

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