Tanzania has held regular multiparty elections since its transition from a one-party state in the early 1990s, but the opposition remains relatively weak. The ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) has retained power for over 60 years. After the late John Magufuli became president in 2015, the government cracked down on its critics in the political opposition, the press, and civil society. Opposition, media, and civil society activity has somewhat increased under Samia Suluhu Hassan, who became president in 2021 upon Magufuli’s death.
- In February, the government restored the licenses of Mseto, Mawio, Mwanahalisi, and Tanzania Daima, major newspapers which were subject to Magufuli-era bans or suspensions.
- In March, Freeman Mbowe, chairman of the opposition Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema), was released from detention after terrorism charges dating back to 2021 were dropped. Mbowe went on to meet President Hassan twice before year’s end.
- In June, authorities in Ngorongoro arrested 10 Maasai leaders after villagers protested the government’s plan to create a game reserve in the area. One day later, security forces used live ammunition in clashes with protesters; one police officer died while as many as 2,100 Maasai residents fled for Kenya in the immediate aftermath.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||1.001 4.004|
The president is elected by direct popular vote for up to two five-year terms. In the event of the president’s death, the vice president assumes the post and completes their predecessor’s term. Samia Suluhu Hassan, vice president since 2015, became chief executive in March 2021 after President John Magufuli died. In September 2021, she announced her plans to run in 2025.
The late president won the October 2020 presidential election with 84.5 percent of the vote in a contest that was markedly less free and fair than the 2015 election. The 2020 election was marred by widespread fraud and vote-rigging, threats of violence against opposition figures, the use of force by police against opposition demonstrators, the suspension of media outlets and social media, the obstruction and dispersal of opposition candidate Tundu Lissu’s rallies, and other irregularities. International and local observers were denied accreditation, as were many international media outlets. Turnout stood at 50 percent. Opposition parties rejected the results and called for protests but organizers were arrested and a widespread protest movement never emerged. Lissu fled to Belgium in November 2020 with assistance from several European governments and the United States.
The semiautonomous region of Zanzibar elects its own president, who serves no more than two five-year terms. The 2020 Zanzibar presidential poll, held concurrently with the October general elections, was also marred in controversy. The Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced that CCM candidate Hussein Mwinyi defeated Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT-Wazalendo) candidate Seif Sharif Hamad, taking 76.3 percent to Hamad’s 19.9 percent. The ACT-Wazalendo rejected the results. Before the polls opened, the regime mobilized the army to Zanzibar; Hamad was detained by police and remained in custody during the election period. The army and police were accused of firing into a crowd days before the election, killing several people; members of the crowd were reportedly attempting to stop the delivery of ballots suspected to be fraudulent. Reports of further detentions, killings, and torture emerged after the election. The ACT-Wazalendo agreed to form a unity government in Zanzibar that November, with Hamad becoming vice president. The development prompted co-optation accusations.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?||1.001 4.004|
Legislative authority lies with a unicameral, 393-seat National Assembly (the Bunge) whose members serve five-year terms. There are 264 seats filled through direct elections in single-member constituencies, while 113 are reserved for women elected by political parties, 10 are filled by presidential appointment, and 5 members are elected by the Zanzibar legislature. The attorney general holds an ex officio seat.
Unlike the 2015 poll, the 2020 legislative election was marred by extensive fraud and intimidation allegations. Widespread interference in nomination processes, both bureaucratic and physical, led to around 30 opposition candidates being kept off the ballot. Numerous legislative and local government candidates were detained during the campaign period, including high-profile Chadema lawmakers. On election day, opposition politicians complained of election interference and fraud; 97 percent of the directly elected seats went to the CCM, which substantially increased its majority.
The opposition was granted a small number of women’s special seats in line with their share of the vote. Chadema refused to take those seats but a group of 19 female Chadema legislators defected, were seated in the legislature, and were then formally expelled from the party. Several women took their seats upon being released from police custody, prompting speculation of coercion.
Members of Zanzibar’s 85-seat House of Representatives serve five-year terms and are installed through a mix of direct elections and appointments. The 2015 legislative elections were annulled along with the concurrent Zanzibari presidential vote, and an opposition boycott of the 2016 rerun left the CCM with full control of the regional legislature. The 2020 legislative elections in Zanzibar were also marred by allegations of fraud.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?||1.001 4.004|
The National Electoral Commission (NEC) is responsible for overseeing countrywide elections, while the ZEC conducts elections for Zanzibar’s governing institutions.
The structures of both bodies contribute to doubts about their independence. The Tanzanian president appoints NEC members. Magufuli’s appointment of a former CCM candidate as NEC director in 2019 was criticized by the Chadema and ACT-Wazalendo leaders. The NEC was criticized for poor administration of voter-registration processes ahead of the 2020 elections, and it oversaw the rejection of dozens of legislative and local candidates on technicalities. The NEC also ordered the temporary suspension of Lissu’s presidential campaign, saying Lissu had used incendiary language. Opposition parties accused the NEC of complicity in widespread ballot stuffing and use of “ghost voters” to benefit the CCM. The NEC did not release the full results of local government or legislative elections in 2020.
Opposition parties and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have called for constitutional reform, saying the current constitution favors the ruling CCM. While the Hassan administration initially resisted those calls, a CCM official went on to say that the party “insists” on a new constitution in a June 2022 statement. In its October report, a government-appointed task force supported the formation of an independent electoral body but noted public disagreements over constitutional reform.
The Zanzibari president appoints most ZEC members, though the opposition nominates two of the seven members. Some observers criticized then president Ali Mohamed Shein’s 2018 appointees, calling them CCM partisans. Hamad of the ACT-Wazalendo accused the ZEC of failing to register over 100,000 young voters who reached voting age between 2015 and 2020.
|Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?||1.001 4.004|
Tanzanians have the right to organize into political parties, but the ruling CCM enjoys considerable incumbency advantages that stifle competition. The system of state funding for parties under the Political Parties Act (PPA) of 2015 disproportionately benefits the CCM. Political parties are regulated by a presidentially appointed registrar whom the opposition criticizes for partisan bias.
Authorities have constrained opposition parties in recent years. In 2016, the government banned all political rallies and demonstrations outside election periods, sharply curtailing parties’ ability to mobilize public support. In 2019, opposition groups’ rights were further constrained by PPA amendments that empower a government minister to regulate party coalition formation, ban internationally sourced political fundraising, prohibit parties from “activism,” and introduce tools that the registrar can use to investigate and interfere with targeted parties’ internal operations. The amendments also gave the registrar legal immunity, further reducing that office’s accountability.
The Hassan administration has also targeted opposition activities, though it has more recently opened dialogue with prominent opposition figures. In February 2022, President Hassan met with Tundu Lissu in Belgium. Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe was released from custody in March 2022; in 2021, he and at least 10 other Chadema members were arrested before Mbowe was to give a speech on constitutional reform. Mbowe was charged with terrorism but those charges were dropped. Hassan and Mbowe went on to hold two meetings during the year. Relatively few opposition figures were arrested or detained in 2022, though local-level activists and those working for constitutional reform were targeted.
Opposition groups’ day-to-day activities are severely curtailed due to a Magufuli-era ban on public meetings, which remained in place at year’s end. While opposition leaders have been able to hold meetings and give speeches to party members in regional capitals, police and security forces delayed or disrupted these meetings.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?||1.001 4.004|
The CCM has governed without interruption for over 60 years. The opposition’s electoral prospects are limited due to interference, harassment, co-optation, deadly violence against activists, and criminal prosecutions. Opposition candidates posted their best-ever electoral performance in the 2015 legislative elections, winning 45 percent of the vote, but secured only 29 percent of the National Assembly’s seats. The political space for opposition parties narrowed due to repression in the 2020 election.
Opposition prospects have not markedly improved under Hassan. Prominent CCM figures still describe the opposition as the enemy; in October 2022, National Assembly speaker Tulia Ackson called on CCM members to “deal with” Hassan’s critics in remarks that were interpreted as a call to violence.
Tundu Lissu, who traveled abroad to recover after a 2017 attempted assassination, returned to Tanzania to stand as Chadema’s presidential candidate in 2020. Lissu fled for Belgium after the polls and remained in exile at the end of 2022.
|Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?||1.001 4.004|
Tanzanian voters and politicians are subject to significant undue influence from unaccountable entities using antidemocratic tactics. During his tenure, Magufuli exerted pressure through local administrative authorities, particularly presidentially appointed regional and district commissioners. These officials are technically nonpartisan, but most are CCM loyalists or former security personnel. They have significant power within their jurisdictions and have been especially repressive when overseeing opposition-oriented areas. President Hassan appointed new regional and district commissioners in 2021; some appointees came from opposition groups or were nonpartisan, though hardliners maintained some posts.
Civil servants in opposition-controlled councils are under significant pressure to follow directives from CCM officials, rather than elected opposition politicians. The government has sought to remove elected municipal leaders, and arbitrarily threatened and barred the movements and activities of critical NGOs and human rights advocates. The 2019 local elections, which the opposition boycotted due to widespread candidate disqualifications, were managed by the government ministry that also supervises regional and district commissioners.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?||2.002 4.004|
Members of ethnic, religious, and other minority groups ostensibly have full political rights, but the participation of some groups is limited in practice. Magufuli, a member of the Sukuma ethnic group, often appointed fellow Sukuma to government positions during his tenure. This represented a departure from predecessors who balanced ethnic and religious groups. This Magufuli-era imbalance remains to a lesser extent under President Hassan.
Women hold 36.8 percent of legislative seats; the constitution requires that 30 percent of seats are held by women. However, women are underrepresented in directly elected seats, which are consistently won by male candidates. Women who run for office face mistreatment.
Hassan, Tanzania’s first female president, has promoted women’s representation in her own government. After the October 2022 cabinet reshuffle, about half of its posts were held by women. Tulia Ackson was elected National Assembly speaker in February, making her only the second woman to hold this position. However, misogynistic discourse and behavior have persisted in politics.
LGBT+ people, who face the risk of arrest and harsh discrimination, cannot openly advance their political interests.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?||1.001 4.004|
Magufuli consolidated political power in the presidency, sidelining the legislature—in part by suppressing dissent within the CCM—and exerting greater control over cabinet ministers through dismissals and reshuffles. The CCM government actively manages the activities of legislators and has threatened those who are frequently absent. Bills are sometimes passed using “certificates of urgency,” which accelerates the legislative process.
Hassan has sought to consolidate her own hold on power after becoming president. Hassan has moved Magufuli loyalists out of government and CCM posts in 2022 via cabinet reshuffles and internal party elections. In October, Hassan dismissed Foreign Affairs Minister Liberata Mulamula over perceived disloyalty and concerns that Mulamula did not abide by the government’s diplomatic positions.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?||2.002 4.004|
Corruption remains a problem in Tanzania, and reform efforts have yielded mixed results. The Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau has been accused of focusing on low-level corruption and doing little to address graft committed by senior officials, who have been ensnared in corruption scandals in recent years. Recent audits have revealed that public funds were misappropriated or unaccounted for.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||1.001 4.004|
A weak access to information act was adopted in 2016. The law imposes prison terms on officials who improperly release information but assigns no clear penalties for those who improperly withhold information. The Statistics Act was amended in 2019 to remove criminal liability for publishing information that conflicts with the National Bureau of Statistics, but the government continued to resist transparency efforts and punish journalists and civil society groups that attempted to expose official wrongdoing.
The government does not accurately report official data. President Hassan warned ministers against sharing government information after she reshuffled the cabinet in October 2022. In November, she contended that it was inappropriate to make government documents available online. The government was opaque about the COVID-19 pandemic under Magufuli, though it openly endorsed COVID-19 mitigation measures after Magufuli’s death.
Officials were also not transparent about the circumstances surrounding the November crash of a passenger aircraft in November, in which 19 people died. The government claimed that the preliminary report into the incident was not official; an opposition leader circulated it instead.
The government was additionally opaque when discussing Magufuli’s health. When Hassan announced her predecessor’s death, for example, she blamed heart disease; opposition politicians and Kenyan press reports contradicted the government’s account, saying Magufuli was instead sent to Nairobi for COVID-19 treatment before dying in Tanzania.
|Are there free and independent media?||1.001 4.004|
Independent journalists and media outlets are subject to harsh repression in Tanzania. The 2016 Media Services Act grants the government broad authority over media content and the licensing of outlets and journalists. It also prescribes severe penalties, including prison terms, for publication of defamatory, seditious, or other illegal content.
Sustained legal and regulatory pressure on journalists and other public figures has contributed to self-censorship and other suppression of news coverage. In a December 2021 report, the University of Dar es Salaam cited government pressure as a factor in the media sector’s pro-CCM bias during the 2020 elections. The government also threatened to arrest journalists who reported on Magufuli’s health.
The Hassan administration’s record on media freedom is mixed. In April 2021, Hassan lifted a ban on some online media outlets. In February 2022, the government restored the licenses of Mawio, Mseto, Mwanahalisi, and Tanzania Daima, newspapers which had received bans or suspensions under Magufuli. There has been an increase in qualified criticism of the government in both English- and Swahili-language newspapers. However, self-censorship and progovernment bias remain prevalent.
Authorities have also continued to target journalists under Hassan. The government suspended two newspapers for short periods in 2021 for publishing news deemed false. In February 2022, six journalists were detained and questioned by guards in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area after they covered a local meeting; the local authority later said they were questioned for lack of accreditation.
The 2018 Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations require bloggers and owners of online discussion platforms and streaming services to pay annual registration fees.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?||3.003 4.004|
Freedom of religion is generally respected and interfaith relations are largely peaceful, though sectarian violence has periodically occurred. Muslims are believed to be a minority nationwide, but almost all Zanzibaris practice Islam. Political tensions between mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar often play out along religious lines. The government occasionally raises the specter of interreligious conflict as an excuse to detain political rivals, contributing to a sense that Muslims are sometimes treated unfairly by authorities.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?||2.002 4.004|
The 2015 Statistics Act requires data released publicly to be first approved by the National Bureau of Statistics and prescribes fines, imprisonment, or both for anyone who disputes official government figures, harming academic freedom. The law was amended in 2019 to remove criminal liability for publishing independent data. Tanzanian academics engage in self-censorship, though scholars sometimes release reports critical of the government.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?||1.001 4.004|
The government historically monitored the population through a neighborhood-level CCM cell structure and has policed personal expression on social media in recent years. Under laws including the 2015 Cybercrimes Act and the 2018 Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, social media users have been prosecuted for offenses such as insulting the president. Vague prohibitions on communication that “causes annoyance” or “leads to public disorder” have confused users as to what constitutes a violation and empowered authorities to suppress unfavorable speech at their discretion. The Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2020 prohibits “spreading rumors” or insulting the nation online.
In August 2022, a government official was dismissed for criticizing a mobile money policy on social media. In September, Information Minister Nape Nnauye warned that those publishing and promoting pro-LGBT+ material online face arrest.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||1.001 4.004|
The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, but the government limits this right through legal mechanisms, restrictions on social media platforms used to organize, and outright violence. Organizers must notify the police 48 hours in advance of any demonstration, and police have broad discretion to prohibit gatherings that could threaten public safety or public order. A ban on political rallies has been in place since mid-2016 and remained in effect at the end of 2022. The 2019 amendments to the PPA further restricted public assembly, in part by broadening the scope of activities that are deemed “political.” The government has used heavy-handed tactics to disperse and prevent opposition meetings or events related to constitutional reform, though fewer high-profile arrests occurred in 2022.
Tanzanian authorities used force against Maasai protesters in the Loliondo division of the Ngorongoro in June 2022. Maasai from four villages protested the demarcation of land for a planned game reserve, with police arresting at least 10 Maasai leaders in response. A day after the arrests, security forces fired on protesters in clashes; one police officer was killed and a Maasai man later died of injuries sustained during the clashes. At least 20 people were charged with the police officer’s death, including the leaders detained earlier in June (murder charges against 24 people were ultimately dropped in November). Authorities also raided Maasai homes in June, reportedly detaining dozens of individuals. As many as 2,100 Maasai fled for Kenya after the clashes, with some injured people seeking medical treatment there.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||2.002 4.004|
Tanzania has a diverse and active civil society sector, but NGOs are subject to laws that give the government broad authority to deregister them. Human rights organizations and activists been subject to restrictions, deregistration, legal harassment, and unlawful arrests. In 2020, the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition and the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) were threatened with deregistration and banned from election-related activities they had overseen in previous elections. NGOs are prohibited from filing public-interest litigation and are subject to onerous financial reporting requirements.
The Hassan administration worked to improve its relationship with civil society in 2022. In April, President Hassan attended an LHRC conference. Civil society leaders have also been more outspoken in their criticism of the government’s past mistreatment of activists and the political opposition, without facing reprisal. However, NGOs have not restarted election-related work, which was a particular target under Magufuli.
Score Change: The score improved from 1 to 2 because NGOs have engaged in more civil activity under the current administration, though organizations still refrain from addressing issues the government considers sensitive.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?||2.002 4.004|
Trade unions are nominally independent of the government and are coordinated by the Trade Union Congress of Tanzania and the Zanzibar Trade Union Congress. The Tanzania Federation of Cooperatives represents most of Tanzania’s agricultural sector. The government has significant discretion to deny union registration, and many private employers engage in antiunion activities. Essential public-sector workers are barred from striking, and other workers are restricted by complex notification and mediation requirements. Strikes are infrequent on both the mainland and Zanzibar.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||1.001 4.004|
Judges are political appointees. The underfunded judiciary does not have an independent budget, making it vulnerable to political pressure. The results of such pressure have been particularly evident in cases involving opposition figures and government critics, as well as legal changes that suppress free and fair competition and protect the regime from prosecution. Politicized courts have enforced laws that attack human rights and are selectively invoked to keep the government in power. Lower-level courts are especially affected by political influence and corruption. Under a 2020 Court of Appeal ruling, the government can hold suspects without bail for several offenses including money laundering—a charge commonly levied against political opponents.
In February 2022, a judge ruled that Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe and three codefendants had to stand trial on terrorism charges in what was viewed as a politically motivated case. But in March, the charges were dropped and the individuals were released.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?||1.001 4.004|
Due process guarantees are poorly upheld in civil and criminal matters. Policies and rules governing arrest and pretrial detention are often ignored, and pretrial detention commonly lasts years due to case backlogs and inadequate funding for prosecutors. Legal activists have been known to suffer repercussions for seeking justice through courts. Arbitrary and often violent arrests of opposition politicians, journalists, and civil society leaders have been commonplace. In September 2022, the LHRC called on the government to amend the Criminal Procedure Act, saying that the current code violated suspects’ rights.
Security officers and militia members engaged in violence against opposition activists and civilians in Zanzibar after being deployed during the 2020 election but have not faced justice since.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?||1.001 4.004|
Reports of abuse and torture of suspects in police custody are common, and police have been accused of extrajudicial killings and other violence in recent years. In 2021, a lawyer representing Mbowe told a court that Mbowe was tortured while in custody. That same year, Chadema activist Mdude Nyangali disclosed that he was tortured.
Tanzanian villages have sometimes been raided by armed groups that are active in Mozambique, which is grappling with an Islamist insurgency. In September 2022, the Tanzanian and Mozambican governments signed a security agreement to address terrorism and criminal activity on the border.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?||1.001 4.004|
Women’s rights are constitutionally guaranteed but not uniformly protected. Women face de facto discrimination in employment, including sexual harassment, which is rarely addressed through formal legal channels. Women’s socioeconomic disadvantages are more pronounced in rural areas and in the informal economy.
Same-sex sexual relations are punishable by lengthy prison terms, and LGBT+ people face discrimination and police abuse, leading most to hide aspects of their identities. Men who are suspected of same-sex sexual activity have been arrested and forced to undergo anal examinations.
Over 126,000 Burundian refugees resided in Tanzania as of December 2022. Burundian refugees have been forcibly repatriated and tortured with collaboration from the Tanzanian government according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Pastoralist ethnic groups do not enjoy equal treatment, particularly when it comes to land disputes. These groups often live near lucrative national parks, and the government has engaged in heavy-handed treatment of those who refuse to comply with government directives to move. In June 2022, thousands of people were displaced after police violently tried to evict Maasai villagers in the Loliondo division of Ngorongoro, in order to clear land for a game reserve. In October, the East African Court of Justice ruled that the government’s 2017 attempt to evict Maasai from the Serengeti National Park was legal.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?||2.002 4.004|
Residents enjoy some basic freedoms pertaining to travel and changes of residence, employment, and education. The government has wide discretion in enforcing laws that can limit movement, particularly in Zanzibar, where the approval of local government appointees is often required for changes in employment, personal banking, and residency. Separately, the authorities in recent years have arbitrarily arrested and deported some Kenyans, many of whom had been granted Tanzanian citizenship. The government imposes travel restrictions on activists, human rights researchers, opposition figures, and other prominent individuals. Opposition politicians who were under threat of violence struggled to leave Tanzania after the 2020 election.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?||2.002 4.004|
Tanzanians have the right to establish private businesses but are often required to pay bribes to license and operate them. The state owns all land and leases it to individuals and private entities, leading to clashes over land rights between citizens and companies engaged in extractive industries. These laws have been used to expropriate the resources and lands of opposition politicians. President Hassan has sought to reassure domestic and international investors that the government would take a less active role in the economy and has courted investors since taking office.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?||2.002 4.004|
Rape, domestic violence, and female genital mutilation (FGM) are common but rarely prosecuted. Laws and practices regarding marriage, divorce, and other personal status issues favor men over women, particularly in Zanzibar. Tanzania’s adolescent fertility rate is more than twice the global average. In 2019, the government encouraged women to help increase the country’s birth rate and spur the economy.
In 2017, the government prohibited those who had given birth from returning to school. President Hassan overturned this ban in 2021. In October 2022, she called on families to use contraceptives. The government is still working to increase family-planning funding annually through 2030.
Score Change: The score improved from 1 to 2 because pregnant students can attend classes, in a reversal from the previous administration’s policies, and because the government has vowed to improve funding for family planning services.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?||2.002 4.004|
Sexual and labor exploitation remain problems, especially for children living in poor rural areas who are drawn into domestic service, agricultural labor, mining, and other activities. Child labor in gold mines, where working conditions are often dangerous, is common.
Most Tanzanians do not benefit from the country’s extensive natural-resource wealth. Tanzania has one of the world’s highest levels of income inequality, and the poverty rate remains high.
See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.See More
Global Freedom Score36 100 partly free