Tanzania | Freedom House

Freedom in the World



Freedom in the World 2005

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Local elections took place in November, won by the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party; opposition parties claimed that the legitimacy of the polls had been affected by violence from pro-government supporters and biased election administration. Meanwhile, there were delays in the implementation of reforms regarding the autonomous islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, which had been agreed upon in 2001 between the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) and the CCM. The islands have been flashpoints of conflict between the government and the opposition.

After Tanzania gained independence from Britain in 1961, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi party (CCM), under President Julius Nyerere, dominated the country's political life. The Zanzibar and Pemba Islands were merged with Tanganyika to become the United Republic of Tanzania after Arab sultans who had long ruled the islands were deposed in a violent revolution in 1964.

For much of his presidency, Nyerere espoused a collectivist economic philosophy known in Swahili as ujaama. While it may have been useful in promoting a sense of community and nationality, this policy resulted in significant economic dislocation and decline. During Nyerere's tenure, Tanzania also played an important role as a "Front Line State" in the international response to white-controlled regimes in southern Africa. Nyerere retained strong influence after he officially retired in 1985, until his death in 1999. His successor, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, held the presidency from 1985 to 1995 and presided over a carefully controlled political liberalization process.

The CCM's landslide legislative victory in the 1995 parliamentary elections was seriously tainted by poor organization of the electoral process, fraud, and administrative irregularities. In addition, extensive use of state broadcasting and other government resources during the campaign favored the ruling party. The CCM won 80 percent of the 232 directly elected seats in the National Assembly. The voting in Zanzibar was plainly fraudulent, with the island's high court summarily rejecting opposition demands for fresh polls.

Tanzania held legislative and presidential elections in October 2000, the second since the reintroduction of multiparty politics. Incumbent president Benjamin Mkapa was reelected with about 70 percent of the vote, and the CCM won an overwhelming victory in the parliamentary election. Although the conduct of these elections represented a modest improvement over that of the 1995 vote, the elections were nonetheless marred by fraudulent polls biased in favor of the ruling party in the federated semiautonomous islands of Zanzibar and Pemba; the status of these islands in relation to the mainland has long provoked tension. The opposition Civic United Front (CUF) and independent observers convincingly demonstrated that the ruling CCM had engaged in fraud to retain power. Subsequent rioting in Zanzibar in early 2001 resulted in the deaths of more than 40 people. In October 2001, the CCM and the CUF announced a reconciliation agreement designed to resolve the political crisis and allow for more transparent government.

Significant progress occurred in 2003 regarding Zanzibar, with elections that resulted in a parliamentary victory by the CUF. These elections raised hopes that 2005 parliamentary and presidential elections (at which President Benjamin Mkapa is not expected to stand) may represent a positive step forward.

Local elections took place in November, won by the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party. The elections were marred by some violence and by claims from opposition parties that the government supported CCM candidates and that the election authorities at times acted in a biased fashion. By late 2004, however, there were delays in the implementation of reforms agreed upon in 2001 between the CUF and the CCM. These reforms were to have been implemented in such fields as government jurisdiction of the electoral process, police oversight, publicly owned media institutions, and the Zanzibar Electoral Commission. Delays have included the postponement of voter registration on Zanzibar. The CUF has also complained that mainland Tanzanians are being fraudulently included in the Zanzibari voting rolls.

Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world. According to World Bank statistics, per capita income in 2004 is estimated to be at about $290. Life expectancy at birth dropped from 50 years in 1990 to only 43 years in 2002. Infant mortality remains relatively high with 99 per 1,000 in 2003, as compared with 102 per 1,000 in 1990.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

Tanzanians cannot choose their government democratically. Although opposition parties were legalized in 1992, the ruling CCM continues to dominate the country's political life. Executive power rests with the president, who is elected by direct popular vote for a five-year term. The president can serve a maximum of two terms. The constitution provides for legislative power to be held by a unicameral National Assembly with members serving a term of five years, and for universal adult suffrage. The legislative body, the Bunge, has 274 members, with 232 elected for a five-year term in single-seat constituencies. The remaining seats are reserved for women elected by their political parties on the basis of proportional representation among the political parties represented in the National Assembly.

Thirteen opposition parties have formal status. Some of them are active, but they tend to be divided and ineffectual. The opposition CUF has sought to establish significant support on the Tanzanian mainland. Another major opposition party, the National Convention for Constitution and Reform (NCCR-Mageuzi), whose leader, Augustine Mrema, was runner-up to Mkapa in the 1995 presidential election, has split. Parties with parliamentary representation receive government subsidies, but they criticize the low level of funding and the formula by which it is allocated. In 2003, most opposition parties came together in an electoral alliance, but the CUF did not join.

Corruption remains a serious problem, although the government has made some attempts to address it, including developing a national anticorruption action plan. The Prevention of Corruption Bureau recorded an increase in the number of reported incidents of corruption from 432 cases in 1998 to 1,461 cases at the end of 2000. However, it is not clear whether this represents an increase in corruption or increased reporting and improved detection of corruption. Tanzania's police chief has publicly stated that corruption is entrenched in some sections of the police force, especially in traffic and investigation departments. Tanzania was ranked 90 out of 146 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2004 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Print and electronic media are active, but media impact is largely limited to major urban areas. The country has more than 50 regular newspapers, including 17 dailies. The growth of the broadcast media has been hindered by the lack of capital investment needed to set up television and radio stations, both public and private. Nevertheless, dozens of private FM radio stations are on the air, most of them in urban areas. Internet access, while limited to urban areas, is growing.

The number of journalists has also increased from only 230 in 1991 to more than 4,000 currently, but journalists in general have serious concerns about press laws that could limit freedom of expression. Progress for independence in the media over the past year was "encouraging," according to a 2004 report of the Tanzania chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA).

Although the Constitution provides for freedom of speech, it does not specifically do so for the freedom of the press. These rights are especially constrained in Zanzibar by the semi-autonomous Zanzibar Government. Press reforms contained in a 2001 media bill did not apply to the island. There are no private broadcasters or newspapers on Zanzibar, though many islanders can receive mainland broadcasts and read the mainland press. The Zanzibari government has used its powers to selectively limit press freedom. For example, the weekly newspaper Dira was banned in November 2003, with no reason being given.

The population is believed to be divided fairly evenly between Muslim and Christian faiths. Freedom of religion is generally respected and relations between the various faiths are mainly peaceful. In recent years, however, religious-based tensions have increased. In addition, on Zanzibar, the 2001 Mufti Law allowed the Zanzibari government to appoint a mufti to oversee Muslim organizations. Some Muslims are critical of this law, contending that it permits an excessive government role in the religious sphere.

Many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are active, and some have been able to influence the public policy process. However, an NGO act passed by parliament in 2002 contains many serious flaws, including compulsory registration backed by criminal sanctions, lack of appeal to the courts, alignment of NGO activities with government plans, prohibition of national networks and coalitions of NGOs, and inconsistencies with other related existing legislation. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and the World Organization Against Torture have criticized the legislation on the grounds that it contravenes the Tanzanian constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Academic freedom is respected. Constitutional protections for the right to freedom of assembly are generally, but not always, respected. Laws allow rallies only by officially registered political parties, which may not be formed on religious, ethnic, or regional bases and cannot oppose the union of Zanzibar and the mainland. Less than 5 percent of the Tanzanian labor force is unionized. Workers' rights are limited. Essential workers are barred from striking; other workers' right to strike is restricted by complex notification and mediation requirements. A labor law was passed early this year, which the government states will help safeguard the rights and welfare of workers. Approximately 85 percent of Tanzania's people survive through subsistence agriculture.

Tanzania's judiciary has displayed signs of autonomy after decades of subservience to the one-party CCM regime, but it remains subject to considerable political influence. Arrest and pretrial detention laws are often ignored. Prison conditions are harsh, and police abuses are said to be common. According to government estimates, there are approximately 45,000 inmates in the country's prisons although the prisons' collective capacity is only 21,000. Such overcrowding has caused widespread concern. Questions have been raised regarding the safety and health of prisoners, including minors and women, who have been subjected to sexual harassment and human rights abuses. The 2002 Prevention of Terrorism Act, which some NGOs have criticized for containing inconsistencies and anomalies, gives the government considerable latitude in that it does not clearly define the term "terrorism." Rather, the Act merely lists acts of terrorism, which include, among other things, attacks upon a person's life, kidnapping, and serious damage to property. It gives the police and immigration officials sweeping powers to arrest suspected illegal immigrants or anyone thought to have links with terrorists.

Compared to many of its neighbors, Tanzania has enjoyed relatively tranquil relations between its many ethnic groups. The presence of refugees from conflicts in Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, however, has in the past raised tensions. Women's rights guaranteed by the constitution and other laws are not uniformly protected. Especially in rural areas and in Zanzibar, traditional or Islamic customs discriminatory toward women prevail in family law, and women have fewer educational and economic opportunities. Domestic violence against women is reportedly common and is rarely prosecuted. Human rights groups have sought laws to bar forced marriages, which are most common among Tanzania's coastal peoples.