Tanzania | Freedom House

Freedom in the World



Freedom in the World 2006

2006 Scores


Partly Free

Freedom Rating
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Civil Liberties
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Political Rights
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for November 2005 on the Tanzanian mainland were postponed until December because of the death of an opposition vice presidential candidate. By contrast, polling took place for president and parliament of the semiautonomous islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. Some violence occurred in the run-up to these elections; the postelection atmosphere was tense as the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) alleged fraud in the victory of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party. Foreign Minister and longtime CCM stalwart Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete was elected president.

Three years after mainland Tanganyika gained independence from Britain in 1961, the Zanzibar and Pemba Islands were merged with Tanganyika to become the United Republic of Tanzania. The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, under longtime president Julius Nyerere, dominated the country's political life. 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 semi-autonomous 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 a more transparent government.

Significant progress occurred in 2003 regarding Zanzibar, with elections that resulted in a parliamentary victory for the CUF. These elections raised hopes that the 2005 parliamentary and presidential elections would represent a positive step forward.

The CCM emerged victorious in the November 2004 local elections. Opposition parties claimed that the legitimacy of the polls had been affected by violence from progovernment supporters and a biased election administration. Meanwhile, there were delays in the implementation of reforms regarding Zanzibar and Pemba, which the opposition CUF and CCM had agreed on in 2001. These reforms related to government jurisdiction of the electoral process, police oversight, publicly owned media institutions, and the function and structure of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission. Delays included the postponement of voter registration on Zanzibar. The CUF also complained that mainland Tanzanians were being fraudulently included in the Zanzibari voting rolls.

The death from natural causes of an opposition vice presidential candidate caused the postponement of presidential and parliamentary elections on the mainland until December 2005. Prior to the elections in Zanzibar, some violence was reported. Subsequent to the elections, the opposition and some observers vociferously cried foul over alleged CCM strong-arm tactics to ensure victory in Zanzibar's presidential and parliamentary contests. However, this did not degenerate into widespread unrest, as many had feared. Complaints included phantom voters and the use of the military in election operations, multiple voting, underage voting, illegal voting by military personnel, and failure by electoral authorities to release the voter register to the public before election day. Outgoing president Mkapa's handpicked successor, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, was elected president, and the CCM retained its huge majority in Tanzania's parliament.

Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world. According to World Bank statistics, per capita income in 2004 was estimated at about $290. The country hosts some 400,000 refugees, mostly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Some Burundian refugees have begun to return to their country after successful elections and the installation of a majority-backed government.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

Citizens of Tanzania cannot choose their government demo-cratically. 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 and can serve a maximum of two terms; the constitution provides for universal adult suffrage. Legislative power is held by a unicameral National Assembly, with members serving five-year terms. 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 on the basis of proportional representation among the political parties represented in the National Assembly.

Seventeen 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 former leader, Augustine Mrema, was runner-up to Benjamin Mkapa in the 1995 presidential election-subsequently 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, which the CUF did not join. The opposition fielded several different presidential candidates in the 2005 polls.

Corruption remains a serious problem, although the government has made some attempts to address it, including developing a national anticorruption action plan. Tanzania was ranked 88 out of 159 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech, it does not specifically do so for the freedom of the press. 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, a number of private FM radio stations have gone on the air, most of them in urban areas. The number of journalists has also increased from only 230 in 1991 to more than 4,000, but journalists in general have serious concerns about press laws that could limit freedom of expression. Progress for independence in the media was "encouraging," according to a 2004 report of the Tanzania chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa. Internet access, while limited to urban areas, is growing.

Press freedom rights are especially constrained in Zanzibar by the semiautonomous Zanzibar government. Press reforms contained in a 2001 media bill did not apply to the island. In recent years, the government has not permitted private broadcasters or newspapers on Zanzibar, though many islanders can receive mainland broadcasts and read the mainland press. The Zanzibari government often reacts to criticism in the independent press by accusing it of being a "threat to national unity." In 2005, it banned leading columnist Jabir Idrissa. The weekly newspaper Dira was banned in November 2003, with no reason given.

Freedom of religion is generally respected, and relations between the various faiths are mainly peaceful. In recent years, however, religion-based tensions have increased. In addition, on Zanzibar, the 2001 Mufti Law allowed the Zanzibari government to appoint a mufti, or a professional jurist who interprets Islamic law, to oversee Muslim organizations. Some Muslims are critical of this law, contending that it permits an excessive government role in the religious sphere. Academic freedom is respected.

Constitutional protections for the rights of freedom of assembly and association 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. 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.

Less than 5 percent of the Tanzanian labor force is unionized. Workers' rights are limited. Essential workers are barred from striking, and other workers' right to strike is restricted by complex notification and mediation requirements. A labor law was passed in 2004, 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. 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 by not clearly defining 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 with many of its neighbors, Tanzania has enjoyed relatively tranquil relations among 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. Traditional or Islamic customs discriminating against women prevail in family law, especially in rural areas and in Zanzibar, 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.