Tanzania | Freedom House

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Freedom in the World 2008

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Intermittent negotiations designed to resolve complaints about fraudulent 2005 elections in Zanzibar failed to bear fruit in 2007. Four opposition parties sought to form a united front for the next general elections, scheduled for late 2010, despite a constitutional prohibition on party coalitions. Also during the year, an anticorruption bill containing a mix of positive and negative features became law.

Three years after mainland Tanganyika gained independence from Britain in 1961, the Zanzibar archipelago—consisting of Zanzibar, Pemba, and a number of smaller islands— 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 this policy may have promoted a sense of community and nationality, it also resulted in significant economic dislocation and decline. During Nyerere’s tenure, Tanzania played an important role as a “frontline state” in the international response to white-controlled regimes in southern Africa. Nyerere’s successor, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, held the presidency from 1985 to 1995 and oversaw a carefully controlled political liberalization process.

A CCM landslide 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, but its high court summarily rejected opposition demands for fresh polls.

Tanzania again conducted legislative and presidential elections in October 2000, the second since the reintroduction of multiparty politics. President Benjamin Mkapa, who first took office in 1995, was reelected with about 70 percent of the vote, and the CCM won an overwhelming victory in the parliament. Although the conduct of the elections represented a modest improvement over the 1995 vote, they were nonetheless marred by fraud in favor of the ruling party in Zanzibar. The opposition Civic United Front (CUF) and independent observers convincingly demonstrated that the CCM had engaged in fraud to retain power. 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.

Delays subsequently occurred in the implementation of the agreement, which called for reforms related to police oversight, publicly owned media institutions, and the function and structure of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission. The delays included the postponement of voter registration in Zanzibar, and the CUF complained that mainlanders were being fraudulently listed in the Zanzibari voting rolls.

In presidential and parliamentary elections in December 2005, Foreign Minister Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, a CCM stalwart, was elected president with approximately 80 percent of the vote. The CCM captured 206 of 232 directly elected parliament seats. Polling also took place for the presidency and parliament of Zanzibar. There were some violent incidents in the run-up to those votes, and the postelection atmosphere was tense as the CUF once again accused the victorious CCM of electoral fraud. Intermittent negotiations on the issue failed to bear fruit in 2007.

An anticorruption bill passed in April 2007 included the creation of a board designed to coordinate and implement anti-graft efforts that would comprise the police, the national intelligence service, and representatives from the private sector. Also during 2007, four opposition parties sought to form a common front to win the next general elections, scheduled for late 2010, despite a constitutional prohibition on party coalitions.

Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an annual per capita income, adjusted for the cost of living, of approximately $700. It has recently experienced significant economic growth. According to International Monetary Fund, “fueled by a rebound in the agricultural sector and improved electricity supply, economic growth reached 6¾ percent in 2006–2007 and is on track to exceed 7 percent in 2007–2008.” Contributing factors for this growth include low inflation, growing foreign investment, and increased tourism. The country has in the past hosted over 400,000 refugees, mostly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but many have begun to return home and recent figures suggest that under 300,000 remain.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

Tanzania is not an electoral democracy. 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 up to two five-year terms. Legislative power is held by a unicameral National Assembly, the Bunge, which currently has 323 members serving five-year terms. Of these, 232 are directly elected in single-seat constituencies, 75 are women chosen by the political parties according to their representation in the Bunge, 10 are appointed by the president, and 5 are members of the Zanzibar legislature, whose 50 deputies are elected to five-year terms. The attorney general is also an ex-officio member of the Bunge.

Eighteen parties presented candidates in the 2005 legislative elections. Some of these parties are active, but they tend to be divided and ineffectual. The opposition CUF, based in Zanzibar, has sought to establish significant support on the Tanzanian mainland. Parties with parliamentary representation receive government subsidies, but they criticize the low level of funding and the formula by which it is allocated. The constitution prohibits political coalitions, which has impeded opposition efforts to seriously contest the CCM’s dominance. The opposition fielded nine separate presidential candidates in the 2005 polls. To register in Tanzania, political parties must not be formed on religious, ethnic, or regional bases and cannot oppose the union of Zanzibar and the mainland.

Corruption remains a serious problem, although the government has taken some steps to address it, including the development of a national anticorruption action plan. The 2007 anticorruption law specifies regulations for international agencies, companies, and nongovernmental organizations operating in the country. Critics note that it limits the powers of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau to investigate corruption and take suspects to court, and reduces corruption penalties from 14 years in prison to five years. The country’s high court in 2006 ruled in favor of legal rights organizations that had challenged the formerly officially sanctioned practice of takrima, or the provision of free goods to voters by candidates during election campaigns. Tanzania has ordered harsh penalties for firms involved in corrupt procurement procedures. In August 2007, 15 senior members of the CCM were arrested over corruption allegations related to internal ruling party elections. Tanzania was ranked 94 out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech, it does not specifically guarantee freedom of the press. Nevertheless, Tanzania has a higher level of press freedom than other countries in its region. Print and electronic media are active, but their reach 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 a lack of capital investment, both public and private. However, a number of independent television and private FM radio stations have gone on the air in recent years, most of them in urban areas. The number of journalists has 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. A draft Media Service bill was postponed for consideration in 2007 after criticism that some of its provisions would limit press freedoms, for example through a mandatory registration process. Internet access, while limited to urban areas, is growing.

Press freedom rights in Zanzibar have been constrained by its semiautonomous government. In recent years, the government there has not permitted private broadcasters or newspapers, though many islanders can receive mainland broadcasts and read the mainland press. The Zanzibari government often reacts to media criticism by accusing the press 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 until April 2006, when the government defended its decision on the grounds that the paper had been “publishing articles bent on destabilizing the unity and solidarity” of Zanzibar.

Freedom of religion is generally respected in Tanzania, and relations between the various faiths are mainly peaceful. In recent years, however, religious tensions have increased. Separately, the 2001 Mufti Law allowed the Zanzibari government to appoint a mufti, 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 in the country.

Constitutional protections for the rights of freedom of assembly and association are generally, but not always, respected. The laws allow rallies only by officially registered political parties. Many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are active, and some have been able to influence the public policy process. However, critics have cited serious flaws in an NGO act passed by parliament in 2002, 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 legislation.

Less than 5 percent of the labor force is unionized, and workers’ rights are limited. Essential workers are barred from striking, and other workers’ right to strike is restricted by complex notification and mediation requirements.

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 rules are often ignored. Prison conditions are harsh, and police abuse is said to be common. According to the International Centre for Prison Statistics, as of the end of 2006 there were 44,000 inmates in the country’s prisons, although government sources have indicated that the facilities’ collective capacity is only 23,000. 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. In 2006, an increase in daylight armed robberies, especially in Dar-es-Salaam, marred Tanzania’s reputation for having relatively low crime rates.

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. The act merely lists acts of terrorism, which include, among other things, attacks on a person’s life, kidnapping, and serious damage to property. The law 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 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. In President Jakaya Kikwete’s cabinet, women were appointed to the key ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs. Traditional or Islamic customs that discriminate against women prevail in family law, especially in rural areas and in Zanzibar, and women have fewer educational and economic opportunities than men. Domestic violence against women is reportedly common and rarely prosecuted. Human rights groups have sought laws to bar forced marriages, which are most common among Tanzania’s coastal peoples.