Tanzania | Freedom House

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Freedom in the World 2009

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Long-standing negotiations on political reform between Tanzania’s ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and the Zanzibari opposition Civic United Front were derailed in 2008, raising the specter of unrest in advance of the 2010 general elections. The CCM faced corruption allegations during the year relating to the misuse of government funds in the 2005 election campaign. Separately, two ministers resigned in 2008 following corruption allegations.

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 Republicof 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. 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 2000. President Benjamin Mkapa, who first took office in 1995, was reelected with about 70 percent of the vote, and the CCM again won an overwhelming victory in the parliament. Although the conduct of the elections represented a modest improvement over the 1995 vote, 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, although there were delays 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. Voter registration in Zanzibar was also postponed, 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. There were incidents of violence in the run-up to the polls for the presidency and parliament in Zanzibar, and the postelection atmosphere was tense as the CUF once again accused the victorious CCM of electoral fraud. Intermittent negotiations designed to resolve complaints about the 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. 

Throughout 2008, negotiations over Zanzibar foundered amidst a barrage of recriminations and charges of lack of good faith between the CUF and CCM, especially over the CCM’s call for a referendum on power sharing. Two government ministers resigned during the year following corruption allegations.

Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an annual per capita income of approximately $700. It has recently, however, experienced significant economic growth, with a rate of over 7 percent for 2008.

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. In April 2008, a scandal emerged involving the CCM’s misuse of the $133 million External Payments Arrears account of the Bank of Tanzania, including allegations that funds had been used to finance the CCM’s campaign in the 2005 general elections.In February, Prime Minister Edward Lowassa resigned following evidence of misconduct associated with a 2006 contract with a U.S.-based power company. Infrastructure Minister Andrew Chenge also resigned in April following accusations of corruption over the controversial purchase of radar. Tanzania was ranked 102 out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2008 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. In October 2008, authorities banned the Kiswahili tabloid, Mwanahalisi, for three months due to the publication of allegedly critical articles about high-ranking public officials. 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.”

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 have been critical of this law, arguing that it represents excessive government interference in the exercise of religion. 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 a 2002 NGO act, 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. There were sporadic strikes and protests  throughout 2008 by public sector employees over lack of pay.

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 Studies, at 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. A recent 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; according to the 2008 World Refugee Report approximately 330,000 refugees remain in the country.

Women’s rights guaranteed by the constitution and other laws are not uniformly protected. 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. Nevertheless, women are relatively well represented in parliament, with over 30 percent of seats held by women.Human rights groups have sought laws to bar forced marriages, which are most common among Tanzania’s coastal peoples. Albinos are subject to violence and discrimination, with approximately 30 murders in 2008.