Amnesty Condemns Tanzanian “Lawfare”

  • The human rights organization has hence demanded that Tanzania must end the arbitrary arrests of opposition leaders.
  • "Tanzania has weaponized the law to the point that no one really knows when they are on the right or wrong side of it."
  • Several of Tanzania's regional neighbors have criticized President Magufuli.

As the date for Tanzania’s sixth general election nears, human rights organization Amnesty International has raised a red flag that the government has resorted to “a raft of laws” designed “to silence journalists, NGOs, human rights defenders and members of the political opposition, among others.”

Critics say President John Magufuli embraces a brazen authoritarian streak while restricting political freedoms.

The election is scheduled for October 28. The human rights organization has demanded that Tanzania must end the arbitrary arrests of opposition leaders. According to the organization, the Tanzanian authorities have lately intensified their crackdown on the nation’s opposition parties, as well as the media, as the said elections near.

In the report, entitled “Lawfare – Repression by Law Ahead of Tanzania’s General Elections,” released on Monday, Amnesty denounces cases of opposition leaders being victimized, arbitrary arrests, and intimidation by the authorities. Meanwhile, the ruling party campaigns smoothly with no artificial obstacles placed on its way.

Double Standards

“Tanzania has weaponized the law to the point that no one really knows when they are on the right or wrong side of it. Politicians have been arrested for holding or attending meetings, media houses suspended and banned, online activism criminalized, and NGOs stifled with endless regulations,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.

“The authorities must stop harassing opposition politicians over ridiculous pretexts and instead respect, uphold and facilitate the fulfilment of the rights to liberty, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, to enable them to freely run their campaigns,” he added.

Upon assuming power in 2015, President Magufuli was initially praised for his anti-corruption agenda, but he later adopted an autocratic style of governance and became an uncompromising and intolerant leader to any form of divergent opinions. President Magufuli is seeking re-election via the ruling Party of the Revolution (CCM). 

Repression grows in Tanzania 

“What Magufuli is doing is an extension of authoritarianism in Tanzania and that we must bleed for Tanzania,” said Willy Mutunga, Kenya’s former Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court. “The judiciary is not upholding the constitution.”

Suba Churchill, the coordinator of the National Civil Society Congress in Kenya, said the people and civil society of Tanzania deserve everyone’s support. “For years, Tanzania was the refuge of choice for those running away from repression in Kenya and Uganda.”

Chadema presidential candidate Tundu Lissu during a past campaign.

“The role that Tanzania played in restoring normalcy in Uganda and Rwanda cannot be overlooked, yet we see the deterioration of civil liberties in Tanzania.”

Is there Hope for Change?

Amnesty International’s report was released “with the hope” that the Tanzanian authorities will be able to “return to respect human rights, equality before the law and the protection of all citizens, and ensure that the law is used as an instrument of transformation and not of repression,” explains Deprose Muchena.

Amnesty International hence called upon international and regional organizations, such as the United Nations and the African Union, to pressure the Tanzanian authorities to return to “democratic normality.”

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Vincent Ferdinand

News reporting is my thing. My view of what is happening in our world is colored by my love of history and how the past influences events taking place in the present time.  I like reading politics and writing articles. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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