Tanzanian opposition party boycotts local government poll

In recent times the Tanzanian government has arbitrarily arrested and, in some cases, brought harassing prosecutions against journalists, activists, and opposition politicians, perceived to be government critics.

Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe, second left, leads other members of the party’s Central Committee in singing a solidarity song during a news conference in Dodoma yesterday. Others are, from left, Prof Abdallah Safari (vice chairman), Dr Vincent Mashinji (secretary-general), Mr John Mnyika (deputy secretary-general, Mainland) and Mr Salum Mwalimu (deputy secretary-general, Zanzibar).Photograph: Anthony Siame/The Citizen.

Chadema, Tanzania opposition party yesterday, had announced its withdrawal from the forthcoming local government elections, citing massive disqualification of the party’s candidates as the main reason. The scheduled date for the elections is on November 24, this year.

Tanzania local government minister Selemani Jafo while reacting to Chadema’s move last evening, responded that he was surprised by the news, saying the opposition party would deny the people their right to elect leaders of their choice.

The president and other high level officials have made hostile statements about rights issues, at times followed by enforcement actions cracking down on individuals and organizations seen as being critical of government policy.

Massive crackdown on the press by the Tanzania government

Rights groups have accused President John Magufuli’s government of undermining democratic freedoms. Photograph: Reuters.

Since President John Magufuli came to power in 2015, Tanzania has seen a sharp backslide in respect for basic freedoms of association and expression, undermining both media freedoms and civil society. While some restrictive trends may have predated his term, they have intensified since he became president.

Investigative journalist Erick Kabendera was reportedly interrogated over his work for the Economist. Photograph: STRINGER/Reuters

Journalist have been charged with “publishing misleading and inciteful information” under the 2015 Cybercrimes Act which the government uses to silence critics for criticizing the Zanzibar election. Which international human right organisations has condemned.

Tanzania’s constitution guarantees the right of citizens to be informed of issues of importance to society. But when the government suspends newspapers, it creates an environment of fear and prevents people from having legitimate discussions about serious issues facing the country. Tanzania should stop stifling freedom of expression and stop banning newspapers.

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