United Republic of Tanzania

Head of state: Benjamin Mkapa
Head of government: Frederick Sumaye
Capital: Dar es Salaam
Population: 29.4 million
Official languages: Kiswahili, English
Death penalty: retentionist

Steps were taken towards ending the political crisis on the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, but 18 opposition leaders and their supporters remained in prison awaiting trial on treason charges. Debate continued about constitutional and judicial reform in Tanzania, and there was a proposal to establish a national human rights commission. Former President Julius Nyerere, who had been acting as facilitator in peace negotiations between the government of Burundi and Burundian armed opposition groups, died in October.


The opposition Civic United Front (CUF) signed a far-reaching agreement on reconciliation and democratic reform with the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), Party of the Revolution, in April, bringing an end to a political crisis which had been running since the disputed 1995 elections. The CUF stopped its boycott of parliamentary proceedings and agreed to recognize the government of President Salmin Amour.

  • Eighteen CUF leaders and members were finally committed for trial in March after spending more than a year in prison. The 16 men and two women were charged with conspiracy to overthrow the Zanzibar government and would face the death penalty if convicted, but the trial had not started by the end of the year. They included Juma Duni Haji, a former opposition candidate for the Tanzanian vice-presidency, three other members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives (parliament) and several senior civil servants. All 18 strongly denied the charges against them. AI feared that they would not receive a fair trial and called for their immediate and unconditional release on the grounds that they were prisoners of conscience who had been imprisoned on account of their non-violent political activities.


Tanzania continued to give protection to more than 800,000 refugees from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, accepting tens of thousands of new arrivals during 1999. On several occasions police arrested Burundian refugees, including children, who had been recruited from the refugee camps by Burundian armed opposition groups. In January police arrested more than 220 refugees, including 70 children. They were taken to court and the convicted adults were imprisoned; the children were caned.

Freedom of opinion

Almost 200 people belonging to rival factions of the National Convention for Construction and Reform, an opposition party, were arrested in Dar es Salaam in April for holding an illegal meeting. They were released a few days later on bail. In July more than 200 Muslim men and women were arrested during an illegal demonstration in Dar es Salaam against a ban on women wearing the hijab (veil) and other matters considered discriminatory to Muslims. All the detainees were released on bail, and the government subsequently withdrew the ban on the hijab .

Several independent newspapers were threatened with legal action after they published articles criticizing the government. Several laws remained in force allowing for the imprisonment of those convicted for publishing or expressing non-violent opinions.

  • Several government critics were arrested in November for alleged sedition. The Reverend Christopher Mkitila of the Democratic Party was held for three weeks for defaming the late President Nyerere in a recorded cassette; he was released on bail. Two weeks later he was convicted of sedition for defaming government officials in 1997, and was jailed for a year. Augustine Mrema, a prominent opposition politician from the Tanzania Labour Party, was arrested with six others for alleged sedition during local election campaigning in Moshi, but released on bail.

Extradition request

Bernard Ntuyahaga, a former Rwandese army officer charged with genocide, was released by the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in March. He was immediately rearrested by the Tanzanian authorities and he faced an extradition request to Rwanda. AI called on the government to refuse the request for Bernard Ntuyahaga's extradition on the grounds that he would possibly face an unfair trial and the death penalty, if convicted. His case was still being heard by a court in Dar es Salaam at the end of the year. The Tanzanian authorities had previously refused a request for his extradition to Belgium to face trial for the murder of Belgian UN soldiers.

'Witchcraft murders'

The murders of elderly women accused of witchcraft continued in the west of the country, predominantly among the Sukuma ethnic group. More than 100 alleged witches were killed in 1999, bringing the total killed in the past three years to around 400. They were murdered and their bodies mutilated by gangs reportedly hired by supposed victims of witchcraft. Government officials criticized the practice, calling it a "national catastrophe", but they took little or no action to prevent the killings or bring those responsible to justice.

Other concerns

Courts imposed several death sentences but, for the fifth successive year, no one was executed. Prison conditions were harsh and there were reports of ill-treatment in police custody. AI campaigned through public educational activities against female genital mutilation which, although illegal, continued to be practised widely.


In April the government replied to AI's 1998 memorandum about the alleged deaths of small-scale gold-miners in Bulyanhulu in Shinyanga region in 1996. The government denied there had been any deaths and rejected AI's call to open an independent judicial inquiry. AI maintained its criticism of local officials who had violated a court injunction by ordering the mines to be filled, but it was unable to substantiate the allegations of deaths.

AI country visits

AI delegates visited refugee camps in Tanzania in August to interview refugees about human rights violations in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and their treatment in the camps in Tanzania.

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