Head of state: Jakaya Kikwete
Head of government: Mizengo Pinda (replaced Edward Lowassa in February)
Head of Zanzibar government: Amani Abeid Karume
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
Population: 41.5 million
Life expectancy: 51 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 123/110 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 69.4 per cent

Despite economic growth, a significant part of Tanzania's population continued to live in poverty. Albino people were killed in some parts of the country and the government's response was inadequate. The right to freedom of expression came under attack. Reports of violence against women continued.


Talks broke down between the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the opposition, Civil United Front (CUF), regarding power-sharing and legal and electoral reform in semi-autonomous Zanzibar.

Discrimination – killings of albino people

As a direct result of discriminatory and harmful cultural practices, at least 28 albino people were murdered in what were believed to be ritual killings in different parts of the country, including Tabora, Arusha, Mara, Shilela and Shinyanga. These killings were allegedly driven by the belief that the body parts would make people rich when used in witchcraft practices. Some of the bodies were mutilated. The President condemned these killings and called for the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators and the central registration of all albino people in order to assure them of police protection. Police announced the arrest of 47 suspected perpetrators of the killings. However, by the end of 2008 there were no records of any prosecutions. The Tanzania Albino Society, a civil society group, criticized the lack of prosecutions, the slow rate of arrests of alleged perpetrators and the lack of a long-term comprehensive government plan aimed at preventing the killings.

Freedom of expression

The government withdrew the draft Media Services Bill, 2007, and stated that it would be redrafted. The Bill had been the subject of local and international criticism on grounds that, if passed into law, it would have severely restricted the right to freedom of expression. In October, local media civil society groups submitted a revised version to the government for consideration in the redrafting of the Bill. By the end of the year the redrafted version of the Bill had not been published.

  • In October the government ordered a three-month ban on the weekly MwanaHALISI newspaper for publishing a story identifying individuals allegedly trying to impede the President's efforts to stand for a second term in office. The Minister for Information cited provisions of the Newspaper Act which allows the government to order a newspaper to cease publication "if it is against public interest" or if it is "in the interests of peace and good order to do so". The Minister also announced plans to charge the paper's publisher and editor with sedition. By the end of the year the ban against the newspaper was still in force.

Violence against women and girls

Violence against women, including domestic violence, marital rape and early marriage of young girls, remained widespread. Female genital mutilation (FGM) continued to be practised in some rural areas. The government and a coalition of NGOs continued to campaign against FGM in the areas where it was prevalent. However, over 10 years since the enactment of the Sexual Offences (Special Provisions) Act (1998) outlawing FGM, the government's efforts to eradicate it remained inadequate. Implementation of the law was slow and perpetrators were rarely brought to justice. Local organizations working against the practice reported the continuation of a trend where girls and women over the age of 18 were still being forced to undergo FGM (even if they escaped it at a younger age), partly as a result of the failure in the 1998 law which only proscribes the practice for children under 18 years of age.

Prison conditions

Prison conditions – both on the mainland and in Zanzibar – continued to be harsh and inmates complained of inadequate food and poor medical services. A report by the Legal Human Rights Centre and Zanzibar Legal Services Centre, two local human rights organizations, found overcrowding of up to 193 per cent in mainland Tanzania and that this was mainly attributable to delays in disposing of cases in courts.

In a number of prisons children were held together with adult inmates, in breach of international standards.

Death penalty

Although there were no executions, courts continued to hand down death sentences. Despite the commutation of death sentences to life imprisonment in 2006, the government did not take formal steps to abolish the death penalty.

Amnesty International visits

An Amnesty International delegate visited mainland Tanzania in October.

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.