Capital: Dar-es-Salaam
Population: 40,200,000

Political Rights Score: 4 *
Civil Liberties Score: 3 *
Status: Partly Free


In 2009, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party secured overwhelming victories in local elections. Relations between the Zanzibar opposition and the CCM remained tense throughout the year. Meanwhile, Tanzania's economy suffered from the impact of the global recession.

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 Republic of Tanzania. The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, under longtime president Julius Nyerere, dominated the country's political life. Nyerere's collectivist economic philosophy – known in Swahili as ujaama – promoted a sense of community and nationality, but 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, was president 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. The 2000 legislative and presidential polls showed modest improvements over the 1995 vote. However, the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) and independent observers charged that the CCM had engaged in fraud to retain power. Benjamin Mkapa, who first took office in 1995, was reelected as president.

Rioting in Zanzibar in 2001 resulted in the deaths of more than 40 people. The CCM and the CUF reached a reconciliation agreement designed to resolve the political crisis, but implementation of the agreement was delayed, and continues to strain relations with the mainland. The ongoing failure of the authorities and parties to resolve the Zanzibar crisis in recent years has negatively affected perceptions of Tanzania's political and governance system as a whole.

In presidential and parliamentary elections in December 2005, Foreign Minister Jakaya 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 in Zanzibar, and the postelection atmosphere was tense as the CUF once again accused the victorious CCM of electoral fraud. Intermittent negotiations failed to resolve complaints about the 2005 elections in Zanzibar. 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.

In October 2009, the CCM won overwhelming victories in local elections. However, relations between the Zanzibar opposition and the CCM remained tense. Meanwhile, negotiations to legitimate the 2005 elections or prepare for the 2010 elections remained deadlocked.

Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an annual per capita income of approximately $1,200. According to the International Monetary Fund, the global recession has played a significant role in reducing GDP growth from over 7 percent in 2008 to about 5 percent in 2009

Political Rights and Civil Liberties

Tanzania is not an electoral democracy. Elections have consistently been marred by widespread allegations of improprieties which largely benefit the CCM. Executive power rests with the president, who is elected by direct popular vote for a maximum of 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.

Although opposition parties were legalized in 1992, the ruling CCM continues to control the country's political life. The constitution prohibits political coalitions, which has impeded efforts by other parties to seriously contest the CCM's dominance. Opposition politics are highly fractious; the opposition fielded nine separate presidential candidates in the 2005 polls. The opposition CUF, based in Zanzibar, has sought to establish significant support on the Tanzanian mainland. 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. Parties with parliamentary representation receive government subsidies, but they criticize the low level of funding and the formula by which it is allocated.

Corruption remains a serious problem. A 2007 anticorruption bill gave the government greater power to target abuses in procurement and money laundering, but critics claim it is insufficient. In 2008, several scandals led to the resignation of the prime minister and three cabinet ministers. Tanzania was ranked 126 out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech, it does not specifically guarantee freedom of the press. Print and electronic media are active, but their reach is largely limited to major urban areas. While the country has more than 50 regular newspapers, including 17 dailies, the government is allowed to ban newspapers without judicial recourse. 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. The number of journalists has increased from just 230 in 1991 to more than 4,000, according to the 2008 Media Sustainability Index, but journalists work under very difficult conditions with little compensation. Internet access, while limited to urban areas, is growing.

Press freedom rights in Zanzibar are constrained by its semiautonomous government, which has not permitted private broadcasters or newspapers. However, many islanders 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. The Zanzibari government appoints 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.

The constitution guarantees freedoms of assembly and association. However, these rights are not always respected, particularly in Zanzibar where on several occasions in 2009 authorities either banned demonstrations or arrested peaceful protestors. Organizers of political events are required to obtain permission from the police. Many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are active, and some have influenced the public policy process. However, some observers have critiqued 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, and the prohibition of national networks and coalitions of NGOs.

Less than 5 percent of the labor force is unionized, and workers' rights are limited. Essential workers are barred from striking, and other workers are restricted by complex notification and mediation requirements. In recent years, there have been sporadic strikes and protests by public sector employees over lack of pay. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, workers are commonly dismissed for involvement in trade union activity. Strikes are often declared illegal, and according to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Zanzibar has outlawed strikes completely.

Tanzania's judiciary has displayed some 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. Prisons suffer from harsh conditions, including overcrowding and safety and health concerns, and police abuse is common. Crime remains a significant concern despite low levels of violence. Narcotics trafficking is a growing problem, especially given the challenge of controlling Tanzania's borders.

The 2002 Prevention of Terrorism Act has been criticized by NGOs for its inconsistencies and anomalies. Acts of terrorism include 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 2009 World Refugee Survey, approximately 320,000 refugees remain in the country. The final group of Burundian refugees in Tanzania who fled in 1972 returned home in October 2009.

Women's rights are guaranteed by the constitution, but 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 enjoy 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. 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 more than 50 suspected murders since 2006. In September 2009, four men were sentenced to death for murdering an albino boy, the first albino murder convictions in Tanzania's history.

*Countries are ranked on a scale of 1-7, with 1 representing the highest level of freedom and 7 representing the lowest level of freedom.

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