2012 Scores

Status: Partly Free
Freedom Rating: 3.0
Civil Liberties: 3
Political Rights: 3


After holding successful presidential and parliamentary elections in 2010, Tanzania in November 2011 passed legislation to begin the process of reforming the constitution. However, further advances in civil and political rights have stalled in the face of continued impunity for the security forces, widespread corruption, and government interference in the media.

Three years after mainland Tanganyika gained independence from Britain in 1961, the Zanzibar archipelago 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.

CCM victories in the 1995 and 2000 presidential and parliamentary elections on the mainland and on Zanzibar were tainted by fraud and irregularities. The CCM captured a majority of seats in the 2005 elections, and Foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete, a CCM stalwart, was elected president. The postelection atmosphere was tense as the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) once again accused the CCM of electoral fraud. Negotiations to legitimate the 2005 elections remained deadlocked until a July 2010 referendum led to a constitutional change creating two vice-presidential positions to be divided between the CCM and CUF.

The campaign period for the October 2010 national polls was characterized by lively policy debate and active campaigning by a range of parties. Kikwete was reelected to a second five-year term as president with 61 percent of the vote, defeating five opposition candidates. While the CCM retained its majority in concurrent National Assembly elections, winning 186 seats, the opposition gained its largest representation in Tanzania's history. The CUF took 24 seats and Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) won 23. While there were some protests alleging vote rigging and poor administration of the elections, the 2010 polls represented a considerable improvement over previous elections. In the separate Zanzibar polls, the CCM presidential candidate also won a narrow victory.

In November 2011, the National Assembly passed the Constitution Review Act, which calls for the creation of a commission to begin reforming the constitution. The opposition protested that the public had not been adequately consulted about the new law, and expressed concern that members of the commission are appointed by the president. Later that month, the police refused to grant Jukwaa la Katiba (Constitutional Forum), an umbrella group of civil society organizations, permission to hold a demonstration in Dar es Salaam against Kikwete signing the bill.

In January 2011, two people were killed by police at a CHADEMA-led antigovernment protest in Arusha. Thirteen CHADEMA officials were arrested for inciting violence; the case was pending at year's end. In early November, the police banned demonstrations by CHADEMA nationwide, on the grounds that the party's previous gatherings had become violent.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties

Tanzania is an electoral democracy. The October 2010 national elections were judged to be the most competitive and legitimate in Tanzania's history. Unlike past elections, the opposition accepted the 2010 results in Zanzibar, due in large part to a July referendum providing for the creation of a national unity government after the poll. 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 357 members serving five-year terms. Of these, 239 are directly elected in single-seat constituencies; 102 are women chosen by the political parties according to their representation in the Bunge; 10 are appointed by the president; 1 is awarded to the Attorney General; and 5 are members of the Zanzibar legislature, whose 50 deputies are elected to five-year terms. Along with the legislature, Zanzibar has its own president and cabinet with largely autonomous jurisdiction over the archipelago's internal affairs.

Although opposition parties were legalized in 1992, the ruling CCM continues to dominate 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 have also tended to be highly fractious. 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.

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. Several high-profile scandals, particularly the controversial purchase of radar equipment from the United Kingdom involving alleged kickbacks to Tanzanian government officials and businessmen, were the focus of considerable press attention through 2010 and into 2011. Tanzania was ranked 100 out of 183 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech, it does not specifically guarantee freedom of the press. Current laws allow authorities broad discretion to restrict media on the basis of national security or public interest. Print and electronic media are active, though hindered by a difficult government registration process and largely limited to major urban areas. The growth of broadcast media has been slowed 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. Government-owned media outlets are largely biased toward the ruling party. Journalists were arbitrarily arrested, threatened, and assaulted in 2011, leading to self-censorship. In December, authorities charged the managing editor and a columnist with the daily Tanzania Daima with incitement over an article claiming that the government misused police to block demonstrators. The case was pending at year's end.

Press freedom rights in Zanzibar are constrained by its semiautonomous government. The Zanzibari government owns the only daily newspaper, but three of the four newspapers that publish periodically are privately owned. Many islanders receive mainland broadcasts and read the mainland press. The government largely controls radio and television content; mainland television broadcasts are delayed in Zanzibar to allow authorities to censor content. The Zanzibari government often reacts to media criticism by accusing the press of being a "threat to national unity."

Internet access, while limited to urban areas, is growing. While previously unrestricted, authorities now monitor and reportedly engage in cyberattacks on websites that are critical of the government.

Freedom of religion is generally respected, and relations between the various faiths are largely peaceful. In recent years, however, religious tensions, especially between Muslims and Christians, have increased. The Zanzibari government appoints a mufti, a professional jurist who interprets Islamic law, to oversee Muslim organizations. Some Muslims have criticized this practice, arguing that it represents excessive government interference. Academic freedom is respected.

The constitution guarantees freedoms of assembly and association. However, these rights are not always respected. Organizers of political events are required to obtain permission from the police, and critical political demonstrations are actively discouraged. Many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are active, and some have influenced the public policy process. However, the 2002 NGO Act has been criticized for increasing government control over NGOs and restricting their operation. Essential public service workers are barred from striking, and other workers are restricted by complex notification and mediation requirements. Strikes are infrequent on both the mainland and in Zanzibar. There were reports in 2011 of employers using discriminatory hiring practices, actively discouraging unionization, and making threats of violence against union leaders.

Tanzania's judiciary is subject to political influence, underfunding, and corruption. The president exercises considerable influence over which cases are presented to the courts. 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. Narcotics trafficking is a growing problem, especially given the challenge of controlling Tanzania's borders. Security forces reportedly routinely abused, threatened, and mistreated civilians with limited accountability throughout 2011. By December, 25 people had been killed and over 40 injured by police and other security forces during the year.

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.

Tanzania has enjoyed relatively tranquil relations among its many ethnic groups. A large number of refugees from conflicts in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia – 311,150 as of September 2011 – live in Tanzania. Tanzania won praise in 2010 for granting citizenship to 162,000 Burundian refugees, the largest-ever single naturalization of refugees.

Albinos are subject to violence and discrimination. There were at least five attempted murders of albinos to obtain their body parts in 2011, though there were no reported killings. The first albino murder convictions were obtained in September 2009, and the first albino was elected to parliament in 2010.

Women's rights are constitutionally guaranteed but not uniformly protected. Nevertheless, women are relatively well represented in parliament, with over 30 percent of seats. 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 is reportedly common and rarely prosecuted. Human rights groups have sought laws to bar forced marriages, which are most common among Tanzania's coastal peoples. According to a 2011 UNICEF survey, almost 33 percent of girls and 13.4 percent of boys under the age of 18 had been victims of sexual violence. In 2011, over 1,000 deaths due to mob violence and allegations of witchcraft were reported.

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