2014 Scores

Status: Partly Free
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst): 3.0
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst): 3
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst): 3

Trend Arrow: ↓

Tanzania received a downward trend arrow due to an increase in acts of extrajudicial violence by security forces, mob and vigilante violence, and violence against vulnerable groups including women, albinos, members of the LGBT community, and those at high risk of contracting HIV.


The year 2013 saw a general increase in acts of extrajudicial violence committed by security forces, mob and vigilante violence, and political violence. There was also an increase in violence against women, albinos, and people at risk of contracting HIV. Press freedom deteriorated due to the shutdown of key news outlets and an increase in attacks on journalists. Corruption continued to plague political and civilian life, with a number of new large-scale scandals exposed. New concerns also arose regarding a land rights dispute with the Maasai community and the revelation of the large-scale use of child labor in Tanzanian gold mining.

A draft constitution that proposed relatively revolutionary ideas was introduced in June, but the law that prompted the constitutional review was altered in September, making it likely the changes would not be implemented.


Political Rights: 29 / 40 (+1)

A. Electoral Process: 9 / 12

The president is elected by direct popular vote for a maximum of two five-year terms. A unicameral National Assembly (the Bunge), which currently has 357 members serving five-year terms, holds legislative power. Of these, 239 are directly elected in single-member constituencies, 102 are women chosen by political parties according to their representation, 10 are presidential appointees, 5 are members of the Zanzibar legislature, and the last is reserved for the attorney general. Zanzibar elects its own president and legislature, and maintains largely autonomous jurisdiction over the archipelago's internal affairs.

Despite some notable irregularities, the October 2010 elections were judged to be the most competitive and legitimate in Tanzania's history. While the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party retained its dominant position, winning 186 seats, the opposition gained its largest representation in Tanzania's history. The Civic United Front (CUF) took 24 seats and Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) won 23. President Jakaya Kikwete of the CCM – first elected in 2005 – was reelected with 61 percent of the vote, compared with 26 percent for CHADEMA's Wilibrod Slaa.

The National Electoral Commission and Zanzibar Electoral Commission maintain the electoral framework. Both are appointed by the president, and remain suspect institutions lacking in capacity and impartiality. In addition, the executive maintains the ability to appoint regional and district commissioners, who are influential during the election process. There was a significant decline in voter turnout during the 2010 elections, despite higher registration rates.

In 2013 the Tanzanian Constitutional Review Commission produced two draft constitutions (one in June and one in December). The most recent draft suggested a three-tiered federal state, fewer cabinet members, independent candidature, limits on executive appointment, and an explicit Bill of Rights. However, on September 6, the Constitution Review Act of 2011 was amended under protest from opposition parties to ensure that the Constituent Assembly, which debates the draft constitutions and ultimately approves the final version, would consist of legislators and presidential appointees. This potentially limited debate on the draft constitution, especially over controversial issues such as the future government structure. As of December 2013, the constituent assembly had not yet been convened.

The government began to make plans in 2013 to implement a biometric voter list that would address past issues with voter registration. By-elections for council seats in four wards in the Arusha region were held on July 14 and were generally peaceful, despite some reported issues with registration.

B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 12 / 16

Tanzanians have the right to organize into political parties. Coalitions are prohibited, as is independent candidature. There are opportunities for opposition parties to increase their support, although they still face significant hurdles. Opposition parties are not denied registration or the right to organize, yet continue to report harassment. On June 15, 2013, four people were killed and dozens injured in a grenade attack at a CHADEMA rally in Arusha. Later that month, Tanzanian police banned a CUF demonstration in Dar es Salaam and apparently tortured six party members in Mtwara. In July, the registrar of political parties threatened to de-register CHADEMA.

There is a growing opposition vote and comparatively stable opposition parties. Despite the proliferation of opposition parties, the same five have consistently won parliamentary seats – the CUF, CHADEMA, National Convention for Construction and Reform-Mageuzi, Tanzania Labor Party, and United Democratic Party. The constitution also permits political parties to form "shadow governments" while in opposition.

People's choices are hindered by threats from military forces and the use of material inducements by the ruling party. During the 2010 elections, security forces issued a threatening statement largely perceived as a warning to opposition parties. Local CCM representatives are widely reported to use small bribes to influence voting.

Cultural, ethnic, religious, and other minority groups have full political rights, but parties formed on explicitly religious, ethnic, or religious bases are prohibited.

C. Functioning of Government: 8 / 12 (+1)

The government is not free from pervasive corruption, despite the presence of the Prevention and Combating Corruption Bureau (PCCB). Corruption is pervasive in all aspects of political and commercial life, but especially in the energy and natural resources sectors. Tanzania was ranked 111 out of 177 countries and territories surveyed in Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index. In 2013, a large-scale corruption scandal was revealed involving the Commodity Import Support project; the PCCB was scheduled to investigate 23 public institutions for corruption practices (without resolves as of December 2013). The PCCB also introduced a record 823 cases into court.

The government remains sporadically responsive to citizen input between elections and citizens have access to public information, although they are not necessarily influential. The parliament of Tanzania publishes legislation, committee reports, budgets, and Q&A sessions. Most recently, the Tanzania Constitutional Forum (TCF), a civil society organization, helped coordinate opposition to the amended Constitution Review Act and pressured Kikwete to veto the bill, but unsuccessfully.

Civil Liberties: 35 / 40 (-3)

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 10 / 16 (-1)

Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech, it does not specifically guarantee freedom of the press. Independent media on mainland Tanzania have come under increasing pressure. Current laws allow authorities broad discretion to restrict media on the basis of national security or public interest. Difficult registration processes hinder print and electronic media. The Committee to Protect Journalists recorded 22 attacks or threats against members of the press in 2013; among the most notable incidents was the severe beating of New Habari reporter Absalom Kibanda in March. Members of the press report frequent intimidation, leading to self-censorship and a dearth of reporting on important issues like protests in the town of Mtwara in May and June. The ban on the newspaper MwanaHalisi – imposed in July 2012 – continued, and in September the newspapers Mwananchi and Mtanzania were shut down for 14 and 90 days, respectively. Press freedom in Zanzibar is even more constrained. The Zanzibari government owns the only daily newspaper, and private media other than radio is nearly non-existent. Internet access, while limited to urban areas, is growing. The authorities monitor websites that are critical of the government.

Freedom of religion is generally respected. Relations between the various faiths are largely peaceful, though there have been periodic instances of violence. In May 2013, a Catholic church in Arusha was bombed, killing 3 people and injuring 60.

Tensions between Muslims and Christians on Zanzibar continued in 2013. The Zanzibar 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. In February, Father Evarist Mushi was shot at the entrance of his church in Zanzibar, and just two days later, Zanzibar's Evangelical Church of Siloam was set on fire. In three separate incidents between June and September, acid was thrown at Catholic priests in Zanzibar.

There are few government restrictions on academic freedom. People are generally able to engage in private discussions, yet the ruling party CCM maintains a system of party-affiliated cells in urban and rural areas, which theoretically are responsible for every 10 households. This provides the ruling party with an effective tool of public monitoring that is used to stifle freedom of expression.

E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 7 / 12

The constitution guarantees freedoms of assembly, but the government can limit this right since all assemblies require police approval and critical political demonstrations are at times actively discouraged. A CUF demonstration was banned in June 2013, and a joint opposition rally was banned in September.

There is freedom for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and there are over 4,000 registered. While current law gives the government the right to de-register an NGO, there is little interference in NGO activity. Many, such as the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) and Research and Education for Democracy in Tanzania, publish reports that are critical of the government.

Trade unions are ostensibly independent of the government and are coordinated by the umbrella Trade Union Congress of Tanzania and Zanzibar Trade Union Congress. The Tanzania Federation of Cooperatives represents most of Tanzania's agricultural sector. Essential public services workers are barred from striking, and other workers are restricted by complex notification and mediation requirements. Strikes are infrequent on both the mainland and Zanzibar. In late August the Tanzanian-Zambian Railway Authority went on strike for two weeks.

F. Rule of Law: 9 / 16 (-2)

Tanzania's judiciary remains under political influence, and suffers from underfunding and corruption. All judges are political appointees, and the judiciary does not have an independent budget. There is therefore pressure from the executive regarding what cases the judiciary considers.

Rule of law does not always prevail in civil and criminal matters. Despite improvements, arrests and pretrial detention rules are often ignored. Prisons suffer from harsh conditions, including overcrowding and safety and health concerns. Security forces reportedly routinely abused, threatened, and mistreated civilians throughout 2013 with limited accountability. According to the LHRC, in the first half of 2013 at least 22 people were killed due to excessive force by security forces. Moreover, security forces were repeatedly unable to enforce rule of law; 597 deaths were reported due to mob violence, and 303 people accused of witchcraft people were killed.

Important segments of the population are not given equal treatment under the law or adequate protection from violence. Tanzania's albino population faced continued discrimination and violence in 2013. Consensual same-sex sexual relations are illegal and punishable by lengthy prison terms, and members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community face discrimination and police abuse. In 2013 Human Rights Watch reported an increase in the number of abuses committed by authorities against Tanzania's LGBT community, as well as against people at risk of contracting HIV. The report also uncovered a rise in cases of medical professionals refusing to treat or verbally abusing sex workers, LGBT people, and drug users.

Over 250,000 refugees from conflicts in neighboring countries reside in Tanzania. The 2002 Prevention of Terrorism Act has been criticized by NGOs and gives the police and immigration officials sweeping powers to arrest suspected illegal immigrants. In 2013, there was an increased crackdown on illegal immigration, including the deportation of nearly 4,000 people and several reported police abuses. Moreover, there has been increasing pressure to rapidly repatriate Rwandan refugees due to disputes with the Rwandan government over Tanzania's involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 9 / 16

Citizens generally enjoy freedom of travel, residence, employment, and education. However the prevalence of petty corruption can inhibit these freedoms.

Tanzanians have the right to establish private businesses, but often are required to pay petty bribes during the process. All land remains state-owned, and can only be leased to private entities. In 2013 nearly 70,000 Maasai living in the Loliondo region were threatened with eviction in order to create a new hunting ground licensed to the United Arab Emirates-owned OBC Corporation. In September 2013, after a strong public reaction, the plan was tabled.

Women's rights are constitutionally guaranteed but not uniformly protected. Traditional and Islamic customs frequently discriminate against women in family law, especially in rural areas and Zanzibar. Rape and domestic violence are reportedly common but rarely prosecuted. In 2013 there was a reported increase in gender-based violence, including an increase in female genital mutilation. The minimum female age for marriage is 15, but can be lower if customary law prevails. Trafficking of women and children from rural areas is also a growing concern.

Equality of economic opportunity is limited and there is continued economic exploitation. Poverty, especially in rural areas, impacts approximately 33 percent of the population. Most recently a 2013 Human Rights Watch report exposed the prevalent use of child labor in hazardous Tanzanian gold mines.

Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)

X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year

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.