Censorship takes front seat as authorities target government critics
On 13th June 2023, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights issued directives to Tanzania, instructing the country to amend its National Elections Act and Criminal Procedure Act. These directives were based on the Court's findings of violations in the qualification criteria for election officers and specific provisions concerning non-bailable offences. Tanzania is obliged to submit regular progress reports, at intervals of six months, until full implementation of the Court's directives is achieved.
DAR: Aliyewahi kuwa Rais wa Tanganyika Law Society, Mwanasheria Dkt. Rugemeleza Nshala, amesema amepewa vitisho vya kuuawa kutokana na kuzungumzia sakata la Mkataba wa Uendelezaji Bandari kati ya Tanzania na DP World— Jamii Forums (@JamiiForums) July 6, 2023
Ameongeza kuwa leo Julai 6, 2023 amepokea taarifa za Wakili… pic.twitter.com/SbXJDfcaSC
On 10th July 2023, the director of criminal investigation ordered Dr. Rugemeleza Nshala, a lawyer and activist, to appear before the police for an investigation in response to his criticism arguing that the President’s decision to sign the Tanzania-Dubai port deal earlier mentioned is equivalent to “selling the country off to foreigners”. According to Human Rights Watch, he fled Tanzania after receiving death threats for his outspoken opposition to the agreement.
Two days later, on 12th July 2023, police summoned lawyer Boniface Mwabukusi for co-hosting a news conference in Dar es Salaam protesting the port agreement. On 14th July 2023, both Mwabukusi and politician Mdude Nyagali were arrested. During the arrests, the police took Mwabukusi's phone, interrogated him for eight hours and released him without charge. On 17th July 2023, the police released Nyangali on police bond without charge, and they demanded the surrender of his electronic devices, which he refused to comply with.
Between June and August 2023, Tanzanian authorities arrested 22 individuals, including protesters and activists, for criticising the Tanzania National Assembly's approval of an "intergovernmental agreement" with the Emirate of Dubai in October 2022. This agreement involved developing, managing and operating sea and lake ports by the Emirate of Dubai in specified areas, including special economic zones, logistics parks and trade corridors. Their criticism stemmed from concerns that this deal grants Dubai excessive control over Tanzania's ports, potentially violating both Tanzanian and international law.
On 28th July 2023, Surfshark, a cybersecurity firm, disclosed that Tanzania, alongside five other African countries, imposed internet restrictions during the first half of 2023, contributing to a total of 42 global internet disruptions recorded. Such restrictions frequently occur during periods of political unrest, including protests.
On 22nd July 2023, Chadema Party militants assaulted journalists Fortune Francis and Sunday George, who were covering a rally in Dar es Salaam for Mwananchi Communications Limited. They also attacked their driver, Omari Mhando, and stole their phones.
On 15th August 2023, a group of Maasai youths armed with machetes and spears attacked and critically injured journalists Ferdinand Shayo and Deniss Msacky, as well as their translator, Habib Mchane, during their investigation into the government's plan for residents to relocate from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) to Handeni District. The Maasai community in Ngorongoro district are protesting the government’s intention to evict them from the reserve and Loliondo to make way for trophy hunting and elite tourists, as previously reported on the Monitor.
On 17th June 2023, Commander Jumanne Muliro of the Dar es Salaam Special Zone issued a ban on a planned demonstration organised by opposition party member Deus Soka. The ban forced the organiser to draft a cancellation notice for the protest. On 19th June 2023, the police arrested protestors who continued their demonstration despite the ban
On 11th September 2023, police arrested Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu and several Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) party leaders at a hotel in Arusha for allegedly holding an unlawful assembly and preventing police from doing their work. Later that evening, the authorities released them on bail. Since his return from exile in January, Lissu has been holding political rallies across the country, criticising President Samia Suluhu Hassan's administration for its human rights record and its controversial management of ports.
On 17th July 2023, the police arrested lawyer Peter Madeleka near an Arusha courthouse after the high court cancelled his plea with the Director of Public Prosecution in a 2020 case involving economic sabotage. Lawyer Mwabukusi and activist Nshala allege that Madeleka’s arrest is connected to his public criticism of the port agreement.
On 15th August 2023, Regional Commissioner John Mongella unveiled a controversial government plan to forcibly evict over 80,000 Maasai people from their ancestral lands. This plan involved reclassifying Game Controlled Areas into game reserves, banning permanent residency and prohibiting livestock grazing, as previously reported on the Monitor. Maasai leaders refused to endorse the plan, citing fears of manipulation. In response, the Maasai community initiated a lawsuit in the East African Court of Justice, but the court dismissed their case. Concerns persist about the Maasai's well-being, land rights and access to essential services, as the government has reduced healthcare services, imposed livelihood restrictions, downgraded public hospitals to clinics, discontinued ambulance and emergency services, and relocated healthcare professionals to urban areas.