More restrictions reported ahead of October election

On 14th September 2020, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, drew attention to Tanzania in a global human rights update to the UN Human Rights Council. She mentioned the increasing repression of democracy and civic space and a deeply deteriorated environment for human rights. Ten foreign missions in Tanzania representing various European countries and Canada issued a joint statement calling for free and fair elections and assurance that security for all contestants is secured.


As Tanzania enters the final few months before the Presidential election scheduled for 28th October 2020, several opposition parties have reported widespread irregularities in the process for enrolling candidates for the election. Most notably, leading opposition figure Tundu Lissu stated that dozens of candidates from his party CHADMEA had been disqualified for “unfair reasons”. In addition, since mid-June 2020, at least 17 opposition party members and critics of the government have been arrested, with the increased oppression of opposition, suspension of human rights groups and the limiting of international media coverage of the elections being directly linked to the current government, led by President John Magufuli, working to control the election by silencing any opposition.

On 13th August 2020, the northern headquarters of leading opposition party CHADEMA, in Arusha, was attacked with firebombs and badly damaged. On the same day, the leader of CHADEMA, Tundu Lissu, reported that his convoy had been attacked by people throwing stones. As previously reported on the Monitor, Lissu recently returned to Tanzania after several years in exile following a failed assassination attempt in 2017.

In separate developments, on 17th August 2020, the Tanzanian Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) had their bank accounts frozen following an order from the Tanzanian Police, who reportedly received instructions to do so from government officials. THRDC was subsequently forced to close operations and cancel planned events. THRDC were recently targeted in June, when their workshop was shut down by the police and two of their staff arrested, as previously documented.


The Tanzanian government continues to silence media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, most recently through enacting new online content regulations in early August 2020, as previously reported on the Monitor. Concerns have been raised that the crackdown on what journalists can report in the pandemic will stifle access to public health information. Reports have also emerged of a toll-free number for citizens to report anyone spreading rumours about COVID-19 on social media.

Separately, a social media campaign, “#WhereIsAzory” was recently launched to bring renewed attention to the disappearance of Azory Gwanda, a freelance journalist working in rural Tanzania who went missing in November 2017. To date, there has been no credible investigation carried out.