EU Parliament calls on Tanzania to end politics of impunity

THE European Parliament has made a strong resolution on Tanzania, calling for holistic reforms that would see the East African country ending impunity and getting back to its democratic track.

The joint motion for a resolution, dated December 12, 2018, enumerates a number of human rights violations in Tanzania in the past three years since President John Magufuli assumed power.  

The EU Parliament calls on Tanzania to, among other things, release political prisoners, repeal or amend draconian laws, safeguard the rights of human rights defenders, journalists, and other freedom of expression stakeholders.

Above all, it calls for an independent investigation into incidents of abducting, shooting, drowning and killing of citizens that are being notoriously attributed to “the unknown people.” The EU will keep a close eye on Tanzania, monitoring the human rights situation and issuing regular reports.

This is the first time the EU Parliament has made such as strong resolution on Tanzania, formerly regarded by Europe and the world as Eastern Africa’s icon of political peace and stability. The last three years of Magufuli’s strong-man brutal politics, have maimed, jailed, lost and killed many citizens, eroding all democratic gains of the past 25 years.

Magufuli has turned Tanzania into a police state where he, as president, is struggling to replace democracy with mechanical operations and political victimisation in the pretext of waging anti-graft and economic wars. Most of his critics or competitors and their supporters have ended up in court, hospitals or graves, while some of them remain in remand prison without bail or trial.

He is creating a country where no one but himself, and whoever he wishes to grant permission, has freedom of speech, movement, association and thought; where he is the only person that can interpret the constitution and laws the way he chooses, and cannot be questioned by anyone, as he seeks to rule by presidential decrees instead of abiding by the constitution.

The EU resolution comes at a time when Tundu Lissu, a lawyer, one of Magufuli’s strongest critics, and opposition chief whip who miraculously survived an attempted assassination in September last year, is still nursing bullets wounds in a Brussels-based hospital. It comes at a time when Magufuli is threatening to incarcerate all vocal opposition leaders. The top leadership of the main opposition party, including members of parliament, is in court to answer framed up charges associated with their role as opposition politicians.

For three weeks now, Freeman Mbowe, the leader of official opposition in parliament, and Esther Matiko, a member of parliament for Tarime Urban, are  in remand prison after the court revoked their bail on flimsy grounds, obviously working on “instructions from above.” At a public event in Dar es Salaam recently, Magufuli said that unless they changed their way of doing politics they would end up “rotting in prison.”

A similar fate and harassment orchestrated by Magufuli is befalling Zitto Kabwe, a member of parliament for Kigoma Urban and leader of ACT-Wazalendo, another fierce critic of Magufuli. A good number of MPs from the Civic United Front (CUF), Zanzibar’s main opposition party that was denied its well-deserved presidential victory in 2015, are in court on similar grounds.

At the same time, the the government has drafted and sent to parliament amendments of the Political Parties Act that is practically bent on putting all parties under the armpit of the president who, through the office of the registrar of political parties, will determine the type of politics, membership and leadership that parties must choose and follow. The law seeks to bestow upon the registrar – the president’s appointee and ruling party zealot – powers to endorse or revoke membership or leadership of any person in any party against the parties’ constitutions. It also seeks to criminalise all political activism in the country.

This is an actualisation of Magufuli’s public vow in February 2016 that after five years of his presidency he would have obliterated the opposition. He has openly been saying that he wants to run the country as he wishes, unopposed, and without being criticised. In some of his public speeches, he has been blatantly threatening to “break legs” of whoever opposes him.

The first three years of Magufuli in power have brought about more misery and fear than prosperity and hope to his people.  

At at time when serious action was needed from local and global players to bring sense to Tanzania’s domestic politics and administration, the EU Parliament came in with a strong statement, a joint resolution that has been copied to the Council, the European Commission, the Vice-President of the European Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the ACP-EU Council, the institutions of the African Union, the institutions of the East African Community, and the President, Government and Parliament of Tanzania.       

A complete version of the resolution is available on the EU Parliament website.  For easier reading, SAUTI KUBWA is reproducing it below:

 European Parliament resolution on Tanzania (2018/2969(RSP)
The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Tanzania, including that of 12 March 2015(1),

–  having regard to the Declaration by High Representative Federica Mogherini of 15 November 2018 on behalf of the EU on EU-Tanzania relations,

–  having regard to the local EU statement of 23 February 2018 on the rise in politically-related violence and intimidation in Tanzania,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 16 June 2016 on LGBTI equality,

–  having regard to the statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), of 2 November 2018 on the prosecution and arrests of LGBT people in Tanzania,

–  having regard to the EU Council’s Toolkit to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (the LGBT Toolkit),

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,

–  having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR),

–  having regard to the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement (‘Cotonou Agreement’),

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas, since the election of Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli in 2015, basic rights in the country have been undermined through repressive laws and decrees; whereas critical journalists, opposition politicians and outspoken civil society activists have faced threats, arbitrary detention and harassment;

B.  whereas there has been increasing stigmatisation, violence and targeted arrests against LGBTI people over the past two years in the country; whereas, under Tanzanian law, same-sex relationships are criminal offences punishable by 30 years to life imprisonment; whereas Tanzania’s anti-homosexuality law is among the harshest in the world;

C.  whereas suspected gay men in Tanzania are subjected to forced anal examinations, a discredited method of ‘proving’ homosexual conduct that the United Nations and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights have denounced as torture;

D.  whereas Paul Makonda, the regional commissioner of Dar Es Salaam, has been a prominent advocate of the repression; whereas, at a press conference on 31 October 2018, he announced the creation of a task force to track down gay men, prostitutes and people conducting fraudulent fundraisers on social media; whereas he called on the public to report suspected gay people to the authorities;

E.  whereas the Ministry of Health has temporarily suspended the provision of HIV and AIDS services at community level and has closed drop-in centres for key populations, including gay men; whereas it closed 40 health centres on 17 February 2017 for allegedly encouraging homosexuality; whereas several organisations have reported that the crackdown on the LGBTI community has resulted in HIV-positive men failing to access their anti-retroviral treatment, while others have stopped accessing testing and preventive services;

F.  whereas in November 2018 ten men were arrested in Zanzibar for allegedly conducting a same-sex marriage ceremony; whereas 13 health and human rights activists were arrested on 17 October 2018 for participating in a meeting to discuss a law restricting the access of LGBTI people to some health services;

G.  whereas many children and adolescents, particularly girls, are exposed to human rights abuses and harmful practices, including widespread sexual violence, corporal punishment, child marriages and teenage pregnancies, that make schooling difficult or impossible for them; whereas the Tanzanian Government obstructs access to sexual and reproductive health services and intimidates organisations providing information about such services;

H.  whereas on 22 June 2018 President Magufuli issued a declaration banning pregnant girls from attending school; whereas the authorities are intimidating civil society organisations (CSOs) that advocate the rights of pregnant girls to go back to school;

I.  whereas the Tanzania Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance has not been operational for some time; whereas President Magufuli has not appointed commissioners or other office bearers to the Commission;

J.  whereas the government has shut down or threatened privately owned radio stations and newspapers, and ended live transmissions of parliamentary debates; whereas local channels and decoders which air local channels have been closed;

K.  whereas Tanzania’s National Assembly passed the Cybercrimes Act in 2015 and the Online Content Regulations in September 2018 with the aim of controlling content used on social media; whereas the Statistics Act adopted in 2015 states that it is not allowed to discuss or question certain statistics communicated by the government;

L.  whereas leading opposition members are regularly arrested on charges ranging from allegedly insulting the President to false information and sedition; whereas 20 members of Tanzania’s main opposition party were arrested in July 2018 over claims that they were fomenting trouble; whereas several political opposition members and parliamentarians have been violently attacked and even killed since the start of 2018; whereas on 22 February Godfrey Luena, a member of parliament with Tanzania’s main opposition party Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) and a vocal land rights defender, was killed with machetes outside his home; whereas in November 2018 the programme coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Africa Angela Quintal, and her colleague Muthoki Mumo were arrested and released after pressure by international institutions;

M.  whereas tourism development in recent years has led to increased activity, particularly in the Serengeti region where the Maasai live; whereas the control of arable or scarce land for speculative purposes has led to strong tensions in the area;

N.  whereas the EU Head of Delegation Roeland van de Geer was forced to leave the country after the Tanzanian authorities exerted increased pressure on him; whereas, since the election of President Magufuli, the Head of UN Women, the Head of the UNDP and the Head of Unesco have all been expelled from Tanzania;

O.  whereas the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini has announced a comprehensive review of the Union’s relations with Tanzania;

1.  Expresses its concern about the deteriorating political situation in Tanzania characterised by a shrinking of the public space through the tightening of restrictions on the activities of civil society organisations, human rights defenders, the media and many political parties; is especially worried about the deteriorating situation for LGBTI persons;

2.  Denounces all incitement to hatred and violence on grounds of sexual orientation; urges the Tanzanian authorities to ensure that Paul Makonda ends his provocation against the LGBTI community and is brought to justice for incitement to violence;

3.  Calls for independent investigations to be conducted into cases of attacks and assaults on journalists, LGBTI people, human rights defenders and opposition party members, with a view to bringing suspected perpetrators to justice;

4.  Reminds the Tanzanian Government of its obligation, including commitments made under the Cotonou Agreement, to protect the rights, dignity and physical integrity of all its citizens in all circumstances;

5.  Calls on Tanzania to repeal laws criminalising homosexuality;

6.  Urges the EU and its Member States to make full use of the LGBT Toolkit to encourage third countries to decriminalise homosexuality, help reduce violence and discrimination and protect LGBTI human rights defenders;

7.  Calls on the Tanzanian authorities to amend all restrictive provisions in the Cybercrimes Act, the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations and the Media Services Act and replace these with provisions that will guarantee freedom of expression and the media in line with international human rights standards;

8.  Calls on the Tanzanian authorities to repeal any laws, policies or other barriers to services and information that women, girls and young mothers need for a healthy life, most notably President Magufuli’s declaration that girls who give birth should not be allowed to return to school, including the repeal of regulations that make it legal for pregnant girls to be expelled from school;

9.  Urges the President of Tanzania to make the country’s Human Rights Commission operational as soon as possible, to appoint commissioners to follow up on human rights violations, and to take action to support domestic workers abroad;

10.  Calls on the Tanzanian authorities to release political prisoners;

11.  Expresses serious concern about the pressure exerted by the Tanzanian Government on the EU Head of Delegation, Roeland van de Geer; welcomes the decision of the European Union and its Member States to conduct a comprehensive review of EU policies towards Tanzania; insists on the importance of political dialogue to seek tangible commitments from the Tanzanian authorities towards creating an enabling environment for the operation of civil society, political parties and the media; calls on the Commission to ensure that an explicit reference to non-discrimination based on sexual orientation is included in the future ACP-EU partnership agreement post-2020;

12.  Expresses concern at the situation of the Maasai people; denounces the use of force by the authorities and security forces;

13.  Calls on the Tanzanian authorities to act decisively to safeguard the rights of civil society organisations, human rights defenders, journalists, health workers and political activists in accordance with the Tanzanian constitution, the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and the country’s international and regional obligations and commitments;

14.  Calls for the EU to continue to closely monitor the human rights situation in Tanzania, particularly through regular reporting by its delegation; calls on the European Union Delegation and Member States to do all they can to provide emergency protection and support to human rights defenders at risk;

15.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the European Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the ACP-EU Council, the institutions of the African Union, the institutions of the East African Community, and the President, Government and Parliament of Tanzania.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.