Eminent persons: Tanzania election lacks credibility

THIS year’s general election in Tanzania was a sham, the Tanzania Elections Watch (TEW) has concluded. TEW is a regional observers’ panel comprising eminent persons formed to monitor the election in Tanzania.

In its preliminary report released on Friday 30th October 2020, TEW said: “The 2020 elections marked the most significant backsliding in Tanzania’s democratic credential. The demonstrable lack of transparency, stakeholder engagement and accountability in the general management of the electoral process limited the opportunity for credible elections.

The report bears the signatures of Prof. Frederick Ssempebwa (Uganda), Alice Mogwe (Botswana), and Dr Willy Mutunga (Kenya) – the three co-chairs of the TEW panel.

The general election in Tanzania took place on 28th October 2020. It was marred by serious irregularities including the use of police and the army to arrest and batter opposition candidates, preventing polling agents from accessing polling stations, and election officials being found in possession of pre-marked votes before the voting started.

The opposition candidate Tundu Lissu addressed the media on Thursday and said: “This is not an election. It is electoral fraud of an unprecedented magnitude never seen in the entire history of this country. We do not recognise what happened yesterday.

He also said he had instructed his lawyer to file the matter of electoral violence, particularly murder, with the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Commonwealth Secretariat and the African Union, confirming social media hints about his lawyers filing an official complaint with the same institutions regarding the vote-rigging and the accompanying irregularities. 

He called upon the people to peacefully take this matter into their own hands to claim their democratic rights that have been usurped by the state. Lissu also asked the international community to intervene and not confer any recognition of the fraudulent electoral process.

He added: “We don’t have the instruments of violence, we have a voice.

As it stands, the ruling party (CCM) colluded with the electoral bodies in Zanzibar and Mainland Tanzania to deny victory to any opposition candidate for councillors, parliamentarians and president.

Opposition leaders and supporters in Zanzibar were detained, beaten up by the armed forces. Some were killed.

The ruling party, under President John Magufuli, who is seeking the second term in office, has been becoming increasingly unpopular to the extent that it cannot face the opposition in a free and fair election.

In his past five years in power, Magufuli has turned Tanzania’s elections into a militarized process in which many innocent civilians have been maimed, tortured and killed.

A copy of the report can be accessed HERE. Prior to the report, TEW had released a preliminary statement on Thursday on the same matter.

The panel expressed concern about recent events and reports observed during the election day which dampen the credibility of the electoral process,” the statement, released today Thursday morning, said.

Of much concern, according to the statement, were the irregularities that marred the election on Wednesday 28th October in which, among others, military forces and Internet shutdown were involved to rig the election.

The TEW statement mentioned areas of concern as:

“The shutdown on the Internet on 27th October. Additionally, Twitter reported that it had been shut down in Tanzania on the same day. Reported deaths of innocent civilians in Tanzania, and mainly in the Islands of Pemba and Unguja.

“Complains of opposition polling agents being denied from observing voting in polling stations with some reportedly attacked or arrested while exercising their mandate. The reported arrests of candidates including Halima Mdee (and) Upendo Peneza on election day.

“The deployment and participation of the Tanzanian military in an erstwhile civilian process as witnessed predominantly in Zanzibar. Mobile service limitations of the free flow of information through short messaging services.

“We are concerned that the incidents reported so far in the process bear questions on the credibility of the electoral process.”

Apart from issuing the statement, the Tanzania Elections Watch, which continues to monitor the election and the general trend around it, held a webinar today to discuss its preliminary report on the matter.

The panellists included Alice Wairimu Nderitu, Betty Kaari Murungi, Dan Wandera Ogalo, David Makali, Professor Frederick Ijuuko, Lady Justice Lydia Magambe, Dr Miria Matembe and Zain Abubaker.

They unanimously decried the extent of violence used in this election, saying it exposed the ill intent of the state and openly undermined the rights of the opposition, hence eroding the credibility of the entire exercise.

Dr Matembe said it was unfortunate that Tanzania was borrowing a leaf from her neighbouring countries that had become notorious for holding elections in a similar manner, but she called upon Tanzanian authorities to avoid instilling further fear, threats and intimidation as the election nears a climax.

She said the electoral violence had been building prior to the election, and it was experienced in various forms – online violence, including violence against women, hate speech by CCM cadres and candidates, direct assaults on the media, internet shutdown, silencing and torturing of journalists, disqualification of candidates and polling agents, ballot boxes with marked votes, brutalising and murdering civilians and so on.

“People will obviously not accept any results from such a process,” she said.

Similar sentiments were shared by Lady Justice Lydia Mugambe, Professor Fred Ssembepwa, Deprose Muchena and Evance Ogada who separately called on the governance institutions to get back to their senses, protect people lives and help to reclaim Tanzania’s lost glory in the region and the world in matters of principle, particularly human rights and justice.

Muchena said it was unfortunate for Tanzania to be walking along the same paths with Zimbabwe, Mali, Cameroon and other dictatorships on the continent. He said what was happening in Tanzania was not right and that regional solidarity was needed to salvage the nation that used to come to the rescue of its neighbours in times of social and political crises.

But he showed misgivings: “I doubt if regional leaders will question Magufuli on what he is doing . they have been doing the am in their own countries.”

Ogada was of a view that constitutional reforms were the only means to stabilise Tanzania.