Tanzania general election: rights activists condemn police raids

Dar es Salaam Police Special Zone Commissioner Suleiman KOVA

Dar es Salaam Police Special Zone Commissioner Suleiman KOVA

Human rights activists in Tanzania have denounced recent police attack on election volunteers of Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), a local civil society organization last week in Dar es Salaam.

The rights defenders have described Friday incident “ a miserable indicator” of the future of civil societies in Tanzania.

Armed police raided LHRC affiliate Tanzania Civil Society Consortium on Election Observation (TACCEO) offices in Kawe, Dar es Salaam Friday and arrested 36 human rights activists and confiscated 27 computers and 25 mobile phones.

The attack occurred two-days after the consortium announced last Sunday’s general election was not transparent especially during the tallying of votes and thus casting doubt on the accuracy of figures released by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) Thursday.

Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) issued a strongly worded statement calling for the police and security agencies to work independently and avoid political interferences.

Addressing a press conference in Dar es Salaam. Sunday, THRDC National Coordinator Onesmo Olengurumwa, said “we believe the police were dragged by politicians to invade the centre.”

Police invaded the office on claim that the centre was operating contrary to section 16 of the Cybercrime Act, 2015.

While the police say the centre was illegally collecting and disseminating presidential poll results which according to the electoral responsibility of the country’s electoral commission. THRDC however said the centre never engaged in parallel vote tabulation.

TACCEO was established to gather information from its election observers who were deployed across the country monitoring the progress of the election.

The office is legally registered and certified by the National Electoral Commission. All the staff that were arrested and later released on bail had IDs issued by NEC.

Mr. Olengurumwa says collection of election results that have already been declared to the public is not an offense.

The human rights defenders further charge that the police attack and seizure the volunteers’ material is in direct contravention of the 1977 constitution and a number international conventions; the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, to which Tanzania is signatory.

Dar es Salaam Police Special Zone Commissioner Suleiman Kova, earlier revealed the police is still investigating the matter and would decide Monday whether or not to free the activists.

Friday’s attack came after Chadema, an opposition party’s claims that police stormed its hotels last week in Dar es Salaam and Njombe region where its election monitoring volunteers were residing and operating, and arrested 191 of them.

Chadema and UKAWA’s presidential candidate, Edward Lowassa argued the attack impacted the election results as prior to the arrest of volunteers, he was leading in the results but started falling behind the ruling party’s John Magufuli after the police attack.

Magufuli has since been declared winner of last Sunday’s poll, and is due to be sworn in this Thurday November 5, Lowassa and the opposition on the other have rejected the “fraud” results and called for transparent manual tallying of votes.