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Regional Panel To Monitor Tanzania Polls

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Monday, September 7th, 2020
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 It has emerged that the Kenya Human Rights Commission in collaboration with civil society organizations (CSOs) from Tanzania, East and Southern Africa region will monitor Tanzania’s October general election mostly virtually.


The team monitoring the elections includes prominent judges from Kenya and Uganda who have formed the Tanzanian Election Watch panel. It is an alternative independent oversight body comprising the leading pan-Africanists, human rights defenders and media professionals.

According to a report by a Kenyan newspaper, The Standard, the team members named include former Kenya’s Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and Uganda’s Constitutional Review Commission chairman Prof Fredrick Ssempebwa.

Others are, Dr Miria Matembe, Prof Chaloka Beyani, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, David Makali, Dan Wandera Ogalo, Uganda’s High Court Judge Lady Justice Lydia Mugambe, Prof Frederick Jjuuko, Betty Murungi, Alice Mugwe and Zein Abubakar.

However, until yesterday, Tanzania National Electoral Commission’s (NEC) director of Elections Wilson Charles said though several international observers have been invited to oversee this year’s polls, his office wasn’t sure whether the formed panel was among the accredited institutions.

“I’m attending a meeting; therefore it is difficult to remember if they are among those approved. I will be in a position to comment after I have read details on the panel,” he told The Citizen over the phone. By press time, the director hadn’t confirmed the details of the panel to The Citizen.

The electoral body’s website had no name or country of international observers allowed to oversee this year’s, General Election.

But launching the panel last Thursday, Prof Ssempebwa said the team has no interest to take sides in the polls, but he called for respect to human rights, freedom of speech, movement and assembly.

Prof Ssempebwa who chairs the panel said economic integration makes Tanzania polls an issue of major interest and critical for anchoring peace, tranquillity and justice in the region. The panel will monitor election organization and preparations through field polls monitors without necessarily travelling to the country due to what it referred to as “political difficulties”.

In June this year, NEC announced names of 245 CSOs that will provide voter education as well as 97 others approved to serve as local election observers.

The choice ignited huge debate among politicians and political commentators especially following exclusion of key, resourceful and experienced CSOs including the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, the Legal and Human Rights Centre and the Tanzania Constitution Forum.

 Separately, leaders of the CSOs told The Citizen claiming that they were excluded due to authorities’ fear of their capacity to objectively and independently monitor election processes in the country and beyond. However, NEC responded to the criticism saying they only picked those organizations that met the set criteria.
Human rights groups have accused Tanzania authorities of narrowing freedoms and repressing political dissidents.

They include stifling independent journalists and severely restricting activities of NGOs, accusations denied by the government.

But, a Tanzania journalist living outside the country Ansbert Ngurumo was of the view that there was no hope for fair and free elections this year.

“For the first time in history, there will be no international election observers in Tanzania,” said.

This will be the 6th general election since the introduction of multiparty politics in Tanzania in 1992.

Regional pundits argue that the October 28, polls would likely be a two-horse race involving political foes, incumbent John Magufuli and Chadema’s Tundu Lissu.

Both Magufuli and Lissu have expressed optimism of emerging victorious in an election that comes at a very critical time when the world and the region is fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tanzania operates in a democracy that has seen Presidents come and go, with Dr Magufuli promising to organize free, fair and credible elections.

On October 28, this year, Tanzanians from all walks of life will elect the United Republic president, the Zanzibar president, members of the House of Representatives and local officials for both the mainland Tanzania and the semi-autonomous Isles of Zanzibar.

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