The attempted assassination of outspoken government critic Tundu Lissu on 7 September 2017 is the latest in a series of efforts aimed at constraining freedom of expression and association in Tanzania. Tundu, a member of the political opposition and head of the Tanganyika Law Society was attacked by unidentified assailants near his home in Dodoma and is now recovering in a hospital in neighbouring Kenya. He has been arrested six times this year for openly criticising the government of President John Pombe Magufuli.
Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS condemns this violent attack on Tundu, which follows his string of arrests for his dissenting views as well as steps taken by the Tanzanian government over the past few months, to curtail fundamental human rights and stifle activists and civil society organisations that express views critical of government actions.
At the moment, new applications for the registration of NGOs have been suspended until 30 November 2017 as NGOs currently registered undergo a mandatory “verification process.” The vetting of NGOs began on 21 August 2017 after the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children published a notice stating that the Registrar of NGOs will examine all NGOs in order to correct and update the database for NGOs.
CIVICUS is concerned by the manner in which the verification process is being carried out as local NGOs were not involved or consulted in the planning of the process. Furthermore, the sheer amount of documentation required of NGOs including the presentation of proof of payment annual fees and receipts since registration is cumbersome and presents an added administrative burden.
Several NGOs may be deregistered if they fail to provide all the information required by the authorities. In addition, the requirement for a letter of recommendation from a Community Development Officer is also problematic, especially for NGOs working on rights and governance and who may have been critical of the human rights practices by the government in the past.
Said Teldah Mawarire, CIVICUS’s Advocacy and Campaigns Coordinator: “This verification process is extremely unfair and raises many questions because any NGO that had not been previously registered cannot go through the vetting exercise and will be outlawed even before the process begins. There is no grace period whatsoever availed by the state to those who have been unable to register in the past.”
The government has also set out five zones where NGOs must travel to for verification. This presents difficulties for NGOs who operate in remote areas and may not be able to afford to pay for this travel and the gathering of documents.
CIVICUS calls on the government of President John Pombe Magufuli to respect the freedoms of association and expression in line with the Tanzanian Constitution and its international human rights obligations.
In July 2017 CIVICUS placed Tanzania on a watch list of countries in which there are growing and worrying threats to civic space. CIVICUS remains concerned over growing restrictions on freedom of expression and association.
Civic space in Tanzania is rated as obstructed on the CIVICUS Monitor.