HRW: ‘Free Speech Again Under Attack in Tanzania’

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Tanzania’s ruling party of threatening opposition leaders in the latest report from the organisation criticising the government’s attack on free speech.

The rights group has published a series of reports in recent years highlighting the Tanzanian government’s increasingly oppressive measures. In its latest account, HRW cites the case of opposition politician, Zitto Kabwe, being threatened with treason charges for criticising controversial plans for $500 million World Bank loan.

HRW blasts threats made to opposition leader

Following criticism from activists and opposition figures in Tanzania, the World Bank on January 30 postponed a vote on granting Tanzania a $500 million loan. Critics had called upon the bank to suspend all funding to the country until a range of human rights issues are addressed, including attacks on press freedoms, political activities and policies suppressing the rights of women and the LGBT community.

Zitto Kabwe was one of the loudest voices from within Tanzania calling upon the World Bank to scrap the loan plan.

“In Parliament the following day, Speaker Job Ndugai, a member of the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, called Kabwe’s letter ‘treasonous,'” Human Rights Watch explains in its report. “Abdallah Bulembo, a CCM Member of Parliament, said that Kabwe, who was out of the country at the time, ‘should not be allowed back but should be killed where he is,'” the report goes on to explain.

“Kenani Kihongosi, a CCM youth leader, later said during a rally that people like Kabwe who ‘undermine’ the country should be killed.”

Despite these comments, the ruling CCM party has not publicly condemned the use of language.

Kabwe has been arrested several times for expressing his political views and HRW says this latest incident points towards a worrying lack of respect for freedom of speech among the ruling party as the country gears up for elections later this year. The rights group has called upon the government to spend less time suppressing critics and focus on promoting the principles of a free and fair election.

“The government should instead be sending the message that it supports the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed in Tanzania’s constitution and international law.”

Featured image: HRW

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.