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November 2, 2017

THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN TANZANIA*



*THRDC STATEMENT TO AFRICAN COMMISION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLE’S RIGHTS*
*PRESENTED DURING THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION*
*REPORT PERIOD- JANUARY – 2nd NOVEMBER, 2017*
*THRDC OBS -470*

*Honorable Chairperson African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights(ACHPR);*Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) has great honor to congratulate His Excellency, President of the Islamic Republic of Gambia Hon. Adama Barrow for his exemplary effort to rebuild The Gambia as the Center of human rights in Africa.  His historic opening speech has shown his commitment in the field of human rights and legal justice.  On the same note, THRDC congratulates the outgoing Chairperson of the African Commission Ms. Pansy Tlakula (South Africa) for her celebrated 12 years of service in the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. THRDC on the same tone celebrates the newly elected Chairperson of the African Commission Ms Soyata Maiga (Mali) and her Deputy Commissioner Laurent Mute from Kenya. Lastly but not least, THRDC appreciates and recognizes the immense work done by the outgoing Commissioner Alapin Gansu (Benin) who tirelessly worked as special rapporteur of human rights defenders in Africa to ensure all HRDs in Africa are safe and recognized.

*Madam Chairperson*, THRDC acknowledges and commends the current effort shown by the incumbent president of Tanzania, Dr. John Magufuli to industrialize the country, fight corruption, transforming the country’s economy to middle income economy. THRDC and Civil Societies in Tanzania have all the reasons to commend and support President Magufuli in the above mentioned development programs because human rights and development are intertwined and inter-dependence.  THRDC therefore advises the Commission and other development partners to shoulder up with our president in developing our nation as part of human rights promotion stated in the African Charter.

*Madam Chairperson*, THRDC also wants to bring into your attention the latest development and close relationship attained between registrars of Civil Societies CSOs/ CSOs regulatory authorities and CSOs in Tanzania. This newly opened chapter will be the basis for engaging the government on various issues including legal reform and recognition of Civil Society sector in Tanzania. Surprisingly at the middle of this jubilation THRDC received a letter from Kinondoni District Authority (Where THRDC is situated) requesting registrations documents, activity reports sources of funds and many more. THRDC is worried about this because we have just been verified recently and all the documents have been submitted to Registrar of NGOs where THRDC is accountable according to NGOs Act of 2002. It should be in your record that the same Kinondoni Office sent several times immigrations officers to interrogate the nationality of THRDC Notational Coordinator, Onesmo Olengurumwa for unknown reasons.

*Madam Chairperson,* despite the above mentioned efforts and positive development by the new regime, the situation of HRDs and journalists in Tanzania continues to decline.   The old and most recent enacted draconian laws are currently used to hammer civic space, freedom of expression and the work of HRDs in general. With the new laws, we have witnessed a ban of 6 newspapers (within a year), attack of journalists, arbitrary arrest of more than 20 HRDs from January to November 2017, interruption of HRDs internal meetings and workshops and intimidation of HRDs working for marginalized groups such as pastoralists in Loliondo, people with disability and key population.

*Madam Chairperson,* unlike previous years, we have recently witnessed growing trends of attacking legal profession and chambers of lawyers by unknown assailants. As you might have heard, three offices (chambers) of lawyers were invaded by unknown assailants causing a huge loss and fear within legal profession.  One of the shocking attacks to Lawyers is assassination attempt of the Tanganyika Law Society President, Hon. Tundu Lissu.  Lawyers play a pivotal role in the field of human rights, protection of rule of law and justice in Tanzania, therefore any attempt to paralyze legal profession in Tanzania should be discouraged for public interest.  Any attack to legal profession is an attack to rule of law and human rights.

*Hon Madam Chair,* the civic space is drastically shrinking in Tanzania and henceforth making no more space for HRDs in the country. Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of opinions and other liberties are no longer enjoyed to the fullest as provided in Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. The level of indulgence to critics and divergent opinions is almost shutting down in Tanzania.  We have witnessed a number of people, HRDs, journalists and political activists with distinct sentiments and critics to issues of public interest being kidnapped, arbitrarily arrested, branded as foreigners or instigators of violence. For instance, in Loliondo only more than 10 HRDs were arbitrary arrested, called as foreigners, seizure of their travel documents, and harassed for defending pastoral grazing land occupied for over 20 years by an Arabic Royal Family.

*Hon Madam Chairperson,* Tanzania is currently grumbling with the growing state of impunity. Many incidents that involve attacks of HRDs have gone uninvestigated and unprosecuted.  The most recent incidents include an attack on Clouds Media, attacks to chambers of lawyers, forced disappearance of artist Roma Mkatoliki, Ben Saanane and others; the shooting of the President of the Tanganyika Law Society and many more.  Failure to bring the perpetrators to justice and making them accountable for the human rights violations they have committed is one of the main reasons for growing trends of human rights violation in Tanzania. Hence, the rise in the level of lawlessness.

*Hon Madam Chairperson,* THRDC eventually brings this situation to your attention understanding your mandate in defending the African Charter and its implementation. It should be in your record that the level self-censorship and fear among HRDs groups, CSOs, media, lawyers and journalists is increasingly escalating as an upshot of this unobstructed hostile environment. Rule of law is not respected and many things are done outside the ambit of the law through directives and orders from above. Wrongful and arbitrary arrest, persecution, malicious prosecution and bail denial have become are common practices in Tanzania.  Unlawful eviction in particularly the eviction of pastoralists from their grazing lands has left thousands of pastoralists homeless and poor. Surprisingly and more astonishing these evictions are coupled with burning of houses, beating, arbitrary; confiscation and selling of livestock without any legal justification.

*Hon Madam Chair,* THRDC appeals to the government of Tanzania to respect rule of law, media freedom and the work of human rights defenders and provide maximum protection of HRDs. While the work of the incumbent government is much-admired, the same should at all times ensure that HRDs working environment remains always safe. We also advise the government of Tanzania to respect principles of human rights and cogitate human rights as an impetus of sustainable development. THRDC commends and appreciate the intention of the government to improve the level of development, but this can only be successfully and sustainable if taken concomitantly with the respect of human rights. That means therefore if the government disregard human rights in general it is likely to disregard them in the context of development projects. It should therefore be understood that human rights and development are not discordant goals but goals in the two sides of the coin.

*Hon Madam Chair,* THRDC advises the government of the United Republic of Tanzania to embrace the Media, HRDs and the Civil society in general as key and internal actors of development and nation building rather than seeing them as antagonists. HRDs and CSOs in Tanzania are the main stakeholders in the implementation of Tanzania's Development Goals together with Sustainable Development Goals because these development goals are human rights and cut across all generations of human rights. But for all of these to be possible and sustainable Tanzania needs a new Constitution. We therefore advise the President to finalize the constitution making process because even some of his good work are better protected and sustained in the new document.

*Hon Madam Chair,* Finally, THRDC wishes you and your deputy, smooth leadership and fruitful undertakings in your new positions.

*Onesmo Olengurumwa,*

*National Coordinator - THRDC.*
*Banjul-Gambia*

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