The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (The Commission), through the country rapporteur for the United Republic of Tanzania, Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, is closely following the situation in Tanzania, particularly the arrest of eleven officials and staff of the opposition, Party of Democracy and Progress (Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo – CHADEMA) on 21 July 2021 in Mwanza, Tanzania.
The Commission learned from reports that on 21 July 2021, the Chairperson of CHADEMA Mr Freeman Mbowe and several party leaders were arrested at night, hours before the convening of a planned public forum the party initiated for discussing reforms to Tanzania’s constitution. The arrest came a day after the announcement by the authorities in Mwanza of a ban on unauthorized meetings purportedly as part of the effort to contain the spread of COVID19.
The Commission notes that most of those arrested were kept in custody without charges in Mwanza and Mr Mbowe was taken to Dar es salaam, where law enforcement officers searched his home and reportedly seized his laptop and other devices of family members’ gadgets. It was after five days of arrest that Mr Mbowe and other leaders were charged with terrorism related offences at the Resident Magistrate’s Court of Dar es salaam at Kisutu.
The Commission expresses its concern that lack of strict adherence to the right to due process of the law enunciated in Article 7 of the African Charter creates leads to abuse of the right to be free from arbitrary arrest and creates an atmosphere of fear on the part of opposition parties. The Commission wishes to remind the Tanzanian authorities the requirement of the African Commission’s Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa (2003) that any one arrested ‘shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his or her arrest and shall be promptly informed, in a language he or she understands, of any charges against him or her’ and ‘be promptly brought to a judicial officer’.
The Commission underscores that all measures should be put in place to avoid any undue interference with the right to the due process of law, freedom of expression, right to freedom of association and right to peaceful assembly guaranteed under Articles 7, 9, 10, and 11 of the African Charter respectively.
In this regard, the Commission, calls on the Government of Tanzania to:
1) Ensure that that COVID19 enforcement measures comply with the standards and principles of the African Charter as provided for in ACHPR Resolution 449;
2) Guarantee that law enforcement and security personnel comply with the African Commission’s Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa (2003) in conducting arrests and respecting all the rights of arrested persons including to be promptly charged and brought to a court; and
3) Uphold the right to freedom of association and assembly to guarantee an open civic space and the free operation of opposition parties in the country.
Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD
Country Rapporteur of the African Commission for Tanzania
Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights