By Jean-Pierre Afadhali
The outgoing US administration has imposed visa restrictions to unnamed Tanzanian officials for allegedly undermining last year’s general elections and the East African country’s democracy.
The actions of these officials subverted the electoral process, continuing the downward trajectory of the country’s democracy. Election observers and civil society noted widespread irregularities as well as human rights abuses and violations before, during, and after the election, said the US department of state in a brief statement released on Tuesday.
Tanzania held parliamentarian, presidential and local government elections in October 2020 that saw President Magufuli extend his term in office with a landslide victory.Mr. Magufuli garnered 84.39 per cent of the vote, but opposition rejected results, his main challenger Tundu Lissu subsequently fled the country to Belgium.
“Opposition candidates were routinely disqualified, harassed, and arrested. Significant and widespread voting irregularities, internet disruptions, intimidation of journalists, and violence by security forces made this election neither free nor fair.” Noted the Trump administration in one of its last decisions.
The Secretary of State Michael Pompeo whose twitter account has now been archived as he leaves the office had tweeted that there were consequences for interfering democratic process. “Starting today, we are imposing visa restrictions on those involved in election interference in Tanzania. We remain committed to working together to advance democracy and mutual prosperity for both our countries.”
This is not the first time US government bans Tanzanian officials from entering its territory. Last year Washington slapped visa restriction on Paul Makonda, former regional commissioner of Dar Es Salaam, the commercial capital over “human rights violation”.
Tanzania has been a peaceful and politically stable country in East Africa, but under Magufuli presidency there have been reports of the worsening human rights situation amid crackdown on media, human rights activists and opposition politicians. Some media outlets have been suspended, rights activists and opposition politicians regularly detained. The government has regularly denied poor human rights records ‘accusations.
“Civil society leaders remain under threat in the post-election period, and opposition leaders have fled the country out of fear for their safety.” Noted the statement from the department of state.
In the aftermath of the disputed vote, an opposition MP Godbless Lema and his family fled to neighboring Kenya citing threats to his life. The family subsequently got asylum status in Canada.
According to media reports, Mr. Lema was arrested by Tanzanian authorities together with other politicians in the aftermath of the October 28 elections, but was later released on a police bond without a charge.
US has urged the Government of Tanzania to improve the situation and hold accountable those responsible for “the flawed election, violence, and intimidation.”
“The United States will continue to closely follow developments in Tanzania and will not hesitate to take additional actions against individuals complicit in undermining democracy and violating human rights.”
However, it is not clear whether Joe Biden’s administration will implement the visa restrictions on Tanzanian officials as the new president has vowed to reverse some of Donald Trump’s decisions immediately after inauguration.