Friday, 3 August 2018

Four reasons many Zimbabweans don’t trust their electoral commission

In both its actions and responses to legitimate concerns, ZEC has failed to inspire trust days ahead of the election.

The opposition has raised several concerns about ZEC and the electoral process. Credit: MDC Zimbabwe.
Having toyed with the idea of boycotting the elections for a while, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa announced yesterday that he would in fact participate in the momentous 30 July vote. “Winners don’t boycott, victory is inevitable,” he said of Zimbabwe’s first elections without Robert Mugabe in charge.
The heart wants to believe he is correct. Huge crowds have turned out for the Movement for Democratic Change’s (MDC) rallies. A recent Afrobarometer poll that puts Chamisa within touching distance of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Opposition supporters insist that a huge wave of turnout could be enough to overcome the uneven playing field created by widespread voter intimidation, media bias and electoral irregularities.
But the head cannot but help see this as the wrong move. Boycotting an election is never a decision taken happily or lightly. It is a last resort. Yet in this instance, and despite the fact it would now require a sharp U-turn, it is still the least bad of two unenviable options.
It is clear that the ruling ZANU-PF will do whatever it takes to maintain its rule. It has extensive experience of manipulating elections and has been busy repeating these strategies yet again. Moreover, it has barely been eight months since Zimbabwe’s political and military leaders took a huge gamble by removing President Mugabe. They did this in order to keep hold of power and it is hard to believe they would even countenance losing it now to a 40-year-old civilian at the ballot box. They have done very little to assuage these suspicions.
These elections were never intended to reflect public opinion, but only to confer a veneer of legitimacy onto the pre-ordained victor. ZANU-PF has played its familiar part in this process, wheeling out a range of strategies to ensure victory without resorting to overt violence. International election observers keen to see Zimbabwe move on from Mugabe are likely to play theirs, raising a few concerns but offering their broad approval. But the opposition doesn’t have to play its part. It can subvert this grand plan by withdrawing from a process that lacks credibility, using its remaining campaign time to shout loudly about its refusal to participate in a democratic charade.

A flawed election

Image result for mnangagwa rally
ZANU-PF has been desperate to paint the picture of a nation holding credible elections for the first time, but little has actually changed from previous votes marred by widespread irregularities. Over a month ago, African Arguments published a piece listing “six issues that must be fixed for elections to be free and fair”. Not a single one has been. Instead, there have been countless and various attempts to sway the vote through dubious means.
The administration of the voters roll, for example, has been opaque and shambolic with some analyses estimating that the register includes hundreds of thousands of ghost voters. The design of the ballot papers has failed follow the electoral commission’s own regulations in a way that ensured the incumbent’s name appears more prominently that it should do. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) seems to lack any degree of independence or impartiality; its chair was even photographed wission]earing Mnangagwa’s signature scarf just days after her appointment.
In terms of the media, state-run outlets have barely offered any space to the main opposition, forsaking their responsibility to offer balanced coverage. When they have, their reporting has been negative or skewed.
There are also reports of intimidation across the country. One opposition leader has claimed that 5,000 military officers have been deployed in the rural areas. Meanwhile, ZANU-PF officials have spread rumours that they will be able to track individual votes to see who voted for the opposition in an attempt to scare voters. Furthermore, the ruling party has misused significant state resources in its campaign, using police resources during their primaries and government helicopters to travel around the country.
Some believe that despite all of these disadvantages, and the list could go on, the MDC still has a chance on 30 July. However, even if the opposition were to win somehow, there are indications that Zimbabwe’s powerbrokers would not accept to result. Mnangagwa has promised that he will still be leading the country in 2030, while the deputy finance minister recently warned that the military would not allow Chamisa to run the country. Zimbabwe’s army leaders have previously vowed not to accept a leader not from ZANU-PF and, in 2008, were instrumental in preventing a transition of power to the MDC.

Why boycott?

This May, presidential spokesperson George Charamba openly admitted that the ruling party sees these elections as primarily about international perceptions. “This election is about restoring international re-engagement and legitimacy,” he said. “We are playing politics at a higher level.”
ZANU-PF has ensured that Chamisa cannot win at the ballot box, but he can deny President Mnangagwa that unearned international legitimacy by refusing to participate in this distorted performance of democracy. Given the opposition’s widespread support, a boycott would significantly reduce turnout and undercut the efforts of Mugabe’s long-time apprentice to present himself as a new kind of leader with a popular mandate. If the MDC were to call for a boycott, it would also not need to demand a blanket stay-away, but could aim it only at the presidential vote.
It may be true that boycotts rarely achieve their goals – a 2010 study deemed just 4% of boycotts to have resulted in positive outcomes for the opposition – but the MDC has little to lose at this point. Participating in flawed elections has not brought change in the past, while the only time that the opposition has abstained so far – in the second round of the 2008 presidential elections – it led a weakened ZANU-PF to negotiate a power-sharing arrangement.
Neither option available to the opposition is a good one, but the latter is favourable. It is not too late for Chamisa to reconsider. In fact, changing his mind in the face of the sheer weight of growing evidence of irregularities – and continuing to tour the country to explain to huge crowds why – could give it even greater impact.

As Zimbabwe approaches general elections on 30 July, a worrying trend has emerged whereby those raising questions about the process are being cast as the problem. Rather than have their legitimate questions about the credibility of the vote addressed, their concerns are being trivialised and ridiculed. Those who are uneasy of news of irregularities and a lack of transparency are being told that they’re complaining too much.

But are they right to be worried? Let’s consider a few of these concerns and try to understand why the opposition feels aggrieved.

1) The voters roll

Questions over Zimbabwe’s  elections started when the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) omitted the provision of the voters roll from its initial road-map. This gap raised eyebrows among the opposition and with good reason. In the 2013 elections, the electoral authority failed to release an electronic copy of the voters roll and there were worries it would fall short again.
ZEC only relented after a loud outcry. But even then, the process of making public the voters’ roll was not without problems. There was uproar after a foreign embassy announced it had received the roll before the contesting parties. It then took days for the main opposition MDC Alliance to finally get access to the voters roll, well after the ruling ZANU-PF. Furthermore, when the information did arrive, it was incomplete. Regulations introduced after the new Biometric Voter Registration process requires the voters roll to include photographs, but ZEC refused to comply with its own rules, selectively citing privacy provisions as justification.
Next, when the Commission was informed by a team of analysts that there were serious anomalies in the voters’ roll, it dismissed their concerns. One commissioner shrugged off their findings, claiming ZEC had a different voters roll which was “near perfect”. But if this is true, does that mean the electoral authority deliberately misled parties when it gave them the first voters’ roll?
After the scandal of 2013, Zimbabwe’s electoral commission has had an opportunity to demonstrate a different approach, but its handling of the voters’ roll left a lot to be desired. ZEC wants to be seen a strict follower of the law, but it has ignored or circumvented rules when it suits it and – in the opposition’s eyes – the ruling pary. It is perhaps not a coincidence that the MDC is ZEC’s biggest critic when the electoral body’s main defender has been ZANU-PF.

2) The ballot papers

Another controversy regards the design and printing of ballot papers, both of which have been kept opaque. Some people think that these things are not important. The position of a candidate on a ballot paper will not change who people vote for, they argue, and they may be correct. But that’s not the point of the dispute.
ZEC has not complied with the law. Moreover, it has done so in a way that, the opposition alleges, benefits President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Many believe there was a deliberate effort to ensure the incumbent’s name has a more prominent place on the ballot paper than it would in the single-column alphabetical system required by law. If these rules were followed, Mnangagwa would appear in the middle of a clogged list of 23 candidates. As it is, the ballot has two columns, with the president at the very top of the second.ZEC also made it incredibly difficult for observers to witness the printing of the papers. The opposition’s complaints on this were echoed by EU and local observers. If ZEC had nothing to hide, there would have nothing to lose by allowing parties to observe the process. Instead, its opaqueness only exacerbated existing fears.

3) Defending falsehoods

Last month, a photo emerged of ZEC Chairperson Priscilla Chigumba wearing the now-famous ZANU-PF scarf heavily associated with President Mnangagwa. This would have contravened section 11(3)(c) of the Electoral Law – which prohibits a commissioner from “knowingly wearing any badge or article of clothing that is or is reasonably likely to be associated with a political party or candidate contesting any election” – but Chigumba claimed the photo had been taken before she was appointed this February. However, evidence has since emerged that the picture was taken after she became ZEC’s chair.

4) ZEC’s disparaging responses

A final source of concern arises from the fact that when the opposition has raised complaints thus far, ZEC and its commissioners have typically responding in disparaging fashion. The elections referee ought to stay above the fray and maintain control of the process. It should not engage in an adversarial battle with one of the parties.
At the same time, opposition supporters ought to tone down the abusive language some have been using. It does not help their arguments and only widens their distance from the electoral authority.
It could have all been simple. The ZEC chairperson admitted that most Zimbabweans do not have trust and confidence in the institution she leads. She acknowledged that regaining that trust is a process. In that spirit, the commission could have been open-minded over the voters’ roll, undertaking to make changes if any anomalies were identified. It could easily have opened its doors when it came to designing and printing ballot papers. It could have apologised and retracted false statements made over the scarf incident.
Instead, ZEC has been arrogant and dismissive. That is not how an administrative body with such an important national mandate ought to behave.

Thursday, 19 July 2018


In barely the blink of an eye, Eritrea’s unpredictable president has completely reversed his rhetoric of the past two decades.Ethiopia's PM Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea's President Isaias Afewerki at an official dinner in Asmara. Credit: Yemane Gebremeskel, Minister of Information, Eritrea.

Ethiopia’s PM Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afewerki at an official dinner in Asmara. Credit: Yemane Gebremeskel, Minister of Information, Eritrea.
In just a few weeks, relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea have not just shifted dramatically but – in many ways – turned upside down.
For two decades, President Isaias Afwerki had demonised Ethiopia, seeing it as an existential threat. He used the supposed Ethiopian menace as a pretext to establish one of the world’s most repressive regimes, ban widespread freedoms, and impose indefinite military conscription. Some of the only bits of music to get official approval from Asmara were toxic war songs that reinforced this all-encompassing enmity on which the nation’s identity was based.
Now, this could not have flipped more completely. In the past month, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Isaias have embraced warmly in both Asmara and Addis Ababa, greeted by huge doting crowds. Eritrean praise-singers have literally changed their tunes to praise peace in Amharic and Tigrinya. Today, the first flight between the two countries in 20 years landed in Asmara, carrying a fully-booked plane that included Ethiopia’s former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
In barely the blink of an eye, full-throated enmity seems to have turned into whole-hearted love – to the extent that hopeful Eritreans, whose lives have long been determined by the mood of one man, are starting to worry.
Given the opaque way in which the regime governs, Eritreans are used to following Isaias’ words and actions carefully in search of any hints. But for even those unaccustomed to observing him, his recent performance in Ethiopia was startlingly. He appeared out of character, praising the leader of his long-time foe excessively, and proclaiming that the two nation’s populations are “one people”. He then remarkably told Abiy “you are our leader” and announced happily to the crowd: “I’ve given him all responsibility of leadership and power”.
It was not long ago that it was almost unthinkable that Isaias – a man who played a leading role in Eritrea’s battle for independence and based his leadership on the need to protect against Ethiopia – might one day shake hands with his counterpart in Addis. But now, some Eritreans are afraid that the president might be about to declare Eritrea reunited with Ethiopia.

Abiy and Isaias embrace after signing the Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship.
PETITIONS  have reportedly been started and demonstrations called. There are claims being circulated on social media that certain army commanders have said that Isaias has compromised Eritrea’s national interest and should not be allowed home.

Amidst all this uncertainty, one thing that is clear is that the former status quo has been broken. So many of the regime’s actions were justified by referring to Ethiopian hostility, but this pretext no longer exists.
If we are to follow the logic previously laid out by Isaias, Eritrea should now be able to undergo a dramatic and rapid transformation. There have already been some swift changes, such as the opening up of telecommunications and flight routes, but there ought to be much more to come.
There should, in theory, no longer be the need for such a large army and the oppressive system of indefinite military service. Political prisoners and jailed journalists should be freed now they no longer pose a national security threat as the government had claimed. The border should be opened up and trade resumed. And people should be allowed to move freely both within and out of the country.
Eritreans are eagerly listening out for any signs that these moves may be coming, but the government is remaining characteristically quiet on these fronts. If it were to try to resume normal life in the country, however, it would take quite some time. Thanks to the government’s short-sighted and reclusive policies for two decades, the state has been reduced to a mere shell. Institutions have been dismantled over the years and power has been concentrated into the hands of a few. Those with authority are old and incapable of overseeing dynamic change, while the country loses thousands of young people every month as they flee across the border.
If Isaias is genuine in his desire for change, he could use the justification that “new blood” is needed – as he did in 1994 – to overhaul the government, removing senior officials and go after those accused of corruption. He might also place the blame for abuses and mistakes on military commanders and dispose of them. He could try to transfer power to the next generation. But he would face the problem that there is huge gap between the old and young, while decades of alienation have made most people feel like mere observers in their own affairs.
Finally, even with all these changes, the elephant in the room would remain: the same capricious individual responsible for creating one of the world’s most repressive regimes – involving systemic torture, the imprisonment of opponents and much more – would still reign supreme.
In reality, the only way that Eritrea can meaningfully move forwards now is for President Isaias to step down after a quarter of a century in control. If he did take such a courageous step, he might be remembered for playing a positive role in Eritrea’s history. Both of these things seem unthinkable. But recently, the unthinkable has been happening.
It is astonishing how fast positive change can develop if there are people dedicated to bringing it about. Abiy Ahmed was sworn in as Ethiopia’s prime minister only three months ago, but he has already announced a whole host of economic and political reforms, freed hundreds of political prisoners, and initiated a peace process with the Ogaden National Liberation Front. And now he has taken the first concrete steps to ending one of Africa’s most protracted conflicts: the Eritrean-Ethiopian border war.
The war took place from 1998 to 2000, centring on Eritrea’s claim on the territory around the town of Badme. About 100,000 soldiers and civilians on both sides were killed and while both government submitted themselves to neutral arbitration in the Algiers Agreement, Ethiopia didn’t accept the final ruling. The border has remained closed ever since and been a frequent flashpoint of armed confrontation. The conflict has also bled into the region with each side accusing the other of supporting rival armed groups.
Enter Prime Minister Abiy. After unexpectedly announcing on 5 June that Ethiopia would fully comply with the arbitration judgement and a bit of shuttle diplomacy between Asmara and Addis Ababa, he flew to Asmara on 8 July to sign a full peace agreement with his counterpart President Isaias Afewerki. Embracing, the two leaders announced that “airlines will start operating, the ports will be accessible, people can move between the two countries and the embassies will be opened”.
While many details will have to be sorted out, this is unfettered great news. Already, phone calls can be placed between the countries for the first time in 20 years. The potential of this development is enormous, ranging from an economic shot in the arm by allowing for free trade between the two nations to a substantial reduction in the risk of armed conflict in the region.
But of course, some unknowns remain. Among the most important:

  • Having lost tens of thousands of men, compromise on the control of Badme used to be anathema to the military establishment of Ethiopia. Abiy has already sidelined the generals politically and, to an extent, economically. He is gambling that his strong public support will limit the old guard’s options to counter his reforms and he may well be right, but it remains a gamble.
  • Landlocked Ethiopia will get access to an Eritrean port as part of the agreement. It is simultaneously working to secure access to a Somaliland port and encouraging the development of the Lamu corridor in Kenya, while it has modernised the railway linking it to its traditional transit port in Djibouti. Abiy is clearly looking to diversify the country’s vital access routes. The geo-political ramifications of this regional economic offensive , especially regarding the regional aspirations of Arab states and Turkey, will be interesting to watch.
  • While Abiy is clearly looking to open the political space in Ethiopia, no word was said during the peace summit about Eritrea’s abysmal human rights record. For Eritrea’s Afewerki, open borders are risk: the economic returns might secure his regime financially, but free commerce and movement of people will limit the strict control he enjoys over political life in Eritrea. This provides for plenty of potential for internal conflict, which could in turn sour the new detente with Ethiopia.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Comoros row with France intensifies as turmoil brews at home

The long-running dispute over the island of Mayotte has deepened recently. Could developments afoot in the Comoros change anything?

A billboard in Moroni, Comoros' capital, reads: "Mayotte is Comorian and will always be". Credit: Ali Y. Alwahti.
A billboard in Moroni, Comoros’ capital, reads: “Mayotte is Comorian and will always be”. Credit: Ali Y. Alwahti.
Despite promises to resolve tensions, relations between France and the Comoros have only deteriorated in the past few months. A war of words and popular protests have escalated on both sides, leading France to suspendvisas to all Comorian nationals this May.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018



In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful


Before all else, we give thanks to God and wish mercy and peace upon his Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). This statement is marks the end of the Holy month of Ramadhan. We ask God to accept our fast. About the month of Ramadhan, God tells us: “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous”. (2:183). It was in this month that the Qur’an was sent down as a guide to mankind, and within it clear signs for guidance and judgment between right and wrong.It is the aim of this document, in addition to other things, to emphasize the importance of discrimination between right and wrong, as it is emphasized in the Holy Qur’an.

Blessed Muslims, yesterday, the first day of Eid, and today, the second, we celebrate this important holiday. We, the leaders of the Muslims in this country, have a responsibility to use our position to provide recommendations to you, and to the entire Muslim community, about what is right (things that are just), and to urge you to avoid what is harmful (things that are wrong). Among these are Freedom, Justice, Fraternity, and Peace. These things are part of our religion and they are fundamental to the building of our nation, as described and stipulated in the Introduction to our country’s 1977 Constitution.

We, the leaders of the Association of Muslim Organisations, see our nation faltering in these matters. And so it has become commonplace in Tanzania to witness people killed, their bodies dumped just anywhere, people kidnapped, and the arrest of innocent civilians, some of whom have vanished.

We observe that all people accused of terrorism are Islamic scholars and teachers, or their followers. Worse, the cases against them, nearly all of which are trumped up and immaterial, are not being heard. And so they have even been denied the opportunity to seek justice in court. it has become commonplace for Muslims to be tortured and killed for no reason. The Government does this in the streets, and has gone so far as to kill them inside mosques, the holy houses of God. Koran school children and their teachers have been assaulted by security forces as if they were criminals, they have been arrested and tortured on imaginary charges of terrorism, or for not being registered in the madrasas where they study. It has become usual for the leaders of our nation to issue orders and statements that subvert the foundations of justice, human dignity, the law, and democracy.

Muslims are part of Tanzanian society, we are involved in every aspect and sector of this nation, we are affected by the challenges faced by our nation, and we cannot stand aside,but rather must participate in addressing them. In order to fulfill this responsibility, we pray to God each day to grant us wisdom and insight, that we be given the intellectual clarity required to address these challenges, especially when we issue recommendations to the community and advice to the leaders of our nation, as we do today through this document.

In this context, 29 Ramadhan, equivalent to 14 June, 2018, the country’s Muslim leaders, through the venerable forum of THE ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM ORGANISATIONSIN TANZANIA,met in Dar es Salaam to discuss and consider a number of religious and social issues. This Eid Document is the result of that important meeting.

Tanzania society is made up of people of different beliefs, faiths, and cultures. Nonetheless, all of us will continue to form one society that brings us together in many matters. Among such vital matters is the question of peace and tranquility. Islam is a religion of peace, and, as such, we, leaders of the Muslim community, are obligated to strengthen peace in our society, to enhance our social harmony. But we are also obligated to object when we see that here is oppression, that there is no justice, and when there are signs that peace is under threat. We, leaders of the Muslim community, recognize that good leadership, leadership that respects the rights and dignity of the people, is the soundest foundation on which the people can base their lives. But, unfortunately, we are now witnessing events that contravene the principles on which our nation was created. Some of these events are as follows:

1. The right to life.
In recent days, a number of terrible events that have burdened our country suggest that the right to life and the right to live are beginning to disappear. These awful incidents, these un-Tanzanian incidents, involve the abduction and torture of citizens, the recovery of murdered corpses, wrapped in sacks, along various riverbanks, in lakes, and at the seashore; the disappearance of a number of people, in conditions that suggest the involvement of our own security forces; armed attacks against Muslim leaders and political leaders; and threats against all who are seen to have alternate views about how our country should be lead; arrests on false charges, especially charges of terrorism and false citizenship against people who oppose the government; and, furthermore, the misuse of our security forces, including the use of disproportionate force, against the people.

We, the leaders of the Association of Muslim Organisationsin Tanzania, recommend that the Government take serious steps to bring back the people’s confidence in its ability to safeguard their right to life and their right to live. Given that security forces themselves, who are supposed to protect the people and investigate crimes, are among those under scrutiny for jeopardizing the right to life, and the right to live in peace, the time is right for a JUSTICE COMMISSION to investigate all matters related to abductions, disappearances, and murders, in order that the truth be known, and for the people concerned with these matters to be brought to justice. We also recommend that the International Community, members of Parliament, and Civil Society Organizations who defend human rights to put pressure on the government to form this Justice Commission, whose work will be crucial for the nation.

We also call upon all Muslims, and every Tanzanian, to make a commitment, to himself or herself, to their generation, to continue to protect this right to life and to live in peace, his or her own rights and that of the whole society, without regard to religious beliefs or political orientation.

2. The right to worship.
A segment of society in our country, in particular we, members of the Muslim community, have more acutely experiencedthe denial of the right to worship, especially in regard to Muslims and Muslim leaders who have been abducted, killed, ‘disappeared,’ arrested, charged, and subjected to degrading treatment while in the custody of our country’s security organs. These abuses are committed against the Muslim community because it is suspected of terrorist activity. Numerous incidents evidence the persecution we face, the most notable being that of 21 July 2017, when 10 Muslims were attacked at gunpoint, tortured, wounded, or killed while praying in Ali Mchumo Mosque in Kilwa, Lindi Province, and then carried off and ‘disappeared’.

We, the leaders the Association of Muslim Organisationsin Tanzania, call on the Government to desist from using spurious terrorism charges to deny a segment of its citizens the right to worship. If this state of affairs continues, it will generate religious enmity in the country, and sow hatred in a society whose right to worship is being denied by the Government. It is also essential that the Government mount a thorough investigation into the incidents at Ali Mchumo Mosque, for up til now, the whereabouts of our fellow Muslims are unknown. This matter is gravely concerning, and it is among those that may generate hostility among Muslims toward their Government. In addition, the Government should rewrite the laws on Terrorism, or revise them significantly, excising all clauses that lead to citizens being denied their rights, especially the right to worship. When the Terrorism law was under discussion in Parliament in 2002, Lindi MP Mohamed Abdulaziz said the following: “If this law is passed, human life with have no value.” These words have come to pass, and, unfortunately, the segment of society that is most negatively affected by this law is the Muslim community. Finally, we recommend that the Courts, the Senior Judge, the Attorney General, Minister of Legal Affairs, and the Director of Public Prosecutions ensure that every terrorism case be speedily brought to court, and the accused receive their rights, for, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Image result for sheikh ponda pictures

Our nation is headed toward a situation in which the right to the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the freedom to be informed are nonexistent. Regulations of various kinds that are used to oversee the information sector in this country are more often being used to totally abolish the people’s rights to information and to express their views.

We, leaders of the Association of Muslim Organisationsin Tanzania, together with the faithful whom we direct, are a segment of the Tanzanian population whose rights to information and to free expression affected by this state of affairs.

We, the leaders of the Muslim Associations and Institutes of Tanzania, advise the Government to have the forbearance and patience to hear even those opinions which it does not like. People have the right and the freedom to air their views about the way the Government operates; these views can be used by the Government to improve its delivery of services to the nation. And, further, the people have the right to read, watch, and listen to opposition views through the various media platforms in the country. Restricting people’s right to free expression and to be informed is not a productive way of leading our nation.

We have witnessed increasing and dramatic restrictions placed on the freedom of the Parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania, firstly through the abolition of the people’s long-established right to view live proceedings of their representatives at work, and then through various steps taken by the Parliament and the Government to decrease the status and capacity of the Parliament in the country itself.

In some measure, the freedom of the Court has also been severely restricted. Its ability to carry out its business and to make its own budgetary determinations, have been impinged on by the Government, as the Courts have been ordered to end, hasten, issue immediate rulings on tax claims that involve the government.

The leaders of the Association of Muslim Associations in Tanzania advise the Government to adhere to the Constitution and the Laws of the land, and leave the Parliament and the Court to freely carry out their own business according to the Law and the Constitution. It is not befitting of the Government to issue threats and directives to these institutions which are vital to our country. And it is also vital that the funds approved by Parliament for the purpose of Court business be disbursed as planned, in a timely fashion, and without condition. Finally, we advise that the people’s right to watch live proceedings of their representatives at work in Parliament, be reinstated as it used to be.

We have witnessed the absence of free and fair environments in which people are free to choose and to be chosen in numerous elections in our country. This situation has arisen because the National Electoral Commission, NEC, is not free, and due to its overseeing of elections on principles that are not free and fair.

The evidence lies in various recent elections which NEC was obviously incapable of administering, resulting in several parties boycotting of these elections, as well as in unrest. The major reason for all of that is that NEC relies on ruling party members, who are Town Council Chairs, to be in charge of these elections, and NEC is unable to remove them even when claims of prejudice are made against them. These things have done away with the idea of a Free, Transparent and Fair Election, and, instead, our elections are marred by brutality, subterfuge, threats and assaults, unrest, extreme use of force by security organs, people being injured, and even death.

The leaders of the Association of Muslim Organisationsin Tanzania advise the Government, NEC, and Opposition Parties, together with all stakeholders, to gather together to discuss the current obstacles in our electoral climate, in order to devise the best method of having a free, just, and fair election. It is also important that changes be made to our Election Laws, in order to increase freedom, transparent, and efficiency within NEC. These legal reforms must ensure that NEC’s composition, the availability of Directors and their Executing Officers, together with its ability to have permanent representatives at the Council levels, are resolved in such a way as to create a New Independent Electoral Commission.

We have also witnessed the absence of urgency in upholding the laws and the nation’s constitution, particularly on the part of the government and its leaders. Key examples are the Government’s disrespect for Local Government Associations, intervening in their affairs, and decreasing their ability to fund themselves, with the Government using social funds unlawfully and in contravention of budgetary procedures. The Government’s fails to follow the laws and procedures that it has itself agreed to – including stipulations that do not allow religion, culture, or ethnicity to influence the selection of government leaders – and also when its security forces make arrests and take people into custody.
The leaders of the Association of Muslim Organisationsin Tanzania advise the Government to model adherence to the law and constitution of our country, so that the people, too, will follow this example. It would also be beneficial for the Government to let Local Government Associations do their work according to the law, let the Government cease interfering in their business in contravention of the law, and creating discord. And let it stop taking away their financial capacity, and stop hampering their efforts to bring progress.

We have witnessed the total absence of Freedom to participate in multi-party politics in this country, since it was readopted in 1992. In violation of our laws, the Government has forbidden public meetings and demonstrations by parties belonging to the Opposition in this country, while Government leaders, who are also leaders in the ruling party, are free to hold such meetings. Moreover, we have witnessed national leaders of opposition parties being prevented from undertaking ordinary tours of the country to visit their followers, and even from doing so in areas of the country where they have been granted the authority to rule – unlike leaders of the Ruling Party, who are free to do all that, without hindrance. Ever worse, for the first time ever in this country, we have seen an Opposition MP being shot at while on Parliament property, while, to this day, no investigation into the matter has been carried out, and no one has been taken into custody in relation to this crime.

Leaders of the Association of Muslim Organisationsin Tanzania advise the Government, first, to lift the ban on public meetings by Opposition Parties. The ban is against the Law and the Constitution of this country. Second, the Government, and Political Parties (ruling and opposition), should form a NATIONAL ADVISORY CONFERENCE, for which we, the religious leaders, will provide mediation, in order to discuss the political obstacles in this country, and for the Government, the Ruling Party, and Opposition Parties, to come to a resolution as to how to promote and implement our democratic political freedoms, which were secured in 1992.

We have witnessed the cases of numerous Muslim leaders, in different parts of the country, being delayed, or their right to a fair hearing and sentencing being denied entirely. Apt examples include the religious leaders of Uamsho, the religious leadersin Arusha, together with hundreds of other faithful who are overflowing in the prisons of Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Mwanza, and other prisons in the land while their cases have not been heard for years. It is even worse that the courts refuse to give fair hearing to their complaints of being subjected to degrading treatment and torture while in state custody.

Leaders of the Association of Muslim Organisationsin Tanzania advise the Government and the Director of Public Prosecutions, together with the Courts, to fulfil their obligation to ensure the people’s rights. If this persecution of Muslim leaders in this country is permitted to go on, the entire Muslim community will lose confidence in our court system, a development that does not bode well for the flourishing of justice in this country.

We have witnessed the efforts, desire, and good will of the Government in collecting taxes in the country, in the administration of social monies, and in fighting corruption together with ensuring that profits from the use of the country’s natural resources will benefit the nation as a whole. Further, we congratulate the Government for its effort to collect income and taxes so that the government can provide social services in the country. However, and without denigrating those efforts, we want to say the following:

1. Taxes
There are complaints from taxpayers in the country, especially in the private sector, about the way that this tax collection is being carried out. The most important concern the hostile tax environment, the calculation of taxes much higher than taxpayers’ business capacity to pay, the aggression of tax collectors and their lack of restraint when dealing with businesspeople.

And tax collection authorities also have various complaints about untrustworthy businesspeople who avoid paying taxes, and who set back the Government’s efforts to improve social service delivery, and to bring progress through this tax income.

Leaders of the Association of Muslim Organisationsin Tanzania believe that private businesspeople as a whole are not enemies of the Government. The economic activities which they carry out deserve to be improved, in order to diversify and increase employment, as well as increase the tax income the Government can claim. The bad relationship between tax collection authorities and businesspeople today is killing their businesses, and therefore also decreasing the Government’s income. We believe that all of this must be discussed, in order to improve the entire taxation system. Leaders of the Association of Muslim Organisationsin Tanzania believe that, together with improving the relationship between taxation authorities and taxpayers, another important matter that should be emphasized is the provision of civic education about the importance of paying taxes.

To date, we also perceive that there is a serious unemployment problem in this country, especially for youth. We acknowledge the Government’s goal of making Tanzania country with a middle class, supported by industry, but the industrial sector we are currently building has yet to be integrated with other sectors of the economy that affect the majority of Tanzanians, which are agriculture, animal husbandry, and fishing.

Leaders of the Association of Muslim Organisationsin Tanzania advise the Government to make targeted efforts to ensure that it provides opportunities for the strengthening of economic activities in the country, through special projects and programs, as well as investments and tax policy. A diversified economy will increase employment for our youth, and improve the economy of their home areas, while also increasing the Government’s tax income.

An emphasis should be placed on supporting various agricultural activities, animal husbandry and fishing, and to ensure the timely and affordable availability of seeds, as well as training in agriculture, animal husbandry, and fishing, and to increase the possibility of storing and processing crops in order to increase their value, and to ensure a reliable market.

The Report of the State Controller and Auditor General, CAG, for financial year 2016/2017 shows the there is a problem in the way the Government uses public funds that are generated in various ways, especially by using them for things that are not in the Budget, and also by borrowing more money than is allocated by Parliament. These things overall do not show discipline in the management of public funds, and make the people feel that their Government is misusing their taxes, which in turn makes them less enthusiastic and ready to pay taxes.

Discipline in the use of public funds is stipulated in the Constitution and a number of our laws. Leaders of the Association of Muslim Organisationsin Tanzania advise the Government to avoid using public funds in a manner that has not been approved by the people’s representatives in Parliament. Additionally, the Government’s failure to provide explanations for its large expenses harms the people’s confidence in the Government, as happened recently after the presentation of the Statement of the Public Inspector. If the Government keeps to the law in its use of public funds, it will prevent the significant systemic corruption that has taken hold in our country several times before.

Muslims in this country, as a part of Tanzanian society, participated fully in the processes attending the crafting of a new Constitution for our country, processes that, for various reasons, have been stalled.

We, the leaders of the Association of Muslim Organisationsin Tanzania that the time for the Government to bring back the process of drafting a New Constitution is now, so that we can lay a new legal and constitutional foundation for our Country.

But, because of what happened during the constitutional review and drafting process, is it amply clear that there is a lack of trust between the two largest groups of people, the side that accepts the Proposed Constitution, and the side that accepts the Draft Constitution produced by the Warioba Commission.

In this context, our recommendation is that a National Constitutional Conference be called. The main aim of this conference should be to lay the groundwork for an accord between these two groups, and the nation as a whole, about the best way to revive the process of making the New Constitution. We believe that if this national constitutional conference is held, it will raise the level of accord, especially regarding still contested questions, or questions about which there is no national agreement and yet which must be included or left in, or taken out, of the new constitution. This conference may also propose changes or additions to the laws that will regulate the process for producing the new constitution.

This conference must have broad and diverse representation of society, including Government leaders, Political Parties, Religious Institutions, Civil Society, Professional Organisations, Cooperatives, and so on. The goal must be to ensure broad representation that represents all of our nation. Finally, we, religious leaders, are prepared to be a bridge to enable this National Constitutional Conference. USE US.

We conclude our Eid-l-Fitr greetings by wishing all Muslims, and all Tanzanians as a whole all the goodness and abundance of this holy day, and we urge them to support Unity, Peace and Collaboration among themselves, while carrying forward what they have learned during Ramadhan about serving justice and avoiding what is bad and wrong. Furthermore, we beseech them not to remain silent in fact of injustice, for stopping bad deeds is what the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) instructs us to do. We, the leaders of the Association of Muslim Organisationsin Tanzania, hope for a peaceful Tanzania without any kind of discrimination, a Tanzania that respects the rights and equality of every human being, and one in which there is progress.

All Success Comes from God.
Wishing you a Blessed Eid.

This statement, by us, the leaders and imams of the Association of Muslim Organisations in Tanzania has been issued jointly by us, under the guidance of our leaders:

Sheikh Shaaban Hijja Mrisho
Acting Chairman
Association of Muslim Organisationsin Tanzania

Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda
Secretary General
Association of Muslim Organisationsin Tanzania