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Tanzania civil society groups join bishops to decry dictatorial regime

Over a hundred Tanzanian civil society groups have added their voices to what they say are “unprecedented” violations of human and democratic rights under the President John Magufuli-led government.

Earlier this week, as many as 105 organisations signed a statement warning of “multiple cases (of rights violations), unprecedented in (Tanzania’s) history” involving “attacks, torture and forced disappearances of rights activists, journalists, political leaders and even ordinary citizens”.

They further warned of “tension within the country, involving violations of both the freedom of the press and of expression” and raised fears about the “suffocation of democracy” through “by-elections stained by irregularities, and bloodshed that endangers national peace”.

Their position comes weeks after theCatholic Church voiced similar concerns tasking the government to desist from threatening the peace of the country through its undemocratic actions.

Among other instances, the groups cited the failed assassination attempt in September 2017 of senior opposition lawmaker Tundu Lissu, who is currently in a Brussels hospital.

They added the disappearance of a journalist who was investigating murder cases in November 2017 and the killing of a 22-year-old student shot by police during an opposition demonstration in Dar es Salaam.

The groups called for an independent electoral commission to be established ahead of the country’s next elections in 2020, as well as an independent body made up of representatives from civil society, media and religious groups to investigate incidents that marred the last round of polls.

“It would be a serious error to hand such an inquiry to the police who were behind these incidents,” they said, urging the the country’s law enforcement to “stop taking sides” and not resort to “the excessive use of force”.

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