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UN Calls On Tanzania to Avoid Violence as Citizens Vote

Residents lineup to cast their vote, Oct. 28, 2020, in Dodoma, Tanzania, for a presidential election that the opposition warns is already deeply compromised by manipulation and deadly violence.

The United Nations is calling on all governmental and civil society actors in Tanzania to refrain from violence, and ensure people can safely cast their votes in Wednesday’s general election.

Following weeks of bitter political strife, U.N. monitor groups and human rights organizations fear Tanzania’s election Wednesday is likely not to be free and fair.

The U.N. human rights office is expressing concern about "the shrinking democratic space" in the country. Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says her agency has received troubling reports of intimidation, harassment, and arbitrary arrests.

She says political opponents of the government have been physically attacked, as have journalists, women human rights defenders and other activists.

“This repression of dissenting voices intensified in the lead up to the elections, when the rights to freedom of expression and political participation should be upheld, not repressed…We are particularly alarmed by reports that three people were reportedly killed…and others injured on Pemba island in the Zanzibar archipelago where police fired live ammunition in clashes with opposition supporters,” Shamdasani said.

Fifteen candidates are running for president in the general election. The main contest is between Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who is seeking a second five-year term, and Tundu Lissu, candidate for the main opposition party Chadema and victim of an assassination attempt in 2017.

The ruling party CCM presidential candidate Dr. John Magufuli, third left, stands in line to cast his vote at Chamwino in Dodoma, Oct. 28, 2020.
The ruling party CCM presidential candidate Dr. John Magufuli, third left, stands in line to cast his vote at Chamwino in Dodoma, Oct. 28, 2020.

Human Rights Watch says the government has arrested at least 17 opposition party members and critics since mid-June, notably from Chadema and the ACT-Wazalendo Party.

Human rights spokeswoman Shamdasani says her office is urging authorities to promptly investigate the recent killings on Pemba Island in a thorough and transparent manner. She urges all parties to refrain from violence.

“We call on all relevant actors to ensure that the elections take place in a peaceful, inclusive and participatory manner, with people being able to cast their votes free of fear and intimidation,” Shamdasani said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres echoes those sentiments. In a statement, he says an inclusive electoral process, with the broad participation of all members of society, is essential for safeguarding the country’s stability, democracy and sustainable development.