Tanzania: Post-election violence in Tanzania

David Pottie, February 2001

On 8 November 2000 the newly elected President of Zanzibar, Amani Abeid Karume of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) was sworn in at a rally held in Amaan Stadium. During the ceremony Karume announced an amnesty for all suspects held by police in connection with election related crimes. Karume also called for reconciliation, stating, "We are ready to cooperate with anybody who is ready to work with us for the good of the nation. We want to banish all forms of discrimination"[1]. The amnesty included the release of 18 Civic United Front (CUF) members who were jailed for over three years on treason charges.

This spirit of reconciliation from the victor in the elections has been overshadowed by ongoing CUF rejection of the election result.

The situation in Zanzibar remained tense for the remainder of 2000 with several bomb and arson attacks on government institutions, including a 26 December bomb attack on Zanzibar Electoral Commission offices on the northern island of Pemba. CUF leadership continued to reject the elections, with party vice chairman Shaaban Khamis Mloo saying the ruling party has "broken laws, trampled the constitution and they have used maximum force from the police and the military to make CCM win. This was not a fair election"[2].

CUF has also rejected those who have called for a coalition government. Following the failure of the previous Commonwealth brokered deal between CCM and CUF. In an effort to mediate the ongoing conflict, the EU announced in late December 2000 that it was to embark on a peace initiative, to be spearheaded by France's embassy in Dar es Salaam[3].

Death at demonstrations

The situation in Tanzania took a turn for the worse when CUF demonstrations in protest over the election results resulted in clashes with police and at least 37 deaths (government and opposition parties differed over the toll). The Saturday 27 January demonstrations took place in Zanzibar and on the mainland. During the week prior to the weekend riots, the government banned countrywide demonstrations by CUF and police arrested CUF chairperson, Ibrahim Lipumba. An already tense situation thus became even more explosive.

One eyewitness to the violence on 27 January said, "Police fired teargas and then love bullets in the air as a warning and then aimed at the crowd. About five people fell down but I have seen two dead"[4]. Article 19, Human Rights Watch and other international organisations have condemned the killings. Said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, "The Tanzanian government is seeking to silence the political opposition through terror and violence. The security forces must be held accountable for their brutality against unarmed people"[5]. Human Rights Watch has received local reports of police shooting unarmed civilians, blocking access to hospitals and beating prisoners in overcrowded jails.

Since the weekend's violence more than 420 Tanzanians have fled to Kenya seeking political asylum. All of them claim to be members of CUF, and they include 14 MPs and 10 local councillors.

In addition to its rejection of the election result, CUF is also demanding a new United Republic Constitution and independent electoral commissions which include members from the opposition parties. The Legal Aid Committee of the University of Dar es Salaam has strongly criticised the government ban on the demonstrations, arguing that the Constitution guarantees the right of peaceful assembly and in no way is premised on police permits.

In a sign of hope, a Wednesday February 7 rally in Dar es Salaam was peaceful. Thousands of members of opposition parties attended the rally and called on President Benjamin Mkapa to meet them. Opposition party leaders present at the rally included, Lipumba, the national chairman of the Tanzania Labour Party, Augustino Lyatonga Mrema, the national chairman of the United Democratic Party, John Cheyo and national chairman of CHADEMA, Bob Makani. Mrema said the blood spilt in Zanzibar during the January 27 demonstrations should be a catalyst to speed up the quest for democracy in the country. CUF leader Lipumba voiced the same concern. (The Guardian, 8 February 2001).


[1] The Guardian - Tanzania, 9 November 2000.
[2] www.cnn.com (accessed 24 Aug 2020), 6 November 2000.
[3] Panafrican News Agency, 24 December 2000.
[4] Sunday Observer online, 28 January 2001.
[5] Human Rights Watch, 31 January 2001.