Tanzania Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Since John Magufuli became president in a contentious 2015 election, Tanzania has become an increasingly authoritarian state. Media freedom has been limited and harassment has increased against the political opposition. In 2019, the country fell to 25 reporters in Reporters Without Borders index of freedom of the press in the countries of the world. By 2020, Tanzania fell further in the index.

Tanzania was a one-party state for nearly three decades until 1992, when multi-party systems were introduced. However, politics is still largely dominated by the ruling Revolutionary Party (CCM), which can be described as a powerhouse rather than a party. CCM has managed to retain power through an effective organization at local and regional level. Several strong interest organizations are also linked to the party, which also dominates in workplaces as well as within the police force and the military.

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There are opposition parties, but they have become increasingly difficult to operate after 2015. They often get rejected for their applications to hold public meetings. Opposition politicians challenging President Magufuli are harassed. Two high-ranking members of the largest opposition party Chadema, party chairman Freeman Mbowe and his party colleague Esther Matiko, were detained in police custody for court clashes between November 2018 and March 2019. Chada’s women’s union, Halima Mdee, has been arrested several times, including for slander by President Magufuli. In March 2020, Mbowe and eight other Chada politicians were sentenced to fines or five months in prison for rioting in connection with a 2017 demonstration.

In January 2019, a law was introduced that gives the authorities the right to intervene in individual parties’ internal decision-making processes. The law also makes it easier for the authorities to deregister a political party and limits the possibilities for party mergers and mergers in party alliances.

Since 2015, several human rights defenders have been expelled and voluntary organizations have become increasingly difficult to operate. In the fall of 2019, the government decided to tear down the protocol that gives the African Court of Human Rights the right to investigate Tanzania.

A predetermined proportion of seats in the National Legislative Assembly shall be reserved for women. In the 2010s, more than a third of the members were women. In Zanzibar’s local parliament, a certain number of members are nominated by women’s organizations. In general, however, women are still under-represented in politics.


Abbreviated as TZA by Abbreviationfinder, Tanzania is plagued by corruption at all levels in both politics and business. Not least, several corruption scandals have been discovered within CCM. Chadema has made the fight against corruption his main issue and often criticizes CCM for being characterized by a bribery culture. Growing revenues from oil and natural gas feed the bribery culture. In 2014, a number of donor countries, including Sweden, stopped their assistance to Tanzania after corruption was revealed within the state energy company.

Transparency International assesses Tanzania as less corrupt than neighboring Kenya and Mozambique. In 2019, Tanzania ranked 96 out of 180 countries in the organization’s index of corruption in the world, while Kenya and Mozambique were ranked 137 and 146 respectively (see full list here).

As a new president, Magufuli made an ambitious campaign against corruption. He dismissed thousands of civil servants who were considered corrupt and deducted the salaries of over 13,000 so-called ghost workers (employees who were only on paper).

Freedom of expression and media

Tanzanian legislation does not guarantee freedom of press and expression. The media’s opportunities to operate freely increased significantly after democratization in 1992. Then the state media monopoly was abolished and several opposition newspapers and magazines were started.

President Magufuli, called the Bulldozer, does not seem to tolerate any criticism directed at himself or his politics. With the support of new tougher media laws, at least a dozen government-critical media have been shut down by the authorities. Journalists have been arrested by the police, threatened, beaten and even killed. One of the authorities’ harassment of independent media is a growing self-censorship among the country’s journalists. In 2018, two press freedom defenders were arrested and expelled.

Reporters Without Borders ranked 2019 Tanzania as 118 of 180 countries in its index of freedom of the press in the world (see full list here). This meant that the country collapsed 25 placements in just one year and a total of 49 placements since 2014, that is, the year before President Magufuli’s entry. In 2020, Tanzania backed another six positions to place 124 in the Press Freedom Index.

Many of the magazines are owned by the state or by businessmen with close ties to CCM. The dominant media group IPP is CCM friendly. The few radio stations that reach the whole country are considered to favor CCM.

The use of the internet has more than a hundredfold since the turn of the millennium. In essence, users access the network via mobile phone. The government has made significant investments in fiber networks, which has lowered the costs of internet and mobile telephony.

A 2015 law against cybercrime (criminal activity via the Internet) has been criticized for striking hard on social media through vague wording about “false information”. Since the law came into force, a number of people have been charged with insulting President Magufuli. To start and run a website or blog requires accreditation from the authorities that charge high fees.

In June 2018, the Tanzanian web site Jamii Forums (also called Swahili Wikileaks) was forced to shut down due to new rules for publishing on the Internet, among other things, platforms that no longer allow anonymous posts. Jamii Forums was a kind of whistle-blower site with millions of followers, where sensitive, often government-critical, information was posted.

Judicial system and legal security

The legal system has become more independent of those in power since 1992, but it is still ineffective and plagued by both political influence and corruption. The members of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President and hold their positions until they retire.

Human rights organizations have accused Tanzania’s police force of gross abuses, such as shooting deaths during demonstrations. In 2013, 13 civilians were killed by police and military during raids against poachers. In February 2018, two opposition politicians were murdered under unclear conditions.

Many Tanzanians have been arrested for their views and have been refused defense counsel. There are also reports that torture occurs in detention and prisons as well as during police interrogations. Rape men often go free. The death penalty is punished for high treason and murder. The last execution was executed in 1995.

Tanzania Crime Rate & Statistics