Tanzania: Africa Insiders - Magufuli Shuts Down Another Outlet for Dissent

Tanzanian President John Magufuli
12 December 2019

The essentials: Tanzanian President John Magufuli's campaign to restrict critics or even potential critics of his administration has continued with his efforts to block individuals and NGOs from directly filing cases against his government to the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.

The context: The Court has jurisdiction over all cases that are submitted to it concerning the interpretation and application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Kind of. Thirty countries have signed onto the protocol creating the court. Only eight allow NGOs and individuals to bring cases, after Rwanda withdrew in 2016. With Tanzania's withdrawal, it will be seven. It may be that Tanzania is feeling a bit bullied: The government has had the highest number of cases filed against it at 40 of the 70 decisions issued by the court. But if Magufuli's government was open to criticism and prepared to defend its record, it shouldn't be afraid of a zealous civil society. Perhaps the greatest irony is that the court is actually based in Arusha, Tanzania.

The bad: By closing off this avenue, the administration is sending another signal -- alongside the arrests of journalists and activists, the closing down of political freedoms and the general curbing of civic space -- that it will no longer tolerate dissent.

The future: Expect restrictions in Tanzania to tighten further as general elections approach in 2020.

Written by Andrew Green

The Africa Insiders' Newsletter is a collaboration between AfricanArguments.org and @PeterDoerrie, with contributions from @_andrew_green and @Shollytupe and assistance from Stella Nantongo.

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