June 25, 2018 - Issue: Vol. 164, No. 106 — Daily Edition115th Congress (2017 - 2018) - 2nd Session
TANZANIA; Congressional Record Vol. 164, No. 106
(Senate - June 25, 2018)
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[Pages S4365-S4367] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] TANZANIA Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I rise to call attention to the trend of increasing restrictions on basic freedoms in Tanzania, a country that appeared to be on a path toward greater democracy and political openness. I am deeply concerned about reports of Tanzanian security forces' use of repressive laws, decrees, and actions to harass those who disagree with the current regime and unattributed attacks on democratically elected opposition party officials. I call upon the Trump administration to increase its efforts to encourage the government of Tanzania to support individual and collective freedoms, freedom of expression, and civil liberties. Such norms are the hallmarks of a healthy democracy and are among the basic rights and duties guaranteed to Tanzania's citizens under their constitution. These reports are troubling because, on the whole, Tanzania is among the most stable and peaceful countries in the region. Tanzania is a top African [[Page S4366]] contributor of personnel to international peacekeeping operations, and we honor the sacrifice of the Tanzanian people, who have lost nearly 50 peacekeepers during these vital missions, including 14 killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is one of the leading African economies and had the sixth largest GDP in Africa, according to IMF data published in April. U.S.-Tanzanian ties have, for many years, been cordial, and U.S. bilateral aid expanded significantly under the previous two U.S. administrations. The U.S. has had a robust development relationship with Tanzania, including investments in some of our premier development programs, such as Feed the Future, the Global Health Initiative, the Global Climate Change Initiative, Power Africa, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief--PEPFAR--and Trade Africa. Since 1962, Tanzania has hosted a Peace Corps program. In 2013, Tanzania also successfully completed a Millennium Challenge Corporation, MCC, funded Compact. Upon taking office in October 2015, President John Pombe Magufuli pledged to stamp out public corruption and make his government accountable to ordinary citizens, and he has taken some steps to do so. He made an unannounced visit to the Ministry of Finance to see civil servants at work on his first day as President and redirected funds from Independence Day celebrations toward anticholera operations. He initiated corruption reviews of the Tanzanian Port Authority and Tanzanian Revenue authority, resulting in the dissolution of an ineffective board and purging of civil servant rolls of ``phantom staff.'' According to AfroBarometer surveys, the government's handling of corruption in public office has had a positive impact, reducing citizens' perceptions of institutional corruption in key public agencies. By many measures, Tanzania is doing fairly well. My purpose is not to offer gratuitous criticisms of Tanzania or its people, but to register my strong concern that the progress of the last decade and a half in the areas of democracy and respect for civil liberties may be undergoing a reversal right before our eyes. Tanzania's success in advancing economically and politically is what makes the current political backsliding so troubling. I fear that while we are all rightly focused on the resolving the many crises on the continent and around the globe, the gradual downward spiral of respect for civil liberties in Tanzania is proceeding unnoticed, unremarked, and unchallenged by its friends and partners. As we address crises throughout the region and the world, we must also be mindful of the maintenance of strong democratic institutions, good governance, and accountability which ultimately secure resilient communities. The Magufuli Presidency has been marked by three troubling trends. First is the rise in recent years in the harassment of opposition political figures and restrictions on their activities. In September 2017, Tundu Lissu, a Member of Parliament--MP--and Parliamentary chief whip of the opposition Chadema party was shot by unknown assailants and seriously wounded. Lissu, who is also the president of the Tanganyika Law Society, is a fierce critic of President Magufuli and his government, but also a longstanding critic of corruption who may face hostility from many quarters. Lissu has often been arrested for his longstanding criticism of the government. Other opposition Parliamentarians face police harassment. In late September 2017, police arrested a Chadema MP after a party event, and at least two other MPs complained that police were prohibiting meetings with constituents. In February of this year, the U.S. Embassy released a statement of concern about the rise in politically related confrontations after reports of kidnapping and violence in Tanzania that resulted in the death of Daniel John, who was a leader of a local opposition party, and the injury of opposition supporter Reginald Mallya. Second is closing media space. According to the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders, RSF, Tanzania dropped 12 places between 2016 to 2017 to 83 out of 180. While this is the best score in east Africa, RSF stated that the climate for journalism ``has not improved since John Magufuli's election.'' Tanzania was ranked alongside Turkey, which indicates just how significantly Tanzania's democratic space has shrunk under the Magufuli regime. Newspapers have faced suspension or other sanction for coverage deemed critical of the government. In September 2017, the government banned the publication of two newspapers, in one case for 90 days and in another for 2 years, and 3 months after another publication was also shuttered for 2 years. In January 2018, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that Tanzania's regulatory commission imposed fines on five television stations for ostensibly ``broadcasting seditious and unbalanced content.'' The stations were fined after reporting on human rights abuses by security personnel and unidentified assailants during a November 2017 ward by-election. President Magufuli signed the controversial media services bill just a month into his tenure. The bill replaced independent media oversight mechanisms with a government-controlled one, and requires all journalists to get accreditation from a government-appointed board. This leaves them vulnerable to manipulation and undue pressure to provide coverage favorable to the state and majority party. In April 2016, then-Information Minister Nape Nnauye ordered a halt to live broadcasts of Tanzania's Parliamentary proceedings, denying journalists the ability to report accurate information and denying the public the right to transparency from their government. In November, President Magufuli signed in to law the Media Service Act 2016, which, among other measures, requires media houses to ``broadcast or publish news or issues of national importance as the government may direct,'' effectively giving the government outsize influence in controlling media messaging. The government then moved to restrict online content when, in September 2017, Tanzania's National Assembly passed the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations. The regulations empower the Tanzanian Communications Regulatory Authority to monitor and surveil online blogs and internet cafes and ban ``offensive, morally improper'' content. This restricts debate and has a chilling effect on the expression of views critical of government. If there is any doubt as to whether the government seeks to control the media, we have only to look at what President Magufuli himself said in March 2017: ``I would like to tell media owners--be careful, watch it. If you think you have that kind of freedom, (it is) not to that extent.'' A day later, a rap musician was arrested after he released a song deemed insulting to the government. Magufuli's 2017 warning followed the late 2016 arrest of a founder of a corruption-reporting and whistle-blowing website, Jamii Forums, and a police demand that the site reveal its users' names. The website's cofounder was charged on several counts of obstructing justice and running an unregistered website. These and other actions clearly demonstrate a disturbing deliberate government effort to censor the press and curtail the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression of Tanzania's citizens. I was pleased to see the announcement that the U.S. Agency for International Development or USAID, which supports good governance projects around the world, is funding a civil society and media-strengthening project that will work with media houses and radio stations in Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, and other areas of the country. I am unconvinced, however, that this well justified effort alone will be adequate to address the broad range of worrying trends that I have outlined. I would welcome additional efforts of a similar nature by USAID and other organizations, such as the National Endowment for Democracy. The third troubling trend is the closing space for civil society. In March, the President promised to crack down on anyone who participates in demonstrations deemed illegal by the government, vowing not to let his economic reforms be derailed by street protests. The reforms, some of which are not endorsed by the International Monetary Fund's most recent economic review, include reducing tax evasion, [[Page S4367]] halting copper concentrate exports, and banning imports of coal and gypsum. Prior to planned antigovernment demonstrations on April 26, a senior law enforcement official stated that ``Those who plan to demonstrate tomorrow will seriously suffer . . . they will be beaten like stray dogs.'' Because the Tanzanian authorities deployed a heavy police presence and threatened to use force, the protests failed to move forward. Magufuli's repression extends to sexual orientation and HIV policies. Homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania, and homosexuals and transgender persons have repeatedly faced threatening comments by government officials, as well as police harassment. Under previous Tanzanian governments, the country's HIV policies called for dedicated outreach to key populations. Such efforts have been halted under Magufuli's government. In 2016, the government raided and closed drop-in centers and private clinics that provide services to those in the LGBTI community, sex workers, and people who use drugs. Several organizations reported that the crackdown has resulted in HIV-positive men failing to access their antiretroviral treatment, while others no longer access testing and preventive services. Young women also find themselves under attack, for reasons which remain unclear. President Magufuli forcefully endorsed a law dating back to the 1960s that allows all state schools in Tanzania to ban young mothers from attending, saying in June 2017, ``As long as I am president . . . no pregnant student will be allowed to return to school . . . After getting pregnant, you are done.'' He said that young mothers could opt for vocational training or become entrepreneurs, but should not be permitted to pursue formal education in public schools. Critics say the ban lacks public support, is misogynistic, and breaks international human rights conventions. It also contradicts a promise set out in the ruling party's 2015 election manifesto, which pledged to allow pregnant school girls to continue with their studies. According to the Tanzania Bureau of Statistics, about 21 percent of Tanzanian girls aged 15 to 19 have given birth. This troubling pattern of discouraging women from completing their education inhibits Tanzania's potential for economic growth and undermines women's potential to contribute to Tanzania's workforce. It also is counter to Tanzania's commitments under the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Finally, Tanzania has, for decades, hosted refugees from various conflicts and political crises in the conflict-afflicted and densely inhabited countries in the Great Lakes region of central Africa--some for extended periods--and has played a mediating role in attempts to resolve such crises. In 2014, Tanzania also naturalized a large number of long-term Burundian refugees. Instability in Burundi has led to hundreds of thousands of Burundians to seek refuge and safety in Tanzania. In fact, Tanzania very generously hosts 245,584 Burundian refugees and asylum seekers, more than any other country, according to the latest statistics from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. In July of 2017, however, President Magufuli ordered the suspension of the registration and naturalization of thousands of Burundian refugees. He said, ``It's not that I am expelling Burundian refugees. I am just advising them to voluntarily return home . . . I urge Burundians to remain in their country, I have been assured, the place is now calm.'' During the same month, the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, deployed by the U.N. Human Rights Council, reported the ``persistence of serious human rights violations in a climate of widespread fear.'' Such violations included ``extrajudicial executions, acts of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, arbitrary arrests and detention and enforced disappearances.'' With peace talks stalled in Burundi--and the May 2018 constitutional referendum accompanied by widespread violence and intimidation, including 15 killings--Tanzania risks pushing refugees back to unstable and unsafe communities. The pattern of crackdowns on civil society, media, refugee, and public health providers under the Magufuli administration are contrary to the values that the United States has long supported both at home and abroad and are cause for concern. It is essential that the United States take a strong and proactive stance on these matters. Toward that end, I recommend that the administration take several actions. Immediately nominate an ambassador to lead our diplomatic efforts to push back against the tide of antidemocratic actions. The post has been vacant for well over a year. Conduct a review of assistance aimed at ensuring that the democracy, human rights and governance components of our bilateral assistance programs, which are an essential complement to sustainability in other areas of development that we support, are robustly funded and adequately address current challenges. Increase assistance to build the capacity of civil society and media stakeholders in Tanzania. Join with likeminded partners in the diplomatic community in Tanzania and in multilateral fora to jointly condemn President Magufuli's war on democratic freedoms and civil liberties and urge the Tanzanian Government to take concerted action to ensure that all political and civic rights guaranteed under the Tanzanian Constitution are fully respected. It seems to me that, at the same time President Magufuli is waging a war against poor governance, there is in fact another more pernicious effort being undertaken to roll back democratic freedoms and civil liberties. It is imperative that the United States, as a champion of democracy and freedom, raise its voice in support of Tanzanians who are pushing back against growing oppression. The Tanzanian Constitution states that ``the civic rights, duties and interests of every person and community shall be protected.'' Let us stand with those who are fighting to see that those guarantees are protected. ____________________