Nairobi, Kampala, Gaborone, London 11 September 2020: The Panel of Eminent Persons, led by three co-chairs Prof. Frederick Ssempebwa from Uganda, Dr. Willy Mutunga from Kenya and Ms. Alice Mogwe from Botswana continue to closely follow the developments in the United Republic of Tanzania ahead of the General Elections to be held on 28 October, 2020. The Co-chairs commend the people of Tanzania for their continued commitment to democratic principles including among other things, holding periodic multiparty elections since the reintroduction of multiparty politics in 1995 in line with the principles set out in the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
We continue to encourage all the stakeholders to uphold and promote the principles of democracy and good governance through the institutionalization of transparency, accountability and participatory democracy as enshrined in national laws as well as in various international treaties and standards including the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Panel notes the National Electoral Commission’s statement on 1st September 2020 when the Commission encouraged all candidates to adhere to the laws and regulations governing elections. In the said statement, the Commission reported reviewing a total of 557 appeals for parliamentary and ward council seats. We take note that in attending to such appeals, the Commission undertakes to perform a quasi-judicial mandate and as such, the Commission is bound by basic principles and norms in the administration of justice. The panel has taken note of the NEC’s communication dated 8th, 9th and 11th September in fulfillment of the Commission’s mandate in accordance with article 40(6) of the National Elections Act cap.343. We observe with concern that the said appeals appear to affect candidates who belong only to other parties than the ruling as noted by some members of the clergy in the country.
We wish to reiterate that the manner with which the NEC has conducted the hearing of the appeals fails to meet universally accepted standards for the administration of justice. Gaps in enforcing transparency, the right to be heard and participatory decision making involving the candidates pose questions on the NEC’s commitment to the fair dispensation of justice guaranteed in among others Article 25 of the ICCPR.
The panel is gravely concerned with the disqualification of tens of candidates from the opposition including in Pemba which risks the continued enjoyment of peace and tranquility in the isles. In the absence of clear and transparent processes for the handling of the appeals the panel expresses concern over the equal and fair treatment of candidates in line with Article 2.1.7. of the SADC principles. The absence of clear and transparent due processes significantly affects the credibility and perception of impartiality of both the NEC and the ZEC.
We note that only about a fifth of the appeals lodged so far have been attended to so far whilst other candidates proceed with campaigning. We express concern that the declaration of candidates who are now running unopposed as announced by the NEC on 28th August 2020 is inconsistent with Tanzania’s constitutional requirement provided under Article 66. The NEC’s decision therefore denies those citizens of Tanzania exercising their right under Article 5 and 21 of the country’s constitution from fully participating in public life as guaranteed by both Article 17 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The panel appeals to and calls for the National Election Commission (NEC) and the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) to address all the outstanding appeals from the disqualified candidates with utmost impartiality. We implore the electoral authorities to adhere to universal principles for the administration of justice and to refrain from decisions that are likely to affect the credibility of the electoral process. We take note of the credibility questions surrounding the most recent local government elections when over 90% of the candidates were relegated from the ballot.
The Panel of Eminent Persons continues to closely monitor the political campaigns and reaffirm our continued support for the people of Tanzania as they prepare for the general elections.