The US embassy in Tanzania issued a security message on Thursday, October 22, warning of the likeliness of protests, marches, and political rallies in Dar es Salaam and other cities in the country ahead of and during the general election on Wednesday, October 28. The embassy also stated that there has been a crackdown by the Tanzanian Immigration Department in recent weeks linked to the election focusing on visa validity periods and property rentals by foreign nationals, with newly-issued visitor visas also being reduced to 30 days from the previous 90.
Campaigning for the election has picked up in many areas of the country in recent days, with both the incumbent Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and opposition groups holding large-scale public rallies in Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Mwanza, Geita, Kigoma, Zanzibar, and Tabora. Campaigning has so far passed relatively peacefully. However, Chadema opposition presidential candidate Tundu Lissu has seen his campaign hampered by government restrictions and disciplinary judgments by the election commission, and a number of campaign events banned or disrupted by police.
Further political gatherings and election-related disruptions are likely across Tanzania in the near term. Political demonstrations and gatherings, particularly those associated with opposition groups, are highly likely to attract an increased security presence and cause localized travel and business disruptions.
President John Magufuli and the CCM are widely expected to win Wednesday's election, with the opposition being weakened by restrictive laws, internal divisions, and intimidation and harassment from the current government. However, elections in Tanzania have previously been marred by violence and unrest, particularly in opposition strongholds and on Zanzibar, and there is a realistic possibility that these areas will become increasingly volatile during and immediately following election day.
There have been significant concerns over increasing levels of political violence in Tanzania under Magufuli. Dozens of opposition activists have been threatened, attacked, or abducted by unidentified assailants since the president took office in 2015, but despite claims by the police to be investigating and monitoring the incidents, few arrests have been made. These attacks have included the attempted assassination of Tundu Lissu in 2017 and the killing of two Chadema officials the following year. Other prominent activists have been kidnapped, tortured, and threatened. Many of these attacks have been linked to specific political activity and campaigns but the government has done little to acknowledge or stem the rising tide of political violence.
Those in Tanzania are advised to remain apprised of the political situation, avoid all public demonstrations and election-related events as a precaution, avoid discussing politically-sensitive topics in public or on social media, and heed all directives issued by the local authorities. Travelers should exercise increased vigilance on election day and in the following days and minimize time spent in the vicinity of polling stations and political party offices, particularly during the announcement of results.
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