Chronology of Restrictions on Democracy in Tanzania Under President Magufuli (Nov 2015 – June 2020)


Nov 05: John Magufuli is sworn in as the fifth President of Tanzania.

November: After the political opposition did not recognize the President of Zanzibar – who was also present at the constituent session of the parliament after the election was canceled there – police forces enter the parliament and forcibly remove members of the opposition.

December:  President Magufuli announced that, for cost reasons, there will no longer be direct broadcasting of sessions of Parliament on local television or radio. To date, only government-approved summaries are being broadcasted.


January: All diplomatic missions receive a letter from the Tanzanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating that they must report beforehand all travel within Tanzania and all meetings and discussions with politicians, government officials and administrative staff to the ministry. This order is seen as a response to some western embassies’ requests that the cancellation of the Zanzibar elections (in which the opposition won handily) be withdrawn.

March:  Tundu Lissu, a key leader of the largest opposition party CHADEMA, is ordered to be excluded from parliament until October 2016 because he is said to have repeatedly disrupted its order.

May: President Magufuli announces his motto “Hapa kazi tu” (translated: it is only working). He demands that the opposition let him do his job in peace until the 2020 elections.

June: All political assemblies are subject to the condition that the police must allow them, which is a de facto ban on public assembly for the political opposition.

September: Two opposition female MPs – Halima Mdee and Ester Bulaya – are removed from parliament for a year (later reduced to June 2017) because they are said to have “used violence against security forces in parliament.“

Sept.-Oct.: Internal political party events are prohibited fort he opposition. The stated reason is that it would call for violence against the president. The police broke up meetings of two main opposition parties, which were nevertheless held.

November: Ben Saanane, a personal assistant to the CHADEMA party leader, disappears. He had previously criticized the quality of President Magufuli‘s doctoral thesis on Facebook. He remains missing to this day. It is not allowed to mention his name in Parliament.

Dec 13: The founder of JamiiForums, a blogging platform seen by many as Tanzania’s top whistleblowing site – arrested and remains in custody for 5 days.

Maxence Melo was arrested for allegedly refusing to disclose the identities of anonymous bloggers and contributors who, the Tanzanian authorities claim, posted sensitive information on his popular blogging site.


Jan.-Dec.: A total of five independent newspapers are banned, in whole or in part, during the year because they were seen as too critical of President Magufuli and his policies.

Jan 03: The President announced that victims of the Kagera earthquake on September 10, 2016 (19 dead, several hundred injured) will receive no government aid. Instead, the funds – which included many donations – would go to rebuilding state infrastructure.

Feb 05:  In a public speech, President Magufuli states that he will work to ensure that there will be no political opposition to him in the 2020 elections. He also reminded officials responsible for admitting candidates and announcing election results that he had appointed them and that they should think carefully about whether the opposition wins in their area of responsibility.

Feb 26: The President says that he will not sign the European Partnership Agreement (EPA), negotiated between the EU and the East African Community (EAC). Since the EPA only comes into force if all EAC member countries agree to it, the agreement remains ineffective to this day.

Mar 23: President Magufuli dismisses the country‘s Minister of Information Nape Nyaume after submitting an investigative report that severely charges Dar es Salaam’s “regional commissioner” (governor) who had, on March 20, stormed a television station with armed people and requested the transmission of a report in which one of his critics was defamed.

Mar 24: In a speech, the president warns journalists and the media that press freedom has “limits”.

Apr 25: The head of the UN Development Program, Awa Dabo, is expelled from the country. The official reasons are faults with their Tanzanian employees. But she had apparently been too critical of the cancellation of the 2015 Zanzibar elections and had worked with the political opposition.

June: During the ruling party’s general congress, President Magufuli announced that the entire government would have to move from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma by the end of 2018.

June 30: The president announced that pregnant girls and young mothers would be excluded from attending public schools.

July 21: After a meeting with the President of Burundi, President Magufuli declares that the approximately 230,000 Burundian refugees in the country should return to their homeland because it is now safe there. In effect, no Burundian refugees will be granted Tanzanian citizenship.

August: The president announces that he has bought new aircraft for the state carrier for the equivalent of $500 million. These expenses are not included in the state budget that his ruling party agreed on in early June 2017.

Aug.-Oct.: All NGOs, Political Parties, Newspapers and Periodicals in the country are asked to re-register. Those who did not do so, or did not do so in full, were then de-registered. This represented a clear warning to civil society that registrations wholly depend on the government’s goodwill.

Sept 07: CHADEMA’s chief whip, Tundu Lissu, is gunned down at lunchtime in a guarded residential complex for MPs in the capital, Dodoma, and survives with 16 bullets in his body. To date, there have been no investigations, suspects or arrests. To date, the Tanzanian parliament has not paid any financial support for Lissu‘s treatment costs and have subsequently sought to expel him from parliament for so-called absenteeism while he recovers abroad.

Nov 21: The journalist Azory Gwanda is reported missing. He had initiated research into violence by Tanzanian security forces and into dozens of unidentified dead bodies that had been washed up on the beaches of Dar es Salaam in the weeks before. He remains missing to this day amid calls from several international press freedom groups that demand to know his whereabouts.


Feb 14: Daniel John, who supported CHADEMA in the election campaign for a by-election in Dar es Salaam, was kidnapped and found murdered the next day.

Feb 17: At a demonstration by the opposition in Dar es Salaam, an uninvolved student (Akwilina Akwilini) is fatally hit by a police bullet. The following investigation ends without suspicion or charge

Feb 19: The entire party leadership of CHADEMA is arrested after being accused of “illegal assembly”, “call to violence” and other allegations. After being released on probation, the nine defendants are ordered to report to the police in Dar es Salaam every Friday for the next two years. No matter whether if they live in Dar es Salaam or are supposed to attend parliamentary sessions in Dodoma.

Feb 23: The elected “Councilor” Godfrey Luena from CHADEMA is killed with machetes in Morogoro in front of his house. He had previously made public that the ruling CCM party wanted to persuade him to change party affiliation.

March: In their Easter messages, the Protestant and Catholic bishops in Tanzania, as well as the second largest Muslim association, criticize the current situation in the country and call on the government to return to a dialogue with all actors. In response, individual bishops are threatened, the legitimacy of the Evangelical Church’s bishops’ conference is questioned by the Ministry of the Interior, and a bishop is asked to prove that he is a Tanzanian citizen under threat of expulsion.

July: The Executive Director of the Twaweza, a survey institute is prevented from leaving the country and has to prove that he is a Tanzanian citizen. Before that, his institute published a survey that made it clear that the president’s popularity had plummeted compared to his standing in 2015.

Sept 10: President Magufuli speaks out against all family planning programs and explains that women only have to work harder so that they can have more children. In response, USAID is asked by the Ministry of Health to end all family planning programs in the country.

September: The Statistics Act is being tightened to the point that official government statistics can no longer be challenged by private citizens. This change will be softened again after almost a year under pressure from the World Bank.

September: All NGOs registered with the Ministry of Health (approximately 80% of all local organizations) must apply for a “Letter of Compliance” and adhere to the guidelines of the Ministry, which must be informed about all activities in the future and can also unilaterally prohibit them.

November: The European Head of the EU Delegation in Tanzania, Roeland van de Geer, leaves the country in what was described simply as “being recalled back to Brussels”.

November: The president sets a fixed price for the entire harvest of approximately 200,000 tons of cashew nuts. He also orders the army to collect and store them, and prohibits commercial traders from buying, processing, and exporting them. The reason given is that he did not agree with the current world market price.

November: The probation for CHADEMA party leader Freeman Mbowe and MP Esther Matiko from the February 2018 trial will be revoked because they did not appear in Dar es Salaam on one of the scheduled court dates. They will ultimately be forced to spend 3 months in prison. Esther Matiko was part of an official delegation from the Tanzanian parliament to Burundi; Freeman Mbowe submitted a medical certificate because he was in Dubai for medical examinations. Both reasons were summarily rejected by the court.

December: The Controller and Auditor General (CAG) is presenting a special report on funds that have been diverted by the government past Parliament. After Parliament’s relevant oversight committee found that most of the nearly $1 billion went directly to the President’s office, all further investigations are stopped and the case is closed.


February: With the support oft he majority of the ruling CCM party, parliament decides to make far-reaching changes to the law on political parties without the MPs being presented with the final version of the law.

February: After more than three months in prison, the Supreme Court ruled that Freeman Mbowe and Esther Matiko must now be released on bail.

Feb 27:  The English language daily newspaper, “The Citizen,” is banned for one week. They had published a report that revealed the current weaknesses of the local currency against the dollar

April: CHADEMA MPs (Halima Mdee and Godbless Lema) are suspended from the parliament for six and eight months, respectively, because they called it “weak”. The background to this is the unwillingness of the ruling CCM party in the parliament to act with regard to some court recommendations on the state budget.

May 09: Opposition activist and vocal critic of the President on the social media, Mdude Nyagali, is found beaten and unconscious at a village near Mbeya five days after unidentified people abducted him.

June: The Speaker of the parliament announced that he will effecitvely withdraw the mandate as parliamentarian from the opposition’s chief whip, Tundu Lissu. According to the speaker, his whereabouts are not known and he would not have properly informed Parliament about the progress of his healing after the assassination attempt on him in September 2017.

June: The government proposes changes to legislation for NGOs, under the motion of urgency in the parliament, which will be passed without the involvement of civil society and also Members of Parliament. This move will significantly tighten control and monitoring options for NGOs by the executive.

July: Azory Gwanda, the journalist who has been missing since November 2017, is declared dead by the Tanzanian Foreign Minister, Palamagamba Kabudi. In an interview with the BBC’s “Focus on Africa” program today, Kabudi said that Gwanda had “disappeared and died” in the country’s eastern Rufiji region, and said that the government has since “been able to contain that kind of extremism” in the region. Gwanda went missing on November 21, 2017, after investigating mysterious killings and disappearances in his community, and the Tanzanian government has never delivered a promised investigation into his case

July 10:  President John Magufuli urged Tanzania’s women to “set your ovaries free” and bear more children as a way to help boost the economy into a regional powerhouse, a step critics said would instead worsen inequality and poverty.

July 26: The Deputy Projects Director at the Ministry of Finance and Planning, dealing with projects funded by the European Union, Leopold Lwajabe, is found dead hanging from a tree after he had gone missing for several days. While his family claims he has been abducted and killed, the police claims he had commtted suicide and there should be not further investigation.

August: Freelance journalist Erik Kebendera (who writes for the East African and the Economist among others) is arrested by non-uniformed people. Only after two days did the police declare that he is in their custody. First he is accused of not being a Tanzanian citizen; later this charge is changed to “conspiracy” and then to “money laundering.” Since this offense means he cannot be released on bail, he remains in prison until February 2020 when he signs a plea bargain and is released.

September: A ‘common citizen’, a farmer named Dezydelius Patrick Mgoya, files a constitutional petition in the Tanzanian High Court challenging current presidential term limits. He wants presidential term limit scrapped in Tanzania so that President Magufuli can remain in power for more than 10 years.

Sept 20: The High Court suspends Fatma Karume, the former President of the Tanganyka Law Society and an outspoken critic of the president, from practicing as a lawyer in Tanzania Mainland over the remarks she made in her submission in a case challenging the appointment of the Attorney General by the President.

Nov 04: The President appoints a new Controller Auditor General (CAG), a kind of top auditor, although the Acting CAG is still in office and there are no legal requirements according to which the President can recall the CAG. The only provision is that the CAG will surrender its post when he or she reaches retirement age, which is not currently the case. The CAG has previously uncovered a number of government spending irregularities and had always emphasized its independence.

Nov 06: The government announces that more than 95% of the more than 330,000 opposition candidates for the November 22 upcoming local government elections have been disqualified and are not allowed to run. A total of seven opposition parties, including all those represented in parliament, commits to boycott the local elections if there are no substantial concessions to the disqualification of their candidates, which does not happen. The remaining candidates (i.e. the ruling CCM party) are thus named winners without an actual election. Later, on November 25, the government declares the ruling party the winner with 99.99% of the mandates to be awarded.

Nov 22: In a press release, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) sharply criticizes the Human Rights situation in Tanzania and calls on Magufuli’s administration to respect the rule of law.

Nov 27: Both the US Embassy and the British High Commission in Tanzania publicly criticize the government’s conduct in local elections; namely, the systematic lockout of the political opposition and the lack of due electoral processes.

Dec 02: Tanzania (in a letter dated November 14) withdraws from the Declaration under the Article 34 (6) – under the Protocol to the African Charter – on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights”. As a result, Tanzanian citizens no longer have the right to lodge individual claims with the African court over alleged human rights violations committed by the state.

Dec 20: Human rights activist Tito Magoti is claimed to be abducted by men in civilian clothes. After several days of silence, the police admit that he is in their custody and will be charged with “Money Laundering,” a non-bailable offense.


Jan 31: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo releases a statement stating that Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda is no longer allowed to travel to the United States. This move is justified by the U.S. Department of State due to the gross human rights violations that have been committed by Makonda.

Feb 24: After nearly six months in prison, journalist Erik Kabendera signs a plea bargain to get out of detention. This comes after his trial was postponed by authorities over 15 times with no result. He is now compelled to pay a fine of $100,000 in monthly installments.

Feb 28: CHADEMA party secretary Alex Jonas Hele is suspiciously killed in Manyoni (Singida Region) with machetes on the open road at around 9:00 p.m. The perpetrators leave behind all valuables, as well as his cell phone and the motorcycle with which he was on his way home. To date, no perpetrators have been investigated or identified.

March: The Economist Intelligence Unit releases its annual Democracy Index. For the third consecutive year, Tanzania declines in its overall score and its world ranking falls to 95 overall, falling behind Kenya and slightly ahead of Benin. Tanzania is deemed a hybrid regime, which combines autocratic features with democratic ones (in other words, they can simultaneously enforce political repression while holding regular albeit flawed elections).

March 04: Freedom House publishes its annual “Freedom of the World Index 2020” and downgrades Tanzania, once again, compared to its results from the previous year. For 2020, the country is rated as Partly Free, while citing that: “Since the election of President John Magufuli in 2015, the government has cracked down with growing severity on its critics in the political opposition, the press, and civil society.”

March 10: After more than two years of trial, most members of CHADEMA’s party leadership are found guilty on 12 of the 13 charges against them. They must now either go to prison for five months or pay a total of TZS 355 million (around $ 170,000). If they do not pay the fines, they will remain as political prisoners.

March 15: After CHADEMA members spend several days in prison, the party chairman was the last of the convicted to be released after his fine had been paid and deposited. His supporters, waiting outside the prison, are violently dispersed and there are several injuries, including Halima Mdee and Ester Bulaya. A few days later, they are officially charged by the police with “trouble-making”.

March 22: In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic in his own country, President Magufuli declares that all houses of worship will remain open because the virus is the “devil” and he could not pass “In the body of Jesus”. Several weeks later, the World Health Organization‘s Africa team,  which keeps an informal list of countries they are most worried about,  says that Tanzania tops that list.

March 29: After being imprisoned for suspected “money laundering” since October 2019, but refusing to sign a plea bargain, the chairman of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation, businessman Salum Shamte, dies after one day of treatment in the hospital where he was taken straight from prison.

April 03: Several Tanzanian media houses are forced to pay hefty fines for spreading “wrong” or “misleading” information about the spread of the Coronavirus in Tanzania. Journalists had challenged the Magufuli government’s low number of reported cases and deaths.

April 08: The owner of the popular social network “JamiiForums”, Maxence Melo, is found guilty after an extended, highly politicized trial for “Obstructing Police Investigation,” based on the country‘s Cyber Crimes Act. He is ordered to pay a fine of three million TZ shillings. He files an intent to appeal.

April 24: The seasoned political analyst, Prince Bagenda, is arrested for allegedly writing a book that criticizes President Magufuli and his authoritarian style of leadership.

May 01: After three Members of Parliament died of a „short Illness“ within 10 days, the main opposition party CHADEMA announces that all of its MPs will go into voluntary quarantine for two weeks, because Covid-19 has reached parliament. Thereupon, on May 3, the president asked that their benefits be reduced. On May 12, the Speaker of the parliament declares that the MPs have to appear in parliament. Lastly, the Regional Commissioner of Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda, announces on May 7 that the police shall arrest all MPs from the city if they do not return to parliament immediately.

May 03: President Magufuli declares that the government laboratory who is conducting the Tests on Covid-19 infections is sabotaged by imperialists and delivers wrong test results. He orders an investigation. Ever since then, the Government has not issued any updated numbers on infected or deceased people.

May 17: Two Kenyan journalists are arrested in Tanzania while interviewing residents on the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

May 20: Well known Tanzanian comedian Idris Sultan is arrested after posting a video in the social media where he is laughing at an old picture of the president. He is released on bail one week later, but accused of violating the Electronic and Postal Act of 2020 for using a SIM-Card that is not registered under his name.

June 09:  CHADEMA party chairman, Freeman A. Mbowe is attacked by three unknown assailants who abuse him and break his leg at 1:00 a.m on his return to his house in the capital city, Dodoma. Mbowe said the attackers called him “a troublemaker to the president” and broke his leg intentionally to prevent him from appearing in the upcoming campaign. The attack occurred just a few hours after Tundu Lissu announced that he wants to become the party’s candidate for the presidential seat in 2020.

June 11: With the votes from the ruling party, the parliament decides on extensive legislative changes, which include total immunity from all civil and criminal charges for misconduct / offenses during the term of office for the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker of Parliament and his deputy.

June 13:  After a meeting between ACT-Wazalendo party leader, Zitto Kabwe and British High Commissioner in Tanzania, Sarah Cooke, ACT-Wazalendo received a letter from the Registrar of Political Parties asking the party to disclose the content of the meeting. In addition, §6C (4) A of the Political Parties Act is mentioned, according to which foreigners are not allowed to participate in the decision-making process of a party.

Subsequent to this meeting, all diplomatic missions in Tanzania will receive a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, notifying them that, according to the Vienna Agreement, interference in domestic Tanzanian matters should be avoided.

June 23: The license of the (private) daily newspaper “Tanzania Daima” which mostly publishes stories from opposition parties is revoked with immediate effect and it is not allword to appear any longer. The reasons given by authorities are several violations of “ethics and moral rules” of the media law.

June 24: The party leader of ACT-Wazalendo, Zitto Kabwe, is arrested by the Police Force at an entirely internal event of his party in Lindi, in the southeast of the country. The event is dissolved and he – along with four other members – was released on bail two days later.

June 24: A training for Human Rights activists by the local NGO, THRDC (Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition) at Kisenga Hall in Dar es Salaam is raided by the Police and two THRDC staff arrested.

June 25:   LHRC (Legal and Human Rights Center) and the THRDC (Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition) two of the most prominent and important human rights organizations in Tanzania receive letters from the “Registrar of NGOs” that they have violated the requirements of the new NGO law and are given 7 days ultimatum to submit all requested documents.

June 30: After the oil price rises unexpectedly by 10%, the (foreign) top managers of the country’s three largest oil companies, Total, Puma and Oryx, are arrested in Dar es Salaam. They are accused of manipulating the market price and remain imprisoned for a few days.