Global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges Tanzanian authorities to put an end to their campaign of judicial persecution, arbitrary arrests and intimidation of civil society members and local communities opposing land rights violations.
In the most recent incident, Maanda Ngoitiko, head of the Pastoral Women’s Council (PWC), is being accused of obstructing the government’s investment strategy and of engaging in espionage by collaborating with Swedish blogger Susana Nurduland, who writes about pastoral activists and their advocacy for land rights of communities. Out on bail, Ngoitiko is due to appear in court on 2 September 2016.
Tanzanian civil society representatives are seriously concerned over a government sponsored list containing the names of 70 human rights defenders, journalists, community activists and leaders earmarked for arrest. Those included in the list have either exposed or challenged the acquisition of community lands by foreign investors over the last decade.
“Several land rights and indigenous activists have gone into hiding out of fear they will be arrested,” said David Kode, Senior Policy and Research Officer from CIVICUS. “Others have resorted to self-censorship to avoid reprisals from the authorities. Tanzania’s government is engaging in a shocking campaign to quash dissent in order to appease foreign investors at the cost of local communities.”
The Pastoral Women’s Council is a Maasai women’s organisation working on women’s economic empowerment and access to land. Maanda Ngoitiko was arbitrarily arrested on 12 August at Arusha Police Station after she responded to a request to pick up her passport which had been confiscated by the authorities. She was transferred to an unknown location before she was being released on bail on 15 August, to appear in court on 2 September 2016.
There have been several other cases in recent months of arrests and enhanced intimidation of land rights activists resisting encroachment of community land by foreign investors, particularly in the Loliondo division of Ngorongoro district.
In July this year, civil society activist Samweli Nangiria and several other human rights defenders were arrested, detained and accused of espionage for highlighting land rights violations. They were interrogated by police from the Dar es Salaam police station. Following their arrest, human rights lawyer Shilinde Ngagula who went to represent some of them was also detained and only released following pressure from other lawyers and activists.
CIVICUS is deeply concerned at the current state of affairs in Tanzania and urges authorities in the country to guarantee under all circumstances an enabling environment for civil society activists and organisations to carry out their work without fear or intimidation.