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What regional court’s ruling means to Dar political parties

The court declared provisions of the Tanzania Political Parties Act as violating the EAC Treaty

WEDNESDAY March 30, 2022

By Patty Magubira

The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania

A lawyer has clarified the significance of the ruling recently made by the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to Tanzania’s individual politicians and their outfits.

Mr John Mallya, one of the advocates who represented national leaders of four opposition parties and a non-governmental organisation at the court, said the decision would pave way for parties to operate freely in the country.

“If the government implements the court’s directives, a Tanzanian whose parents are not citizens of the country can now run a political party,” he said.

Mr Mallya said political outfits carrying out in-house training would not be censored and that parties would no longer be legally bound to respect Ujamaa (socialism) ideology as well as the Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar Union.

Mr Freeman Mbowe, the Chadema national Chairman, commended the judges of the regional court for the ruling, calling on President Samia Suluhu Hassan to ensure directives of the court were implemented in a bid to uphold the peace the country was enjoying.

The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) in session in Arusha, Tanzania, recently. PHOTO | EACJ

The EACJ found six provisions of the Tanzania’s Political Parties (Amendment) Act No 1 of 2019, violating the East African Community (EAC) Treaty.

In its ruling read by Justice Charles Nyachae, among two others, on Friday March 25, 2022, the court declared sections 3, 4, 5, 9, 15 and 29 of the Act as violating Articles 6(d) and 7(ii) and 8(i)(c) of the EAC Treaty.

It directed the Tanzania government to take necessary measures to bring the Political Parties Act into compliance with the treaty.

The court also ordered each party to bear its own cost, saying the reference had risen matters of public interest.

The Chadema national Chairman, Mr Freeman Mbowe (Left), listens to Mr John Mallya, one of the advocates who represented Tanzania’s five national leaders of opposition parties and a human rights organisation at the Arusha-based East African Court of Justice. PHOTO | EACJ

MORE INFORMATION: EAC TREATY

The EAC Treaty says in Article 6(d) on fundamental principles of the community that good governance, including adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency, social justice, equal opportunities, gender equality, as well as the recognition, promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Article 7(2) says the partner states undertake to abide by the principles of good governance, including adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, social justice and the maintenance of universally accepted standards of human rights. And Article (1) (c) says the partner states shall abstain from measures likely to jeopardize the achievement of those objectives or the implementation of the provisions of the treaty.


The panel of judges also comprised Principal Judge Yohane Masara, Deputy Principal Judge Audace Ngiye, and judges Charles Nyawello and Richard Wejuli.

The Tanzania Parliament enacted the controversial Act in January 2019 before the late president John Magufuli assented it to law in February 2019, 10 days before it was published in the government gazette.

Members of the public follow up on the judgement of the Tanzania’s Political Parties Act, 2019, case at the East African Court of Justice gallery in Arusha, Tanzania, recently. PHOTO | EACJ

On April 15, 2020, Mr Mbowe, the late Seif Sharif Hamad, who once was the first vice president of Zanzibar, Mr Zitto Kabwe, the Leader of Act-Wazalendo, Mr Salum Mwalimu, the Chadema Deputy Secretary General for Zanzibar, Mr Hashim Rungwe, the Chairman of Chauma and the Legal and Human Rights Centre jointly filed a consolidated Reference No. 3 and 4 of 2019 at the regional court.

The Applicants argued that the impugned Act Cap.258 of the laws of Tanzania, constituted unjustified restrictions of democracy, good governance and freedom of association; restricted people’s rights to participate in public affairs; and denied people’s rights to personal security and safety which are fundamental and operational principles of the community.

The Act, for instance, required leaders to notify the Registrar of Political Parties 30 days before providing any civic education by giving details of training programme, the target group, training materials, aims and expected results.

Whoever failed to obey the faulted law committed an offence and was liable to a fine of between Sh500,000 (about $217.4) and Sh5 million (about $2,200) or between three and 12-month imprisonment, if not both.

The government argued that the requirement to inform the registrar on the intention to provide civic education was limited to non-governmental organisations and institutions targeting to give civic education to the political parties and not to the general public as alleged.

The Burundi Minister for Justice, Ms Domine Banyankimbona (Second Right), was among East Africans who were in the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) courtroom when the ruling on the controversial Tanzania Political Act (Amendment) No. 1 of 2019, was read. Third Right is the EACJ President, Justice Nestor Kayobera, and the First Left is the East African Legislative Assembly Speaker, Mr Martin Ngoga. The minister was leading a high-level delegation from the Burundi government which visited the East African Community organs. PHOTO | EACJ

Such a requirement aimed at ensuring transparency, accountability and protection of state security and order.

The penalties imposed on institutions and individuals were limited to their acts or omissions in relation to the obligation to inform the registrar when they wished to provide civic education to members of political parties and not to the general public.

The Act did not give absolute power to the registrar to decide on the kind of civic education as alleged but rather guided him when disapproving the information given to give reasons for his decision which was a manifestation of the rule of law and good governance.

The Act, according to the government, was passed to, among other things, regulate the conduct of political parties with the spirit of promoting institutionalism, intra-party democracy, political and financial accountability which were essential elements of any modern democratic state and that it was compatible with principles of rule of law, good governance, democracy and human rights stipulated in the EAC Treaty, African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international instruments ratified by TanzaniaΩ

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