Tanzania achieved political independence from Britain in 1964 and was ruled for several years by Julius Nyerere under a one party state. In 1985, Nyerere resigned as President and handed over to Ali Hassan Mwinyi. In 1992, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Party set up a commission that recommended a multi-party system. Mwinyi, whose five-year mandate expires in 1995, will then compete with about twenty other parties in a general election. With a population of approximately ten million occupying a space of 362,820 square metres, Tanzania is one of world's poorest countries.
Several years of socialist economic policies have hindered growth and investment. These policies have now been reversed in favour of a structural adjustment and liberalisation programme. There is hope that the country, which is presently the most stable in the sub-region, will attract more foreign investment that will help to uplift its economic situation.
The new Constitution has a bill of rights. However, routine abuses of human rights, such as unlawful arrests and detention, poor prison conditions and torture by the police occur. The press is free, although it is only just beginning to savour its new-found freedom.
THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS
Since the introduction of a multi-party system in 1992, Tanzania has become a more tolerant and open society. Human rights organisations operate freely and are not restrained from applying for registration. The most active group in the country is the Tanzania Media Women Association, TAMWA, whose activities are well-articulated and focused. TAMWA is perhaps the only group in the country that is sufficiently experienced and established to provide training to other organisations in the sub-region, although it may have its own growth problems. Most of the other groups are nascent and will need a lot of encouragement to make a meaningful impact. There are no monitoring or advocacy organisations in the country as all of the groups are focusing primarily on education for human rights and civic awareness.
Needs of human rights organisations in the country include:
i Office equipment: computers, typewriters, photocopiers, fax machines, books and legal materials.
ii Staff needs: Most of the staff working with Tanzanian human rights groups have had little or no training in human rights and often have only basic knowledge. Training this staff will be an important contribution towards developing the focus and sophistication of the groups. Staff training will be needed in the areas of report writing, advocacy skills, use of international standards, charters and procedures, documentation, computer use, lobbying strategies, internal management and administrative skills, and fundraising skills.
The Legal Aid Committee is a Committee of the Faculty of Law of the University of Dar es Salaam. Originally established in 1967, it was inactive for some time before being revived in 1978.
The Committee is run by a Chairman and a committee of seven, all staff of the Faculty of Law. The Committee has no independent office or staff. Members of the committee are elected annually from the Law Faculty academic staff.
In recent times, the Committee has again been inactive. In its active days the Committee focused on legal counselling, legal literacy and litigation. It sponsored weekly clinics, staffed by two members of the Committee, to provide legal advice to poor clients. These clinics functioned in two centres--Magomeni and Temeke.
The legal literacy method involved publication of enlightenment booklets and the organisation of seminars in villages and legal aid camps. Education of the people on issues relating to human rights and land rights, inheritance, and so on, was provided. The Committee undertook litigation on such matters as land rights, labour, landlord and tenant, and matrimonial causes (focusing on conciliation).
SUWATA is a women's organisation that provides credit schemes and other services to women in Tanzania. It was registered in 1984 as a limited liability company. Its legal aid project provides legal counselling for its women members.
The legal aid project of SUWATA is staffed by a Coordinator, Mrs. Tenga, who combines this portfolio with other jobs in SUWATA. SUWATA itself has a Board of ten women and four men, a General Manager who is the organisation's chief executive and two heads of department--Legal/Administration and Finance/Operations.
The organisation's activities include legal counselling and representation of women both in court and administratively. This work focuses on matrimonial cases, inheritances, probate, and so on. In 1993 the project filed about fourteen cases in the courts. The project also organises legal literacy campaigns and paralegal training. There is a legal aid unit which provides women with guidance and counselling on legal issues. This unit visits the rural areas to provide services.
The Tanganyika Law Society was established by law, and is comprised of all lawyers called to the Bar in Tanzania (numbering about 230). Only about forty of these lawyers actually practice.
The Tanganyika Law Society has a Human Rights Committee and a Legal Assistance Committee, which has about six lawyers as members.
The Human Rights Committee monitors human rights abuses in the country, while the Legal Assistance Committee takes up cases of human rights abuse in the courts. The association has been representing victims of abuses committed by Sungo Sungo, a voluntary vigilante group. Cases arising from their excesses have been filed in the courts and payment of damages sought.
The Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) was formed in 1987 and registered as an NGO the following year with the objective of promoting positive images of women in the media.
TAMWA's structures include a General Assembly of about sixty-five members and an Executive Board. The Executive Board is the decision-making body of TAMWA and is headed by Fatima Alloo. Pili Mtambalike is the General Secretary of the association. There are also Unit Coordinators who execute projects of the organisation.
TAMWA runs a women's and children's rights project and maintains a crisis centre where women go for legal advice and counselling. The organisation provides legal assistance to women on issues relating to child custody and inheritance rights, rape and assault. Women lawyers and social workers visit the centre to assist. TAMWA organises paralegal training and workshops for women with a view to promoting awareness of the law and its remedies. The organisation publishes a magazine, Santi Ya Siti, to reach and educate rural women. It is published in Swahili. The magazine includes articles and entertaining stories pertaining to the rights of women. About twenty issues of the magazine have been produced so far.
The organisation has a Publishing Unit that has published about 11 booklets, focusing on work conditions for women, violence against women, rape therapy, school girl pregnancies and drug abuse. The Unit is planning to produce books in English on NGO management, reproductive health, violence against women and gender issues. The Video Unit has also produced women-related materials and documentaries--about five to date.
The Radio Unit of TAMWA has produced several programmes for broadcast on women and sexual violence. On the health front, TAMWA has campaigned on AIDS, child labour, sexual harassment, birth control, rape, and other subjects. TAMWA has an Economic Unit under which a savings project functions. A profit-making venture, the sewing project produces batiks, cloths and handicrafts with women's rights messages on them.
Welfare Through Law (WTL) was established in 1992 and is registered under the Tanzanian Trustees Incorporation Ordinance. WTL objectives include: disseminating information on human rights and the law, and the provision of legal assistance and counsel to the needy, to children and to women.
WTL's structures include a membership and a Board of Trustees which presently has five members. Ms. Hamida Sheikh, one of the Trustees, is also Secretary-General of WTL and, together with a Management Committee, runs the organisation on a daily basis.
The organisation's only known activity is a seminar on human rights organised for law enforcement officials in October 1993 and attended by judges, magistrates, police, lawyers and human rights activists. The organisation plans to train and rehabilitate street children and child prostitutes. In addition, there are also plans to organise more seminars and workshops and engage in studies of the administration of justice and police practices.
The Zanzibar Legal Services Centre was established in Zanzibar in February 1992 as a non-governmental organisation whose aim is to provide legal services to the poor, women, children, the disabled and other disadvantaged sections of the society. The Centre also seeks to provide education and consciousness raising on peoples' basic rights and responsibilities.
The Centre is located in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Its structure consists of a three-member Board of Trustees, chaired by Haroub Othman, lawyer and founder of the Centre. The Centre's Secretariat is run by a staff headed by the Director, Hassan Mze, a lawyer who works on a part-time basis. The Centre also has associate members who cooperate with the Centre in its activities.
In mid-December, the Centre organised a paralegal training programme in Zanzibar, its very first activity. Future activities planned by the Centre include legal literacy campaigns, legal aid, paralegal training, a newsletter, conferences, workshops and seminars.
- Clement Nwankwo
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