Security Agencies and Tanzanian Human Rights

Posted: September 27, 2016 in Chadema, Human Right, Noor, Politics, Rai, Serikali, Uncategorized, zittokabwe

First, it is important…very important, if not too important, that we all understand the real meaning of ‘human rights’ and what it entails. So permit me to use few minutes to explain this as much as I can.


In a very clear, unambiguous, simple English, human rights can be defined as the entitlements of every individual by virtue of their humanity. Human Rights are rights that are inherent in nature and are conferred on every man or woman the moment they are born. In other words, the moment you are born as a human being, these rights automatically become yours, which means, you can lay claim to them.

One very important point I want us to understand here is that this thing called human rights is not the creation of any government. It is not the government’s to give or take! It is your property! And the only criteria you need to meet in order to qualify to lay claim to these rights is to be born a human. Simple! That is why these rights are referred to as fundamental or inalienable. What countries do is to recognize these rights by including them in their constitution but make no mistake, it is not a gift the government can give to their friends and withhold from their perceived opponents. Even if some governments refuse to recognize and respect these rights, it doesn’t still make it any less your entitlements as a human person.

Some of these rights include, right to life, freedom of speech, right to freedom of expression, right to peaceful assembly and association etc.


In the case of Tanzania, these rights are clearly recognized in our Constitution but sadly, they are hardly respected by the government and their security agencies especially the police.

It is important to note that the most important of all rights is the right to life but sadly in Tanzania, this is one right that is hardly respected. The government looks on like a common spectator; I’d not be exaggerating if I said the life of a Tanzanian doesn’t really mean much to the government.

It is common place here to hear that the police has shot dead a detained person over a minor argument or that police have shot dead some group of gang robbers for blocking the road. This is not the kind of stories we should be hearing in this 21st century.

First, the right of Tanzanians to freely express themselves is recognized in the 1977 Constitution. Their right to peaceful assembly and association is recognized. So there is no question of whether or not people have a right to express opinion or stage protest.

Now, in the case of Peacefully Street Protest, the Political Parties Act clearly spelt out how protesters should be handled if they stopped being peaceful. When protesters start blocking high ways, burning tyres on the road and inconveniencing other road users, the Act describes such protesters as “Riotous Assembly” which should be dispersed by the police using teargas, water canon, baton, pepper spray etc BUT NOT live bullet.

Soldiers have no business confronting protesters blocking the road! Matter of fact, soldiers has no business engaging UNARMED protesters even if they turn violent. That is the job of the police. Soldiers are trained mainly to open fire and cease fire. Soldiers can only be deployed when it becomes apparent that the protesters have become too violent to be contained by the police.

The police have no business….none whatsoever…using live bullets on protesters blocking the road! If the police cannot effectively use resources at her disposal to disperse some group of protesters who have turned ‘Riotous’ without killing them, it is an indictment on the efficiency of the police as a law enforcement agency.

On several occasions, I’ve heard the police hide under the cover of security threat to ban street protest. I think this is a clear violation of the right of those people to hold peaceful protest. First, the police should understand that they can effectively carry out their duty of maintaining law and order and enforcing the law without trampling on the right of the citizens. You don’t have to sacrifice the fundamental human rights of the people just so you could be seen to be maintaining law and order. You can actually do your job without suspending the rights of the people.

When the Constitution says the people have the right to express their opinions and you being the police, start arresting people who express opinions you deem anti-government, you the police, are the one breaking the law because you are violating the law that says you should allow people express themselves!


If the law says I Abdul should be allowed to protest about anything I feel is not right in the system and you the police invent one security excuse to stop me from exercising this right which has been granted me by the law –the same law that gave you your own powers as the police…. you are not upholding the law. You are breaking it because you have no powers to operate outside the law. You don’t make the law. Your job is to enforce laws that have already been made!

If a people want to protest, instead of declaring the protest illegal and cancelling it, the police should provide security to the protesters and be at alert to ward off criminal elements who might want to hide under the protest to carry out their criminal acts. The idea of the police insisting that people need their permission before they can embark on a protest is a relic of our colonial past and I’m reasonably certain that several courts have ruled on this. Even if there is credible intelligence that criminal elements are planning on hijacking a planned protest that is not a genuine reason for the police to deny the protesters their right to hold protest by cancelling it. What the police should do is be at alert to arrest anybody found making trouble on the protest ground. If the police cannot effectively police dozens of protesters to ward off criminal elements, how can we trust them to police the entire country?

A man can wake up and feel that his lover didn’t satisfy him in bed last night and decide to hit the street in protest. It is his right. It doesn’t really matter what one wants to protest about. It can be anything. It’s none of your business, as long as he conducts his protest peacefully. And even if he doesn’t conduct himself peacefully, you can disperse him with low power.

The “UKUTA” guys have a right to protest about the continued leadership. They have a right to protest that they no longer want to be idiot, the truth must speak out. Their right to protest about anything is clearly protected in the constitution, the same Constitution you swore to uphold as the police. Even if you don’t agree with their cause, you don’t have to deny them that constitutionally guaranteed right to express themselves! You don’t have to agree with everybody’s opinion but you are duty-bound to respect their right to hold and express that opinion. This is what modern society is all about. If you keep disturbing, maiming and imprisoning the opposing guys anywhere they are gathered to express themselves, even in church or school field, you are breaking your own laws. You are proving you have no respect for the same law you are supposed to be defending. You are making it seem as though you are just a incompetent, not a law enforcement agency. You are making your country look bad before the international community because believe it or not, the whole world is watching and they are keeping record. You don’t maintain law and order by disturbing off a section of your country who are expressing their grievances against the leadership. Any peace obtained through that means is nothing but a piece of the grave yard which is no peace at all.

I think we all need to understand one thing here. The issue of human right is not something you can choose to respect or disrespect at will. You don’t have to like someone for you to respect their human right. They don’t even have to share your political affiliation before you respect their rights as humans. They just have to be humans. That’s all.

That a certain Abdul writes against the government is no reason to deny him his right to life, his right to freedom of speech and expression and his right to peaceful Assembly among other rights. As a citizen, the government is my employee. I and other Tanzanians are their bosses! I have a right to criticize my government whenever I want and however I want just as an employer has the right to criticize his employee. No one has to be victimized for holding opinions considered as anti-government.

The job of the security agencies especially the police is a very tough one, no doubt. And it requires the co-operation of every citizen. But it would gladden my heart to no end if the police could find a balance between doing their job and respecting the rights of the citizens at the same time. I believe this is doable. All that is required is the political will on the part of the police. When citizens’ rights are respected by the police, they won’t need anyone to tell them that the police are their friends. They will realize that automatically and would be very willing to do anything to help the police in the job of keeping the society safe. That way, everyone will have that sense of protection on sighting a cop. This is the only way we can build a better society!

God bless Tanzania.

Twitter: @noor_abdul 

  1. Hamida says:

    God bless you Abdul for these critical and analytical expression of the situation of things in Tanzania. Only those with insight will understand. As for those who are too blind to see or too deaf to hear what’s going on,i leave them to continue wallowing in their illusion because their case is a “No Brain” situation.

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