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IRI Tanzania Program Offers Sustainable Solutions to Election Concerns

As a newcomer to IRI’s Tanzania program I have a lot to learn about this East African nation entering its fifth round of multiparty elections this October.  I’ve known that IRI will be working with members of the media to increase electoral transparency and encourage peaceful participation in the elections, especially among youth.  But, until this past week, I did not fully understand the importance or need for IRI’s engagement with Tanzania’s civil society leading up to elections.

A recent event at the Open Society Foundations, entitled “Tanzania’s Test: Can Free and Fair Elections Prevail?” offered a glimpse into the major concerns surrounding Tanzania’s October elections and how IRI can address those concerns.  Harold Sungusia, director of advocacy at the Legal and Human Rights Center in Tanzania, emphasized that the rhetoric surrounding this election has been more hostile and polarizing than in the past, thus creating an environment potentially conducive to post-election violence.  Ali Said, president of the Zanzibar Law Society, stressed the deciding factor in this election will be the public’s view on the Constitutional Review Process, the handling of which has caused much frustration with the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party.  Finally, Agnes Hanti, program officer for the Open Society Initiative for East Africa, was concerned that the international community will fail to remain committed to helping Tanzania’s democracy remain fair and effective. 

While civil society in the country is generally capable of engaging the public in the political process, it will require international support to assure civil society can be as effective as possible not only during this election, but for years to come.  While each speaker addressed Tanzania’s election issues from a different angle, they each appealed for institutions such as IRI to help support relevant stakeholders in Tanzania’s upcoming elections.

Listening to these speakers, I was excited to realize that IRI’s programming in Tanzania will address many of these very concerns.  IRI is working with members of the media to promote an open and accurate media dialogue surrounding the elections.  Additionally, IRI is working closely with a small but very media savvy and motivated youth civil society group, Tanzania Bora Initiative, who just launched their multimedia campaign that seeks to inform and engage youth on electoral issues.  Check out their creative work here #Uchaguzi2015TZ.

Members of Tanzania Bora Initiative’s Uchaguzi 2015 media campaign at a photo shoot for their upcoming television show.

Notably, IRI’s commitment to democratic strengthening in Tanzania is not limited to this coming election.  During the post-election period, IRI will work with newly elected officials so they are better prepared to fulfill their new roles and responsibilities.  It is clear to me that IRI’s programs not only work to address these issues raised by the speakers at the OSI forum, but will also work to sustainably strengthen democratic institutions in Tanzania for years ahead.

Posted by

Anne Govern

Program Assistant, Africa Division