US bans Tanzanian politician over human rights abuse

Move comes after disappearance of government critics, detention of human rights campaigners

Kizito Makoye   | 01.02.2020
US bans Tanzanian politician over human rights abuse

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania  

The U.S. Department of State has banned the governor of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest commercial city, accusing him of gross violation of human rights.

Paul Makonda, the regional commissioner of Dar Es Salaam and immediate members of his family, including his wife, "will not step a foot in the U.S.", according to a statement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“The Department of State is publicly, designating Paul Christian Makonda … due to his involvement in gross violation of human rights, which include flagrant denial of the rights to life, liberty, or the security of persons,” the statement said.

Makonda has also been implicated in the oppression of the political opposition, crackdowns of freedoms of expression and association, and targeting of marginalized individuals, it added.

There was no immediate government reaction.

There has been rising repression of media and free expression in Tanzania in recent years with the government increasingly becoming authoritarian and unable to bear criticism.

Prominent government critics, including journalists, human rights defenders and opposition politicians have repeatedly been harassed and prevented from doing their work while others were charged with serious economic crimes.

Since 2015, the government has used new and old harsh laws and policies including the 2015 Cybercrime Act and the 2016 Media Services Act, to muzzle the media and silence dissent.

The media watchdogs have used such laws to ban newspapers, whose contents deemed critical, and penalized TV or radio stations airing programs considered as immoral.

Similarly, there have been many attacks and abductions of government critics and journalists.

In July 2017, Tundu Lissu, the former chief whip of opposition in Tanzania parliament was gunned down by unknown assailants in a daring assassination attempt which left his body riddled with life-threatening wounds.

The gunmen who trailed him from the parliament to his home in a heavily fortified government compound in the capital city Dodoma sprinkled a hail of machine-gun fire, smashing a windshield of his Toyota Land cruiser leaving him unconscious.

In November 2017, investigative journalist Azory Gwanda disappeared in mysterious circumstances and has not been seen again.

The U.S. has expressed grave concern over deteriorating respect for human rights and rule of law in Tanzania including the government’s action to curtail freedom of expression, freedom of association and rights of peaceful assembly.

The statement urged the Tanzania government to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“These actions against Paul Makonda underscore our concern with human rights violations and abuses in Tanzania, as well as support for accountability for those who engage in such violations and abuses,” it added.

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