By Kizito Makoye
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (AA) - Zanzibar's former presidential candidate and other senior opposition figures on Monday have sued the governments of Tanzania and its semi-autonomous archipelago Zanzibar at the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights for alleged electoral malpractices and human rights abuses inflicted during the Oct. 28 general elections.
Seif Sharif Hamad, who ran on the ticket of the Alliance for Change and Transparency party (ACT-Wazalendo), alleged in his submission that his rights to participate in the polls were flagrantly violated by security forces, including the police, who frustrate his cause.
The move came barely a fortnight after the Zanzibar president wrote to Hamad’s party asking them to submit the name of their official who would, in accordance with the law, take the position as the first vice president in the isles’ government of national unity.
According to local media reports confirmed by Ado Shaibu, the secretary-general of ACT-Wazalendo, the case was filed at the African court in the northern Arusha city on Hamad’s behalf by renowned human rights lawyers, including Chidi Odinkalu from Nigeria and Ibrahima Kane from Senegal.
The case involves Ezekiah Wenje -- a former legislator from the main opposition party Democracy and Progress (CHADEMA) -- whose sibling was lynched by a rowdy mob in the ensuing election violence.
The general elections were simultaneously held late October on the mainland Tanzania and in the semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) announced John Magufuli of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party had won by 84% of the votes against his main challenger Tundu Lissu.
In Zanzibar, the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) declared Hussein Mwinyi, also from the CCM, as the winner of the election which observers say was marred by violence, intimidation, and rights abuses.
A recent report by Human Rights Watch accused Tanzania’s security forces of killing innocent people and carrying out serious abuses.
According to the report, after the campaigns kicked off, police arbitrarily arrested and detained scores of opposition party leaders and supporters, suspended television and radio, and censored mobile phone communication and social media chats.
In their submission, the aggrieved politicians argue that both NEC and ZEC, which organized and supervised the polls, had been compromised.
Hamad claims that their agents had been denied access to polling stations and their supporters were assaulted and some molested in the full glare of police who refused to investigate the incidents.
The opposition politicians asked the court to oblige Tanzanian authorities to investigate and bring to account all the suspects who blatantly violated the rights of Zanzibaris.
They are also seeking an order requiring the east African country to adopt constitutional, legislative, and administrative measures to remedy the violation of their rights and pay reparations for the pain inflicted.