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NGOs excluded from election observer list to contest decision

Leading NGOs have written to the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to seek reasons for their disqualification from observing the forthcoming General Election.

The move comes weeks after the same organisations found their names also missing from the list of 245 groups that were picked by the electoral body to provide voter education ahead of the elections.

NEC recently released the list of 245 NGOs that would provide voter education that was followed by another list of 97 organisations that would serve as local observers during the October polls.

Institutions that have been left out include the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), Tanzania Constitution Forum (TCF), the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) and the Tanzania Election Monitoring Committee (Temco).

The NGOs that have written to NEC are LHRC and the TCF. These influential and experienced NGOs plus several others that have been left out are known to have been key in providing voter education and observing past General Elections.

Yesterday, LHRC executive director Anna Henga described their disqualification as unfortunate considering their financial and human resource competence.

"We are waiting for a response from NEC. We will participate in this year's Gen- eral Election as other ordinary Tanzanians and emphasis on protection of human rights during the elections," she told The Citizen. She said her organisation will continue to seek justification for their disqualification for future operations and benefit of NGOs and the general public.

"NEC should tell us the reasons for our exclusion. They (NEC) could have reached this decision out of a negative perception that we are favouring some political parties."

"They should be fair and transparent because we would like to work on the reasons so that we sort out these issues to make our future polls more transparent," she said.

TCF executive director Bob Wangwe said they have also sought explanation from NEC why they were left out. "We would like to know the reasons for our disqualification so that we correct or improve our operations. We are confident that we are an experienced and resource- ful NGO in terms of working tools, financial and human resource capabilities," he said.

THRDC national coordinator Onesmo Olengurumwa said they would not seek explanation from NEC over the removal of key and experienced NGOs from the crucial election process because the move was deliberate.

NGOs that will provide voter education and election observation decreased to about 340 compared to over 440 accredited in 2015. "Leaving out NGOs with financial capabilities and enough human resources like Temco, THRDC and LHRC will create a serious vacuum in this year's election monitoring process," he said.

The THRDC coordinator said the coalition had started mobilising resources to empower between 30 and 40 NGOs that have been approved to do the work despite insufficient resources.

NEC director of elections Wilson Charles couldn't con- firm receipt of the letters but insisted NGOs were picked in a fairly manner and set criteria after deep scrutiny.

Tanzania Civil Society Consortium on Election Observation (TACCEO) was an LHRC's poll monitoring arm. Its national coordinator William Kahale said that early this month the Registrar of NGOs wrote to LHRC directing the organization to dissolve Tacceo.

In 2015, armed police stormed Tacceo Mbezi Beach offices and confiscated equipment and arrested clerks. The centre was accused of illegal tallying of poll results. During that time, Chadema vote tallying centre was also raided and items taken by security organs.

This article was originally published by The Citizen.


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