Violence increases as polling day approaches

As Tanzania's 30 October general election draws near, clashes between supporters of opposing parties in Zanzibar and other parts of the country are becoming increasingly frequent and violent.

"This is a dirty political game," Omar Mapuri, the country's home affairs minister, said in September. He was speaking at the burial of a campaigner for the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) who was burned to death in her Dar es Salaam home along with four family members.

Mapuri, who is also the CCM spokesman, said there was no doubt the attack was politically motivated although Dar es Salaam Regional Police Commander Alfred Tibaigana said he had not yet found the evidence.

During the two previous multiparty elections violence only occurred in on Tanzania's semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. This year, at least 40 people have been reportedly injured on the mainland.

Some 24 people were wounded on 21 September in the northwestern Tanzanian town of Bukoba after supporters of CCM and the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) hurled stones and iron bars at each other.

The Bukoba elections returning officer, Faustine Fisso, blamed the leaders of CCM and CUF, saying the violence would not have occurred if they had observed campaign rules. Campaign rallies should not take place in the same town on the same day and should be conclude before 1800, he said.

At least 10 people were also wounded in recent clashes in the northern districts of Tarime and Monduli between supporters of CCM and another leading opposition party, Chama Cha Demokrasi na Maendeleo (CHADEMA).

The worst violence in Zanzibar

Violence is continuing in Zanzibar where in September at least 100 people were wounded during clashes between supporters of CCM and CUF.

On 25 September, at least 50 people were injured, 23 of them seriously, during clashes in various parts of Zanzibar.

Violence flared again on Sunday when supporters of the two rival parties attacked each other in Zanzibar suburbs of Mwanakwerekwe and Mtoni areas on their way home from their respective campaign meetings.

Anti-riot police used tear gas to disperse the fighting groups, Zanzibar West police commander George Kizuguto told reporters on Monday. The rivals groups fought each other with stones and iron bars. Several sustained serious head injuries, he added.

CUF and the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) are locked in a dispute over the verification of voter lists. CUF says that some 10,000 names are false; the commission says it knows of only 700 names that have been registered more than once.

Leaders incite violence

The main opposition presidential candidate for Zanzibar, Seif Shariff Hamad, has repeatedly claimed that he won the 1995 and 2000 election but that CCM rigged the vote. He has called for mass protests if his party loses the 30 October poll.

Zanzibari President Amani Abeid Karume responded on Tuesday during a campaign rally by saying that he would violently suppress the protests.

"Weapons that were used in the 12 January 1964 revolution are still there and can be put to use if necessary," he said, referring to the violence of 1964 that left tens of thousands of people dead.

Karume drew widespread condemnation for his statement.

"He has the state organs at his disposal," James Mbatia, chairman of National Convention for Construction and Reform, said. "If he orders the organs to act they will obey."

The director of the Dar es Salaam-based Legal and Human Rights Centre, Helen Kijo-Bisimba, said such statements were "incompatible with peace and democratisation process".

Tanzania's inspector-general of police, Omari Mahita, said on Thursday security was being stepped up nationwide.

Hundreds of police from the Field Force Unit and plainclothes divisions have been seen at rallies for the ruling party's presidential candidate, Jakaya Kikwete.

Many of the political parties have complained that they have not received government funding for their campaigns.

"This clearly means there is no level playing field," Christopher Mtikila, the Democratic Party chairman and presidential candidate, told IRIN.