SADC Calls for Free, Fair Elections

Tanzania has been urged to ensure it conducts the forthcoming general election in full consideration of electoral law, people’s right to vote and peace.

In a report, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), through its Elections Observer Mission, singled out peace for special mention, joining the chorus for all voters to leave immediately after voting.

It noted that milling around polling stations after casting one’s vote was sure recipe for peace disruption. Speaking at the launch of the SADC Election Observer Mission, the SADC Secretary General, Dr Stergomena Tax and the Mozambique Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Oldemiro Baloi, said poll-time peace was a matter of paramount importance.

Mr Baloi is the Head of the Mission and Representative of the Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambque. Ms Tax said Tanzanians should be proud of the peace they have built as to them it was an iconic symbol, reminding all parties that once lost, it is very difficult to return it.

Noting that an election period was very important time for any country, “SADC, therefore, urges Tanzanians to ensure peace as they go to the polls on October 25. She asked all organs overseeing the election to ensure they do so with peace and transparency, including following all values of democracy.

Dr Tax said Tanzania was the first country to get independence among all 15 members of SADC and has since been an example in peace building and maintenance. “This election is another opportunity for Tanzania to illustrate that they can further keep their tradition of tolerance among themselves and being a peaceful country,” she noted.

Members of the Mission have arrived in the country with the aim of going across the entire country to ensure elections are held under peaceful atmosphere, laws are followed and thus fairness is achieved for all competing sides.

In this year’s elections, she said, Tanzania would be the first country to have the observers under the new SADC regulations. Mr Baloi said some 86 observers from SADC have arrived in the country and would be assigned to 25 regions.

The main issues they would observe are equal opportunity to all contestants, rights, participation of citizens, civil education and if democracy is followed, including following the country’s laws.

He exuded belief in the issue of peace being paramount in any election, noting that such would be important in making SADC proud of the country as a nation that has always been peaceful and spearheaded peace engagements beyond its borders. He asked members of the Mission to ensure they observe the elections strictly and adhere to SADC regulations and all Tanzania’s laws.

“Election results are in the hands of Tanzanians, the players are Tanzanians. The observers’ role is to see and advise. Feedback on what they will have observed would be released soon after the elections, he said.

Mr Baloi also insisted that no voter should remain at the polling station after casting ballot with the aim of guarding votes, since the idea of remaining there is not practised anywhere else in the world.

Meanwhile, former Kenyan Vice- President, Mr Moody Awori, is expected to lead a team of 55 delegates from the Arusha-based East African Community (EAC) who will be observing the general election of October 25.

The EAC Elections Observer Mission will be arriving in Dar es Salaam on Sunday, October 18, 2015, to monitor the presidential, parliamentary and ward representatives’ polls that will be held on both the Mainland and Zanzibar.

“This Mission is a response to the invitation of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) as well as the decision of the EAC Council of Ministers on observation of elections in the Partner States.

The Mission’s mandate is to observe the overall electoral environment, pre-election activities, the polling day, the counting and tallying of results,” said the Senior Public Relations Officer, Mr Richard Owora Othieno.

The Mission will first undergo a pre-deployment training from October 19 to 21, 2015 in Dar es Salaam, before extending to other regions. It will also be preceded by a pre-elections assessment team that was deployed from October 4, 2015 to assess the level of preparedness by key stakeholders and prepare a report that will inform the Short Term Election Observation Mission.

Members of the EAC Election Observer Mission have been drawn from different but complementary disciplines. They include members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), members of national assemblies from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, national electoral commissions, national human rights commissions, civil society organisations and youth representatives from the EAC Youth Ambassadors Forum.

The exclusion of members from Tanzania is consistent with the adopted practice on the Principles of Election Observation and Evaluation, which precludes nationals of the host country from participating as Election Observers in their own countries.