The United Republic of Tanzania is a multiparty republic consisting of the mainland region and the semiautonomous Zanzibar archipelago, whose main islands are Unguja (Zanzibar Island) and Pemba. The union is headed by a president, who is also the head of government. Its unicameral legislative body is the National Assembly (parliament). Zanzibar, although part of the union, exercises considerable autonomy and has its own government with a president, court system, and legislature. In October 2020 the country held its sixth multiparty general election, resulting in the reelection of the union president, John Magufuli, with 85 percent of the vote, and the election of Hussein Mwinyi, with 76 percent of the vote for his first term as president of Zanzibar. International observers noted widespread irregularities and largely categorized the election as neither free nor fair. On March 19, two days after the announcement of Magufuli’s death, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan was sworn in as the country’s first female president.
Under the union’s Ministry of Home Affairs, the Tanzania Police Force has primary responsibility for maintaining law and order. The Field Force Unit, a special police division, has primary responsibility for controlling unlawful demonstrations and riots. The Tanzania People’s Defense Forces include the army, navy, air force, and National Services. The Defense Forces are responsible for external security but also have some domestic security responsibilities and report to the Ministry of Defense. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of domestic security forces committed numerous abuses.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: forced disappearance by the government or on behalf of the government; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government or on behalf of the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence and threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, censorship, and the existence of criminal libel laws; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operations of nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations; refoulement of refugees to a country where they would face a threat to their life or freedom or other mistreatment of refugees that would constitute a separate human rights abuse; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting persons with disabilities, members of national/racial/ethnic minorities, or indigenous people; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; existence or use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and existence of any of the worst forms of child labor.
In some cases the government took steps to investigate and prosecute officials who committed human rights abuses or were involved in corruption, but impunity in police and other security forces and civilian branches of government was widespread.