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Tanzania Passes Immunity Bill For Top Leaders

Tanzania has passed a Bill that will offer political immunity to its top leaders against prosecution for any action undertaken while in office. The Bill was passed by Parliament at the media of last week.

The leaders cited in the Bill are the president, vice-president, prime minister (representing the Executive); speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly (Legislature); and the chief justice (Judiciary). Any person aggrieved by their actions will only have the option of suing the State through the Attorney General.

The new clauses are included in the Written Laws Miscellaneous Amendments No 3 of 2020, which were approved under a certificate of urgency before Parliament was dissolved last week to pave the way for the October General Election.

This website has learnt that the new Bill was rushed through Parliament despite an outcry from civil society over its constitutional compatibility. It now awaits formal assent by President John Magufuli.

In a private write-up, prominent Tanzanian law professor, Issa Shivji, described the new clauses as an attempt to “amend the Constitution through the back door” by abolishing public interest litigation and conferring sovereign immunity on top public officials.

“This has severe implications for the rights to life, livelihood and dignity of the large majority of working people in villages and urban areas who are the primary victims of unconstitutional and illegal acts of the organs and officials of the state at different levels,” Prof Shivji said.

He added that petitions brought against the Attorney General on behalf of any of the cited officials were now likely to be dismissed.

“Under these new clauses, it is virtually impossible to sue the heads of the three branches of state even if they are alleged to have breached the constitution or the law of the land in the performance of their constitutional duties.” He said.

Tanzania’s Parliament on June 10 endorsed amendments to the Basic Rights and Duties Enforcement Act, giving leaders of the three arms of government protection from being sued in their individual capacities.