The European Union has rebuffed a move by its parliament’s committee on Foreign Affairs to hold Tanzanian authorities to account over allegations of deteriorating democracy and human rights and questionable use of funds allocated to the country to mitigate effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
EU High Representative and Vice President Josep Borrell Fontelles told parliamentary committee chairman David McAllister in a recent letter that “continued engagement and maintaining open communication channels” with the government of the day remained “pertinent” given the “long history” between the EU and Tanzania.
“Our relationship with Tanzania goes beyond donor-beneficiary relations. Development co-operation has been - and remains - paramount and it is our task to steer it in order to respond to developments in the country and pursue EU objectives such as the Green Deal,” Mr Fontelles said in the letter dated January 14.
Last November, Mr McAllister led a heated debate among several members of the committee over justification issues for a new 27 million-euros allocation approved by the EU in September to help Tanzania mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Only about five of the committee’s 71 members participated in the online discussion which dwelt on why the financial support was still being extended even after Tanzania declared itself free of the virus since June 2020.
The EU was represented in the debate by its deputy managing director for Africa, Bernard Quintin, who promised to provide the committee with “written details” on how the Covid-19 response allocation to Tanzania was calculated and for what specific purposes.
The committee’s meeting had been called to address allegations of irregularities in the conduct of Tanzania’s October 28 election and other incidents pointing to deteriorating democracy and human rights in Tanzania.
The allegations were brought by Tanzania’s opposition presidential candidate in the October 2020 poll, Tundu Lissu.
Mr Fontelles said the EU would continue “supporting civil society and liaising with economic actors, discussing with the opposition, but also maintaining contact with Tanzanian authorities at all relevant levels.”
“We will (also) continue insisting on the respect for human rights and democracy as an intrinsic part of our relations,” he added.
He said EU member states, via a joint declaration dated November 2, had “expressed concerns over multi-party democracy and civic freedoms” related to the conduct of the election.
“We have also been following the incidents affecting political opponents, and the tensions in Zanzibar. We note however that a new Government of National Unity was inaugurated in Zanzibar in December,” Mr Fontelles said.
He said Tanzania’s contribution to multilateral efforts was important and “should be supported at the global level - including UN peacekeeping.”
“In addition, there are a number of themes with an external dimension that are clearly of common concern and interest, ranging from regional and maritime security - including counterterrorism - to climate change and economic opportunities,” he added.
Mr Lissu garnered 13.04 percent of the electoral vote against 84.40 percent for the incumbent President John Magufuli, according to disputed results announced by the National Electoral Commission.
Mr Lissu has since returned to political exile in Belgium where he had previously spent almost three years recovering from multiple gunshot injuries sustained in a September 2017 shooting in Dodoma.
Meanwhile, Mr Fontelles described the July 2019 death of Leopold Lwajabe, a senior Tanzanian finance ministry official who was at the time in charge of EU-funded projects in the country, as “very worrying.”