A statue of a man with a raised arm stands in the middle of a square.

Tanzania: Roles of Religious Leaders, Media to Promote Peaceful, Non-Violent Elections

September 2, 2020

(Internews Journalism Trainer Ali Mwadini was a speaker in this webinar on media and elections in Tanzania.)

HOW best can the religious, media and candidates from different political parties help in creating peaceful and non-violent elections?

What sort of preparations should the groups make in advance of October 28 elections?

These are questions which some activists in Zanzibar have been trying to address in preparations for the October General Elections.

Religious leaders, journalists, and candidates in the planned elections seem to have a great role in having peaceful elections.

Leaders from faith based organizations in Unguja and Pemba, and journalists have been meeting to discuss how they can help to make sure that the upcoming general elections are peaceful.

During the both virtual and physician meeting organised by activists from different groups', religious leaders, journalists and candidates were urged to spare no effort in ensuring people were united and promote stability.

Candidates for any position should talk about importance of unity, tolerance, respect to others, and respect of human rights in their campaigns, says Ms Salma Mohamed, an activist.

She adds that also religious leaders should talk about the need for politicians and candidates in the coming general elections to drum for peace and stability.

However, the ongoing debate here, facilitators also push for appropriate pre-election preparations, advising leaders and candidates to be selective what they should feed members of the public, especially the followers, towards elections.'

They should also motivate people to turn-up in big number for election, abide and observe laws and promote unity regardless of religious and political differences.

Activists argue that religious, and political leaders are close to people, therefore should be engaged, proactive, and not afraid to propagate peace and act tough on any person trying to plug the islands into conflicts.

"Clerics and political leaders are closer to people. They meet frequently in churches and Masjid (mosque), and an opportunity to emphasis peace, stability, and tolerance during elections and after," says Mr Haji Omar, an activist.

Another activist, Ms Asha Aboud says that Zanzibar and Tanzania in general will have peaceful elections in October followed by announcement of results, should leaders including the clerics, and media take their role seriously.

"We can have all the process in elections peaceful, nothing to worry about, if we implement our responsibilities without discrimination. As leaders we should avoid bias and taking emotional decisions," Ms Aboud said.

She said joint efforts involving media, religious and community leaders are important at this time of elections because viewers and listeners rely heavily on the media and what they immediate leaders say.

She said leaders should establish a good relationship with journalists so the two can work together, because the media is a tool for promoting transparency and credibility of elections.

Mr Ali Mwadini, veteran journalist from InterNews urges journalists to familiarize with candidates and laws, and inform the public in a non-biased way, because media serves as a link for between voters and candidates.

"Observe ethics, and avoid being emotional and sensational reporting. Every journalist must report in a constructive way," he said in a zoom meeting aimed at preparing/reminding journalists about importance of responsible journalism during elections.

(Banner photo: Nyerere Square in Dodoma (Tanzania) with the statue of Julius Nyerere. Credit Mchiriku/CC)