Friday, August 21, 2015

 






The Lutheran Church has warned against excessive use of force by the government security agencies in the coming polls,saying this could lead to unnecessary chaos.

The second largest church group in the country after the Roman Catholic also want the election results to be announced immediately after the counting as any delay may give room for rigging or perception that the results had been altered or votes stolen.

"People will lose their faith when excessive force is used against them by the police and other security agencies during the entire election process" said a terse statement issued by the General Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT from its headquarters in Arusha.

The church strongly urged the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to ensure that there was a conducive environment for vote counting "in a transparent manner" at each polling station on the voting day.
"The results should be posted on the noticeboard for everybody to see. Those defeated should realize they have lost in the open" the church leaders stressed, warning that unnecessary delays in announcing the results could result in voters getting impatient and lead to chaos which can be easily avoided.
The influential General Assembly of the church, which is made of bishops from all the 24 dioceses across the country and other senior officials, insisted that the bone of contention during elections had always been during the counting of votes.
"The exercise should be conducted immediately after ballot casting at the polling stations as NEC rules say. Shifting this to another location and delay announcing the results would lead to concerns of possible rigging", the church stressed in a position paper on the polls availed to  the media  in Arusha.

Politicians spearheading the campaigns, scheduled to commence this weekend, as well as aspirants of various political positions contested were cautioned to avoid using obscene or abusive language which would expose expose their competitors, individuals or other groups to ridicule based on religion, ethnic or geographical origin and sex.

The security agencies were implored to spare the journalists from any form of harassment and intimidation and instead allow them to exercise their duties of information the public on the elections during the entire process; from the campaigns, the actual polling on October 25th and announcement of the results.

However, the media houses were cautioned to act responsibly in their coverage by reporting objectively, giving fair coverage to all players from different political groups and affiliations and avoid biased reporting which can instigate the public against one group or the other.

"We expect the media to report responsibly the entire election process without fear or bias against any party", the statement said, noting that journalists should stick to their professional ethics and national interests by, among other things, avoiding unwarranted attacks on rivals  

ELCT leaders argued that although Tanzania has been spared of high level bloodshed during elections compared to other African countries, recent incidents of breach of peace at the polling stations should be a warning that something must be done to ensure the coming polls are free of violence.
"Normally there would be no chaos until some people sense they have robbed of their votes", the church said, pleading against presence of heavily armed police at the polling centres as that tended to frighten the voters and the public in general.
The Church openly admitted that it has been dissatisfied by the recently completed voter registration under the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) technology, saying the exercise was flawed and that hundreds could not exercise their constitutional right because they have not been registered or their names were missing from the updated list.

It wondered why Tanzanians in diaspora and those working in the country's diplomatic missions outside continue to be denied that right. 

Other groups of people who could not be listed to vote are people with disabilities, some students in institutions of higher learning and other groups not specified.
NEC was urged to extend the registration so that the missed out groups can be eligible to vote on October 25. Recent reports had it that over 20 million Tanzanians are reported to have registered to vote this year.

The Church also castigated the recent flaws seen in the primary nomination exercise for aspirants to political posts being contested, saying it was marred by corruption, nepotism and beatings of some candidates.  In some cases, the nomination had to be repeated in some constituencies.

A communication officer with the ELCT head office Ms Elizabeth Lobulu told the press yesterday that the Church's position was given in the light of the election mood which has gripped the country, amid rising concerns over the likely inconsistencies that may crop up due to the recent nomination process.

Without mentioning any political party, the Church said it was shocked by lack of transparency in endorsing the names of candidates vying for various political posts and why NEC had been quiet over the menace.

The church's position on the polls has come shortly after NEC directed in Arusha that no election campaigns are to be held within the compounds of the prayer houses or near them.

The polls coordinator in the region Richard Kwitega told reporters here that it was against the law to organize campaign meetings inside or within the precints of the prayer houses.

He called on all the political parties to observe the directive, warning those going against the directive will face the full wrath of the law. At least 22 political parties will field their candidates to vie for various positions but fewer for the presidential race.
Besides,the prayer houses, NEC has further prohibited campaign meetings within the precints of the public education institutions such as the universities and colleges.
Mr.Kwitega reiterated that NEC was an independent body not affiliated to any political party and that is has been mandated to manage the elections on the basis of the laid down rules and regulations.

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