NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The United States says it has placed visa restrictions on unnamed Tanzanian officials who it says were “responsible or complicit in undermining” the country’s election last year.
A statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserts that the officials contributed to the “downward trajectory of the country’s democracy” and that the U.S. “will not hesitate to take additional actions.”
The October election in the East African country was marred by violence against opposition leaders, internet disruptions and widespread allegations of vote-rigging, and the U.S. says the vote was “neither free nor fair.”
Leading opposition presidential candidate Tundu Lissu, who had returned to Tanzania from exile to challenge populist President John Magufuli, returned to exile soon after the election, accompanied to the airport by U.S. and other diplomats in an effort to ensure his safety.
The United Nations human rights office said at least 150 opposition leaders and members had been arrested around election day.
Magufuli was declared the overwhelming winner of a second five-year term and the Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, a version of which has ruled since independence, won enough seats to change the constitution and perhaps extend the presidency’s two-term limit.
Tanzania’s electoral commission called all the votes legitimate, and it denied fraud allegations ranging from ballot box-stuffing to a massive internet slowdown to the rejection of thousands of election observers from polling stations. Few international observers were allowed.
The lead-up to the vote featured intimidation of journalists and members of civil society, while some candidates were harassed and blocked from campaigning.