Uhuru, Haki na Amani: The Role of Police in the Electoral Processes

Paper presented by Ernest J. Mangu – The Inspector General of Police at the Workshop on Free, Fair and Peaceful Elections in Tanzania organized by the Christian Council of Tanzania at Blue Pearl Hotel – Dar es Salaam on       17th September 2015.

Introduction

Mr. Chairman, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning. It is my pleasure to be afforded this opportunity to address you on this very important subject – Uhuru, Haki na Amani.

May I also take this opportunity to thank Christian Council of Tanzania for organizing this thought-provoking seminar with a programme which to me is comprehensive in substance and quality. It is my sincere hope that the execution of this programme shall result in the achievement of the intended objectives.

 

Distinguished guests, our country is conducting her fifth general elections under multiparty system this year. The electoral processes have already started and they are ongoing. We are all aware of the nature of political competitiveness in the ongoing electoral process. The nature of competition during elections often highlights social differences and underlying tensions, which can trigger conflicts before, during and after voting day. To us as policing institution this is a big challenge.

In my presentation, I shall take the topic as it is because I believe that currently our society is fully engaged in the Electoral Processes. From the Tanzania Police Force side, I just want to assure you that this election is a number one priority in the list of our daily operations. However, we all know that the Tanzania Police Force is not the only role-player in these processes, and I think that is the main reason that I am not going to tell you each and everything that is needed to ensure peaceful electoral processes. We are involved in this process with quite a number of other role-players with different responsibilities. The main role-players are the National Electoral Commission, Leaders of Political Parties, their Members, the Media, Non-Governmental Organizations, Religious Organizations and the General Public. Each group has a role to play to ensure peaceful elections. Myself I am going to tell you about the role of the police in ensuring peaceful elections.

The Role of Police

If you were to go into the street and ask people what the role of the police is, you will perhaps obtain numerous answers but the most predominant one will be that they arrest offenders, detain them, take them to court where they eventually imprisoned. To be precise, this is a narrow view of the police roles. Generally, the Police Force is charged with the general duty of maintaining law and order by taking all steps which on reasonable grounds appear to be necessary for preserving peace, protecting property from malicious injury, detecting crime, apprehending offenders and suppressing all forms of civil disorder that may occur. However, during democratic elections the police have special role. The police play a very crucial public interest role in every democratic election. They are required to guarantee the safety and security of the electorate, and to secure a neutral political environment free of intimidation, coercion or violence for all stakeholders. Their conduct in discharging these functions, as well as ability to display such important law enforcement safeguards as tact, professionalism and above all impartiality, is critical to the outcome of any elections. If the police are found wanting in any of the above, the citizens may not have confidence in the electoral process and may question the credibility and legitimacy of any government that comes out of the process. The lack of a credible government creates instability in a polity. The main role of the police during elections is to maintain public order and to create, by means of effective policing, a favorable climate in which a democratic election can take place. This is a very crucial function. By maintaining law and order and guaranteeing public safety, the police are able to ensure that voters can attend or follow the campaigns and rallies of parties; candidates and their supporters are able to reach the voters and convey to them their visions and programmes. The voters will be in a position to decide who, amongst the candidates is suitable for them to elect and in so doing make an informed choice among the options they are presented

Distinguished guests, for the police to fulfill this obligation, they are to perform the following functions:

  1. Safeguarding the security of the lives and property of citizens during the campaign and voting, so that citizens will not feel unsafe on account of holding, associating with or expressing a political opinion;

  2. Ensuring the safety of electoral officers before, during and after elections;

  3. Providing security for candidates during campaigns and elections;

  4. Ensuring and preserving a free, fair, safe and lawful atmosphere for campaigning by all parties and candidates, without discrimination;

  5. Maintaining peaceful conditions, law and order around the polling and counting centers;

  6. Providing security for electoral officials at voting and counting centers; and

  7. Ensuring the security of election materials at voting and counting centers and during their transportation thereto.

The Policing Approach

As part of the preparation process, the Tanzania Police Force has taken and it is taking several steps thereto. The Police law requires that the police endeavor to maintain public order and security primarily through issuing advice, requests and orders. The police are not entitled to infringe on people's rights any more than is necessary to carry out their duties. Although police operations are largely based on the requirements of the law, the work of police officers is not merely a mechanical process of supervising compliance with the law but also involves measures to ensure the peaceful co-existence of all sectors of society and respect of the rights of the individual. The values and good practices underlying police operations are incorporated into the ethical oath for police officers. It is in this regard the Police Force is using 5Es policing approach in carrying out its functions. This policing model encompasses Education, Engineering, Encouragement, Enforcement and Emergency preparedness. Tanzania Police Force adopted a proactive approach by preparing itself knowing that in preventing political violence the best weapons are not tear gas canisters, batons or plastic bullets but adhering to Police principles and values in order to secure the willing cooperation of the public in voluntary observance of the laws. Under this approach, issues of training, logistics and equipping the police personnel have been critically considered.

Education

As for Education, we are providing education to both Police Officers and other stakeholders to the elections on the rights and responsibilities of each group. Education to Police officers is focusing on Human Rights Guidelines, electoral laws and Guidelines for the Conduct of Police Officers during electoral process. Issues related to Respect for Human Rights, Professional conduct; Prompt response to a given situation in order to prevent a minor incident from becoming a major incident; accessible to any person who may need assistance; observance of neutrality and impartiality when fulfilling policing duties as well as fairness in providing services are intensely considered. The aim here is to ensure that all officers that will be deployed during electoral process are properly informed of what is expected of them and that they understand electoral laws and guidelines governing their conduct.

Engineering

As far as the aspect of engineering is concerned, the Police Force is engaged in dialogue with different role players to build an infrastructure for peace. In that respect, the Police Force is organizing meetings with National Electoral Commission, Political Parties, Non-Governmental Organizations, Religious fraternity, Members of Security Committees at Regional and District levels, Municipal and District Executive Directors and the general community. The main agenda in these meetings is the maintenance of peace and tranquility during the whole period of election.

During the meetings with Political party leaders, we placed great emphasis on the non-use of the so called Party Security Groups like Green Guard, Blue Guard and Red Brigade. To be precise, the conduct of these security groups amounts to usurping police powers something which is against the Public Order Act. The political party leaders were also urged to refrain from unscheduled campaigns and especially during the night because these are the sources of conflicts and violence. Religious Leaders on their side, promised to continue advocating peace and to urge their followers to turn out on the polling day to vote for leaders of their choice. They also reiterated the need to refrain from biased preaching.

Distinguished Guests, National Electoral Commission on their side, gave assurance that they would act as umpires of the political contest and would not lean towards any competing party. NEC also said they would make sure that all election materials are distributed in time to enable the timely polling. They also promised to avoid unnecessary delays in announcing results to the public so that violent voters are not given opportunity to cause disorder.

Encouragement

Distinguished Guests, as part of building confidence and discipline of our officers during this period of elections we are conducting team building activities in our workplaces and in local communities of our employees like organizing a weekly run or walk that is scheduled at the end of the week. Effective interpersonal communication among group members and successful communication with managers and employees are critical components of group functioning. Of the most important, our officers are encouraged to be strictly impartial and neutral at all times and to always act humanely and strictly within the law. The general public has never left aside in this endevour. We are encouraging all citizens to abide by the laws of the land through our famous community policing programmes like “Observance of the laws without being compelled” or commonly known in Swahili as “Utii wa Sheria Bila Shurti”.

Enforcement

Distinguished Guests, we consider enforcement of election laws and regulations as a last resort after education, engineering and encouragement have failed. This is the act of compelling citizens to observe or to comply with election laws, regulations and or obligations. In enforcing the law use of force is usually part of the game. However, the rules state categorically that the Police should use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice, and warning is found to be insufficient to achieve Police objectives. Moreover, Police should use only the minimum degree of physical force necessary on any particular occasion to achieve a Police objective. The actions of the police must not cause any more damage or inconvenience than is necessary to carry out the duty at hand. Measures taken must be justifiable in relation to the importance and urgency of the duty and the other factors affecting overall assessment of the situation. Hence in deciding the use of force, the police are guided by three principles namely necessity, justification and proportionality.

Emergency Preparedness

For the police to discharge their primary obligation of preventing crime, they should maintain regular patrols and respond to calls for service. However, much of the police time is spent in responding to calls for services from the community. To this end therefore, the police should maintain a high level of preparedness all the time to be able to respond to any emergency. It is said, a secure and resilient nation is the one with the capabilities required to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from any threat to national security. The general elections can become a threat to the national security if mismanaged. The national security forces must prevent this from happening by taking myriad of steps including maintaining high level of preparedness. The Police Force is taking several steps to ensure that it is well prepared for any eventuality. This includes but not limited to securing the willing cooperation of the community in voluntary observance of the laws; maintaining close communication with the public through dissemination of police leaders’ phone numbers to the public; improving the services of emergency call numbers; equipping the force with necessary equipment and working tools; training our officers in conflicts resolution skills and preparing our officers to work long hours.

In conclusion I would like to emphasize that peace is a global concern because it is the bedrock of economic and social development. To ensure that we have peaceful elections that will make our country win accolades internationally we must work together to ensure that people with ulterior motives do not disrupt the prevailing peace that we have enjoyed for quite some time. We therefore urge all political parties, their candidates and supporters to approach the elections with more patriotism and a greater willingness to place the larger interest of the country above personal ambitions. The Government had worked very hard over the years to promote democratic institutions that will sustain the country’s democracy. We will not tolerate any form of violence during or after the polls that could reverse the gains of the present democratic dispensation in the country. We request you religious and political leaders, community heads and other senior citizens in the country to be vociferous in condemning incidences of electoral violence in the country, such as the stoning of opponents. Once again it is our sincere hope that we will work together towards achieving peaceful and credible elections for the prosperity of our country. I thank you and God Bless Tanzania.