TANZANAI (eTN) – A few days before Tanzania holds its historic election, tight security has been deployed in most streets of the capital city of Dar es Salaam and the northern tourist city of Arusha with assurance of safety to visitors calling at various tourist sites.
The police force and internal security authorities in Arusha have assured tourists booked to various wildlife parks and other attractive areas of their safety during election day this coming Sunday and days after polling exercise.
“As the police force and other security agencies, we are encouraging tourists to continue coming in to Tanzania, and their security is guaranteed 100 percent despite the fact that the country is heading into the General Election,” said Arusha Police Commander Liberatus Sabas.
He said his force has a Tourism Police Unit, which is being equipped with vehicles and other related facilities to strengthen security for tourists, a situation to waive worries from tourists on safari in northern Tanzania.
“We have police officers in most crucial areas to ensure safety and security of our visitors and the public. We will reinforce security across the Tanzania’s tourism circuit,” he added.
Security authorities in Arusha had as well assured tourists that all necessary precautions have been taken to make sure they are safe, when visiting East Africa’s premier wildlife parks of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Serengeti, Tarangire, Mount Kilimanjaro, Arusha, and Manyara national parks whose hub is Arusha city.
Expressing fears of possible security risks during the General Election process in Tanzania, the United Nations offices in New York and Dar es Salaam have cautioned its staff in Tanzania to be vigilant for the rest of October.
The UN message to their staff in Tanzania cautioned its foreign staff stationed in Dar es Salaam and other parts of Tanzania to keep vigil during the days when Tanzanians will be voting for its presidency, parliamentarians, and councilors, and a few days later after the voting exercise.
The message to its staff in Tanzania had mentioned five security risk hot spots for potential violence, which are Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar on the Indian Ocean coast, Mbeya in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania neighboring Zambia, Mwanza on the shores of Lake Victoria, and the northern Tanzania tourist city of Arusha.
“The Stone Town in Zanzibar and surrounding outer areas are also hot spots and likely [there will be] no through roads or access to amenities,” the UN message said, quoting reports of police and a military presence on the various streets in the island.
The United States has as well alerted American citizens residing in or traveling to Tanzania to exercise caution and remain abreast of the security situation throughout the electoral period until the end of November.
“The State Department recommends US citizens to maintain a high level of security awareness leading up to, during, and following the election period; [they] should avoid political rallies, polling centers, demonstrations, and crowds of any kind as even gatherings intended to be peaceful can become confrontational and turn violent,” reads the alert.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has alerted British nationals or visitors to Tanzania to be precautious during the election process.
In its circulated consular advice, the FCO said presidential, parliamentary, and local elections could attract heightened tension and unrest during and after the elections particularly in big towns and cities on the mainland and the tourist island of Zanzibar.
“You should take care, be aware of your surroundings, and avoid political rallies, polling stations, large crowds, or public demonstrations. Make sure you have a means of communication with you at all times and monitor local media for updates,” the advice said.
“There will be restricted access to the area where the British High Commission is located in the city of Dar es Salaam from Sunday, October 25, election day, to continue for several days over the election period,” said the FCO advice.
“There will be a number of police checkpoints around the area. If you require urgent consular assistance during office hours, inform the officer in charge of the checkpoint who will contact the High Commission to grant you access,” reads part of the advice.
It is now a high tourism season in Tanzania and the rest of East Africa where hundreds of tourists from across the world are calling every day. The United Kingdom is the leading source of tourists visiting Tanzania each year. Around 75,000 British nationals visit Tanzania every year.
Tourism is Tanzania’s leading foreign currency earner. Over one million tourists visited Tanzania last year and spent US$1.8 billion, making tourism the leading economic sector, says the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB).
Arusha and other northern parts of Tanzania are the political strongholds for the opposition Chadema Party, which had vowed to oust the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, a situation which the police said could cause violence.
Over 90 percent of the tourists booked to Tanzania will visit the northern circuit, which is dominated by the opposition Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo party under its presidential candidate Mr. Edward Lowassa, the former Tanzanian Prime Minister.
Over 22 million out of a population of about 45 million Tanzanians will go to the polls on October 25 to elect the president, members of parliament, and councilors.
John Magufuli, the presidential candidate for the ruling party of Chama Cha Mapinduzi, is facing fierce competition from Edward Lowassa of the leading opposition Chadema party.
Leaders and members from the opposition side have been running tough political campaigns aiming to oust the ruling party from political leadership of Tanzania and which it has been holding since 1961 when this African country gained independence from Britain.
The opposition members have accused the Chama Cha Mapinduzi policies which they said, had embraced poverty, ignorance, corruption, and squandering of natural resources including wildlife and tourist products.