US pulls Tanzanian aid over Zanzibar vote

A US government aid agency has pulled $472m of funding for a Tanzanian electricity project after criticising elections in Zanzibar.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation-MCC said the vote “was neither inclusive nor representative”.

The October election for president of the semi-autonomous archipelago was cancelled half way through the count.

The opposition boycotted the re-run in March which incumbent President Mohamed Ali Shein won with 91% of the vote.

The money was intended to be spent on improving the availability and reliability of electricity in rural areas.

This was in addition to $700m the US had given to the Tanzanian government in 2008 to improve transport, energy and water.

In the statement announcing the cancellation, the MCC said the Tanzanian government had gone ahead with the re-run of the election “despite the repeated concerns of the US government and the international community”.

The opposition Civic United Front-CUF said the annulment was because it had won, but the electoral commission said there had been widespread fraud.

The MCC also stated that the Tanzanian government had failed to guarantee that the newly passed Cybercrimes Act “would not be used to limit freedom of expression and association, in light of arrests made during the elections”.

One of the people arrested ahead of the election was the opposition party’s Director of Mass Communication and Publicity, Hamad Masoud Hamad, although it is unclear what he was charged with.

The Cybercrimes Act makes spreading lies, sedition and pornographic material online illegal.

Critics however, say the Cybercrimes Act is intended to silence voices critical of the government and ruling party.