East African State Passes Anti-Terror Law

July 7, 2008 - 8:12 PM

Nairobi, Kenya (CNSNews.com) - Tanzania, a country the U.S. says faces "rising religious tensions" between Muslims and Christians, is enacting legislation aimed at fighting domestic and international terrorism.

The Prevention of Terrorism Bill, due to become law next month, will empower the state to use all necessary means to investigate terrorist activities and confiscate property belonging to people found to be supporting terrorism.

Anyone convicted under the law will face a jail sentence, without the option of a fine.

Home Affairs Minister Mohammed Seif Khatib said the anti-terrorism law aimed to give "reassurance for Tanzanians and the international community of the government's seriousness in dealing with terrorism."

In July 2000, the U.S. agreed to help Tanzania strengthen its capacity to act against financial crimes and terrorism.

Since then, FBI agents have been training Tanzanian police in criminal investigation techniques.

Two years earlier, al Qaeda terrorists bombed the U.S. embassies in the Tanzanian capital, Dar-es-Salaam, and Nairobi in neighboring Kenya, killing more than 200 people in both cities.

Since then, a number of domestic terror attacks have occurred in Tanzania, particularly in the Muslim-dominated island of Zanzibar.

Apart from terrorism concerns, Tanzania has also become a key transshipment route for Asian heroin and South American cocaine destined for markets in the U.S., Europe and South Africa, according to the CIA.

About 30 percent of Tanzania's mainland population are Christians, 35 percent are Muslims and the rest adhere to indigenous beliefs.

Before the late 1990s, religious tensions were not obvious.

In 1998, however, Muslims protested against police who were accused of torturing and sexually humiliating Muslim women. In ensuing rioting, three Muslims were killed.

During 2000 - an election year - and 2001, several churches and bars were torched in Zanzibar, which has a 99 percent Muslim population.

The Dar as Salaam offices of the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, were also bombed.

Elections on Zanzibar, which enjoys internal self-government, were dismissed by foreign observers as a "shambles" and constituting "contempt for democracy."

The attacks and election-related violence were seen by observers to be related to rising animosity Christians and Muslims.

According to the U.S. State Department's latest report on religious freedom worldwide, Islamic fundamentalist organizations are engaging in "increasingly confrontational proselytizing" in Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and elsewhere.

There has been an increase in reports of vilification of adherents of the other faith by some Muslim and Christian groups.

Many Tanzanian Muslims complain that they are under-represented in the civil service and quasi-governmental institutions.

In part, this stems from colonial-era and early post-independence administrations that refused to recognize the credentials of traditional Muslim schools.

Radicals are also critical of secular Muslims who have married Christian women or taken positions in the government - an institution the Islamists view as Christian.

The State Department report said the Tanzanian government recognized the problems but was doing little in response.

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