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June 12th, 2018

Police Reform in Tanzania from 2006 to 2009

Throughout the mid-1990s and early 2000s, Tanzania experienced rising crime rates and deteriorating public trust in the police, which was widely considered to be both corrupt and violent.[1] To address these problems, the newly appointed inspector general of the Tanzanian Police spearheaded a comprehensive review of the force in 2006.

The resulting reform programme lasted from 2006 till 2009, and included measures to improve the public perception of the police, legal reforms of the policing mandate, and the modernisation of police infrastructure and tools. The programme was developed through a process of extensive consultation, involving an expert team of police officers and academics and a number of representative groups from across Tanzanian society. While creating broad support for police reforms, insufficient funding and unclear monitoring mechanisms diminished the programme's impact.[2]

The initiative

The Tanzanian Police launched a comprehensive reform programme between 2006 and 2009. Saidi Mwema, its newly-appointed inspector general, spearheaded the initiative pushing for fundamental changes to the country's police force in order to reduce crime rates and strengthen public support for the police. After an extensive process of public consultation, a team of experts appointed by Mwema decided to tackle high crime rates in three ways:

  1. Improving the public's perception of the police
  2. Updating the legal framework to reflect a new community policing mandate
  3. Modernising police infrastructure and tools.[9]

Since its conclusion in 2009, the initiative has served as the basis for the Tanzania Police Force Reform Programme for 2010/11 through to 2014/15. This programme, also known as Phase Two, built on the advances made by the 2006-2009 reforms, while addressing their shortfalls. In particular, it focused on improving operational and logistical capacity through implementing new systems and enhancing infrastructure.

The challenge

High crime rates and pervasive police misconduct - including illegal arrest and detention, torture and excessive use of force, corruption, favouritism, extra-judicial executions, and abuse of due process - are longstanding problems in Tanzania.[3] According to a study published by Princeton University, between 1993 and 2003 the police service received, on average, less than 50 percent of its self-identified funding requirements. In the same period, it had only one officer for every 1,400 citizens, significantly less than the UN recommended ratio of one policeman for every 400 to 500 citizens.[4] As a result, the number of recorded violent crimes steadily increased from the mid-1990s onwards.[5]

A comparative crime survey conducted in Africa as part of the International Crime Victims Survey found that Tanzania had the worst crime statistics of all, with 63 percent of respondents reporting that they had been the victim of some form of crime in the year 2005/2006.[6] In a report issued by the Tanzanian Office of the Director for Criminal Investigations, 206 cases of mob justice were recorded between January and August 2005 alone. Dar es Salaam recorded the highest number of such cases with 40 incidents.[7] At the same time, 34 percent of Tanzanians thought that most or all of the police were corrupt, according to a 2005 survey conducted by Afrobarometer.[8] These developments brought national attention to the problems within the police service and created public pressure to initiate reforms.

The public impact

The reform programme achieved some of its goals, but its overall impact was mixed. Evidence suggests that the public view of the police did improve in some ways, but the population continued to view the police as highly corrupt. While investment in training and equipment improved professionalism within the force, there is persistent evidence of police violence, especially against opposition activists. Although crime levels have gone down slightly, a lack of funding has been the biggest obstacle to the success of the programme, and serves to explain its relatively modest impact.

The assistant commissioner of police, Lucas Kusima, believes that there was a better relationship with the public as a result of the programme. He observed that the public were "coming to us to seek support, which was not the case before".[10] However, this view stands in contrast to a poll conducted by Afrobarometer, which found public trust in the police to have worsened since the inception of the reforms in 2006.[11]

On the plus side, the police acted with greater professionalism within a modernised infrastructure. Changes to the conduct of the police force were advanced chiefly through a review of the General Police Orders - the guidelines and procedures for handling the day-to-day activities of the police.[12] At the same time, funding was channelled into upgrading infrastructure and tools, including new technical equipment such as video cameras, new uniforms, and additional police housing. According to an assessment made by a team of academic experts and members of the police, the combination of updated guidelines and new or modernised equipment had boosted morale within the force and reduced police misconduct against civilians.[13]

More recent data suggests, however, that the problem of violence remains pervasive. Politically motivated police violence against opposition forces is still widespread, leading the independent Legal and Human Rights Centre to conclude that "opposition political parties have continued to face hardships in their political endeavours" due to police intervention.[14][15]

The overarching objective of the reform programme was crime reduction. Due to the lack of available statistical data before 2010, it is hard to know exactly how successful the programme has been in this regard. According to the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, bank robberies, car thefts, street robbery and other crimes began to decline about two years after Saidi Mwema's appointment in 2006,[16] with robberies declining gradually from 11,915 in 2010 to 10,413 in 2014. Even though homicide rates have fluctuated substantially, they increased slightly from 3,888 in 2010 to 3,902 in 2014, before declining by 4 percent to 3,746 in 2015.[17] These numbers suggests that the reform programme has had a modest impact on crime rates.

Written by Mirjam Buedenbender

Stakeholder engagement

In contrast to previous reform efforts, the 2006-2009 programme explicitly promoted collaboration between police, academic experts and the wider public to enhance public support for the reforms.[18] Upon being appointed as inspector general, Mwema took immediate steps in this regard. For example, he released the private phone numbers of the 26 regional officers, including his own, to encourage the public to call and share their experiences and problems with the police. In order to bring in another important stakeholder and strengthen public trust, Mwema also urged the media, which had historically had a hostile relationship with the police, to investigate and report on police malfeasance.[19]

To go beyond these immediate measures and develop a comprehensive long-term reform strategy, Mwema also set up a “team of experts” in 2006. The team was purposely designed to include a diversity of stakeholders, both in terms of the police officers' rank and experience and the variety of the experts' academic disciplines. The final team was made up of 27 police officers and 6 academics. The police also worked closely with NGOs, especially the Legal and Human Rights Centre, to develop a human rights module in the police training curriculum and to obtain the support of civil society actors.[20]

In addition, the wider population was involved in the design stage of the reform programme. Between 2006 and 2008, the team of experts entered into a direct dialogue with thousands of Tanzanians. It organised several workshops and seminars across the whole country to gauge the opinions of "ordinary citizens". Mwema and Kusima - who was designated “Chief of Reform” - expressed the view that this was necessary in order to identify the most crucial problems within the service.[21] Moreover, they understood the potential of broad consultations to create a sense of public ownership and a genuine stake in the reform project.

Political commitment

The reform programme enjoyed high-level political backing and very limited political opposition. In Lucas Kusima's words, the country's top political officials gave the reformers the “best support that we could expect”.[22] President Kikwete, along with former presidents and the permanent secretaries of various ministries, met on various occasions with police officers to discuss the progress of the reform and possible ways to assist their efforts.

The level of encouragement and trust shown by the political elite was such that even Mwema's investigations into corruption among the ruling Revolutionary State Party's donors did not affect the support for police reforms. The police reformers themselves acknowledged the importance of the support they received - as Kusima stated: “simply put, without political support, you cannot move.”[23]

Public confidence

Many of the experts involved in the police reform programme held extensive public hearings with ordinary Tanzanians, and they suggested that they had experienced a high degree of public confidence and support.[24] Professor Semboja Haji, lead consultant from the University of Dar es Salaam, said that "although researching and collecting opinions and data was time-consuming, those involved felt the process was critical for establishing the legitimacy of the reform process".[25]

However, public opinion polls did not reflect the experts' impressions. Afrobarometer survey data showed that the proportion of Tanzanians who said that “most” or “all” of the police were corrupt rose sharply between 2005 and 2012, from 34 percent to 56 percent.[26] This negative assessment of police integrity was shared by Transparency International, whose 2012 East African Bribery Index ranked the Tanzanian police as the most corrupt in the region.[27] It is therefore difficult to claim that the reform programme was an outright success in improving public confidence in the police force.

Clarity of objectives

The project had several objectives, some of which were clear and measurable and others "softer" and more difficult to assess. Following two years of consultation by the designated team of experts, Inspector General Mwema presented a comprehensive reform programme to the Tanzanian public in 2008. The programme consisted of three core objectives:

  • Repairing the relationship between the police and the community. This involved a number of initiatives, including setting up a Complaints Unit that citizens could contact to report police misconduct.

  • Updating the legal framework to reflect the new community policing mandate, and enhancing the professional conduct of the force. This was advanced chiefly through a review of the General Police Orders - the guidelines and procedures for handling the day-to-day activities of the police - which formed the regulatory backbone of the service.

  • Modernising IT systems and overhauling the police's opaque internal management systems. The modernisation initiative comprised four sub-areas: human resource management, infrastructure, equipment and information, and communication technology.

While overlapping and intersecting, each objective had its own stated goals, aims, and guidelines for implementation.[28]

The long consultation process and research in the early stages of the reform programme ensured that the policy objectives followed logically from the identified challenges. The public's lack of trust was targeted through confidence-building measures and enhanced transparency. Insufficient professionalism within the force was to be combated via an updated protocol setting out proper police conduct and relevant human rights issues. Outdated IT and management processes were to be improved through a comprehensive modernisation effort.

Even though softer goals, such as professionalism and public perception, were included in the reform objectives, no clear indicators were identified at the outset, making it difficult to measure their success. The Tanzanian Police has "reportedly developed some criteria and guidelines for recruitment and promotion of officers. It is unclear if these guidelines are followed, however, or the performance management process overseen in any way... [Similarly,] the concept of community policing was introduced without any policy to clarify how to involve the community, the relationship with the TPF and other public institutions and how community policing fits into a wider movement of decentralisation."[29] These factors served to diminish the clarity of the programme's stated objectives and, consequently, the extent to which they could be measured over time.

Strength of evidence

Between 2006 and 2008, the group of experts appointed by Inspector General Mwema carefully collected evidence for the police reform programme. In addition to consulting the wider public, they designed a questionnaire, a process in which more than 2,500 police officers participated. Throughout the rewriting of the different sections of the General Police Orders, such as those on disaster management and crowd control, they held workshops with the relevant police units to receive feedback on the proposed measures, which they then incorporated in the revised document.

The group of experts also undertook comparative studies of police reform in advanced economies and developing countries. "While they focused on countries in the region that had attempted reform efforts in similar contexts, they were careful also to examine cases of failed police reform in countries such as Indonesia and Nigeria."[30]


The reform programme received limited funding, which presented a major obstacle to its full implementation. It is unclear how much of the plan has been funded and what resources have been allocated to it. Bilateral donors and the UN pledged support for initiatives to improve police adherence to human rights and the rule of law as part of the Legal Sector Reform Programme, which was set up in 1999. However, there was no provision for extensive funding to implement the high priority sections of the 2006-2009 reform programme.  The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative suggested that "without substantial donor funding, it is unlikely that the plan will be fully implemented".[31]

The limitations posed by funding shortages were visible in several aspects of the reforms. While hiring new police was a crucial aspect of the programme, the ratio of officers to citizens increased only slightly between 2003 and 2014 from one officer for every 1,400 to one for every 1,002 citizens.[32] Similar issues were apparent in police training. Despite explicit commitment to courses in community policing, little actual training took place. "The lack of training is concerning, and could easily lead to vigilantism or other human rights violations. Often, other police officers do not understand the programmes, resulting in confusion as to the roles of the community policing members and the police."[33]

The Complaints Unit, which has been effective in garnering public support, also suffers from a lack of funding. As a result, there are several "loopholes" through which officers can learn about the details of the complaints launched against them. Also, there is no process for citizens to be informed of the status of their complaint, or of any subsequent investigation. No receipt or documentation of the complaint is required to be provided.[34]


Management of the reforms was relatively centralised in the hands of Inspector General Mwema and his three deputy commissioners. Each of the deputy commissioners was responsible for establishing implementation committees at the national, regional, and district level of one of the three aspects of the programme. They managed everything within their own area of responsibility, while instructions and feedback came through existing command structures.[35]

In 2009, this structure was amended because the team of experts found that a strict division of labour between the three areas of community policing, professionalism, and modernisation discouraged cooperation. To address this, and to speed up reforms, they developed seven “key results areas”, which broadly mirrored the original areas and sub-areas, but allowed the responsibility for implementation to be spread across different units of the police force. In this way, an individual policing unit could work to implement a number of programmes at a particular time without being restricted to working within a single area.[36]

In addition to these fixed management structures, regional police commanders were able to implement what reformers called “quick win lines of action” - simple, cost-free activities that worked to build closer relations with the community.[37] It was also intended that an oversight committee would be formed to monitor the reforms. To date it is unclear, however, if such an oversight committee has been established.[38]

Even though the reform programme had extensive management structures in place, there were also instances in which control mechanisms did not work in practice. For example, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative's 2014 study found that criteria developed to measure the programme's objectives were not always strictly followed, and that performance appraisals were not carried out as regularly as required.[39] This somewhat undermined the management capacity of the reform programme.


The reform project underwent comprehensive analysis and review in 2009. The police force "reviewed the implementation of the plan and noted some of the achievements ... An amended plan was then developed to build on this achievement and address any outstanding concerns - the Tanzania Police Force for 2010/11 to 2014/15. The 2009/10 [sic] to 2014/15 Reform Programme is also called Phase Two and focuses primarily on improving operational and logistical capacity through implementing systems and enhancing infrastructure."[40]

The reform programme was constantly reviewed, using feedback from citizens. For instance, by monitoring the number and type of complaints they received, the police had a good indication of public sentiment. Technical committees also distributed suggestion boxes, where members of the public - or the police - could leave anonymous suggestions on how the police could function better.[41] There is little information, however, on how the group of experts measured this type of feedback - if they measured it at all - and how they used any such data to design Phase 2.

As discussed in Management above, performance appraisals were not always carried out as initially planned. These factors make it difficult to establish to what extent any of the feedback mechanisms contributed to the revised programme.


Although the reform programme enjoyed high-level political backing, widespread public support, and very limited political opposition, police officers themselves could well have constituted a key obstacle to the programme if their interests had not been aligned with the reforms themselves.

Sifuni Mchome, a member of the group of experts and dean of the faculty of law at the University of Dar es Salaam, said that he had recognised early on that getting the police on board would be the hardest part of the job. This was not surprising, given that officers had to rethink and relearn their way of doing things and were subject to strict monitoring. To overcome this resistance, the group of experts designed the programme collaboratively to secure buy in from police of all ranks and across the country, rather than imposing a top-down system of reform enforcement.[42] As a result of these efforts, the reform programme is widely held to have succeeded in gaining support and being "owned by the police".[43]

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