Overview: In 2021, the Government of Tanzania and the United States engaged in limited counterterrorism and countering violent extremism cooperation. Counterterrorism has risen in importance for the Government of Tanzania, as Tanzania faces terrorist threats within the country and along three of its borders — Kenya (from al-Shabaab), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (from ISIS-DRC), and Mozambique (from ISIS-M). ISIS-M presents a significant danger to individuals in Tanzania, especially those who live along its shared border with Mozambique. Tanzania-Mozambique cross-border security cooperation began to materialize in 2021 through multilateral engagement — primarily with coordination provided by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC); however, bilateral cooperation will be important for securing Tanzanian citizens and territory.
2021 Terrorist Incidents: Tanzania experienced five notable terrorist attacks in 2021:
- On September 20, approximately 15 ISIS-M members crossed into Mahurunga village, Mtwara Region from Mozambique. They looted and burned shops and houses and kidnapped and raped women. At least one Tanzanian was killed.
- On October 1, 12 members of ISIS-M attacked civilians and looted food supplies in Kiwengulo, Mtwara. One Tanzanian woman was killed.
- On October 21, ISIS-M members attacked civilians in Kilimahewa, Mtwara region. A warehouse and several houses were burned. An unknown number of people were kidnapped and later rescued by the Tanzania People’s Defense Force (TPDF). Fatalities are unknown.
- On November 13, approximately 10 members of ISIS-M raided the villages of Sindano and Michawe, Mtwara. An unknown number of civilians were killed, and at least four others were hospitalized.
- On December 10, members of ISIS-M crossed into Kiwengulo village, Mtwara, burning at least three houses and a dispensary. Four civilians were killed; three from a single family were beheaded. The attackers clashed with TPDF security forces, leaving five attackers and one TPDF member dead. Local law enforcement officials confirmed the attacks and killings with the embassy.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Government of Tanzania did not pass or amend any laws regarding terrorism in 2021. In June, Tanzania’s Director of Public Prosecutions ordered all charges dropped against 34 Zanzibari Muslim leaders held in pretrial remand on terrorism charges from 2012 through 2014. The leaders were part of a now-defunct Islamist organization that advocated for Zanzibar independence, the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation (UAMSHO). The 34 UAMSHO members were released from jail.
In 2021, Government of Tanzania officials publicly acknowledged terrorist activities along Tanzania’s border with Mozambique, a departure from the government’s previous posture of publicly downplaying the threat and labeling violent extremists as “bandits.” In response to continued ISIS-M activity in Mozambique, the Government of Tanzania maintained a robust security personnel presence in the southern border regions of Mtwara and Ruvuma, as well as in neighboring Lindi Region.
The Government of Tanzania continued to limit access of diplomatic missions and humanitarian organizations in some areas along the southern border. In rare bilateral engagement related to counterterrorism in 2021, Tanzania’s Inspector General of Police met his Rwandan counterpart in Kigali to discuss strengthening security cooperation on cross-border crimes, particularly terrorism. Additionally, police commanders from Tanzania, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda met in Tanzania’s Kigoma Region to discuss ways to maximize collaboration, intensify security along the borders, and exchange security information.
A years-long effort to finalize a U.S.-funded border security program — the first in the northern Tanga Region and later shifting to the southern Mtwara Region — stalled and then expired in 2021 after Government of Tanzania ministries failed to sign an MOU.
Charges of terrorism, terrorism financing, and money laundering, all of which result in a prohibition on the use of bail, were used to incarcerate citizens, journalists, and political party representatives for political reasons, though this practice has slowed since the transition to Samia Suluhu Hassan’s presidency following the March death of former president John Magufuli.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Throughout 2021, the United States funded anti money laundering and countering terrorism financing training to Ministry of Finance officials. In 2021, the Government of Tanzania continued efforts to regulate the movement of foreign currency. While the primary purpose of the regulations appears to be reducing tax
evasion, the measures also make it easier to trace transactions, including those associated with money laundering.
Countering Violent Extremism: In 2021, the SADC and the Government of Tanzania worked to organize and plan for a Regional Counter Terrorism Center to advance counterterrorism. Tanzania’s National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) remained Tanzania’s primary liaison with international partners on CVE in 2021. Starting in 2017, NCTC partnered with the UNDP on a CVE project that included the development of a national CVE strategy and action plan. Since 2018, NCTC and the UNDP have assured donor countries that the national strategy and action plan would be completed imminently.
In 2021, the United States supported a UNDP initiative on community policing, aimed at building stronger ties between security providers and community members. Separately, the United States continued its support for CVE initiatives through civil society actors in vulnerable areas to raise public awareness and increase resiliency to violent extremist threats and to understand cross-border dynamics that support terrorist actors.
International and Regional Cooperation: Throughout 2021, the Government of Tanzania engaged primarily in multilateral efforts through SADC to address regional security and counterterrorism issues. Tanzania sent a contingent of troops to the SADC’s Standby Force Mission in Mozambique, which also included forces from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, and South Africa. The SADC Mission joined Mozambiquan and Rwandan military efforts to combat the uprising of ISIS-M violent extremism in Cabo Delgado Province,
Mozambique. Additionally, the Government of Tanzania continued to pursue training from bilateral and multilateral donors to enhance CT-related security units.