Leader Of Tanzania’s Main Opposition Party Arrested

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on March 14, 2020, Tanzania’s Chadema Party chairman Freeman Mbowe (C) gestures as he arrives at the party’s headquarters after being released from Segerea Prison in Dar es Salaam. (Photo by Ericky BONIPHACE / AFP)

 

The leader of Tanzania’s main opposition party Chadema and other members were arrested early Wednesday ahead of a planned conference to demand constitutional reforms, the party said.

Freeman Mbowe and 10 Chadema members were rounded up in the dead of night in the northwestern port city of Mwanza, it said on Twitter.

“We condemn the repression of the rights of Tanzanians with the strongest force. These are signs that the dictatorship that existed during the rule of President John Magufuli continues,” the party charged.

“Freeman Mbowe was accosted by an army of police officers in his hotel when he arrived at 02:30 am and was arrested together with other leaders,” it said.

While the other Chadema members were taken to Mwanza police station, there was no information about Mbowe’s whereabouts.

“We want the police to come out and say where the chairman is and why he was arrested,” Chadema said.

– ‘Cannot continue with old order’ –

The arrests come four months after Tanzania’s first female President Samia Suluhu Hassan took office in March following the sudden death of her predecessor Magufuli.

There have been high hopes that Hassan would usher in a change from the autocratic rule of her predecessor, who was nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising leadership style.

The arrests took place after Mbowe vowed to go ahead with a meeting on constitutional reforms despite Mwanza provincial authorities banning public gatherings to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“We cannot continue with the old order,” Mbowe said in a video published on Twitter on Monday, dressed in a red shirt and beret.

“We have the right to meet but are arrested, beaten, accused and taken to court for two to three years and then freed.

“If they want to arrest all members of the Chadema party, let them first expand the jails because we are all ready to be arrested and will not request bail.”

In April, Hassan had reached out to the opposition and vowed to defend democracy and basic freedoms in the East African country, which had seen a slide into autocratic rule under her predecessor.

In November 2020, several top opposition leaders including Mbowe were briefly detained after calling for mass protests against what they charged was a rigged election that returned then president Magufuli to power for a second term.

The deeply Covid-sceptic Magufuli died in March of what the authorities said was a heart condition but his political opponents insisted he had coronavirus.

Tanzania was long seen as a haven of stability and democracy in an otherwise volatile neighbourhood, but alarm grew over Magufuli’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

AFP

Tanzanian Opposition Leader Arrested Ahead Of Protest


ERICKY BONIPHACE / AFP

 

Tanzanian police have arrested the chairman of the main opposition party Chadema as well as other top leaders, ahead of planned protests Monday against an election the party said was rigged.

Chadema and fellow opposition party ACT-Wazalendo rejected results which saw President John Magufuli win a second term with 84 percent of results and his ruling party take 97 percent of seats in parliament.

Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe had called for countrywide protests starting Monday as well as fresh elections.

“We have arrested Mbowe, he is in our hands,” said Dar es Salaam police chief Lazaro Mambosasa, adding six other top members of the party were also under arrest.

“On top of these protests which we banned, they wanted to incite the vandalisation of buildings, burn petrol stations, markets, and public transport vehicles,” he said.

“Any person implicated in the planning of illegal protests will be arrested and will face justice.”

Chadema’s presidential candidate Tundu Lissu won only 13 percent of the vote, after denouncing widespread fraud and intimidation of the opposition during the election and following years of repression and jailing of government opponents.

Lissu, who returned to Tanzania in July after three years abroad recovering from 16 bullet wounds sustained in an assassination attempt, said his party’s agents had been kicked out of polling stations and ballot boxes had been stuffed.

The result of presidential elections cannot be contested in Tanzania although the parliamentary outcome can be challenged.

“The door is closed for us to challenge the presidential results in court, and that is why we have decided to take this to the people, who have the power,” Lissu said.

Magufuli was first elected in 2015, and alarm has grown over his slide into autocracy amid a crackdown on the opposition and the media.

In semi-autonomous Zanzibar, which also elects its own president, the opposition’s presidential candidate was arrested twice last week, and attempts to protest were quickly and brutally crushed by security forces.

-AFP