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Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe and 15 other members were detained in a crackdown that was labeled a return to the oppressive rule of the country’s late leader.
Tanzania’s main opposition party has said its leader and other members will be charged with “terrorism” after she arrested in a sweeping midnight raid that has sparked international concern.
Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe and 15 other members were detained Wednesday night in a crackdown that was labeled a return to the oppressive rule of the country’s late leader.
Police searched Mbowe’s home in Dar es Salaam and seized his laptop and other devices belonging to family members before transferring Chadema’s chairman to the city’s central prison, the party said on Thursday.
“We have received shocking information that Mbowe will be jointly charged with terrorism along with the other suspects held in Dar es Salaam prison,” it said on Twitter.
Mbowe and the other Chadema officials were arrested in the Lake Victoria port city of Mwanza, ahead of a planned public forum to demand constitutional reforms.
The region’s police chief Ramadhan Ngh’anzi said Mbowe would later be sent back to Mwanza to join the others arrested for organizing the “forbidden” meeting.
“For now, he is safe at the central police station in Dar es Salaam,” he told reporters.
The arrests come four months after Tanzania’s first female president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, took office after the sudden death in March of John Magufuli, under whose authoritarian rule the opposition was regularly suppressed.
In April, Hassan had approached the opposition and promised to defend democracy and fundamental freedoms.
There was good hope that Tanzania would be steered away from the heavy-handed and uncompromising leadership of its predecessor.
But the rally of key Chadema figures was condemned by rights groups and opposition activists as evidence that the government’s intolerance of dissent still prevailed.
Amnesty International described the arrests as “arbitrary” and part of an escalating campaign against political opposition in a country once seen as a beacon of democratic stability in the region.
“The Tanzanian authorities must stop targeting the opposition and try to narrow the space in which they can operate,” said Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty’s deputy director for East Africa.
“These arbitrary arrests and detentions show the Tanzanian authorities’ blatant disregard for the rule of law and human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and association. These politically motivated arrests must stop.”
Unless the #TanzaniaAuthorities have clear legal grounds to justify these arrests, all 11 @ChademaTz members must be released immediately. They must also account for the whereabouts of @freemanmbowetz and ensure his safety and safe return. https://t.co/B6toNd9LAf
— Amnesty East Africa (@AmnestyEARO) July 22, 2021
The United States said on Wednesday it confirmed details of Mbowe’s arrest, but it would be “very concerning”.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had encouraged Hassan in a July 6 phone call to protect civil liberties and emphasized “the importance of ensuring a democratic, peaceful, free and prosperous future for all Tanzanians,” the Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Ned Price.
At least 150 opposition leaders have been arrested, according to the United Nations, after denouncing an October 2020 election, which they believe was massive fraud, leading Magufuli and Hassan to power for a second term.
Deeply COVID-skeptical Magufuli died in March of what authorities said was a heart condition, but his political opponents insisted he had contracted the disease.
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