Tanzania arrests leader of main opposition party | World news


NAIROBI (Reuters) – Tanzania’s main opposition party said on Wednesday its leader was arrested along with ten other party figures, which it called evidence that President Samia Suluhu Hassan persisted in his late authoritarianism predecessor John Magufuli.

The Chadema party said leader Freeman Mbowe and the others were arrested before dawn at a hotel in the lakeside town of Mwanza, where they planned to meet later Wednesday to discuss proposals for a new constitution.

The arrests followed the detention of dozens of other party members last week for holding a meeting without permission.

The Mwanza region police commander and the regional commissioner did not immediately respond to calls and messages seeking comment. Regional Commissioner Robert Gabriel told reporters on Tuesday that gatherings without government permission were banned under policies introduced since Hassan took office to fight COVID-19.

“We condemn this violation of the human rights of Tanzanians and it is a sign that the dictatorship that prevailed under the administration of President Magufuli persists,” Chadema said in a statement posted on his Twitter page.

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Former Chadema presidential candidate Tundu Lissu, who lives in voluntary exile in Europe, tweeted that Hassan’s rise after Magufuli’s death in March brought “hope that Magufuli’s reign of terror and war against democracy would end.

“The arrest last night of President Mbowe and the leaders of CHADEMA has dashed any such hope. Now is the time to protest nationally and isolate his regime internationally.”

Tanzania has long denied accusations by opposition parties that its government is practicing authoritarianism.

Chadema proposed amending the constitution, which he said is necessary to protect democracy after Magufuli’s reign. Hassan, of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, had been Magufuli’s vice president before succeeding him when he died in March from what the government called heart disease, but opponents suspect it is the COVID-19.

Chadema said he had no information on where Mbowe was being held, while other party figures were held at Mwanza central police station.

Chadema had announced plans to hold a meeting in Mwanza, Lake Victoria, on Wednesday, and said all participants would follow health guidelines to curb the spread of COVID-19.

On Monday, Mbowe said at a press conference: “If they want to arrest Chadema supporters because of constitutional issues, let them expand their prisons. We are ready to be arrested and we will not ask for a deposit.

Magufuli had been Africa’s foremost COVID-19 skeptic, calling the virus harmless, resisting all restrictions to stop its spread and rejecting vaccines.

(Report by Nairobi Newsroom; Editing by Maggie Fick and Peter Graff)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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