Chadema president Freeman Mobo and 15 other members were rounded up in an action denounced as a return to the repressive regime of the country’s late leader.
Tanzania’s main opposition party has said its leader and other members will be charged with “terrorism” after being arrested in a massive midnight raid that has sparked international concern.
Chadema chairman Freeman Bowe and 15 other members were arrested on Wednesday night in what was condemned as a return to the repressive regime of the country’s late leader.
The party said on Thursday that police searched Mbowe’s home in Dar es Salaam and seized his laptop and other equipment from family members before the Chadema president was transferred to the city’s central prison.
It said on Twitter, “We have received shocking information that Mbowe will be jointly charged with terrorism in Dar es Salaam prison along with other jailed suspects.”
Mbowe and other Chadema officials were arrested in the Lake Victoria port city of Mwanza ahead of a planned public forum to demand constitutional reform.
Area police commander Ramadhan Nghanji said Mbowe would later be returned to Mwanza to join others who were arrested for holding a “banned” meeting.
“For now, he is safe at the central police station in Dar es Salaam,” he told reporters.
The detention comes four months after Tanzania’s first female president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, assumed office following the sudden death of John Magufuli in March, under whose authoritarian regime such clout over the opposition was frequent.
In April, Hassan reached out to the opposition and pledged to defend democracy and basic liberties.
There were high hopes that Tanzania would be turned away from the heavy-handed and uncompromising leadership of its predecessor.
But Chadema’s roundup of key figures was condemned by rights groups and opposition activists as evidence that the administration’s intolerance of dissent still persisted.
Amnesty International called the arrest “arbitrary” and was part of a growing campaign against political opposition in a country that was once seen as a symbol of democratic stability in the region.
“The Tanzanian authorities should stop targeting the opposition and try to reduce the space in which they are able to operate,” said Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty’s deputy director for East Africa.
“These arbitrary arrests and detentions show Tanzanian authorities’ gross disregard for the rule of law, and human rights, including freedom of expression and association. These politically motivated arrests must stop.”
The United States said on Wednesday it was confirming the details of Bowe’s arrest, but that it would be “very worrying.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Secretary of State Antony Blinken had encouraged Hassan in a July 6 telephone call to defend civil liberties and “to ensure a democratic, peaceful, free and prosperous future for all Tanzanians.” importance”.
According to the United Nations, at least 150 opposition leaders were arrested after condemning massive fraud in the October 2020 election, which returned Magufuli and Hassan to power for a second term.
Magufuli, a profoundly COVID-skeptic, died in March from what officials said, but his political opponents insist he had contracted the disease.