DAR ES SALAAM: Tanzania’s main opposition party said on Wednesday its leader had been arrested with 10 other party figures, in what it called proof that President Samia Suluhu Hassan was persisting with the authoritarianism of her late predecessor John Magufuli.
The Chadema party said leader Freeman Mbowe and the others had been detained before dawn at a hotel in the lakeside city of Mwanza, where they had been planning to hold a meeting later on 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’s police commander and the regional commissioner both did not immediately respond to calls and messages seeking comment.
On Tuesday regional commissioner Robert Gabriel had told reporters that gatherings without government permission were banned in line with policies introduced since Hassan took office to curb Covid-19.
Violation of human rights
“We are condemning this violation of human rights for Tanzanians and this is a sign that the dictatorship that was prevailing during President Magufuli’s administration is still persisting,” Chadema said in a statement published on its Twitter page.
Chadema’s former presidential candidate, Tundu Lissu, who lives in self-imposed exile in Europe, tweeted that Hassan’s rise following Magufuli’s death in March had brought “hope that Magufuli’s reign of terror and war on democracy would end”.
Tanzania has long denied opposition party accusations that its government practises authoritarianism.
Chadema has proposed changing the constitution, which it says this is necessary to protect democracy following the rule of Magufuli. Hassan, of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, had served as Magufuli’s vice-president before succeeding him when he died in March of what the government called a heart condition but opponents suspect may have been Covid-19.
Chadema said it had no information on where Mbowe was being held, while the other party figures were detained at Mwanza’s central police station.