Tanzania arrests opposition leaders, foiling post-election protests


Tanzanian police on Monday prevented planned opposition protests against last week’s election by arresting officials of the main opposition party, Chadema, its presidential candidate said.

The opposition has demanded a re-run of the vote, citing widespread irregularities, and called for protests against the outcome, which returned President John Magufuli to office with 84% of the vote on 28 October.

“We have not been able to protest,” Tundu Lissu, who garnered an official 13%, told Reuters, citing heavy deployments of the police on the streets and the arrest of several party officials and supporters.

Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe, former lawmaker Godbless Lema and the former mayor of Ubungo municipality, Boniface Jacob, were all arrested late on Monday. “I got a message around midnight that they had been taken in,” Lissu said.

Mbowe, Lema and Jacob, together with seven of their supporters, were arrested to prevent them destroying property under the guise of protests, according to Lazaro Mambosasa, Dar es Salaam’s regional police commander.

“We are searching for others. Since we started arresting the suspects, the opposition has restrained itself and the city is calm,” he told Reuters by phone.

But US Ambassador Donald Wright, said reported arrests were of “extreme concern”.

“I urge the government to ensure the safety and security of all opposition leaders, cease these targeted arrests, release detainees, restore telecommunications, and afford due process under the law to all citizens,” he wrote on Twitter.

Last week, Tanzanians reported nationwide problems accessing social media platforms, including Twitter and WhatsApp in what critics said was a state effort to curb dissent by limiting people’s ability to communicate. Twitter confirmed that it had seen some “throttling” of its platform while internet blockage monitor NetBlocks observed widespread disruption.

Britain urged the electoral authorities to investigate all reported irregularities and said it was troubled by heavy handed policing of the election.

The national electoral commission said last week there was no evidence of irregularities, like fake ballots, during voting.

Magufuli’s CCM party, a version of which has held power since independence from Britain in 1961, also increased its parliamentary majority to 97% of the 264 seats from three quarters in the previous five years.

During his first term, Magufuli invested heavily in infrastructure projects and instituted reforms in mining and telecommunications industries to extract more revenues from the sectors.