Police shot dead two anti-government protesters in Tanzania and arrested at least 10 leading opposition figures during a violent political demonstration, a senior police official says. Riot police fired at crowds of opposition supporters in the northern town of Arusha on Wednesday after the authorities banned their rally.
Opposition leader Willibrod Slaa, who ran in last year’s disputed presidential election, was among those detained. His Chadema party spoke of a deliberate crackdown on the opposition. “Two people died … after being shot by the police while trying to forcefully invade a police station to free their colleagues who were arrested,” Arusha Regional Police Commander Thobias Andengenye told Reuters yesterday.
Police arrested 49 people in total, including Chadema’s chairman, Freeman Mbowe, and at least four opposition lawmakers. The detained opposition leaders were later charged in court and released on bail. “All those who were arrested by the police, including Chadema leaders and our supporters, were charged with unlawful assembly and were subsequently released on bail,” Chadema’s acting secretary-general, John Mnyika, told Reuters.
Following his release, Slaa accompanied by other Chadema leaders visited a local hospital where a dozen opposition supporters were admitted with gunshot wounds and other injuries. Chadema said it would issue a formal statement on the situation on Friday while Tanzania’s home affairs minister, Shamsi Vuai Nahodha, called for calm in the wake of the violence.
He urged opposition leaders to engage the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party in dialogue over a dispute in the election of the mayor of Arusha, which caused the riots. Opposition leaders have cried foul over the election of a ruling party candidate to mayor of Arusha, an opposition stronghold, saying Chadema councillors who are equal in numbers to councillors from the ruling CCM party were barred from voting. The arrest of Slaa, the main challenger to President Jakaya Kikwete in an October 31 presidential election marred by a record low turnout and allegations of vote rigging, came days after he called for Kikwete’s resignation.
He demanded Kikwete step down following a scandal over a power generation contract amid chronic energy shortages in east Africa’s second largest economy. “There is a deliberate crackdown on opposition leaders. The president has publicly declared that his government will not tolerate demonstrations of any kind,” Chadema’s acting secretary-general, John Mnyika, told Reuters.