Tanzanian activist beaten, dumped

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A Tanzanian opposition activist was found beaten and unconscious at a village in the country’s southern highlands five days after unidentified people abducted him, stoking new fears of an opposition crackdown.

Mdude Nyagali, a young activist with the opposition Chadema party, was found at a village near his home town Mbeya, his party said.

Opposition groups say several campaigners were attacked after they criticised President John Magufuli’s government, accused by critics of authoritarian rule since he came into power in late 2015.

“We confirm reports Mdude Nyagali has been found. He was discovered unconscious, but breathing … in rural parts of Mbeya,” CHADEMA said in a brief announcement, adding a formal statement would be issued later.

The activist, not a national opposition figure but an active government critic on social media, is receiving medical attention at the government hospital in Mbeya.

Tanzania’s police force dismissed accusations from some opposition leaders that authorities were involved in the activist’s disappearance and pledged to investigate.

“We’ve sent reinforcements from police headquarters to help with this case as an indication of our seriousness in determining if there was any criminal act,” Tanzania’s Deputy Home Affairs Minister Hamad Yussuf Masauni said in parliament.

Video clips on social media showed the visibly distraught opposition activist in hospital with a swollen face, narrating being blindfolded and handcuffed by unknown assailants.

Opposition leaders, some Western diplomats and human rights activists are calling for his immediate and unconditional release.

Nyagali’s disappearance triggered an online campaign in Tanzania with the hashtag #BringBackMdudeAlive trending on Twitter for several days. It drew international attention.

“Good to hear he has been found. I hope there will be an investigation into what happened,” Sarah Cooke, the British High Commissioner to Tanzania, tweeted.

Canadian High Commissioner to Tanzania, Pamela O’Donnell, described the activist’s disappearance as “disturbing” and expressed hope the Tanzanian government would do everything possible to bring him back alive.

Tanzanians took to social media to demand answers from government about recent incidents of politically-related kidnappings and torture and the attempted assassination of vocal opposition MP Tundu Lissu.

“We demanded and got him back alive – thank God!” Maria Sarungi, a social media activist who led an online campaign to push for the activist’s release, said on Twitter.