Tanzania’s main opposition party, Chadema in a tweet on Wednesday said its leader, Mbowe Freeman and 10 other members were arrested overnight few hours to a planned conference to demand constitutional reforms in the northwestern port city of Mwanza.
It was gathered that the arrests took place after Mbowe pledged to go ahead with a meeting on constitutional reforms despite Mwanza provincial authorities banning public gatherings to contain the spread of coronavirus.
According to Chadema “We condemn the repression of the rights of Tanzanians with the strongest force. These are signs that the dictatorship that existed during the rule of President John Magufuli continues.
“Freeman Mbowe was accosted by an army of police officers in his hotel when he arrived at 2:30am and was arrested together with other leaders.”
While other Chadema members were taken to the Mwanza police station, there was no information about Mbowe’s whereabouts.
The arrests is coming four months after Tanzania’s first female President Samia Suluhu Hassan took office in March following the sudden death of her predecessor, Magufuli.
There have been high hopes that Hassan would usher in a change from the “autocratic rule” of her predecessor, who was nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising leadership style.
Chadema’s former presidential candidate, Tundu Lissu, who lives in self-imposed exile in Europe, in a tweet said “Last night’s arrest of Chairman Mbowe and Chadema leaders has dashed the hope for true democracy in the country. It’s now time for nationwide protests and international isolation of her regime.
“If they want to arrest all members of the Chadema party, let them first expand the jails because we are all ready to be arrested and will not request bail.”
In April, Hassan had reached out to the opposition and promised to defend democracy and basic freedoms in the country.
In November 2020, several top opposition leaders including Mbowe were briefly detained after calling for protests against what they considered as a ‘rigged election’ that returned Magufuli to power for a second term.