Tanzanian authorities have arrested numerous members of the country’s largest opposition Chadema party, marking the country’s latest crackdown on a group advocating constitutional reform. It came after President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s government detained Chadema leader Freeman Mbowe on “terrorist” accusations, which his party described as an attempt by President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s government to silence the opposition.
Chadema said in a statement on Saturday that police detained nine party members and raided its offices in the northern lakeside town of Musoma to prevent the youth wing from holding a planned symposium on constitutional change. “We strongly condemn this flagrant violation of the constitution and the rule of law, which sows the seeds of hatred, discrimination, and discord within communities,” it continued, protesting police and other security forces’ “suppression of democratic rights.”
Mbowe has been jailed since July 21, when he and several other senior Chadema leaders were apprehended only hours before a similar discussion on calls for a new constitution was set to take place. In a case that the opposition claims shows Hassan is continuing the oppressive rule of her late predecessor, John Magufuli, the 59-year-old has been charged with terrorism financing and conspiracy.
He is scheduled to return to the High Court on Monday, despite the fact that his trial has been stalled due to legal wrangling, with his defense team recently challenging the legality of the charge sheet. Longinus Tibishibwamu, the police chief in the Mara region, which includes Musoma as its capital, said the force could not allow such events to happen. “According to the president, people should now concentrate on economic development… As a result, such conferences will have to wait,” Tibishibwamu was quoted in local media as saying.