Tanzania: Opposition politicians arrested as crackdown escalates ahead of elections
In response to the arrest of opposition leader Zitto Kabwe, leader of the Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT), along with seven other officials of the party, Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said:
“The latest arrests of Zitto Kabwe and his colleagues is part of a growing crackdown on opposition leaders and government critics. It is also consistent with the constant harassment and intimidation that he has been subjected to by the authorities in the recent past.
“Coming barely three months before Tanzanians go to the polls, these arrests are a calculated move to harass and intimidate the opposition and critics ahead of elections, restrict their human rights and limit their campaigning. The Tanzanian authorities must stop intimidating the opposition and ensure full respect for the human rights of everyone, including opposition leaders, before, during and after the elections.
“It is concerning that Zitto and his colleagues have been moved to a remote location 200 kilometres from where they were arrested. The authorities must immediately and unconditionally release them as they were arrested solely for peacefully exercising their human rights.”
The other ACT party officials arrested with Zitto Kabwe are Shaweji Mketo, Ishaka Mchinjita, Abubakar Kama, Suleiman Bungala, Swaleh Mketo, Mahadhi Nang’ona and Akida Mawanja. They were arrested on 23 June in Kilwa town in southern Tanzania for “unlawful assembly”.
President John Magufuli on 24 June 2016 placed a blanket ban on political parties organizing political activities and rallies until the National Electoral Commission announces the period of official campaigning ahead of the 2020 elections. Under the ban, politicians are only allowed to conduct their activities in their respective constituencies.
The arrest of Zitto and his colleagues comes only weeks after the leader of the Chadema opposition party, Freeman Mbowe, was assaulted by unidentified assailants.