Tanzanian opposition leader Freeman Mbowe was arrested early Wednesday ahead of a planned conference to demand constitutional reforms.
In a statement shared on twitter, John Mrema, the Chadema Director for Communication and Foreign Affairs said Mbowe and 10 other party members were rounded up in the dead of night in the northwestern port city of Mwanza.
“Freeman Mbowe was accosted by an army of police officers in his hotel when he arrived at 02:30 am and was arrested together with other leaders,” Mrema said.
He revealed that, while other Chadema members were taken to Mwanza police station, there was no information about Mbowe’s whereabouts.
“We want the police to come out and say where the chairman is and why he was arrested,” the party statement read further.
In April, Samia Suluhu Hassan, Tanzania’s first female President had reached out to the opposition and vowed to defend democracy and basic freedoms, a leadership style some see as different from her predecessor John Pombe Magufuli.
Africa Tembelea has however learnt that the latest arrests come a day after Mbowe vowed to go ahead with a meeting on constitutional reforms despite Mwanza provincial authorities banning public gatherings to contain the spread of coronavirus.
In a video shared on Twitter on Monday, Mbowe who was dressed in a red shirt and beret said they were not ready to continue with the old order.
“We cannot continue with the old order,” Mbowe said.
"Napenda kuwatangazia Wanachadema kuwa kazi ya kuidai Katiba Mpya siyo kazi ya lelemama. Wakitaka kuwaweka ndani Wanachadema kwa hoja hii ya Katiba wapanue kwanza Magereza, tupo tayari wote tuwekwe ndani na wala hatutaomba dhamana." Mhe. Freeman Mbowe pic.twitter.com/dgU4wJPsY7
— CHADEMA Tanzania (@ChademaTz) July 19, 2021
He also noted that, even when they “have the right to meet,” they are arrested, beaten, accused and taken to court for two to three years and then freed.
“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 Magufuli continues,” the party said.