US condemns Tanzania over arrest of opposition leaders

Eight opposition party leaders in Tanzania – including Zitto Kabwe, the leader of ACT-Wazalendo – were arrested on Thursday while holding a meeting to discuss forming a coalition

The United States of America says there is an attempt to stifle democratic norms in Tanzania following the arrest of eight members of the opposition.

The opposition leaders were having a party meeting when they were apprehended for allegedly assembling illegally.

Among the arrested figures was the leader of the ACT-Wazalendo party, Zitto Kabwe.

They were kept behind bars for over a day before being released, following protests by members of the public.

“The police detained us for more than 30 hours,” Kabwe told reporters on being released from custody.

Politically motivated?

Tanzanians are due to go to the polls in October and tensions in the country have been rising in the lead-up to the general election.

President John Magufuli’s plan to seek re-election is being threatened by Kabwe and ACT-Wazalendo.

The US Embassy in Tanzania condemned the arrest of the opposition leaders, suggesting it was politically motivated.

The criticism came after the government also moved to shut down the Tanzania Daima newspaper, in response to its critical coverage of Magufuli’s government.

“These actions follow a disconcerting pattern of intimidation toward opposition members, civil society and media outlets,” the US Embassy said in a statement later posted on Twitter.

Plans for election

Tanzania recently announced that its general election will go ahead as planned despite a national outbreak of the coronavirus disease. The country has recorded 509 cases of COVID-19, including 21 deaths and 183 recoveries.

President Magufuli has said he doesn’t want to stay in office for ever and, therefore, does not support postponing the polls.

Addressing the nation in a live telecast aired by the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation, he promised a free, fair and peaceful election.

“The elections will be held as planned. There are people who think that the elections will be postponed. Nobody wants to stay in office for ever,” he said.

E A Alanore

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