• Press Release

Tanzania: Release opposition leader and party members

In response to the arbitrary arrest today of opposition leader Freeman Mbowe and 11 other party officials and staff of Party of Democracy and Progress (Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo in Swahili) officially known as Chadema, Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Region, said:

Tanzanian authorities must end escalating crackdown on opposition party and leaders
Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Region

“Tanzanian authorities must end escalating crackdown on opposition party and leaders. Unless the authorities have clear legal grounds to justify these arrests, all of those arrested in this swoop must be immediately released. The Tanzania Police Force must also account for the whereabouts of Freeman Mbowe – who at present is unaccounted for - and ensure his security and safe return.

Tanzanian authorities must stop targeting the opposition and trying to narrow the space they are able to operate in
Flavia Mwangovya

“Tanzanian authorities must stop targeting the opposition and trying to narrow the space they are able to operate in. These arbitrary arrests and detentions show Tanzanian authorities’ flagrant disregard for the rule of law, and human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and association. These politically motivated arrests must stop.”

Background

The 12 members of the opposition were arrested at 2.30am on 21 July from their hotel rooms in Mwanza by Tanzanian police. The arrest came hours before a planned conference demanding a new constitution for the country, which had been organized by the opposition party.

While the 11 Democracy and Progress (Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo in Swahili) Chadema’ members were taken to the Central Police Station in Mwanza, lawyers, family members and party officials have not been able to access party leader Freeman Mbowe.

On 20 July, Mwanza’s Regional Commissioner Robert Gabriel banned all forms of gathering except for religious gatherings and funerals, stating that anyone intending to assemble must get clearance from his office.

According to party’s Protocol, Communications and Foreign Affairs director, John Mrema the 11 detained at Central Police Station have not been charged with any criminal offence. Lawyers representing them have also not seen any statements of offence regarding the reason as to why they were arrested.