Mbowe Freeman, leader of Tanzania’s main opposition leader and ten members of his party known as Chadema, are currently behind bars for violating the country’s policies instituted by late President John Magufuli Pombe, according to a statement released on Wednesday by the opposition party.
According to the statement, the party leader was with 10 other members in Mwanza, northwestern part of the country, planning to launch a public protest to call for constitutional reforms before they were arrested late on Tuesday.
The statement revealed that the men were “abducted on Tuesday around 2:30 am breaking into Wednesday after a mixed team of police and the military stormed their hotel rooms and pulled them out to a detention facility.”
The statement condemned the attack and called for their immediate release stating that they will no longer accept to be in a country that practices dictatorship and suppresses freedom of speech.
Another strong opposition leader Lissu Tundu who has suffered numerous attacks within the country and is on self-exile, has also added his voice to that of the Chadema party, condemning the action.
Tundu tweeted on Wednesday, “Last night’s arrest of Chairman Mbowe and Chadema leaders has dashed any such hope. It’s now time for nationwide protests and international isolation of her regime.”
Tundu was shot 17 times at his residence by unknown gunmen during the era of late President John Pombe Magufuli in 2016.
Magufuli was accused of being behind the attack by some opposition leaders, but he rejected the allegations and called for an investigation into the attack, whose results were never made public. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
In November 2020, still under the tenure of Magufuli, Freeman and some opposition leaders were arrested for threatening peace and stability and for wanting to cause chaos in the country.
After national and international outrage, they were released when the results of the 2020 presidential election were announced, with Magufuli winning another mandate.
Magufuli died in March 2021, a few months into his second mandate, and was replaced by his vice president, Hassan Samia Suluhu, who in April became the president of the country.
There were hopes that she would open up and embrace full democratic values in the East African country, but she has maintained the policies of her predecessor, opposition parties claimed.
Last month, she warned against organizing any public protest, and in April, she met with opposition leaders promising collaboration and respect for democratic values.
It is not clear if she ordered the arrest of Freeman and his 10 members.