Tanzanian police have arrested opposition presidential candidate Tundu Lissu, hours after also detaining several other opposition figures over a call for mass protests against what government critics say were rigged elections.
The main opposition parties have rejected official results which saw President John Magufuli win a second term with 84 percent of the October 28 vote and his governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi party take 97 percent of seats in parliament. They had called for peaceful demonstrations on Monday as well as fresh elections.
“We have just arrested him in Dar es Salaam when he was disembarking from the European Union offices,” regional police Commander Lazaro Mambosasa said of Lissu on Monday. “It’s in connection with the banned protest,” he was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.
The main opposition party Chadema confirmed the arrest of its presidential candidate, who garnered an official 13 percent in last week’s polls. Lissu survived an assassination attempt in 2017 and returned from exile this year to join the presidential race.
Jeffrey Smith, of Vanguard Africa, a Washington-based, pro-democracy nonprofit organisation, said Lissu – who has partnered with them – told him on the phone earlier he had been seeking diplomatic protection for several hours without luck.
Earlier on Monday, Lissu and ACT Wazalendo leader Zitto Kabwe said in a joint statement that they believed “there have been attempts to arrest the two of us”.
Scores of ACT Wazalendo members remain in custody in the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar, they said.
The statement called on other countries to condemn the Tanzanian government for its “tyrannical behaviour” and said protest efforts will continue.
Following Lissu’s arrest, Kabwe wrote on Twitter that “for sure” he was also going to be arrested. “I want to make clear, I believe in this cause, Magufuli wasn’t legitimately elected and I believe in fully 100% peaceful protests. We are believers in non-violence. We shall win this too.”
Lissu’s arrest came hours after that of the chairman of his Chadema party, Freeman Mbowe, and six other top opposition members.
“We arrested them in a meeting to organise the protests which we already banned. Some of these people travelled from upcountry to Dar es Salaam and are trying to use youths to take it to the streets,” the Dar es Salaam police chief, Mambosasa, said on Monday.
Mambosasa said those arrested had “admitted that they were organising criminal activities such as setting petrol stations, markets, vehicles and some government offices on fire”.