Tanzania: The Arrest of Opposition Leader and President Magufuli’s Alleged  Political Intolerance

 

Mr. Freeman Mbowe, the chairman of the Tanzanian main opposition Chadema party was Monday arrested in Dar es Salaam for allegedly refusing to honour a police summon.

According to the report, Mr. Mbowe had been ordered by the Dar es Salaam Special Zone Commander, Mr. Simon Sirro, to report to the Central Police Station within 48 hours, following his alleged links with drug abuse and trade. Mr Mbowe had been named by the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner, Mr. Paul Makonda as alleged drug related suspect.

The angry officials of the Chadema party lamented that their chairman, Mr. Mbowe had decided to surrender himself to the police in the same afternoon he was arrested by the police. They intimated that Mr. Mbowe was, in fact, together with the party’s lawyer, heading to the police before their car was intercepted. Contrarily, the police maintained that he refused to honour their summon, hence his arrest.

Recently, some members of the opposition had accused president John Magufuli of political intolerance; while some even went further to warn that the no-nonsense president has been displaying some dictatorial tendencies. The recent arrest of Mr. Mbowe is seen by some in the opposition camp as an attempt by the president to silence the opposition group.

But Mr. Mbowe’s arrest followed after a week of exchange of words between the police and Chadema lawyers – and Mr. Mbowe himself. According to the police accusations, many prominent members of the opposition party, including the chairman, Mr. Mbowe have stints with drugs. The question many are asking is whether the police is being used by the government to intimidate the opposition.

Interestingly, while many opposition members have reacted angrily to the police accusation and refused to honour the police summons, many Tanzanians might be wondering whether the police can afford to make such a high-profile accusation without a concrete evidence – an act which will definitely stain the credibility of the police if proved wrong.  

In a serious case like this, the reputation of both parties is at stake. If the police cannot prove their accusations beyond a reasonable doubt, many Tanzanians would definitely start to believe the opposition’s intimidation and witch-hunting accusations against the police – and indirectly, the president for that matter. On the other hand, if the accused opposition members refused to go to the police to clear their names (or challenge the police to prove their case), many would have no choice than to believe the police.

It is the choice of the accused opposition members to prove the police wrong. Definitely, refusing to honour the police summons is not the best choice or way to prove their innocence. Tanzanians are carefully watching who is saying the truth.

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