from ALLOYCE KIMBUNGA in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
DAR-ES-SALAAM, (CAJ News) – THE arrest of critics of a port deal between Tanzania and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reveals Tanzanian authorities’ growing intolerance for dissent.
It evokes memories of crackdowns by the then president, John Magufuli (now late), on opponents, a development that was anticipated to change and his successor, Samia Suluhu Hassan.
The former parliamentarian and Tanzanian Ambassador to Sweden, Boniface Mwabukusi, has been arrested alongside lawyer and activist, Willibrod Slaa, and Mdude Nyagali, a political activist, were arrested between August 12 and 13 for criticising the port deal.
Mwabukusi led a court petition arguing that the port accord contains clauses that violate Tanzania’s Constitution and endanger national sovereignty and security.
On August 11, Camilius Wambura, Tanzania’s Inspector General of Police, was quoted telling the media that critics of the deal will be apprehended over their “seditious” statements that “call for national protests” against the port deal, which he said were tantamount to “inciting the public into overthrowing the government.”
Between June and August 2023, at least 24 people were arrested — and later released — for criticizing the port deal.
Rugemeleza Nshala, a lawyer, activist, and former President of the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), also fled the country in July after reporting intimidation and death threats for criticizing the deal.
“The authorities must stop arbitrarily detaining activists simply for peacefully expressing their views and immediately and unconditionally release these activists to ensure the respect of the right to freedom of expression,” said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.
According to their lawyer, Mwabukusi and Nyagali have refused to eat or drink anything since their arrest.
Lawyers of the detained critics said they have all been denied bail.
According to the lawyers, the police chiefs in Dar es Salaam and Mbeya said the three critics will be charged with treason but they have not yet provided any official information about the specific charges.
The lawyers are yet to be presented with any formal charges against Slaa, Mwabukusi, Nyagali, while the prosecution has shared no details of the alleged offence.
Under Tanzania’s Penal Code, treason carries a mandatory death penalty.
Treason is also an unbailable offence under section 148 of the Criminal Procedures Act.
In October 2022, Hassan and Ahmed Mahboob Musabih, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation, signed an agreement on managing ports in Tanzania on behalf of the Emirate of Dubai.
Tanzania’s Parliament endorsed the agreement in June this year.
Hassan, Tanzania’s first female president, succeeded Magufuli following his death in 2021.
Critics accused Magufuli of running the East African country with an iron fist.
– CAJ News