Tanzania authorities dragged the main opposition party leader to court over terrorism and economic sabotage charges, denting hopes for political reconciliation after the swearing-in of the East African nation’s first female president in March.
Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo Chairman Freeman Mbowe was arraigned before a magistrate court in Dar es Salaam, the commercial hub, Monday, following his arrest last week.
This is the first time since Tanzania became a multiparty democracy almost three decades ago that the leader of a major opposition party has been charged with terrorism. Mbowe and several other leaders of the party also known as Chadema, were arrested in the northwestern city of Mwanza on July 21, hours before they were to hold a meeting on constitutional reform. The opposition is demanding presidential powers be reduced and the electoral process amended.
The arrests follow a call by opposition parties for President Samia Suluhu Hassan to break with the past after succeeding former President John Magufuli, who they accused of reducing political freedoms and cracking down on opponents before he died in March.
The public prosecutor, Tulimanjwa Majigo, joined Mbowe’s case to an existing terrorism case with three other accused, claiming that they plotted to carry out the alleged attacks in 2020.
Mbowe was not allowed to enter a plea and will be detained until the case is heard on August 5 because terrorism is an un-bailable offense in Tanzania.