Freeman Mbowe was detained with other opposition figures ahead of calls for mass demonstrations after controversial election.

A Tanzanian opposition leader said police arrested several opposition figures and sealed off areas where a peaceful demonstration was to begin on Monday over last week’s disputed election.

Emmanuel Mvula, campaign manager with the ACT Wazalendo party, told The Associated Press security forces were deployed in the commercial hub of Dar es Salaam, where the two main opposition parties planned to march to the national electoral commission.

The opposition has demanded a repeat vote citing widespread irregularities and called for protests against the outcome from last week’s election, which returned President John Magufuli to office with 84 percent of the vote.

Those arrested with Freeman Mbowe, chair of the Chadema opposition party, include a former member of parliament Godbless Lema, the former mayor of Dar es Salaam, Isaya Mwita, and the former mayor of Ubungo municipality, Boniface Jacob.

“I got a message around midnight that they had been taken in,” Tundu Lissu, Chadema’s opposition presidential candidate, told Reuters news agency on Monday.

Dar es Salaam’s regional police commander Lazaro Mambosasa said: “We were tipped [off] that they were organising illegal demonstrations and persuading youths to go into the streets today. We did not issue a permit for anyone to hold demonstrations, so these are illegal demonstrations.”

Tanzania Chadema party chairman Freeman Mbowe after being released from prison in March [Ericky Boniphace/AFP]

‘Cause chaos’

Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from Nairobi in neighbouring Kenya, said the Chadema party is demanding new elections.

“Our colleagues in Tanzania have been doing spot checks in Dar es Salaam to see if protests develop. They are telling us in areas the opposition designated to meet, business is going on as usual. The police issued a statement saying they will not allow this protest to go ahead, saying there were plans ‘to cause chaos’,” said Soi.

The ACT Wazalendo and Chadema parties have accused Tanzania’s ruling party of a “butchering of democracy” after the election commission declared the populist Magufuli the landslide winner of a second term. The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party also won almost all parliament seats, enough to change the constitution.

Lissu previously said he will not accept the election results.

The opposition has alleged widespread irregularities before and during the vote in the East African nation that some observers say has taken a sharp turn away from democratic ideals in the past five years.

Allegations include the rejection of thousands of election observers, a massive slowdown in internet and text-messaging services, and deadly violence. Few independent observers were allowed.

The vote “marked the most significant backsliding in Tanzania’s democratic credentials”, Tanzania Elections Watch, a group of regional experts said in an assessment released on Friday. It noted a heavy deployment of military and police whose conduct created a “climate of fear”.

The United States has said it was concerned about reports showing “systematic interference in the democratic process”, while the United Kingdom said it was “troubled by the reports of violence and heavy-handed policing in the elections”.


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