Tanzania: Opposition politicians call nation ‘police state’

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Two opposition politicians in Tanzania say the country has become a “police state” under the rule of President John Magufuli.

Head of the Chadema party Freeman Mbowe and fellow lawmaker Esther Matiko, both of whom were jailed for more than three months on political grounds, say people in the country are afraid to express their views. The opposition members were initially arrested for taking part in a protest and then jailed after failing to appear in court.

Tanzania a ‘police state’

“This country has become a real police state,” opposition leader Freeman Mbowe told reporters at a press conference on Friday. “Fear has gripped the country… people don’t dare speak out, freedom of the press no longer exists.”

Mbowe and Matiko were arrested in November after failing to appear in court to face charges over a protest march in February 2018, during which a student was killed by a stray bullet fired by police.

After spending more than three months in jail, the pair launched an appeal and, last Thursday, judge Sam Rumanyika ordered their immediate release, ruling that their rights had been violated.

The opposition members each described the conditions prisoners are being held in and criticised the government for attempting to dismantle political freedoms in the country.

“The death of the opposition would be a disaster for the country,” Mbowe said. “You cannot build a democracy by beating or silencing your adversary.”

Featured image: Public domain

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.