Tanzania Opposition Vow to Protest Election Loss Despite Arrests

Tanzania’s main opposition leader vowed to push ahead with nationwide street protests despite arrests as the U.S. threatened to take action against the East African nation’s government.

Tundu Lissu, who was defeated by President John Magufuli in the Oct. 28 election, urged supporters to take part in peaceful demonstrations against the vote they claim was rigged. Tanzanian authorities arrested several opposition leaders on Monday after banning protests.

While Lissu, 52, was released without charge, other prominent opposition leaders remain in police custody.

Mass protests have the potential to derail one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and Africa’s fourth-biggest gold producer. Magufuli initially won praise for clamping down on corruption and government inefficiency after coming to power in 2015, but has since faced criticism for stifling dissent and eroding civil liberties.

In the run-up to the vote, a number of opposition candidates were disqualified from standing, and there were reports of Internet shutdowns and interference with social media sites, including Twitter and WhatsApp.

“Calling for mass protests and peaceful demonstrations is not and has never been a crime under Tanzanian law,” Lissu said in a Twitter post on Tuesday.

The U.S. said in a statement allegations of widespread irregularities in the election were credible, and called for the government to respect the “freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly.”

The U.S. “will consider actions including visa restrictions, as appropriate, to hold accountable those found to be responsible for human rights abuses and interference in the election process,” the State Department said.

Magufuli, 61, won re-election with 84.4% of valid ballots cast and his ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party cruised to victory in parliamentary elections. The ruling party also won a disputed presidential election in the semi-autonomous Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.