At least 150 arrests in Tanzania over disputed vote: UN rights chief

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said Tuesday that at least 150 members of Tanzania’s opposition had been arrested over the country’s fiercely disputed elections.

Arrests of opposition leaders and followers began on the eve of the October 28 poll, she said in a statement, citing reports from the country.

“At least 18 reportedly remain in custody,” she said, adding that she was disturbed by accounts of continued intimidation and harassment.

“The tense situation in the country will not be defused by silencing those who challenge the outcome of the elections, but rather through a participatory dialogue,” Bachelet warned. 

“I urge the Tanzanian authorities to respect and facilitate exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.”

President John Magufuli won a crushing 84 percent of the vote, in an election that the opposition says was stained by massive fraud.

His Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party took 97 percent of the parliament seats up for grabs.

Magufuli’s main challenger, Tundu Lissu, officially won just 13 percent of the vote, while popular opposition MPs lost seats in key strongholds.

The opposition parties called for street demonstrations against the results, but their leaders were swiftly detained and a heavy security presence deterred potential protest action.

On Sunday, a former opposition legislator, Godbless Lema, sought refuge in Kenya with his wife and children, his lawyer said.

He was arrested by local police and then released.

“I received information that my life was in danger,” Lema told reporters as he left the police station in Kajiado, near the border.

“I could not ignore this information, because I have buried many of my friends and others are still missing. I acted fast and fled.”