(Reuters) – Tanzanian police have arrested a lawyer and an opposition politician and accused them of incitement and planning to organise nationwide demonstrations aimed at bringing down the government.
The police arrested lawyer Boniface Anyasile Mwabukusi and Mpaluka Nyagali on Saturday, spokesperson David Misime said in a statement.
Philip Mwakilima, a lawyer representing the two, told Reuters that he was making efforts to access them in custody and that the accusations against them were “false, fabricated”.
Tanzanian police chief Camillus Wambura said in a statement on Friday that he was taking action against a group planning to hold demonstrations around the country to bring down the government of President Samia Suluhu Hassan before 2025.
He said posts on social media platforms since Aug. 10 had been written “to influence and incite Tanzanians into nationwide protests. One of them even said they will overthrow the government of the president … before 2025. This is treason.”
Those calling for the protests linked the matter to a court case challenging a port development and management agreement between Tanzania and the Emirate of Dubai that Tanzania’s parliament approved in June, Wambura said, without naming Mwabukusi or Nyagali.
Mwabukusi was among the lawyers contesting the agreement’s legality. The High Court rejected that challenge on Thursday.
Mwabukusi wrote on Thursday on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that his clients had asked him to appeal the ruling.
Human Rights Watch said on Monday that at least 22 people had been detained or threatened since June for criticising parliament for approving the port agreement.
Hassan’s government has won praise for rolling back her predecessor’s crackdowns on the opposition and civil rights groups. But the arrests have raised questions over her government’s human rights record.
Chief government spokesperson Gerson Msigwa denied accusations of silencing opposition voices.
“However, you have to differentiate between the respect of human rights and the respect of laws. You cannot hide in the jacket of human rights while breaking the law,” he told Reuters by phone.
(Editing by George Obulutsa in Nairobi and Hugh Lawson in London)