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Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe and 10 other members arrested

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were rounded up in the dead of night Wednesday in a crackdown denounced as a throwback to the oppressive rule of the country’s late leader.Officials from Tanzania’s main opposition party say they have not been able to establish where Mbowe is being held.

• Ten other leaders arrested alongside him had been taken to the Central Police Station in Mwanza, the party said.

Tanzania’s main opposition party said Thursday that its leader and other members could be charged with terrorism after being arrested in a sweeping midnight raid that has drawn international concern.

Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe and 10 other members were rounded up in the dead of night Wednesday in a crackdown denounced as a throwback to the oppressive rule of the country’s late leader.

Police searched Mbowe’s house in Dar es Salaam and seized his laptop and other devices from family members before transferring the Chadema chairman to the city’s central prison, the party said Thursday.

“We have received shocking information that Mbowe will be jointly charged with terrorism alongside the other suspects being held in prison in Dar es Salaam jail,” it said on Twitter.

Mbowe and the other Chadema officials were arrested in the Lake Victoria port city of Mwanza ahead of a planned public forum to demand constitutional reform.

Their detention comes four months after Tanzania’s first female President Samia Suluhu Hassan took office following the sudden death in March of John Magufuli, under whose autocratic rule such clampdowns on the opposition were frequent.

In April, Hassan had reached out to the opposition and vowed to defend democracy and basic freedoms.

There were high hopes Tanzania would be steered away from the heavy-handed and uncompromising leadership of her predecessor.

The Chadema party said leader Freeman Mbowe and the others had been detained before dawn at a hotel in the lakeside city of Mwanza, where they had been planning to hold a meeting later on Wednesday to discuss proposals for a new constitution.

The arrests followed the detention of dozens of other party members last week for holding a meeting without permission.

The Mwanza region’s police commander and the regional commissioner both did not immediately respond to calls and messages seeking comment. On Tuesday regional commissioner Robert Gabriel had told reporters that gatherings without government permission were banned in line with policies introduced since Hassan took office to curb COVID-19.

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