The leader of Tanzania’s opposition party will stand trial today.
Chadema party chairman Freeman Mbowe is alleged to have conspired to kill government leaders and paid $260 towards terrorist acts.
Chadema believes Mbowe’s arrest to be politically motivated, considering it an effort by the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party to stem Chadema’s demands for constitutional reforms that would reduce presidential powers and implement an independent electoral commission.
As the new leader of Tanzania’s socialist party and the second-largest ruling party in Africa, President Samia Hassan had promised adherence to democratic reform when she was elected after the death of her predecessor John Magufuli last year.
However, the ruling party retains authoritarian tendencies. Mbowe’s arrest, coupled with restrictions on two local newspapers suggests a backsliding towards Mugufuli-style crackdowns on opposition members, supporters and critics in an attempt to pander to Chama Cha Mapinduzi supporters.
In the short-to-medium term, Hassan will likely use Mbowe’s arrest and Chadema vice-chairman Tundu Lissu’s exile to facilitate further crackdowns on the opposition. Hassan’s intentions to expand Tanzania’s trade with its neighbors will be hindered by the party’s authoritarian bent, not to mention a fall in the country’s FDI since Mugufuli’s election in 2015.
Sabrine is an Analyst for Foreign Brief and a graduate student at Yonsei University in South Korea, specializing in foreign policy and security in East Asia. Previously, she contributed as a freelance writer for online publications and worked as a sub-editor for the Daily NK.