The death of a 22-year-old female student in Tanzania’s main city of Dar es Salaam has led to the arrest of six police officers.
The six are held for their complicity in events leading to the death of Akwilina Akwilline who was killed during an opposition demonstration late last week.
The police over the weekend came under fire for her death. Witnesses say she was sitting in a public bus that was passing by during a confrontation between police and protesters.
President John Pombe Magufuli has commented on the incident in a tweet issued in Swahili. He said a probe had been ordered into the incident and that the perpetrators will be made to face justice.
The death of Ms Akwilline’s has thrust into the public space, the debate about the crackdown on opposition activities in the country.
The Catholic Church in a recent message accused the government of threatening the country’s peace by stifling dissent and banning peaceful protests.
“Political activities are prohibited by the instrumentalization of the police,” the letter by the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Tanzania read. The Church has been accused in recent months by the opposition of remaining silent in the face of “the dictatorial drift” of President Magufuli.
“The activities of political parties, such as public gatherings, demonstrations, marches, debates inside premises, which are the right of every citizen, are suspended until the next elections,” the bishops further bemoaned.
The Catholic Church was criticized for being silent after the alleged assassination attempt in September 2017 on Tanzanian MP Tundu Lissu, the opposition chief in parliament.
Lissu, who is also president of the Bar Association, is currently being hospitalized in Brussels after months of intensive care in Kenya.
Although the attack was carried out in broad daylight, in a residential area guarded by the police, no suspect has yet been arrested. The parliamentary party, Chadema, accuses the government of being behind the attack.
Nicknamed “Tingatinga” (Bulldozer in Swahili), President Magufuli has made an impression since taking office at the end of 2015, being unyielding in the fight against corruption.
But his unconventional and brutal style earned him the reputation of being autocratic and populist by his detractors, while freedom of expression is increasingly reduced in the country.
Opposition party meetings banned, newspapers closed, and journalists and artists beaten or threatened with death for criticizing government.