Dar es Salaam. The Tanzania Police Force is once again in the spotlight after its officers in Mwanza raided one of the Catholic Church parishes in the city and arrested over two dozen members and leaders of the main opposition party in the country CHADEMA. It is the second incident that involves CHADEMA cadres being prevented from participating in a prayer service in a Catholic parish. The first incident took place on July 25, 2021, in Mbeya.
The incident that has since caused uproar online took place on Sunday, August 15, 2021, when police raided a Catholic Church parish in Kawekamo, Mwanza, and arrested about 20 cadres who donned the opposition party’s uniforms. According to CHADEMA, five of its members were arrested before the service started while seventeen others were arrested shortly after the service.
“When our leaders went to the police station to inquire why their colleagues were arrested [police] told them that the church’s leadership informed the police that there were people at the church causing some chaos,” CHADEMA Elders Wing Secretary-General Mr Roderick Lutembeka said during a press conference in Dar es Salaam today. “But the church denied having made any call to police and there was no chaos during the said service.”
Until the time of writing, the law enforcement agency had not released any of those arrested that include CHADEMA secretary for Lake Victoria Zone, the party’s chairperson for Ilemela and the party’s secretary for Nyamagana. Mr Lutembeka said Tuesday that police arresting people who attend prayer sessions “deserve condemnation from every Tanzanian.”
“Actions like these risk dividing the nation if strict measures are not taken against its perpetrators as soon as possible,” he added. “We demand that President Samia Suluhu Hassan takes strict actions against all those responsible for the arrest of our leaders so that she can put to an end this behaviour that seems to stick its roots in our country. We condemn this blatant violation of Tanzanians’ fundamental freedoms that continues to grow in the country and call upon the government to immediately and unconditionally free all CHADEMA leaders arrested on Sunday.”
Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) Secretary-General Dr Charles Kitima said on July 26, 2021, that the Catholic Church does not discriminate against people based on their political associations. He was reacting to reports that indicated that members of opposition CHADEMA in Mbeya were prevented from participating in a prayer service because they wore the party’s uniforms.
“A person is allowed to attend the service while wearing any type of dress as long as the dress is socially acceptable,” Dr Kitima said. “It means that anyone is allowed to take part in the prayer service if they are in decent dressing. The church does not put any emphasis on what colour of the dress someone is allowed to come with to a service.”