Timeline: Inside Tanzania’s Attempt to Charge Freeman Mbowe With Terrorism

Tanzania says it no longer has an interest in charging the leading opposition figure with terrorism. But how did the charges emerge and how were they dropped?
The Chanzo Reporter4 March 20226 min

Dar es Salaam. On Friday, March 4, 2022, Public Prosecutions Director (DPP) Silvester Mwakitalu withdrew his terrorism and economic sabotage case against CHADEMA national chairperson Freeman Mbowe and his three other co-defendants, saying the prosecution no longer has an interest in pursuing the controversial case.

But how did we get to this stage? Here’s the timeline of major events leading to Friday’s well-received development.

July 17, 2021: CHADEMA Youth Wing (BAVICHA) organises a New Constitution conference in Mwanza. Tens of CHADEMA members are arrested, detained for hours before they are released. They promise to hold another conference, with Mr Mbowe expected to be the chief guest.

July 19, 2021: Mbowe, while in Mwanza, tells journalists that CHADEMA was not going to honour the ban on political rallies that President Samia Suluhu Hassan decided against its suspension, promising that the party was going to organise as many rallies as possible as Tanzania’s constitution and laws permit.

July 21, 2021: Keeping up with its promise, BAVICHA organises another New Constitution forum  in Mwanza, with Mbowe now as its chief guest. It does not go well though. Mbowe and dozen others are arrested around 2:30 AM at the Kingdom Hotel, a few hours before the forum kicks off.

July 22, 2021: CHADEMA Secretary-General John Mnyika demands the release of Mr Mbowe and other party members. Other people who were arrested together with Mr Mbowe include BAVICHA national chairperson John Pambalu and former Tarime Rural MP (CHADEMA) Mr John Heche, among others.

July 22, 2021: Police charge Mbowe with terrorism, implicating him and six other unnamed people in conspiracies aimed at assassinating some government leaders. He would later join Halfan Hassan, Adam Kasekwa and Mohamed Lingwenya in what now is known as case No. 16/2021.

July 23, 2021: Opposition parties ACT-Wazalendo and NCCR-Mageuzi call the arrest and detention of Mr Mbowe “an unacceptable behaviour in any society built on the foundations of democracy and justice.”

July 25, 2021: Police in Mwanza releases all 15 leaders and members of CHADEMA arrested on July 17 and 21, 2021. Except for Mr Mbowe.

July 26, 2021: Mbowe is brought before the Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court, facing economic sabotage charges that involve funding terrorist activities aimed at assassinating government leaders.

July 28, 2021: Members CHADEMA Women Wing (BAWACHA) writes to U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania Donald Wright, asking him to intervene in the arrest of Mr Mbowe.

July 29, 2021: The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights accuses Tanzania of violating the right to due process enunciated in Article 7 of the African Charter when police arrested Mr Mbowe.

August 1, 2021: CHADEMA says the charge sheet that accuses Mr Mbowe of conspiracies and funding terrorist activities “lacks any legal basis,” calling it “proof” that the case is politically motivated.

August 2, 2021: Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Simon Sirro says police have enough evidence to incriminate Mr Mbowe with terrorism and the law enforcement agency does not have any reason to treat Mr Mbowe unjustly.

August 4, 2021: Amnesty International, a global movement campaigning against abuses of human rights, demands that Tanzanian authorities “must” promptly provide evidence to substantiate charges against Mbowe, “or else release him.”

August 5, 2021: Mbowe’s case is brought for hearing but postponed after the virtual proceedings suffer some technical glitch. Mr Mbowe remains at the Ukonga Maximum Security Prison in Dar es Salaam.

August 6, 2021: Mbowe’s case is once again postponed until August 13, 2021, when it’ll be brought for hearing. No reasons were given for the postponement this time.

August 9, 2021: During her interview with the BBC, President Samia says she does not think that the charges against Mbowe are politically motivated.

She says that the charges against him were filed officially in September 2020 but police failed to arrest him because the investigation into the charges had not been completed.

August 10, 2021: CHADEMA accuses Samia of interfering with both judicial independence as well as with Mr Mbowe’s case.

August 12, 2021: Registrar of Political Parties Mr Francis Mutungi writes CHADEMA, demanding that it explains why disciplinary measures should not be taken against it following its Secretary-General John Manyika’s statement that President Samia “lied” about the terrorism charges against Mbowe.

August 13, 2021: Mbowe’s case takes place virtually after the Tanzania Prison Service failed to take the defendants to the Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court due to what was said to be a transport challenge.

After listening to the arguments from both the prosecution and defendants’ sides, Judge Thomas Simba postponed the case until August 27, 2021, when it will be brought for hearing.

August 21, 2021: During a meeting with members of the diplomatic corps in the country, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ms Liberata Mulamula cautions ambassadors representing foreign countries as well as heads of institutions and international organisations residing in the country against the behaviour of attending court proceedings in the case Mr Mbowe.

August 23, 2021: The case against Mbowe and three other co-defendants moves to the High Court (Corruption and Economic Crimes Division) after the prosecution read committal proceedings to the defendants at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court.

The prosecution is expected to present 24 witnesses 19 exhibits against the accused.

August 24, 2021: The Head Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT) Dr Fredrick Shoo becomes the latest public figure to speak out his disillusionment at the alleged terrorism charges that Tanzania has levelled against Mr Mbowe, pleading with the High Court judges to make sure that justice in the highly controversial case is served.

September 6, 2021: High Court judge Elinazer Luvanda who was overseeing a terrorism case against Mbowe withdraws from the case following a protest from defendants that they do not have confidence in the presiding judge.

September 7, 2021: Judge Mustapher Siyani starts overseeing Mbowe’s case following the withdrawal of Judge Elinazer Luvanda.

September 22, 2021: CHADEMA deputy national chairperson Mr Tundu Lissu demands DPP Sylvester Mwakitalu drop all the “frivolous [criminal] cases” the government has brought against Mbowe.

Lissu made the call following the government’s decision to withdraw its sedition case against him and three others that were pending at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court.

September 26, 2021: People who introduced themselves as members of Tanzania Intelligence and Security Service (TISS) on Saturday reportedly arrested and shortly detained, a man they thought would connect them to a member of CHADEMA Mr Martin Maranja who had been sharing real-time updates on the terrorism case against Mbowe.

October 20, 2021: A High Court judge Mustapha Siyani who was presiding over a terrorism case against Mbowe and three others withdraws from the case, citing other responsibilities that would make him fail to finalize the case on time.

Siyani becomes the second judge to recuse himself from the case.

October 21, 2021: CHADEMA Secretary-General Mr John Mnyika says all signs show that justice in the terrorism case that Mr Mbowe and three others face is not going to be served and that the only way to make sure justice prevails is for the prosecution to drop the case.

October 23, 2021: Members and supporters of CHADEMA complain that prison guards at the Ukonga Maximum Security Prison in Dar es Salaam blocked their visit to Mr Mbowe.

October 26, 2021: Mbowe’s case resumes following the appointment of a new Judge, Joachim Charles Tiganga. The Chanzo was at the court and succeeded to compile court proceedings here.

October 29, 2021: Mbowe’s case resumes whereby the third prosecution witness Corporal Hafidh Abdallah Mohamed was cross-examined by both prosecution and defence counsels. The Chanzo prepared this dossier.

December 8, 2021: Speaking on Mbowe’s Case, President Samia says “forgiveness is also a possibility.”

It followed a plea by ACT-Wazalendo party leader and chairperson of Tanzania Centres for Democracy (TCD) Zitto Kabwe that Samia finds a way to drop the charges against Mr Mbowe through legal means.

December 31, 2021: In his New Year greetings, Mr Lissu reiterates CHADEMA’s stance of calling the charges against Mr Mbowe “trumped-up” ones, referring to him and his co-accused as “political prisoners,” calling for their “unconditional release from prisons.”

February 5, 2022: An online fundraising campaign to support the legal team of Mr Mbowe and his three co-accused is launched with an ambitious target of collecting $100,000.

February 16, 2022: President Samia meets and holds talks with Mr Lissu in Belgium where among the issues that the latter raised with Samia is the need for the government to drop its charges against Mr Mbowe and his three co-defendants.

February 18, 2022: The High Court of Tanzania (Corruption and Economic Crimes Division) rules that Mr Mbowe and his three other co-defendants have a case to answer in the terrorism and money laundering charges they face.

March 2, 2022: Leaders of various religious denominations from Tanzania on Wednesday met and held talks with President Samia at the Dar es Salaam State House where, among other things, they pleaded with her to find wisdom and finish the case against Mr Mbowe and others.

March 4, 2022: Public Prosecutions Director (DPP) Silvester Mwakitalu withdraws his terrorism and economic sabotage case against CHADEMA national chairperson Mr Freeman and his three other co-defendants, saying the government no longer has an interest in pressing charges against the four.

The Chanzo Reporter

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