Dar es Salaam. Police announced on Friday that it will find and arrest people who have declared nationwide mass demonstrations against the Tanzania-Dubai deal, describing their calls to “bring down the government” before 2025 as “treason,” which cannot be “tolerated.”
Inspector General of Police (IGP) Camilius Wambura told a press conference in the city that the people who have made the “seditious and treasonous” statements online will be “dealt with” according to the law, noting that police will not allow a small group of people to “plunge the country into chaos.”
“This is not tolerable,” Wambura told journalists. “It will never be. [These people] have reached a very dangerous stage. We will find them and bring them before the law. Both sedition and treason are punishable crimes in our country, and we will not let this continue uninterrupted.”
Friday’s announcement by the law enforcement agency follows Thursday’s declaration by lawyer Boniface Mwabukusi who urged Tanganyikans to prepare to participate in the planned mass demonstrations against the intergovernmental agreement between Tanzania and Dubai.
The agreement, which will allow Dubai-based multinational logistics company DP World to take over some operations at the Dar es Salaam port, has stirred harsh criticism from several actors who think it will benefit the company more than Tanzania and its people.
Mr Mwabukusi, who has been very vocal against the deal, approved by the parliament on June 10, 2023, was addressing journalists and supporters outside Mbeya’s High Court minutes after judges dismissed a case filed against the deal, describing the petition as “barren of fruits.”
Mwabukusi was one of the lawyers representing four Tanzanians who filed the petition on the grounds of the agreement’s illegality, unconstitutionality and a threat to Tanzania’s sovereignty and national security. But judges found the arguments presented unconvincing, dismissing the case.
“We are going to put out a call for non-stop mass demonstrations, just like how this agreement [between Tanzania and Dubai] is infinite,” Mwabukusi said after noting that they would also appeal Thursday’s ruling. “We shall express our objections [to the deal] through civil movements, which include demonstrations and rallies.”
“To want to protect the resources of this country is not treasonous. We will inform the respective authority just as the law has prescribed. And we will also inform Tanganyikans that it’s time to protect our resources.”
It is unclear if IGP Wambura was referring to Mwabukusi statements,as there are many discussions online regarding the DP World port agreement, especially on Club House.The Chanzo has reviewed Mwabukusi’s statement outside the court, and nowhere did the lawyer-cum-activist speak about “bringing down” the current government.
However, Mwabukusi said the people would give the government a fourteen-day ultimatum to change the agreement’s terms. If it didn’t, the people would use their constitutional rights to refuse to obey the current government, including refusing to pay taxes until authorities come to honour their demands.
In his press conference Friday, IGP Wambura urged people to refrain from making “seditious” statements, pointing out that police will not stay silent and tolerate those who do otherwise, adding: “If they thought we were quiet, we would show them that we are not.”
Friday’s warning by the police comes amidst criticism that authorities in Tanzania have been taking measures interpreted to silence critics of the controversial port deal that President Samia Suluhu Hassan has defended, describing it as a “rare opportunity.”
Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch reported that authorities “have detained or threatened” at least 22 people since June 10, 2023, in association with their opposition to the deal, calling on Tanzania to “end these arbitrary arrests and take further steps to address the challenges to freedom of expression.”
Mwabukusi features in the Human Rights Watch’s statement of people who have been threatened due to their opposition to the deal. Others are lawyer Rugemeleza Nshala and CHADEMA Deputy Chairperson (Tanzania Mainland) Tundu Lissu, to name but a few.
“Instead of clamping down on critics,” the right group urged in its statement, “the government should respect the right to freedom of expression and assembly and listen to them.”
This won’t be the first time that police block demonstrations against the port deal. On June 19, 2023, police in Dar es Salaam dispersed and arrested dozen of people who showed up to protest against the deal, including the demos’ leader Deusdedith Soka.