Dar es Salaam. Dr Willibrod Peter Slaa, one of the critics of the Tanzania-Dubai intergovernmental agreement, was reportedly arrested at his home in the city Sunday as the crackdown on the critics of the controversial deal appears to intensify in Tanzania.
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.
According to reports circulating on social media, Dr Slaa, who served as Tanzania’s ambassador to Sweden between 2017 and 2021, was arrested at his home in Mbweni, Kawe, before he was taken to the Kawe Police Post for interrogation.
Unconfirmed reports also suggested that after interrogation, police took Slaa to his house for searching. Dr Slaa broke the news of his arrest on the social audio app Clubhouse, where he said that police were at his house and wanted to talk to him.
“I’ve received some guests here, some police officers have entered my house, but I’ve not spoken to them,” Mr Slaa said Sunday before he commented on the ongoing crackdown on government critics in the country.
Reports on the arrest of Dr Slaa came hot on the heels of other arrests that police did on Saturday, where two critics of the DP World deal – Boniface Mwabukusi and Mdude Nyagali – were detained by law enforcers in Mikumi, Morogoro on their way to Dar es Salaam.
Police initially denied holding the two activists but confirmed later yesterday that it was holding them on charges of sedition, saying investigations into the charges were in progress and they would be produced to the court once it is completed.
Besides these two critics that the police have confirmed they are holding, reports also suggest that another critic, Emmanuel Masonga, who was accompanying Mwabukusi and Nyagali, is also missing, with others suggesting that the police might be holding him too.
The latest crackdown follows a stern warning that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Camilius Wambura gave Friday to critics of the DP World deal, saying that the law enforcement agency will tolerate nobody interested in “plunging the country into chaos.”
Wambura said police would find and arrest people who have declared nationwide mass demonstrations against the controversial deal, describing their calls to “bring down the government” before 2025 as “treason,” which cannot be “tolerated.”
“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 Mwabukusi, who urged Tanganyikans to prepare to participate in the planned mass demonstrations against the DP World deal.
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.
The ongoing crackdown 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.