Tanzanian opposition party says police kill seven ahead of vote

ZANZIBAR, TANZANIA (AP) — A major opposition party in Tanzania is accusing police of shooting dead seven citizens amid unrest over alleged fraud on the eve of the country’s presidential election.

The Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT) Wazalendo party yesterday also said police in the semi-autonomous island region arrested its Zanzibar Presidential candidate Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad. A police official in Zanzibar city, Mohammed Hassan Haji, confirmed the arrest to The Associated Press (AP) but gave no details.

Police in Pemba city, however, did not comment on the ACT Wazalendo allegation that police opened fire on citizens on the eve of advance voting in the region.

The party at first said three people were killed but Pavu Juma Abdalla, the party’s deputy secretary for human rights, told AP that the toll had risen to seven. She said over 100 people had been arrested. “I think it is going to be a very terrible situation,” she said.

The army was distributing ballot boxes at polling stations designated for advance voting on Monday evening when “citizens in areas surrounding the polling stations have claimed that these boxes contain ballots already pre-marked”, the party’s statement said. “They accordingly sought to prevent these ballot boxes from being transferred to the polling stations.”

Police at first responded with tear gas and the live ammunition, the statement said.

The ACT Wazalendo Presidential candidate in Zanzibar Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad condemned the shootings. He was then arrested yesterday at a polling station as he went to vote, the party said.

“Zanzibar lives matter,” the statement said, calling for his immediate release.

There was a heavy police and military presence in Zanzibar yesterday, with many roads blocked. People reported that Internet service had slowed, amid fears that the service would be cut off altogether.

Supporters of the Tanzanian opposition political party, The Alliance for Change and Transparency (Wazalendo), demonstrate at Stone Town. PHOTO: AFP