In Tanzania, more than seven months after their arrest for “conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism”, opposition leader Freeman Mbowe and his three alleged accomplices have been released.
On the morning of this Friday, the former MP and leader of the Tanzanian opposition party Chadema, Freeman Mbowe, was released. A dismissal for the opponent, but also for three other co-defendants. "The Court is informed that the Public Ministry, on behalf of the Republic, will no longer prosecute Halfan Bwire Hassan, Adam Hassan Kasekwa, Mohammed Abdillahi Ling'wenya and Freeman Aikaeli Mbowe on charges of terrorist acts," reads the statement. act of the prosecution.
Freeman Mbowe's Nolle Prosequi (made under section 91(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act, Cap 20 TE 2019) pic.twitter.com/BQgYSHI0WR
— Martin Maranja Masese (@IAMartin_) March 4, 2022
The four opponents faced six counts, including conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism. Freeman Mbowe was distinctly accused of financing acts of terrorism and economic sabotage.
Arrested on July 20, 2021, the prosecutor accused Freeman Mbowe of having conspired to "blow up gas stations, as well as cause riots in sensitive regions, with the aim of making the country ungovernable".
Freeman Mbowe's arrest came shortly after a press conference calling for a new constitution in Tanzania. Along with his three co-accused, Mbowe had been arrested during a secret meeting in a hotel in Mwanza.
The trial lasted five months. The opposition group's lawyer, Peter Kibatala, postponed the hearing numerous times, saying Freeman Mbowe, the main defendant, was ill.
Finally, while this Friday's hearing was to be devoted to defense pleadings, the prosecutor's dropping of the charges came as a surprise. “We are savoring our victory. But all of this leaves us with a bitter taste,” says Peter Kibatala.
A stormy trial
Freeman Mbowe's arrest has damaged the image of Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan. The press around the world denounced a return to authoritarianism, recalling the methods of his predecessor John Magufuli. During the trial, representatives of Western diplomacy were present at the hearing. The Tanzanian head of state also received a visit from religious leaders who urged her to put an end to the proceedings against the opponent.
Nevertheless, and even during the trial, now over, of Freeman Mbowe, the Tanzanian president continued to decree measures encouraging multipartyism and free expression. Samia Suluhu Hassan, in particular, lifted the bans on opposition media. She also, in December, pardoned Chadema activists arrested during the tenure of her late predecessor.
Samia Suluhu Hassan and Freeman Mbowe, the plot thickens
Long considered an ally of former President Jakaya Kikwete, even after the election of John Magufuli, Samia Suluhu had to show, above all, that she firmly held the reins of power in Tanzania.
The Tanzanian president had focused on the unification of her party, the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM). It had started with the dismantling of far-right influence within the party and the government. The Tanzanian president has been able to curry favor with some of Magufuli's allies, while warding off others. But the CCM, which has been in power for decades, is extremely hard to manage. The proof: several party executives opposed the arrest of Freeman Mbowe.
Then, Samia Suluhu Hassan had to show, on the international scene, that she did not share the nihilism of her late predecessor. By opening her country to vaccination against Covid-19, then by restoring diplomatic relations with Kenya, Rwanda, the United Kingdom, the United States and China, Samia Suluhu had definitively broken with the legacy of Magufuli. .
As for Mbowe's long arrest, then, it would be unlikely that the Tanzanian president got involved in what CCM activists consider a "strategic error". The Attorney General also did not explain the reasons that led him to drop the charges against Mbowe.
Was it a political trial? The president wanted to put an end to speculation by receiving Mbowe, who had just been released.
Free at last, and a handshake later. Freeman Mbowe is hosted at Ikulu by Samia Suluhu Hassan. @RailaOdinga and @StateHouseKenya are leading the way, integration in Africa and the world #RadaNiBaba pic.twitter.com/wWo0FRrnQh
— Basele (@GBasele) March 4, 2022