Opposition chief arrested in Tanzania as three shot dead ahead of polls

Supporters of the Tanzanian opposition political party The Alliance for Change and Transparency (Wazalendo) demonstrate at the end of the last campaign rally in Stone Town./COURTESY

Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar main opposition party said Tuesday three people had been killed by police on the archipelago’s island of Pemba, as reports indicate that opposition chief Seif Hamadi was arrested.

According to reports by Tanzania media outlets and AFP, the death of the trio was occasioned by clashes which erupted ahead of Tanzania’s presidential and parliamentary elections slated for Wednesday.

Police reportedly fired teargas and live rounds, and brutally beat a young man in the opposition stronghold of Garagara, as special people began voting on Tuesday.

The opposition, however, feel that the special day of early voting is a ploy to steal the election.

Violence erupted on Pemba, an opposition stronghold, as the army distributed ballots which opposition supporters believed were pre-marked.

“Verified reports from Pemba in Zanzibar indicate that three citizens have been shot dead by the police using live ammunition,” ACT-Wazalendo (Alliance for Change and Transparency) party statement read

ACT Wazalendo named the three dead, as well as nine who were injured.

“We call upon the regional and international community to persuade the Tanzanian and Zanzibar governments to allow a free and fair election to run free of violence and intimidation,” the statement read.

There was heavy presence of police and soldiers across the islands.

In Garagara, where opposition leader Seif Sharif Hamad was expected to vote, riot police ran into alleyways firing teargas and live rounds.

Whereabouts of the presidential candidate for Zanzibar for the opposition party ACT-Wazalendo Seif Sharif Hamad are not pretty clear after he was reportedly arrested on Tuesday morning in Garagara, the island of Pemba.

Hamad was expected to take part in the early voting at the Garagara polling station.