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Rights group denounces Tanzanian government for detaining critics and urges freedom of expression

An international human rights group has denounced Tanzania’s government for detaining critics and urged it to respect freedom of expression and the right to protest

ByEVELYNE MUSAMBI Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya — An international human rights group denounced Tanzania’s government on Monday for detaining critics and urged it to respect freedom of expression and the right to protest.

Human Rights Watch said 22 people have been detained since June for criticizing a government decision to have a foreign logistics company manage Tanzania’s ports.

The ports agreement was approved by Tanzania’s parliament on June 10, triggering protests in which a number of people were arrested.

An opposition politician, Mdude Nyagali, who is a vocal critic of the plan to give control of the country’s ports to the United Arab Emirates company was also arrested after he criticized the agreement at a news conference.

“The Tanzanian government’s suppression of its critics is a troubling sign of its low tolerance for dissenting views,” Oryem Nyeko, a Tanzania researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Monday.

Tanzania has made some reforms since the death in 2021 of autocratic President John Magufuli, who cracked down on critics and introduced draconian laws.

Current President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who is serving out Magufuli’s term, has been accused of continuing her predecessor’s anti-democratic policies but was lauded in 2022 for lifting a prohibition on four newspapers that had been banned by the former leader.

Human Rights Watch said the new government should review the repressive laws passed during Magufuli’s administration.

“Hassan’s government has made important progress on rights, and instead of falling back to the previous government’s stance, it should stem this tide of repression,” Nyeko said.

The government says the ports agreement will increase efficiency and boost revenue.

Hassan called it “a rare opportunity” to expand the country’s economy.

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