DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – A Tanzanian opposition leader was charged on Friday with sedition and inciting hatred days after he said scores died in clashes between security forces and herdsmen in his western home district – a statement dismissed by authorities.
Zitto Kabwe, a regular critic of the government, told a news conference on Sunday that at least 100 people died during clashes in Kigoma in mid October.
He was detained three days later, then charged in court on Friday and released on a 10 million shilling ($4,400) bond, his Alliance for Change and Transparency-Wazalendo party said.
Kigoma Police Commander Martin Ottieno told Reuters that just two herdsmen and two officers had died during an operation to stop the pastoralists keeping livestock illegally on a government-owned ranch.
Friday’s charge sheet said Kabwe “with intent to bring hatred to the citizens of … Tanzania against the lawful authority of the government … issued a press release to the public with seditious words against the Tanzania police force.”
Kabwe pleaded not guilty, his wife Anna Bwana said on WhatsApp.
Kabwe split away from the main opposition CHADEMA movement in 2015 and is now his party’s only MP.
The East African country has been one of the continent’s most stable, but opposition leaders and rights groups have accused the government of cracking down on dissent – an accusation it dismisses.
Two opposition leaders were sentenced to five months in prison in February for insulting President John Magufuli.
(Reporting by Nuzulack Dausen and Omar Mohammed in Naiorbi; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Andrew Heavens)