, ARUSHA, Jan 6 – Tanzanian police arrested the leader of the main opposition party during an anti-corruption rally on Wednesday, sparking confrontations with his supporters, his party and witnesses said.
Freeman Mbowe and three other members of the Chadema party were arrested during an opposition rally in the northern city of Arusha as they prepared to stage a march against corruption in President Jakaya Kikwete\’s government, party secretary general Willbrord Slaa said.
Police fired warning shots and tear gas to disperse a crowd of several thousand people who attempted to march towards the police headquarters to stage a sit-in demanding Mbowe\’s release, witnesses said.
More gunshots were heard in later in the day and young Chadema supporters continued to confront police at various locations in the city, witnesses said.
In his speech to the crowd, Slaa called on police to release Mbowe and said Kikwete should stand down.
Police fired warning shots during a protest in capital Dar es Salaam last month staged by opposition supporters seeking a new constitution, which Kikwete subsequently promised.
Political protests have been mounting in the east African country since October general elections won by incumbent Kikwete but denounced as fraudulent by opposition groups.