ZANZIBAR, Tanzania (AP) — Police in Tanzania shot dead at least nine citizens amid unrest over alleged fraud ahead of the presidential election, a major opposition party asserted Tuesday, while officials denied it and one of Africa’s most populous countries watched internet service slow to a crawl ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
The other main opposition party accused ruling party officials of shooting two people dead at a campaign rally elsewhere in the country once praised for its peace but now a growing human rights crisis under populist President John Magufuli, who seeks a second five-year term.
In the semi-autonomous island region of Zanzibar, the ACT Wazalendo party accused police of opening fire Monday night after residents suspected soldiers of distributing pre-marked ballots to polling stations designated for advance voting and tried to stop them.
Ten other people were seriously wounded, the party said.
The ACT Wazalendo presidential candidate in Zanzibar, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, was arrested Tuesday morning at a polling station as he went to vote, the party said, and police confirmed it. He later was released.
“I think it is going to be a very terrible situation,” Pavu Juma Abdalla, ACT Wazalendo’s deputy secretary for human rights, told The Associated Press.
She said more than 100 people were arrested.
Tanzania’s inspector general of police, Simon Sirro, denied any deaths. Another police official, Urban West Regional Police Commander Awadhi Juma Haji, told reporters that some people were hurt “accidentally” but “there was no casualty.”
Police said 72 people were arrested and accused of damaging properties near polling places.
There was a heavy police and military presence in Zanzibar on Tuesday, with police using tear gas on citizens who defied an order to remain at home.
Elsewhere, in Nyamongo town in northeastern Tanzania, the opposition CHADEMA party asserted that two people were killed and three wounded when local ruling party officials opened fire at a campaign rally.
“The bodies and injured have been rushed to the district hospital,” local member of parliament John Heche told the AP. “Their plan was to make sure we don’t survive the election.”
He said police saw the shooting and did nothing. Police didn’t comment, and the ruling party wasn’t responding to phone calls.
CHADEMA’s presidential candidate, Tundu Lissu, condemned the killings and urged people to “go into the street and demand for justice” if the National Electoral Commission announces election results on Thursday, the day after the vote, before ballots are properly counted.