Four police officers were shot dead by armed men outside a Dar es Salaam bank last week, triggering finger-pointing between the police and the opposition.
While the police said the incident was politically motivated, opposition party Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) claimed the killings were carried out to justify a crackdown on the opposition.
Dar es Salaam Special Zone Regional Police Commander Simon Sillo said that 14 armed men shot at a police van near a bank during an exchange a sentries, killing four police officers on the spot.
Following the incident, police have intensified patrols in Dar es Salaam and other cities in the country, which is seen by Chadema as a preparation for a plan to disrupt its rallies on September 1.
The police commissioner for training and operations Nsato Msanzya blamed the killing of four officers on the “current political situation.”
While Mr Sillo said the killers were part of a gang of robbers, Mr Msazya said the killings had a direct link to political meetings and was aimed at instilling fear and hatred among the public.
Minister for Home Affairs Mwigulu Nchemba who visited the scene tweeted that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.
But Tundu Lissu, Chadema lawyer, wondered how Mr Mwigulu got to the scene of the killings before regional police commander. He said the government could be using the incident to harass the opposition.
Police have banned all political meetings, citing the fragile security situation, but Mr Lissu said his party will defy the ban because it is illegal.
With the rising tensions, Muslim and Christian leaders have reiterated their call for mediation talks between the opposition and the government as fears intensified over the opposition’s planned countrywide rallies.
The religious leaders warned that both sides that their tug-of-war threatens peace.
The opposition has vowed to proceed with the rallies planned for September 1. Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe has accused President John Magufuli’s administration of dictatorship.
President Magufuli has openly warned the opposition against the rallies, saying that he will deal with the opposition supporters’ who dared to take part in the rallies. He further said that elections period was over and it was time for his government to implement his election promises.
Abubakar Zubeir, chief Sheikh, has also called for dialogue between the opposition and the government as a way of maintaining peace.
“The government shouldn’t ignore the opposition; there should be dialogue so that their problem can solved rather than the government using force against its citizens,” the chief Sheikh said.
Bishop Shoo, Lutheran Bishop for Northern Diocese, said that they had invited both Chadema and CUF to peace talks but said that none of the parties had confirmed attending the meeting. Bishop Shoo further said that while Chadema was banking on its followers, the government heavily depended on its security organs.
“We went the government to use peaceful and assuring language that was used during the struggle for independence; not the language public leaders are using now,” Bishop Shoo said.
The US embassy in Dar es Salaam early last week issued a travel advisory against its citizens residing in the country to stay out of areas where the rallies were expected to take place.
Dr Hellen Kijo Bisimba, managing director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) said the Constitution gives Chadema the right to hold rallies.
“The role of the police is to protect its citizens, not intimidating them. Many security officers are seen on the streets trying to stop the opposition from holding their rallies but in actual sense they would have used the same police to protect the rallies.